Sky 1, Thursday

TV review: Eddie Izzard's Mandela Marathons - Go, Eddie, go! But get some proper shoes

2.00

The comic and self-confessed 'sack of potatoes on a mission' shows more than just a will to run

Eddie Izzard is a deeply unusual man. I don't mean the cross-dressing or the old line attributed to him, about being "a lesbian trapped inside a man's body". I'm referring to his almost pathological appetite for running marathons.

Celebrities undertaking acts of physical endurance are two-a-penny. Christine Bleakley in a wetsuit! David Walliams in goose fat! Izzard, though, ran 43 marathons in 51 days in 2009, a feat of such leg-boggling proportions that you couldn't help but think there was something a teensy bit more complex than fundraising for charity going on. Appropriately, the film that covered his seven-week epic was half psychodrama-in-trainers, half roving conceptual-art installation, with Izzard hauling his not exactly Paula Radcliffe-like figure about the hard shoulders of Britain's A-roads.

The result was utterly, grimly fascinating. He must have got a taste for the pain because he set about organising the project that culminated in his two-part documentary, Eddie Izzard's Mandela Marathons.

But if you were a fan of the previous programme – run, Eddie, run! – this one lacked what you might call its purist rigour. In honour of Nelson Mandela's 27 years of incarceration, Izzard attempted to run 27 marathons in 27 days, tracing a route through South Africa that resonates with the life of the great man: his birth-town, the site of his old school, and so on. In other words, as Izzard jogged "like a sack of potatoes with a mission", to use his own words, we were treated to a breezy biography of Mandela's early life.

More revealing though was the glimpse of Izzard's single-mindedness, a determination that verged on self-delusion. "I want to say thank you for existing to Nelson Mandela," he said, sincerely enough. But there were indications that Izzard was riding for a fall: his meagre training regime, sheepishly admitted to, and his insistence on running in shoes that made flip-flops look sturdy, on roads so rough that signs warned drivers to remove dentures and hearing aids.

Throughout – on the commentary, in gig clips, even as he's examining his own blood-clouded urine – he maintained that characteristically off-hand tone. The more casual he sounded, though, the more you sensed the granite will beneath. But Izzard himself is mere flesh, and there was an awful lot of veldt left to trek at the end of episode one.

There is a walking, talking rebuke to the practice of primogeniture, whereby the estate passes to the first-born son: its name is Jamie Blandford, the wayward heir to Blenheim Palace. He appeared, unwisely, in a previous programme of The Aristocrats (More4, Saturday **), a clip shown again in last night's profile of the Rothschilds, as a contrast to their own family arrangements. For them, famously, you have to be more than just the first bud on the next branch of the family tree if you want control of the family gazillions.

This clear-sightedness has kept the Rothschilds very handsomely housed and furnished over the two centuries of their rise from a Frankfurt ghetto to one of the richest clans in Britain. It also means that they see nosey documentary film-makers coming from a mile off.

In theory, there is much to get stuck into: their political connections; the anti-Semitic and persistent depiction of the family as Zionist racketeers; the battle between Evelyn and Jacob, both interviewed, for control of the bank in the late 1970s. What we got was a National Trust tour of the family seat, Waddesdon Manor, from Jacob and his daughter Hannah (of Nat, George Osborne's chum, there was no sign.)

Still, what a pile. The 19th-century Rothschilds, newly enriched, soon acquired aristocratic airs. The reaction was a collective sneer, yet the family's ability to assimilate has stood them in good stead, it seems. Jacob may demur at being identified as an aristo, but the family is, he admitted, establishment. It is also, Hannah reminded us, Jewish – how you wished that the programme had explored the connection between their pukka vowels and the twang of the guardians of the fading Whitechapel cemetery where, we learned, some of the family are interred.

The Thin White Duke was one of the incarnations explored last night in David Bowie – Five Years (BBC2, Saturday ****), a witty hour-and-a-half of rare and previously unseen footage from his great era. Favourite scene: from the recording of Young Americans, a twitching, snorting Bowie telling a bemused-looking Luther Vandross how to sing his (very) white man's soul music. Golden years, indeed.

Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat

Arts and Entertainment
A sketch of Van Gogh has been discovered in the archives of Kunsthalle Bremen in Germany
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
Arts and Entertainment
Fake Banksy stencil given to artist Alex Jakob-Whitworth

art

Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee