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
Stewart Lee (Gavin Evans)

comedy

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

film
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment

film
  • Get to the point
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.

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own