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
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

TV
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Arts and Entertainment
The audience aimed thousands of Apple’s product units at Taylor Swift throughout the show
musicReview: On stage her manner is natural, her command of space masterful
Arts and Entertainment
Channel 4 is reviving its Chris Evans-hosted Nineties hit TFI Friday

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade (1989)

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
A Glastonbury reveller hides under an umbrella at the festival last year

Glastonbury
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miles Morales is to replace Peter Parker as the new Spider-Man

comics
Arts and Entertainment
The sequel to 1993's Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, has stormed into the global record books to score the highest worldwide opening weekend in history.

film
Arts and Entertainment
Odi (Will Tudor)
tvReview: Humans, episode 2
Arts and Entertainment
Can't cope with a Port-A-loo? We've got the solution for you

FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets

Arts and Entertainment
Some zookeepers have been braver than others in the #jurassiczoo trend

Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant

Arts and Entertainment
An original Miffy illustration
art
Arts and Entertainment
Man of mystery: Ian McKellen as an ageing Sherlock Holmes
film review
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.

    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
    UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

    39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

    There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
    Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

    Computerised cooking is coming

    From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
    Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

    Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

    The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
    Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

    Education: Football Beyond Borders

    Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
    10 best barbecue books

    Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

    We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
    Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most