Wonderland: Walking with Dogs, BBC2 Monday
Getting on, BBC4, Wednesday
The Great British Bake Off, BBC2, Tuesday

Dog-owners reveal their pet loves and pained souls in a sad and beautiful documentary

For many a put-upon Londoner, a trip to Hampstead Heath represents the ultimate mini-break: between the ponds and Parliament Hill is a bucolic playground set apart from cheek-by-armpit commutes, gurning chuggers and wheelie suitcase flotillas. No such escapism, however, was offered by Walking with Dogs, a remarkable and often deeply sad portrait of the dog-walkers who stroll daily through the capital's biggest green space.

Filmed over a few months, it featured Vanessa Engle accosting pooch-owners to find out what their pets meant to them – an apparently innocuous question that invariably opened a window on its respondents' wounded souls. Early on, a jovial vicar said his dog meant he got to "talk to a lot of people who I wouldn't otherwise talk to – it's amazing what comes out". And similarly, the film's canine premise seemed to lull Engle's subjects into a candour about their lives which they might have otherwise shied away from.

Take Warren, a boyish young dad with a rioter girlfriend in prison and who had himself served time for GBH. He relayed his violent back-story while all the time cradling, kissing and stroking his bull mastiff; the question of why he'd taken on a big, boisterous dog when he was already single-handedly caring for his son barely needed asking.

The therapeutic role played by other interviewees' pets was similarly self-evident. There was a couple who had bought their – as they termed it – "rescue dog" after losing their son in a paragliding accident; a recovering alcoholic who had named his Staffie Zen, owing to the inspiring way in which "he lives in the now"; and an ageing Bardot-esque glamour puss kept company in a homeless shelter by her Weimaraner after a domino set of unfortunate events. Here, in her darkly lit digs, the old cliché of dog being "man's (or woman's) best friend" acquired tragic resonance.

Indeed, if the film had a flaw, it lay in a certain pat selectiveness: the mix of stories, and their varying emphases, made it seem that dog ownership was typically born out of emotional trauma or deprivation, rather than say, a childhood love of Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds or a basic appreciation of unwavering, slobbering affection. And you sensed a point being forced in the case of Marianne, a woman with a handbag-style pooch and a nascent business in frou-frou dogwear. She was variously, and leadingly, asked whether the dog was a baby substitute, if she lived on her own, if she was single, and how different it was living with a dog than a person. Despite her declaring "obviously, there is a difference ... I'm not that dotty", the inference – that she was dottier than a Dalmatian – was clear.

Which is to say that, beautifully crafted as it was, this instalment of the wonderful Wonderland strand wasn't quite best in show. I only wish we'd had more of Margot and Sue, two bullish old ladies, possibly played by French and Saunders, with a habit of finding corpses. "You two seem to come across a lot of death and destruction on the Heath," noted Engle. "Oh yes," chuckled one as if death and destruction were just another pair of dear NW3 eccentrics.

Continuing the gallows humour, Jo Brand's superlative Getting On returned for a third series. Thanks to its vérité stylings and politically inflected setting, this barely-comedy set in the NHS backwaters has oft been compared with The Thick of It, while shamefully acquiring nothing like its profile. Meanwhile, their fundamental differences are encapsulated in their respective main characters' voices: Peter Capaldi's barbaric bark and Brand's low-level drone.

Anyway, last week's opener had the central trio – Brand's nurse, Joanna Scanlan's matron, and Vicki Pepperdine's fabulously callous doctor – in a new-fangled ward but struggling with the usual mix of bureaucratic absurdities and each other. That it successfully interwove a distressing scene of an old woman having a panic attack and the line "I think you would have enjoyed getting your teeth into my vaginal atrophy" tells you all you need to know about the show's rare, nay American, sophistication.

And, finally, to the week's real talking point. Though is there anything left to say about the GBBO final, now that Twitter, Brian Sewell and my mother have had their two cents? Only that if you ever try to bastardise this, Cowell, we will set Brendan to do over your house in the style of his gingerbread one.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Emo rockers Fall Out Boy

music

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

film

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
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
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.

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
    Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

    The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

    Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
    Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

    A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
    How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

    How books can defeat Isis

    Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
    The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

    The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

    The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
    Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

    Young carers to make dance debut

    What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
    Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

    Design Council's 70th anniversary

    Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
    Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

    Dame Harriet Walter interview

    The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

    Bill Granger's winter salads

    Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
    England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

    George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

    No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
    Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links