Television (Review): The Britain of Sir Henry and Victoria Wood

MIDWAY through The Last Night of the Proms (BBC 1, Saturday), about the point when a bearded computer analyst draped a laurel wreath over the bronze bust of Sir Henry Wood, Richard Baker announced that the event was being broadcast for the first time live in Japan.

'I wonder what they'll make of this,' he said, as the camera panned over the hi-jinking promenaders with their Union Jacks, their teddy bears and their bad complexions. Pretty obvious really. It was part of the exchange deal which brought us Clive James smirking over the Japanese game show Endurance.

If you thought, as the last bars of 'Jerusalem' faded into the Albert Hall rafters, you had seen enough of sanctimonious creeps waving their arms about for one Saturday night, you had thought wrong. Over on BBC 2, there was The Moral Maze. The latest offering from the if-it-works-on-radio-it-must- work-on-telly school of programming, the format followed the radio blue print exactly: the same ghastly panel confronting an array of expert witnesses, haranguing them mercilessly for half an hour and remaining rigid in the opinion they brought with them into the studio. This week's moral dilemma was over- population, which meant much talk about the Pope's position. As usual the principle pleasure in the programme was the unconscious self-analysis the panelists achieve: Janet Daley calling every witness arrogant, for instance, or Edward Pierce, perhaps the most terrifying visage ever to come out of a cathode ray tube, asking, apropos Brazilian street children, 'What is the point of something like that coming down from the uterus?'

Although their opinions came in the same pre-cast black and white of radio, at least the panel made the effort to look colourful for their television debut. When Michael Buerk turned to the aggressive Dr David Starkey and said: 'David do shut up for a minute', he was clearly referring to the volume control on his jacket.

You didn't need a map to know where you were from the opening scene of Pat and Margaret (BBC 1, Sunday) set in a motorway service-station forecourt. 'What's up?' a plump woman in a Rudi Voller memorial perm asks a man carrying a wide variety of cleaning apparatus.

'Level Two urinals, southbound, flooded,' replies the man.

'You're in demand with that mop,' says the woman.

Yes, we were up to the neck in Victoria Wood country. Just south west of Alan Bennett land, this is a place of lavish verbal juxtapositions, Burnley accents that could curdle cheese at 40 paces and gags about rinsing through your tights. And on a miserable autumnal Sunday evening, there are few more cheery places to be.

Pat and Margaret was a masterful piece of work: Victoria Wood has her critics (cloth-eared cloth-heads who take no pleasure in words) but even they would admit that few comedy writers could have sustained a two-hour assault on the rib-cage as systematic as this. True, as the Hollywood superstar Pat Bedford (the wonderful Julie Walters) was conducted through a journey of self-discovery by her long-lost sister, Wood laid on the pathos with a JCB. But you can forgive a cement mixer-load of sentimentality for lines like this, uttered by Thora Hird: 'A phone number? In the paper? For Pat Bradford? She'd be inundated with trouser fumblers. Remember what happened to Mrs Anglesey in the Post Office window? And she was only trying to sell a divan.' Shameless. And if the Japanese really wanted to know what Britain was like, this was the programme to buy.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • 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.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living