What Cyclops doesn't see: Television

We have Cyclops on Court Two," said Bill Threlfall. He was referring to the electronic eye that records whether a serve is in or out, but I had spotted an elderly man in the crowd wearing an eyepatch, and prayed that the cameraman would give us a mischievous close-up. He didn't. The cameramen at Wimbledon (BBC1 and 2), and every other sporting event for that matter, have close-ups only for pretty girls.

She doesn't have to be the partner of a competitor. During Channel 9's coverage of Test matches in Australia, entire overs have been known to pass while the camera goes cleavage-hunting. But it is better if she is. At the football World Cup last summer, we saw more of Ronaldo's girlfriend than we did of Ronaldo. Whenever Tim Henman plays, there appears to be one camera trained on him, another on his lovely girlfriend, Lucy ("the daughter of a very eminent doctor indeed," said Threlfall, approvingly, during one viewing). The same is true of Boris Becker and his lovely wife Barbara. Yet curiously, this ritual does not embrace boyfriends and husbands. Somewhere in the world of television sport there must be a gay cameraman, or even a camerawoman, forlornly seeking out the hunks.

In the meantime, Wimbledon offers reassuring stability in a turbulent world. Apart from Tuesday's unusual spectacle of a British crowd willing a German, Boris Becker, to beat a Brit, Miles Maclagan, and the scarcity of even intermittent drizzle, it has been business as usual. And for veteran Wimbledon-watchers still missing the sight of Virginia Wade getting her toss-up horribly wrong, Steffi Graf has obligingly filled the void. But Graf is on her last legs, tennis-wise. And speaking of the remarkable Graf legs, the cameramen must be wondering what they will do without them. They tried focusing on the attractions of her compatriot Anke Huber, but somehow it wasn't the same.

Breasts also made an appearacne in Big Bad World (ITV) - rather disturbingly, being car-essed by Ardal O'Hanlon, still best known to most of us as Father Ted's brain-dead colleague Father Dougal. Big Bad World is yet another drama about a bunch of middle-class thirtysomethings, in which the married ones spend their lives trying to fix up the one who is frustratedly single. In a brazen attempt to pre-empt the obvious comparison, the script even referred to Peter's Friends, the smuggest of all dramas about a bunch of middle-class thirtysomethings etc. But Cold Feet trod similar ground, albeit more wittily. So did Wonderful You. It is surely time to inject a bit more imagination into contemporary drama, and to convince metropolitan writers and producers that they must look a little further than their own back yards - or rather, their lovely roof terraces - for inspiration.

As for O'Hanlon, I wasn't sure whether he was playing for laughs, and I don't think he was either. He is the latest in a long line of clowns who have tried to play Hamlet, and Elsinore is not always the place for them. Lenny Henry does it better, because he manages to suppress his comedy persona. In Hope and Glory (BBC1), he was convincing as a super-dooper head teacher, the Red Adair of morning assemblies, brought in to rescue a failing urban comprehensive. It was a shame and a surprise that Lucy Gannon's script - usually the most reliable of bases on which to build a drama - occasionally let him down.

The first episode of Hope and Glory was, as Blackadder might have said, cornier than the corniest corner of a box of cornflakes. For we knew within the first few minutes that Ian George (Henry) would accept the poisoned chalice of a job at Hope Park, even though he kept saying he wouldn't. In fact, the more he said he wouldn't, the more we knew he would. Similarly inevitable was The Speech That Makes Him Change His Mind, and my wife and I had bets on who would deliver it. In the end it came from a governor who had sworn over the body of his dead son to save the school. So, in a moment of cheesiness worthy of Hollywood itself, George strode heroically forward, just after Hope Park had waved a none-too-cheery farewell to - another inevitable touch - the embittered former head, a nervous wreck played - indeed, marginally overplayed - by Peter Davison.

Hope and Glory will have to go some to match another recent idealistic- teacher-tries-to-save-rotten-school drama, Jimmy McGovern's superb Hearts and Minds. At the moment it looks more like To Sir With Love, with nagging violin music in place of Lulu's vocals. Of course, Lenny Henry is no Sidney Poitier. He's not black, for starters. Not so as you'd notice. In To Sir With Love, race was the main issue. Mercifully, times have changed since the 1960s, yet as far as I could make out there was not a single reference, from pupils, teachers, governors or anyone else, to George's colour. Sadly, times haven't changed that dramatically.

Still, as my wife pointed out, when you live in Haringey, where the state schools are among the worst in the country, there is something irresistible about a yarn in which a bad school gets better. We will probably stick with Hope and Glory, but not with another new series, The Wedding (BBC1), which offered one of the most banal and dispiriting snatches of commentary I've heard for a long time: "There are only three days to go until the wedding, and Mandy and Dave have still to buy the rings." Oh, please. Not another documentary series about the Mandy and Daves of this world and their impending bloody nuptials. The critic's relationship with television is meant to exist for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, but there are limits.

But then one's faith in the medium is constantly being reaffirmed, never more so than by Malcolm and Barbara - A Love Story (ITV), the most affecting documentary of last week and arguably the last 100 weeks. Malcolm Pointon, an accomplished musician aged only 51, was diagnosed in 1992 as having Alzheimer's Disease, and the distinguished documentary maker Paul Watson chronicled his decline.

It was a heartbreaking film, but neither mawkish nor uncomfortably intrusive, as it might have been in the hands of a lesser director. It is bound to win mantelpiece-loads of awards, which will be of cold comfort to Barbara, a spectacularly devoted wife yet with reassuringly human frailties. In a reversal of the usual convention, I hoped against hope that it would end with Malcolm's death, but evidently the nightmare goes on. Cancer, said Barbara, would have been much better. At least that is a terrible journey two people can make together, whereas this is a journey they make separately. True, but that in turn will be of little consolation to the journalist John Diamond and his wife, Nigella Lawson, whose plight was covered in the previous week's updated Inside Story.

What, it has been asked, is the point of such documentaries? They win acclaim and awards but whose interests do they really serve? The answer is that they offer an insight into the human condition from a perspective usually enjoyed, if that is the word, only by doctors and nurses. For like the medics, we are involved yet detached. It is an extraordinary privilege, which we undervalue at our peril.

There is now, I find, very little space in which to comment on Aristocrats, BBC's lavish new costume drama. I shall return to it next week. Briefly, it is a story about posh young people in the mid-18th century searching for suitable husbands and wives. Everyone at court is fascinated by the spectacle. And as it was then, so it is now. Remember Bill Threlfall's words: "The daughter of a very eminent doctor indeed."

Arts and Entertainment
The new Fondation Louis Vuitton in the Jardin d'Acclimatation in Paris
architecture

Arts and Entertainment
Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker and Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham
Downton

Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
News
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Comedy
Arts and Entertainment

Review

These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Daenerys Targaryen, played by Emilia Clarke, faces new problems

Sek, k'athjilari! (That’s “yes, definitely” to non-native speakers).

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Polly Morgan

art
Arts and Entertainment
The kid: (from left) Oona, Geraldine, Charlie and Eugene Chaplin

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised

art
Arts and Entertainment

Review: Series 5, episode 4 Downton Abbey
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.

    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

    Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

    The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album