I suppose the thing about previewing shows about history is that they don’t need a spoiler alert, seeing as everyone knows how historical events end, don’t they?
Well, as British History's Biggest Fibs with Lucy Worsley, the historian and broadcaster’s latest jolly meander through the past, reminds us, history is there to be spoiled, in the sense that the events we think we know so well – so well, indeed, that they become mythologised – can still offer some revelations. This is exactly how the softly didactic Ms Worsley explains the Wars of the Roses, (and the glorious Revolution and the Indian Mutiny in later episodes). There is, you see, no such thing as a definitive account of anything in history, not even from Ms Worsley. So, there is plenty of fascination left in, say, Richard III, or “wicked King Wichard” as the learned Lucy styles him. This is as good as telly history gets.
The Robshaw family, the BBC’s human historical guinea pigs, were last seen enjoying the strange food fetishes of the 1970s (like powered curries and boil-in-the-bag spag bol – some of remember such marvels), and now, in Further Back in Time for Dinner, they are back to eat their way through the first half of the 20th century, starting off with the Edwardians. Despite the more primitive technology – the sieve is about as high tech as it gets – the Edwardians’ food was nearer to “clean” than much of the stuff we push down our gullets these days. It is, however, not exactly healthy, being heavily dominated by meaty, rich dishes laden with calories; so anchovies on toast and lamb chops for breakfast. And, of course, “devilled kidneys” (can you even find them nowadays?). That was a far-off time of vast inequalities between the classes, pressing concerns about Britain's relationship with Europe and place in the world, and when the status and progress of womankind was a matter of national focus and attention. Well, maybe not so far off, maybe.
Other highlights for the week ahead include the new BBC drama Apple Tree Yard with Emily Watson and Ben Chaplin, an emotionally draining sort of political story, with an awful lot of awful sex in it. As you’d expect. As you might also expect, Sky Arts continues its strong run of initiatives with the innovative Portrait Artist of the Year series, presented by Joan Bakewell and Frank Skinner. This week sees actors Stanley Tucci, Indira Varma and Freddie Highmore sitting for the aspiring painters.
Now, normally I wouldn’t deign to recommend a football match as gripping viewing, but Friday night brings a genuine drama that you won’t need to buy a satellite subscription for – the FA Cup clash between Leicester City and Derby County, live on BBC1. The East Midlands “Derby” between the reigning premier league champions and the “rams” from the mere championship has the potential to be the most tragic and dramatic thing on your screens this week, maybe all year.
I admit I have some skin in the game, but not since there was the court case about whether Leicester could retain the bones of wicked King Wichard against a rival claim form York have I felt quite so such trepidation. Derby County could make history.
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