Television review: Farage, Attenborough, Morse and Secret Eaters

Boston UKIP leader Nigel Farage visiting Boston. ENGEMN00120131004100802
Boston UKIP leader Nigel Farage visiting Boston. ENGEMN00120131004100802

The Standard’s resident small screen examiner James Waller-Davies takes a look at the week on television.

And so the two brave hobbits set off to battle the powers of Mordor and to save the precious Shire from the evil Lord Sauron.

No, not Tolkien, but Durkin. This was Martin Durkin’s documentary Nigel Farage: Who Are You? (Channel 4). Durkin introduced his characters - “This is Nigel Farage...and this is me” - and off they set on their Middle Earth adventures.

Presenting Nigel “they come in pints” Farage as the man-in-the-pub is not difficult. The pub is where he draws the front line of attack, bringing down the European Union by daringly mixing the grain and the grape.

British lunchtime drinking is one of his secret tactics: “a couple of beers...another pint...and a bottle of red...two glasses of port.” Go on Dark Lord of the EU, let’s see you legislate that one.

Then in a daring raid, the two used a secret train tunnel to get right into the heart of Barad-dûr: the EU parliament building. Once inside, Nigel’s killer blow was dealt by breaking the no smoking rule and secretly filming in the court of the enemy.

This column has previously questioned the quality of documentaries on television and, in this case, Durkin crossed the line from director to PR agent. But you can’t ignore Farage. He is, if nothing else, entertaining and so was Durkin’s one-man advertising campaign.

For a documentary at the other end of the spectrum was the repeat of David Attenborough’s First Life (BBC4 - first broadcast 2010). If God had wanted a voiceover for Genesis, then this is what he would have got.

It’s staggering to think that Attenborough has been showing us the wonders of the natural world for over 60 years now. This year also marks the 35th anniversary of Life on Earth, the first of these ground-breaking in-colour nature documentaries. Look out for the inevitable series repeat.

Shaun Evans returned last week as the young Inspector Morse in Endeavour (ITV). It’s been much anticipated and many viewers, myself included, even skipped the last episode of Musketeers to watch it. (Thank heavens for iPlayer.)

It was bad enough that young Morse had to cope with the trauma of being shot at the end of series one, without having to be tortured by such a complicated plot.

Clearly the writers, not confident on getting a third, fourth or even fifth outing, decided the best strategy was to throw all their plot material into one episode.

We had the Masonic lodge plot. The women’s rights plot. The town verses gown plot. The police corruption plot. Someone even got murdered.

In the meantime, Hughes was having an identity crisis, living the life of John Thaw circa 1990, complete with limp, crossword, Scotch and opera. If you’re a fan of Endeavour, enjoy it while you can. It’s hard to see series three being made.

This column is always interested in what readers are watching and this week’s suggestion came from Sophie who pointed me in the direction of Secret Eaters (Channel 4).

There was nothing secret about what people were eating in the intro as series of cuts showed various omnivores throwing whole meals down their cake-holes. “I eat really healthy things [cut to chips], I don’t know why I’ve put on eight stone.”

The producers then employ surveillance techniques the Cold War would have been proud of to prove that “eating healthily” means a junk food diet of a zillion calories a day. In terms of production values it was Jason Bourne meets Mary Berry.

There’s something rather unsettling about this sort of reality format. They have all the characteristics of Victorian freak shows, where the physically unfortunate were paraded for public entertainment. Ultimately, the freak shows revealed more about the Victorians than the exhibitions. Will the same be said of us 100 years from now?