Friday, 20 July 2012

Television Review: 20 July

Not obsessed with javelin throwing or volleyball? Michael Moran offers some alternatives

Written by Michael Moran
Michael-Moran1It's that special time that only comes once every four years. The Games don't start until the 27th, but already Olympics-flavoured content is slathered all over our TV schedules like goose grease over a channel swimmer. Or, if you prefer, like fake tan over a ballroom dancer. Neither of those sports, I note, are currently recognised by the IOC. Which is a shame, as I'm sure David Walliams could secure gold for Team GB in either.

That's about the limit of my sporting knowledge. So what's on TV for those of us who don't care much for all the running, jumping, unambitiously short-range swimming and disappointingly not-dancing?

Candidly, not a great deal. BBC One's best offering this week is a beautifully crafted period drama called Bert And Dickie, which is about the Olympic Games. Within a few minutes of the film's opening, the elegantly built old cars, comfortingly chuffing steam trains and breathtakingly lovely coats tell you you're in 1948.

We are thrown back into a world of inspired amateurs, when British gold medallists begged an afternoon off work to compete in races, and discus-throwers were well-rounded individuals who were also rather good at the piano. Bert And Dickie is (more or less) Chariots Of Fire in a boat. It's going to attract the Dr Who crowd by dint of a starring role for current Time Lord Matt Smith, but it's a tremendous showcase for British acting talent altogether. Geoffrey Palmer shines, especially, as the father of Dickie, one of the two British sculls hopefuls.

There's some droll stuff, too, about the 1948 Olympic organising committee, and their worry that even at the last minute their plans would unravel. That's true, too, of the Olympic Deliverance Committee in Twenty Twelve (Tuesday, BBC Two at 10pm). I loved this series. As it comes to its regrettable but inevitable close, Ian Fletcher (Hugh Bonneville) has recovered from his 'totally routine accident', and the bumbling Deliverance Team is preparing to hand over to the Live Team.

Jessica Hynes still gets all the best lines. PR guru Siobhan Sharpe is one of the most brilliantly quotable monsters in comedy, and I can't help but think that a followup series set in Perfect Curve PR would be the ideal legacy for Twenty Twelve. But you'll be left desperate to know what happens to the rest of the team, too. All in, one of the funniest and bestobserved British sitcoms in a long time. If you've missed it, do fi nd some way to remedy that.

Finally, something for the younger viewer – or for viewers like me who never quite grew up. Horrible Histories (CBBC at 10am) has a one-off Sports Special in repertory this week. If you aren't familiar with the show, it's 1066 And All That, performed in the style of Monty Python's Flying Circus. Packed with notable facts and genuine laughs, it's worth a quick visit to the higher-numbered channels when no one's looking.

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