WHEN I Get Older (BBC1, Wednesday and Thursday of last
week) investigated the reality of ageing using the telegenic, but
not exactly rigorous, method of sending four TV celebrities (note
the self-referential circularity in the method), first, to live for
four days with disadvantaged elderly people, and then to stay in a
range of care homes for three days.
There is no doubt that this was a well-meaning exercise, and,
for John Simpson, Lesley Joseph, Gloria Hunniford, and Tony
Robinson - all over 60 themselves - an act of no little courage.
They were not just moving beyond their comfort zone: they were
confronting their fears about their own future: what will my life
be like when I lose either my physical or my mental faculties? And
indeed, will such a life be worth living? At least one of the
celebrities owned up to thinking that he would rather do away with
himself than lead a life of absolute dependence.
Of the two sections, the first was the more engaging. In the
care homes, the investigators, however much they tried to muck in,
remained outsiders, and spoke about the residents as "them". In the
first exercise, they were far more engaged as they entered,
briefly, into the lives of their elderly hosts.
Hunniford realised that even her skills were unable to provide
nutritious and interesting meals on £3.24 a day; she managed to
find Ivy new, cheaper accommodation, nearer her daughter, that
would leave her a financial margin more able to sustain life.
Robinson persuaded Philip to take up the singing that he had
abandoned since his wife's death, 17 months before.
Joseph, most impressively, shared Pat's 24-hour care for her
paralysed husband, and managed to persuade him to accept time in a
home, to give Pat a respite break. Joseph took Pat to bingo for the
first time in years, where - perhaps there really is a God - she
won £1000; so she can go on the cruise for which she has always
Were there any references to religion? None whatsoever. Surely,
besides the social and economic revolutions required to care for
the dependent elderly, faith may offer an essential resource, as we
confront the disintegration of our ability to take charge of our
Blackout, BBC1's new Monday-night three-part thriller,
managed to hit a number of dramatic targets in its opening episode.
A Liverpool councillor, Daniel Demoys - alcoholic, corrupt, and
adulterous - wakes one morning with memory loss, a cut hand, and
the news that his partner in crime has been savagely beaten.
He offers a prayer: "I'm sick of myself. Show me a way out," and
promptly throws himself in the path of the bullets meant for an
informer about to spill the beans on drug-dealing. He recovers
(naturally) to find himself a hero, and agrees to stand for city
mayor on a "clean up corruption" ticket. All the women are
stunning-looking; all emotions run high; it is always raining. No
cliché is overlooked. It's hokum.
For real drama, Henry IV Part 1, in BBC2's Hollow Crown
series, on Saturday, was about as good as made-for-televison
Shakespeare could be. It gave equal weight to the peril engulfing
national security, the epic contrast between Hotspur and Hal, and
the convincing low-life tavern scenes. Simon Russell Beale was a
Falstaff of mesmeric stature.