WHAT dish says honoured guest more eloquently than oven chips and mackerel? This must have been the former singer Pearl Lowe’s and rock drummer Danny Goffey’s thinking, as they hosted Sir Grayson Perry at their Somerset home for Grayson Perry’s Full English (Channel 4, Thursday of last week, first of three).
The artist promised to explore contemporary English identity, and diffidence around declaring ourselves English. Ms Lowe’s home, furnished with vintage pieces, was, Sir Grayson said, part of a strand of “tragic poshness” embodied in Noel Coward. Surveying the rural view at sunset from the garden dining-table, he told his hosts, “Money can’t buy this.” Pause. Cackle. “Yes, it can.”
Sir Grayson’s other encounters were similarly awkward: a long-haired wedding DJ sailing a boat near Dover to be a “presence” to incoming migrants; a football fan suggesting Lambeth as an Englishness reference; and Stonehenge druids blessing adopted animal spirits with water. English identity would always be precarious when the population had access to a “corridor” of land when so much of it was in private hands, argued a right-to-roam group trespassing by an ancient oak tree.
He tackled shared heritage in his childhood Essex village of Bicknacre. The arch of a 13th-century priory gave him a connection to the past, assuaging feelings of living “nowhere”. The Church of England has been absent from the story of Englishness so far.
Everyone Else Burns (Channel 4, Mondays) is a sitcom about a millenarian family in Manchester. Simon Bird plays the overbearing patriarch, David; Kate O’Flynn plays his fed-up wife, Fiona. While their son, Aaron (Harry Connor), eggs his father on in his dogma, their daughter, Rachel, (Amy James Kelly) evades his influence. A wise-cracking neighbour criticises their beliefs on the doorstep, and an elder advocates showing a lapsed family how much the church loves them by “shunning them” in a broad Yorkshire accent.
In Everyone Else Burns, jokes are generated by the comedy exaggeration premise: if this is true, what else must be true; so aspiring medical student Rachel is rebuked for getting straight As: “All that time wasted revising, when you could have been preaching.” The warmth of close-knit churches is missed by the writers; but the penchant for multi-compartment bags to carry tracts and leaflets is one detail that is comically right.
Sort Your Life Out (BBC 1, Wednesday of last week) told a family’s history in a thousand objects, from lads’ swim-shorts to souvenir teddy bears. School sweethearts Daniel and Charlotte became parents to Mia before they were 20, and Daniel took time coming to terms with that. The presenter, Stacey Solomon, offered no condemnation. “You have no idea how you are going to look after them, but you do. Men can take longer to adjust,” she said, before returning the family to their decluttered home.