It’s 4am on Monday morning, and you’ve just sat through four hours of live coverage of the Oscars (Sky Arts, Sunday, midnight), only to realise you could have gone to bed and caught the edited highlights on RTÉ2 later that day instead.
That wouldn’t be the same, to be fair. Hollywood may not have the glamour it once did, it may be full of preening, politically correct multi-millionaires lecturing the peasants on the right way to think (a bit like the BBC these days, come to think of it). But you’d have to be dead inside not to still feel the thrill of Academy Awards night.
It’s tradition. These pampered prima donnas are ridiculous, but they make movies that stay with you for a lifetime. That’s worth celebrating.
In a way, it’s a shame they now feel so awkward about the excesses of past awards ceremonies that they ruthlessly cut down on winners’ speeches, and even had dancers ready to come on stage to cut off anyone who rambled on too long.
Embarrassing, rambling, sentimental acceptance speeches have always been part of the charm of the Oscars. If you can’t go a bit over the top when winning an Academy Award, when can you?
If I had one unpopular opinion, it’s that BBC natural history programmes are overrated. Yes, I know they win awards left, right and centre. Yes, I know the 96-year-old David Attenborough is a national treasure in the UK.
But once you’ve watched Wild Isles (BBC One, Sunday, 7pm), the latest in a long list of wildlife documentaries with his name attached, what have you actually learned that you didn’t already know?
The new series explores the natural world in what Attenborough called – with a grandee’s disregard for the political sensitivities involved in the name – “the British Isles”, and it was as beautifully shot as viewers have come to expect from such productions.
But actual content was thin on the ground. A typical line in the commentary went as follows: “In the north, it can be very cold indeed.” Foxes in Gloucestershire, we were told, “know these fields very well”.
I’m not asking for it to be like the Open University, but a bit more actual science would be nice rather than simply a parade of pretty pictures.
When Attenborough declared of killer whales that “their strategy is one of surprise”, I even found my mind wandering to Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition sketch. “Our chief weapon is fear. Fear, and surprise. Our two weapons are fear and surprise – and ruthless efficiency. Our three weapons…” and so on.
At least they now give due acknowledgement to the people who really make these shows, namely the camera operators, 29 of which were credited at the end of the first programme alone.
I was once asked to review the final episode of The Sopranos, despite never having watched a single minute of the iconic show before.
To this day, it remains the only episode of the series I’ve ever seen. Not because I didn’t like it, but life, as it has a habit of doing, intervened. I’ll get around to it one day.
Sixteen years later I find myself in exactly the same position with Endeavour (UTV, Sunday, 8pm), which came to an end last Sunday after nine seasons.
I’m not sure why I never watched it. I loved Inspector Morse, and its equally long-running follow-up, Lewis, so why have I never seen this 1960s/1970s-set series about Morse’s early days in the police force?
Having posed the question, I’m unable to answer it. Perhaps because I’ve always been a bit iffy about prequels and spin-offs. They’re usually not a patch on the original. They feel cynical, forced. Maybe I just didn’t want to be disappointed.
To get up to speed with the various character arcs, I began by watching Morse and the Last Endeavour (UTV, Sunday, 10.20pm), an hour-long documentary on the enduring appeal of the extended Morse televisual universe.
Narrated by Barbara Flynn (to whom John Thaw’s Morse was attracted in one of the best early episodes, ‘The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn’), it was a nostalgic and perfectly pitched introduction to where Endeavour fits in the canon, and why it has proved so enduring that there were eventually more episodes of it than either of its predecessors.
Duly appraised of the state of play, I then tackled the final episode itself. All I can say is, what an idiot I was for not diving in sooner. The writing, the period detail, the acting, the air of melancholy and regret which always hung over Morse – it was all flawless. And the final scene was incredibly moving.
“Is that it?”
Endeavour drove away, his path crossing with the older Morse’s famous red Jaguar, and there was a brief glimpse of John Thaw’s eyes in the rear-view mirror, both men looking back at each other as they drew further away from each other. Spine tingling.
Apparently, that was an echo of a scene in the very first episode of Endeavour. I’d have known that if I’d been watching all along. I’ll be making good on that unforgivable error at the first opportunity.
Between the Covers (BBC Two, Monday, 7pm) isn’t a great TV show about books. Like every other programme on air right now, it’s basically just another forum for celebrities to offer up their thoughts on life, the universe and everything.
With BBC Radio Two drivetime DJ Sara Cox at the helm, it has a sort of jolly, cheap and cheerful daytime vibe.
But it is, for all that, a TV show about books, and that’s not to be sniffed at when real arts programmes are increasingly rare on the main channels. We must take what we can get.