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Television... Fancy homes and posh women on tour miss a shot of Patsy going wild


Tuesday, RTÉ One, 8.30pm


Monday, More 4, 9pm


Tuesday, ITV, 8pm


Wednesday, BBC One, 11.45pm


Sunday, TG4, 10.35pm


Tuesday, BBC One, 8.30pm


Joanna Lumley enjoys a super tour around the British countryside in ‘Home Sweet Home’

Joanna Lumley enjoys a super tour around the British countryside in ‘Home Sweet Home’

Joanna Lumley enjoys a super tour around the British countryside in ‘Home Sweet Home’

The tagline of the email from RTÉ a few weeks ago couldn't have been more intriguing: "Strictly embargoed until 6am Wednesday. Cannot appear in print, online or via social media." What could be momentous enough to merit such secrecy?

It turned out to be an announcement that Home Of The Year would soon be back for a seventh series, with two new judges joining architect Hugh Wallace - an event which, without being unkind, would hardly make a ripple in any normal year, never mind the current situation.

On Tuesday, it was back on screen anyway with the first three of 21 houses battling it out over the next eight weeks for the title of "Best House In Ireland That Most Of Us Couldn't Possibly Afford". That includes the winner of this episode, a big black new build in Co Cork with a grand piano as the kitchen island.

What can you say about the programme? It was fine. I've never been one to turn down the opportunity to snoop around other people's houses from afar.

But one of the new judges did say in passing that good design is "hard to achieve without feeling very forced and contrived", and that definitely goes for Home Of The Year too. There wasn't much rapport between the three judges. They sounded as if they were reading a script to camera, rather than chatting naturally. There's something a bit clinical about it.

It also ended with Hugh writing the number eight as if it was a snowman, with one separate circle on top of another. It's hard to sleep after seeing a thing like that.

There seems to be a new genre of programme which involves famous posh women walking about the countryside. It probably has something to do with the pandemic, and the need for comforting reminders that there's a big world outside your four walls.

Having these shows fronted by famous posh women also means that, despite having the feel of daytime programming, they can be broadcast during prime time.

My personal favourite is Darcey Bussell's Wild Coasts Of Scotland, but that could just be because the landscape is so spectacular. Think the West of Ireland, but with Scottish accents.

This week, the former ballerina and Strictly judge was in the Outer Hebrides, a place that has been socially distancing for millions of years. It was like a visual sedative, fooling you briefly into thinking that all's right with the world.

Joanna Lumley, the poshest of them all, finished her own three-part tour around the British countryside the following day on Joanna Lumley's Home Sweet Home. It was amiable stuff, in a "gosh, how super" sort of way, all probably intended to capitalise on her status as a national treasure since playing the drunken, leering Patsy in Absolutely Fabulous. She's never less than charming company.

It was all a bit polite and tame, though. You can't help wishing that ITV had instead sent out Patsy to run round the country, getting thoroughly plastered and chasing after unsuitable men.

Now that would make great TV.

Eating With My Ex has the genius idea of taking couples who used to date, and bringing them together for one last lunch to talk, awkwardly, about what went wrong with their relationship.

The latest series centres on celebrities, though it's entirely plausible that viewers who don't have a PhD in Reality TV will be unaware of who they're seeing on screen. The first two back-to-back episodes even featured Demi from Love Island and Megan from The Only Way Is Essex, who met on Celebs Go Dating. The definition of fame gets ever looser.

The best outcome was that between Vinegar, from Ru Paul's Drag Race UK, and former lover Jamie, who went out on a casual basis for four months, which is only slightly longer than the lunch. They were both funny and sweet and thoughtful, and decided that they would keep in contact, "minuses the penises", an arrangement which seemed to be working at time of broadcast.

It's a fun, if somewhat voyeuristic and narcissistic, show, but my main disappointment is that there wasn't more about the food, which was always such a big part of ITVBe's Dinner Date. Why have them go to lunch at all, rather than just for a drink, if I don't get to see some nice dishes?

For a different take on modern love, Le Ceangal was a gentle, warm comedy that followed Declan in Galway and Aoife in Dublin as they struggled to keep a long-distance relationship going during lockdown. Originally broadcast as eight short episodes last autumn, it's now been repackaged as a 40-minute film and shown again as a new release. It probably worked best in small bites, but it showed how filmmakers can adapt to the current constraints on a limited budget, effortlessly capturing the challenges of communicating via Zoom and Facetime, not to mention getting a decent haircut.

Tuesday brought a hastily scheduled, but compelling, Panorama investigation into the ongoing plight of Latifa, daughter of United Arab Emirates leader Sheikh Mohammad, who has been held against her will since trying to flee the country in 2018.

The young woman's video recordings, made secretly on a smuggled mobile phone, were chilling.

Ominously, she has not been seen or heard from now for nine months. That the world continues to treat UAE as if it is a normal country beggars belief.



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