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

HOME OF THE YEAR

Tuesday, RTÉ One, 8.30pm

DARCEY BUSSELL'S WILD COASTS OF SCOTLAND

Monday, More 4, 9pm

JOANNA LUMLEY'S HOME SWEET HOME

Tuesday, ITV, 8pm

EATING WITH MY EX

Wednesday, BBC One, 11.45pm

LE CEANGAL

Sunday, TG4, 10.35pm

PANORAMA

Tuesday, BBC One, 8.30pm

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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.

 

Podcasts

The Kindness Economy

Acast, Apple, Spotify

Benign Narcissist by Emma Forrest

Home & Property

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Apple, Spotify

Freakonomics Radio

Acast, Apple, NPR, Spotify, Stitcher

 

By Lucy White

Not so long ago, a new year meant a new exercise regime, new-fangled diet, new career MOT. Not this time. After a turbulent 12 months, we gamely committed to guilt-free hibernation, replacing Dry January for Liquid January and put motivational buzzwords like “pivot” and “manifest” in the bin. But March is fast approaching and it’s time to put our houses in order and a spring in our steps. No need for self-help and corp-speak platitudes — these creative-minded podcasts are at once insightful and inspiring.

We’ve all experienced lockdown hair but Britain’s Mary “Queen of Shops” Portas is practically unrecognisable without her trademark ginger bob. What remains unchanged, however, is her pragmatic and emotionally intelligent approach to retail strategy, resulting in The Kindness Economy; a concept Portas had in development long before the pandemic and now delivers in weekly podcasts quizzing entrepreneurs about their ethical approaches to business. Pukka tea’s Sebastian Pole and Brewdog’s James Watt have featured so far — the podcast only began last month — with many more cross-sector innovators in the pipeline that should prove interesting to independent business owners and discerning consumers alike.

The greedily talented journalist, novelist, screenwriter and film director Emma Forrest is now also a podcaster, her freshly hatched Benign Narcissist “examining the streak of narcissism that many creatives wrestle with, and how they attempt to tame it and alchemise it into art”. If that sounds like 50 minutes of self-congratulation among precociously talented high-achievers, worry not — Forrest is as much of a fan-girl as she is erudite. Last month’s launch episode features the filmmaker and writer Scott Frank, providing the backstory to his Netflix hit, The Queen’s Gambit, and earlier works (Logan, Out of Sight and the criminally underrated Godless, another Netflix Original), with fellow vanguards to come.

Is economic growth the wrong goal? Why do we seek comfort in the familiar? What is my dog really thinking? These are among the pressing questions posed by Freakonomics Radio, hosted by Stephen J Dubner, co-author of the Freakonomics book series. Each episode asks more questions than it answers — making them all the more worthwhile, with Dubner bending the ears of academics, economists, scientists and industry disruptors, all inviting us to critically re-examine our place in the world.

 

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