Bring on the dancing horses

Apologies for the late running of this week’s Telly Addict. So let’s get to it. (That’s ten we’ve clocked up now under UKTV’s guidance and patronage: they’re all stacked up here.) I’ve had an epiphany. Just when I thought I was going to get through the Rio Olympics (BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Four etc.) without meaningfully seeing any of it, this 6,000-word New Yorker article on dressage drew me in. I fell in love with Charlotte DuJardin and Velagro (who must appear as a duo, they can’t exist outside of each other), who – spoiler alert – won the expected freestyle Gold. Bring them on.

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In fact, there’s a subliminal animal theme to this week’s Telly Addict. As well as being enchanted by Velagro, I was pretty smitten with Kate Humble’s sheepdog and her, on Kate Humble: My Sheepdog and Me (BBC Two). Here’s Kate with her three farm dogs, two rescues, and one, Teg, who has to be “put to work”, herding sheep – the thrust of this idyllic, animal-loving one-off. See the way Teg, on the right, gazes up at her beloved owner and says, with her David Bowie eyes, “Why do I have to go to work while these two mongrels get to sit around and do nothing all day?”

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Kate rather sweetly called Teg her “ginger monster”. The four-parter Highlands: Scotland’s Wild Heart (BBC Two), first shown in May, is back on iPlayer thanks to a repeat showing for Olympics widows like myself. It is full of gorgeous ginger monsters in a glorious setting, and narrated by Ewan McGregor, whose voice could melt winter from 50 paces.

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If you need a break from beautiful British animals leaping, mating, herding, surviving and, in one case, dancing to Brazilian carnival music, there’s a different kind of wildlife in Gomorrah (Sky Atlantic), the Sky Italia co-production now into its second operatic, violent, moody, Naples-based crime/family melodrama but available on demand through Sky. In it, Italian men passive-aggressively grab the cheeks of other Italian men in dual love and threat.

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I have raved about Gomorrah before – here’s my review of the season-one box set in the now-defunct Guardian section Your Next Box Set, a newspaper I used to work for, but seemingly, now, not so much – if anything, season two is tighter and more deadly, and stunningly framed by director Stefano Sollima.

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First Dates (Channel 4) is back, after what must be a whole fortnight off air. If you’re not already long-since-hooked by the format, which uses a laser-guided dating algorithm to set up couples of all ages and persuasions who really might get along. Damien (left), a beardy Northern Irishman with Channel 4’s favourite neuropsychiatric condition, Tourette’s, was a great fit for personal trainer Kai, if you took away the Tourette’s (which is probably fairly rare on a box-ticking list) but you have to see it to enjoy its full ramifications beyond one dater’s impediment-of-the-week. The show may be currently setting up its waiting staff for a TOWIE-style amateur drama, but they remain cute.

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You can see this 55-year-old gym member in his pants, too, if you don’t ordinarily watch Match of the Day. His possibly depilated flesh makes a change from all the fur, fluff, feathers and Gaelic beard elsewhere. If anything, this week is the bitty calm before the blockbusting storm. Next week, the new terms is almost upon us, and the big hitters come out: The Bake Off, Ripper Street, An Important New Four-Part BBC One Drama, followed by Poldark, The Missing, Cold Feet, Strictly … I’m glad to be back. And I hope the appearance of the slightly sinister puppet I made at school when I was eight years old doesn’t haunt your dreams. Literally: don’t have nightmares.

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7 thoughts on “Bring on the dancing horses

  1. I really enjoyed the Olympics but have to admit that the dressage was one of the few events that left me completely cold. I think the problem was that I had absolutely no idea what was going on. I’ve no particular problem with events that are decided by judges’ assessments of the performance (as some people do), but i couldn’t discern what they might have been looking for and what might make one performance better than another (which even a complete non-expert can do to some extent with things like diving). The gymnastics on the other hand, in particular the floor routines, were breath-taking and just what you watch the Olympics for.

    Thanks for the recommendation of Fleabag last week. I had avoided it online as I was so unimpressed by Crashing, the previous series by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, but watched the first episode when it was shown on BBC2 and it was very different and much better. Hopefully the rest of the series will carry on that standard.

    Andrew, how do you review something like the Bake-Off? Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s fantastic, one of the highlights of the television year, but you can pretty much guarantee that what you said about last year’s programme will apply to this one (it’s consistency and charm is part of the appeal). It seems difficult to say anything original or insightful about it now that hasn’t been said many times before.

    Interested to hear what you thought of One of Us. I thought it might be good considering that the Missing, by the same writers, was so engaging, and subtly written and acted. But this was just dull it was so full of cliches and over-acting. The first episode certainly didn’t make you desperate to know what the big secrets are that almost every character seemed to have.

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    • I, too, found Crashing unappealing. With Fleabag (which is based on her own play) Waller-Bridge has found her calling card.

      I love reviewing the Bake Off, and always have done, with great enthusiasm. Assuming they haven’t altered the format, I’m looking forward to picking out ticks and cliches, just like in MasterChef, with great affection. I might recycle a few quotes from last year’s review to see if anybody notices, though, as a postmodern experiment!

      I thought One Of Us was too gothic, all that thunder and lightning! Nowhere near as subtle and nuanced as The Missing from the same writers.

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    • It is a question I ask myself on a near daily basis. (And I remain in debt to my friend Stuart Maconie, who gave me a subscription for my 40th birthday which I have kept up ever since.)

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  2. Really enjoyed Fleabag. Love to hear your thoughts on Preacher, one of my favourites of the year so far. Episode 6 has an iconic scene that I’m a glutton for re-watching, I wouldn’t want to choose between that and the GOT bar fight.

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  3. I watched the first episode of Preacher and I couldn’t get on with the tone of it – sort of comic-book violence mixed with I-don’t-know-what. I’m not convinced by Dominic Cooper’s American accent, either. Feel free to sell it to me!

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    • Preacher certainly does have the comic book violence, but seems to hit the right tone, and doesn’t try overly hard, some good humor in there, it just seems a bit different from the other stuff out there, vaguely in the style of a US take on Utopia. Try watching the first 5 minutes of episode 6, for a scene that’s worth watching even if you don’t watch anymore of the series. I showed that to my nephew and niece first and they couldn’t get enough of the show, it is entertaining.

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