THE GREAT WEEK OF SUSAN CALMAN BY THE SEA
MONDAY-FRIDAY, CHANNEL 5
I’ll be honest, if this hadn’t appeared on my review schedule, I wouldn’t have watched it in a million years. But look how I did it, and I can honestly say it put the biggest smile on my face.
It’s not just that it’s a charming mix of nostalgia and eccentricity, or that Susan Calman’s enthusiasm is so infectious, or that the places and people have a wonderful warmth and authenticity—it’s also that the timing couldn’t be more appropriate.
Sarah Vine Enjoys Susan Calman’s Grand Week By The Sea
After all, what better antidote to six-hour queues in Dover and canceled flights than an invigorating bucket and spade in Skegness or Scarborough? Seriously, why wait for days for a gruff French border guard to return from a three-hour lunch when you can sample the delights of the British coast?
We’re not talking about the fashionable coves of Cornwall or Devon here, which are very popular with the Boden-wearing, gelato-eating classes. We are talking about knotted handkerchiefs and traditional fish and chips.
Episode one takes us to Skegness, where Calman, in the shadow of the Jolly Fisherman, the resort’s famous mascot, embraces the entertainment on offer. Dressed in a gaudy holiday shirt and armed with a windshield and a determined grin, she heads straight for the beach, that expanse of windswept sand washed up by the North Sea. Simple pleasures.
From there it goes to Butlin’s, first opened in 1936 by Billy Butlin. An almost self-contained town, the Skegness resort was the first of its kind and the training ground for many of the light entertainment stars of the 50s and 60s, from Dave Allen to Des O’Connor.
Sarah Vine, pictured, giving her verdict on this week’s TV
It’s like a mini Las Vegas on a budget, with everything from arcades to live shows. Yes, it’s cheesy, yes, it’s cheap, but it’s also very cheerful, thanks in no small part to the famous Redcoats, now as iconic as ever.
Down the road, there’s a nice German man who built himself a piano-playing Elton John from Meccano (like you do), a small child-sized portion of fish and chips, some runaway donuts, a mandatory round of bingo, some running camels and a tour of a Victorian B&B.
And since no British seaside town is complete without a magic act, Calman is joined by Debbie McGee for a bit of escapism – followed by a trip to the local seal sanctuary where the excess of cuteness is almost too much to bear. Honestly, it’s the TV equivalent of a cup of strong sweet tea and a pack of Hobnobs.
The joy of this show, and the reason it works so well despite being – let’s face it – not exactly prestige, is that it’s totally unpretentious. There is no trace of snobbery, not even in Calman’s approach.
No mockery aside, no mockery of the people, just a genuine appreciation for what these places (Scarborough, Weymouth, Tenby and the Isle of Wight are also on her route) have to offer and their place in the Great Britain cultural landscape. Britain.
It’s a delightful romp through our coastal culture, as light and airy as a Mr Whippy ice cream but also curiously satisfying. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
THIS ROBOCOP COMEDY IS FAULT
THURSDAY, SKY COMEDY
Stephen Graham (left) and Daniel Mays (right) are crime-fighting duo Carver and Major, top investigators in Code 404
I must confess that I was a bit thrown by this show. The cast is absolutely amazing: Stephen Graham, who is just brilliant at everything he does, as well as Daniel Mays and Anna Maxwell Martin (ditto).
But there’s something about this black comedy — now returning for a third series — that certainly didn’t quite make sense to me.
The premise is intriguing: Graham and Mays are the crime-fighting duo of Carver and Major, top-notch investigators. Major is shot and killed on the job, only to resurface a year later, resurrected by science and enhanced with AI.
Now he dresses like Neo in The Matrix and has a gadget behind his ear.
Unfortunately, the technology is still in its experimental stage, meaning poor Major is also a bit of a loose cannon in addition to being a cyborg. Worse, his wife is in love with his partner, and she has used the insurance payout from his death to build an extension.
There’s a lot of potential here for a Life On Mars/Ashes To Ashes-style cult police drama, but it never takes off.
This is partly because it seems too hard to be crazy, but also because the characters are little more than caricatures and the script is laced with clichés that are meant to be ironic but just fall flat.
Admittedly, I only made two episodes, but I wish they had been better. Unfortunately they weren’t.
- I started watching Vicky Pattison: Alcohol, Dad And Me (Tue, Ch4) expecting very little and ended up being quite moved. Vicky was a star of the reality TV show Geordie Shore, which became a fixture on the celebrity circuit. Having only really seen her in her permanently tanned TV incarnation, I was surprised to find her a thoughtful, rather vulnerable young woman trying to negotiate a desperately sad situation. Alcoholism is such a devastating disease not only for the addict but also for those around them. This offered an unwavering insight into what it feels like to be the child of someone who puts booze first, and of the guilt and confusion that comes with it. Brave girl.
MY KIND OF MAKOVER
If you like homemade makeover shows (me) then you’ll love Worst House On The Street (Tue, Ch4). Charismatic brother-and-sister property developers Stuart and Scarlette Douglas help a young couple turn a drab patio into an elegant first home.
It’s not exactly rocket science, but it’s well executed, the siblings are very engaging – and in a world where every penny counts, the budgets are refreshingly realistic.