Pembrokeshire Murders; Bradley and Barney Walsh; Ben Fogle, Kirsty Wark, reviews



WHAT does Britain need? I mean, apart from a superfast vaccine roll out, finding £2 trillion down the back of the sofa to pay off the debts, and a Canary Islands climate? The answer, apparently, is a new Bruce Forsyth. No, it was not on my list either.

According to Her Majesty’s press (Sunday division), the BBC and ITV think they have found “the new Brucie” in Bradley Walsh and are tussling to secure his services exclusively.

Like me, you are perhaps only familiar with Mr Walsh’s oeuvre via The Chaser, the very moreish teatime quiz show, but apparently he is all over the schedules like a rash. Sure enough, there he was again in Bradley and Barney Walsh: Breaking Dad (STV, Monday).

The format was simple: father and son travel across a continent – previously America, this time Europe – in a motorhome, with the youngster challenging dad to do daredevil things along the way, such as canal jumping or velodrome cycling. Think the Generation Game on wheels.

Dad was usually useless, but he was a likeably cheeky chappy from Essex, there were some poptastic tunes from the likes of the Rolling Stones and Queen (the rights alone must cost a fortune), the pair had the kind of toasty relationship any parent would want with their child, and I did laugh when that starter pistol went off. All of this in a short and sweet half an hour package.

Slick work. Even so, Bradley as the new Brucie, Mr Saturday Night Telly? Better than Michael McIntyre but not quite Ant and Dec yet, I would say. Give it time, though.

Something else supposedly popular at this time of year is a fresh start, as explored in Ben Fogle: New Lives in the Wild (Channel 5, Tuesday).

Fogle’s first subject was Denni, who had traded life in Hollywood as a director and filmmaker for a farm in his native Iceland. Denni seemed to have it all – peace, nature, electricity, heating and hot water – but Fogle kept fretting that he must be lonely, especially when he found out he had three daughters living elsewhere with their mothers.

Despite Denni seeming fine and saying he never felt alone, Fogle, half man, half Golden Retriever, kept on. He wouldn’t let it lie, as Vic and Bob used to say. “I wonder if there is someone he shares this with?” asked Fogle. Nosey!

The daughters (delightful) came for a visit. They were happy, and Denni was happy. As it turned out, the gang saw each other regularly. Down the years they had shared many magically bonding experiences, such as taking pony rides in the dark. One morning, after sleeping outdoors all night, they woke to find a lamb that had lost its mother snuggling in to their group. Sounds better than Hollywood any day.

ITV has long been cornering the market in true crime mini series. By now they have it down to a fine art: pull the viewers in at the start of the week, and keep them coming back night after night with cliffhanger endings. If a star name can be secured – David Tennant in Des, Imelda Staunton in Flesh and Blood – so much the better.

The Pembrokeshire Murders (STV, Monday-Wednesday) had Luke Evans as Steve Wilkins, a cold case detective returning home to Wales after a spell in London. Wilkins reopened the file on a double murder and soon began to find links to other cases. At the centre of the web was a man already in prison for a string of burglaries. John Cooper was a nasty little toad, a career thief, but was he capable of something far worse?

Keith Allen played Cooper as a man with not a single redeeming feature, which was fine by this viewer because that is exactly what he seemed to be. Evans’s character was his opposite in every way, and just as credible, even if it did not seem so at first. While wardrobe was careful to kit him out in hooded anoraks and off the peg suits, the Fast and Furious star still looked like a movie star among mortals.

A low key performance from Evans as just a copper doing his job was enough to seal the deal on his credibility, though. Plaudits, too, to Oliver Ryan as Cooper’s son and one of his victims. This was a plain piece, almost a by-the-numbers retelling of a case, but it was satisfyingly done.

Now, if you would like a mature, rounded review of Kirsty Wark’s entertaining and informative new popular history series, The Years that Changed Modern Scotland (BBC Scotland, Tuesday) may I direct you to the daily editions of The , or have a peek online.

Here and now, all I will say to its presenter is this: by God woman, you are getting your money’s worth out of those dresses. She only seems to have two of them, poor soul: one to wear and one for the wash. Plus, someone has clearly had it away with her blow dry budget. If things don’t improve I suggest we start a crowdfunder, the Keep Kirsty Coiffed (And Buy her Another Frock) Appeal. Will keep you posted.


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