OUR Sunday web columnist takes a wry look at the week’s TV:
Times are tight. Everywhere you look, cutbacks are being made and budgets slashed.
At least in the real world, anyway.
Over in the BBC’s impregnable thunder dome it’s a slightly different story.
They’ve wasted nigh-on £100 million on an abandoned IT project, piddled another huge fortune up the wall for a third series of national embarrassment The Voice and they’re currently boring us senseless with £25 million snoozefest The White Queen.
So my hackles were well and truly raised, last Sunday night, when a continuity woman announced: “Guaranteed sun now on BBC2,” followed swiftly by the words: “Kate Humble and Helen Czerski.”
You see, this pair’s licence-fee funded globetrotting is somewhat of a personal crusade.
For the 2012 series Orbit: Earth’s Extraordinary Journey, they endured Bermuda, Mexico, Norway, Ecuador, Chile, Canada, Egypt, Argentina, Greenland, India, the US and, hardship of hardships, deep-sea diving, off the coast of Belize.
Since then, Hawaii was the reluctant Humble’s location for Volcano Live, while Czerski suffered a trip to Reims in France to sip champagne, on BBC4’s Pop! The Science of Bubbles, when a bottle of Asti Spumante, from Oddbins, would have sufficed.
So excuse me if I was a bit sceptical when Dr Czerski opened their latest BBC2 round-the-world jolly, officially called The Secret Life of the Sun, by insisting they’d set up base at the Rutherford Appleton Space Laboratory in Oxford.
And that’s where they’d be staying, no doubt. Deskbound. Moving only for toilet breaks.
Indeed, there they remained. For all of six minutes.
At which point Humble got itchy feet: “To begin to understand the sun’s extraordinary power, we need the help of a total solar eclipse.
“And to see that, I had to travel to the other side of the world...”
Of course you did...
“This is Cairns, Australia.”
So began the intercontinental air miles, in between moments of helpful scientific explanations such as “sunlight” is the same as “light from the sun”.
Czerski: “550,000km down inside the core is a 16-million degree furnace. To understand how that vast pressure creates sunlight, I’ve come to the National Ignition Facility...”
“... in California.”
Humble: “A small amount of the solar wind’s energy gets through Earth’s magnetic field with extraordinary effects, effects I had always wanted to see for myself.”
(And that’s why I’ve come here, to Lapland, to watch the aurora borealis.)
Czerski, talking about solar storms causing blackouts: “We need an early warning system. And fortunately, there’s one in this building here.”
And where might that be, Helen? Bradford? Luton? Back at Oxford?
“The Space Weather Prediction Centre in Colorado.”
Still she wasn’t done. “Sunspots are like windows in the sun’s surface through which we can study what’s happening inside the sun itself.”
(And that’s why I’ve come here...)
“... to the McMath Solar Telescope in Arizona.”
She did, however, offer a word of warning: “The research suggests the sun may be heading for an extended quiet period, what solar scientists call a grand minimum.
“The previous grand minimum 350 years ago coincided with brutally harsh winters in Europe and North America.”
Only one thing for it then.
Humble and Czerski had best avoid that area for their next BBC2 series.
Bermuda, Australia, Argentina, Egypt and deep-sea diving, off the coast of Belize, are nice, I hear.
Why Am I Still Single?
Best guess, you’re the kind of person who’d agree to let your ex-partners dish the dirt on why they dumped you, on Channel 4.
Eat your heart out, Christian Jessen and Dawn Harper.
Meet Warren Wesley Jr, The Man With The 10-Stone Testicles, a C4 documentary that could be Embarrassing Bodies USA, if he’d been palmed off back to his own GP.
Since trapping his nadgers in 2008, they’d ballooned to space-hopper proportions which he could conceal only by: “Wearing a huge hoodie upside down instead of trousers.”
But, I’m glad to say, one 14-hour operation later and Warren’s half the man he used to be.
A great relief for him with just one disappointment for me.
The programme makers didn’t think to use the Nutcracker Suite.
Or anything from Sex Pistols’ Never Mind The B****cks.
This week’s Couch Potato Spudulikes...
Sky1’s Mad Dogs’ mind-altering finale.
Andy Murray movingly unburdening himself of the Dunblane massacre, on BBC1’s The Man Behind The Racquet.
John McEnroe’s sport punditry masterclass, topped by poking fun at LMFAO berk Redfoo for wearing glass-less spectacles at Wimbledon.
The One Show sticking Patrick Kielty in a “cryo sauna” at minus 170C, like Han Solo being turned into Jabba the Hut’s wall-hanging in The Empire Strikes Back.
The Apprentice’s Alex Mills popty-pinging his way through Myles’ microwave ready-meal pitch.
Partially-sighted The Voice winner Andrea chuckling at Phillip Schofield’s This Morning question: “Did you see will.i.am at the after-show party?”
And this advert voiceover during The Man With The 10-Stone Testicles: “Nutella. Each 15-gram portion contains two whole hazelnuts.”
I’ll pass, thanks.
Fresh from attempting to become a serious investigative TV journalist for BBC3, Rick Edwards slammed that into reverse hosting E4’s Made In Chelsea: End of Season Party, where he handed out pretend awards.
Scene Stealing by an Inanimate Object surprisingly wasn’t won by Binky Felstead, although there is already a frontrunner for the 2014 Outstanding Achievement in Stating the Obvious...
Rick Edwards’ serious investigative TV journalist ambitions lie in tatters.
This week’s Couch Potato Spuduhates...
BBC1’s Wimbledon coverage forcing TV’s best quiz show Pointless into an unnecessary hiatus.
Stupid CBBC puppet Hacker T Dog muscling its way onto BBC’s Wimbledon (grow up).
Wimbledon clash of the shrieking violets Maria Sharapova v Michelle Larcher de Brito sounding like synchronised childbirth.
Owen’s magical disappearing stubble between getting up from his armchair and answering the doorbell, on Corrie.
The Apprentice’s Jordan using the phrase: “The purchasing manager,” when he meant: “Mum or Dad.”
And, following 139 complaints about that low-cut dress on The Voice final, the spineless BBC apologising for Holly Willoughby owning a pair of breasts.
It should apologise for the BBC not owning a pair of balls.
ITV’s new Saturday night atrocity had Cheryl Fergison pretending to be Dusty Springfield (You Don’t Have To Say You Crush Me) and Bobby Davro impersonating Tom Jones.
Your Face Sounds Familiar?
Your Face sounds like Stars In Their Eyes.
Neil Clough, on The Apprentice’s ready meal task: “Fusion is about bringing two kinds of cuisine together. We want to do a Caribbean dish with a Thai twist or a Thai dish with a Caribbean twist.”
Now, I like a Caribbean dish with a Thai twist. But then I also like a Thai dish with a Caribbean twist. But which is best? There’s only one way to find out...
Bring back TV Burp.
This week’s You Dare Say! award goes to...
Joint winners, Jo “Tanya Branning” Joyner on Loose Women: “There is quite a bit of misery in Walford.”
And This Morning’s on-screen caption: “John Wayne Bobbitt says his wife chopping off his willy has transformed his life.”
You dare say!
Phillip Schofield to chopped-off-willy victim John Wayne Bobbitt on This Morning: “Your notoriety meant women around the world were very interested to see what you had got.
“It would be true to say your penis took you around the world.”
Whatever is it? A jumbo? Or a chopper?