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SARAH VINE’s My TV Week: A great trip to the sea

SUSAN CALMAN’S BIG WEEK AT THE SEA

MONDAY-FRIDAY, CHANNEL 5

Valuation:

I’ll be honest if this hadn’t been in my review schedule I would never have seen it in a million years. But look at it, I did it and I can honestly say it put the biggest smile on my face.

Not only is it a charming mix of nostalgia and eccentricity, or Susan Calman’s enthusiasm is so contagious, or the places and people exude a wonderful warmth and authenticity, but the timing couldn’t be more appropriate.

Sarah Vine enjoys Susan Calman's Grand Week By The Sea

Sarah Vine enjoys Susan Calman’s Grand Week By The Sea

After all, what better antidote to six-hour queues at Dover and canceled flights than a groundbreaking ceremony in Skegness or Scarborough? Seriously, why wait days for a grumpy French border guard to return from a three-hour lunch when you can sample the delights of the British seaside?

We’re not talking the fashionable coves of Cornwall or Devon, which are hugely popular with the floor-wearing and gelato-eating classes. We’re talking knotted handkerchiefs and traditional fish and chips.

Episode one takes us to Skegness, where Calman sets out to enjoy the entertainment on offer in the shadow of the Jolly Fisherman, the resort’s famous mascot. Kitted out in a bright vacation shirt, armed with a windbreaker and a determined grin, she heads straight for the beach, that vast expanse of windswept sand lapped by the North Sea. Simple pleasures.

From there, head to Butlin’s, first opened by Billy Butlin in 1936. A small town almost in its own right, 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, gives her verdict on this week's TV

Sarah Vine, pictured, gives 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 tacky, yes it’s cheap, but it’s also very cheery, thanks in no small part to the famous redcoats, which are as iconic today as ever.

Next up is a nice German guy who made himself a piano-playing Elton John out of Meccano (like you do), a kid-sized portion of fish and chips, some wacky donuts, an obligatory round of bingo, a few Racing camels and a tour of a Victorian B&B.

And as no British seaside resort is complete without an act of magic, Calman is joined by Debbie McGee for a moment of escape – followed by a trip to the local seal sanctuary, where the cuteness is almost too much to stomach. 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 — let’s be honest — it’s not exactly prestige, is that it’s completely unpretentious. There isn’t a hint of snobbery in Calman’s approach either.

No snide remarks, no mockery of the people, just a genuine appreciation of what these places (Scarborough, Weymouth, Tenby and the Isle of Wight are also on their itinerary) and their place in the UK cultural landscape have to offer.

It’s a wonderful romp through our coastal culture, as light and airy as Mr. Whippy ice cream, but also oddly satisfying. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

THE MALFUNCTION OF THIS ROBOCOP COMEDY

CODE 404

THURSDAY, HEAVENLY COMEDY

Valuation:

Stephen Graham (left) and Daniel Mays (right) are crime-fighting duo Carver and Major, top-notch investigators in Code 404

Stephen Graham (left) and Daniel Mays (right) are crime-fighting duo Carver and Major, top-notch investigators in Code 404

I have to admit that this show blew me away a bit. The cast is absolutely brilliant: Stephen Graham, who is brilliant at everything he does, as well as Daniel Mays and Anna Maxwell Martin (ditto).

But something about this black comedy — which has now returned for a third season — just didn’t quite add up, at least for me.

The premise is intriguing: Graham and Mays are crime-fighting duo Carver and Major, top-notch investigators. Major is shot while on duty – only to reappear a year later, revived by science and enhanced with AI.

Now he dresses like Neo in The Matrix and has a device behind his ear.

Unfortunately, the technology is still in the experimental phase, which means that the poor Major is not only a cyborg, but also a bit of a loose cannon. Worse still, his wife is in love with his partner and used the insurance money from his death to build an annex.

There’s a lot of potential here for an iconic Life On Mars/Ashes To Ashes-style police drama, but it never takes off.

That’s partly because it tries too hard to be crazy, but also because the characters are little more than caricatures and the script is riddled with clichés that are meant to be ironic but just fizzle out.

Admittedly, I only managed two episodes, but I wish they were better. Unfortunately they weren’t.

  • I started with Vicky Pattison: Alcohol, Dad And Me (Tue, Ch4) expecting very little and was quite moved by the end. Vicky was a star of the reality TV show Geordie Shore, which later became a regular on the celebrity scene. Having only really seen her in her permanently tanned TV incarnation, I was surprised to find her as a thoughtful, rather vulnerable young woman trying to come to terms with a desperately sad situation. Alcoholism is such a devastating disease, not only for the addict but for those around them. This provided an unflinching insight into what it feels like to be the child of someone who puts alcohol above all else, and the guilt and confusion that comes with it. Brave girl.

MY KIND OF MAKOVER

If you like home makeover shows (me) you’ll love Worst House On The Street (Tue, Ch4). Charismatic real estate developers Stuart and Scarlette Douglas help a young couple transform a drab patio into an elegant first home.

It’s not exactly rocket science, but well executed, the siblings are very dedicated – and in a world where every penny counts, the budgets are refreshingly realistic.

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