Friday, 12 September 2008

Big is beautiful!

Oonagh Robinson and Jennifer Scott look back at the week's tv...

SINCE Big Brother finished, we’ve found ourselves watching an awful lot of random documentaries.
The other night, for instance, we caught two very intellectual efforts straight after each other.
It helped that we’d consumed quite a few large glasses of Chardonnay along the way, but afterwards we felt really good about ourselves.
And frankly, we didn’t say that very often after watching Rex, Darnell and Co.
First up was The Sculpture Diaries (C4, Sun) with the spiffing Waldemar Januszczak travelling all over the world on our behalf to look at some very big statues.
This episode was all about how sculptors over the years have conveyed the notion of “leadership and power”.
Basically, it seems “power” in terms of art means “massive”.
So we had a good old look at Mount Rushmore, the statue of David, those weird heads on Easter Island and the big Soviet figures depicting Stalin and Lenin.
The latter proved particularly interesting, as it turns out some wealthy Lithuanian businessman has bought all those old statues and put them in a big theme park complete with barbed wire fencing to look just like a Soviet concentration camp.
He was even going to ship visitors in by rail using big cattle carts, until someone pointed out that this might be a little on the offensive side.
Throughout this enthralling doc, Januszczak proved a completely marvellous host who obviously knew his stuff but talked like he’d only just found out all the information himself.
He also reminded us a bit of Dr Fox from Pop Idol. Which was weird.

After this, we switched over to Earth: The Climate Wars (BBC2, Sun) where Dr Iain Stewart was presenting a guide to “the history of global warming”.
Dr Stewart was trying desperately hard to be likable and jovial – we even saw him playing with his kids on the beach just to make sure we understood he was a “completely normal family guy.” He wasn’t half as engaging as Januszczak, though.
This first episode covered how the theory of global warming developed from the 1970s.
In those early days, everyone reckoned Earth was about to go into another Ice Age.
So Dr Stewart was shown smirking at old TV footage of Magnus Magnusson spouting off facts about the imminent freeze to come.
Funnily enough, the theory was soon laid to rest with the arrival of 1976 – when we had the hottest summer since records began. Doh.
It was all interesting enough, but we can’t help thinking that next week – when Dr Iain will look at how “the sceptics” developed their views – will be a lot more explosive.

WHO Really Killed Jesus? (C5, Tue) was the question being asked in yet another documentary this week.
With this being on Channel Five, we hoped it would be something wacky like “aliens” or “Leonardo Da Vinci.”
Turns out it was simply: “Pontius Pilate.” What a disappointment.
The real topic was whether Pilate was the “hand-washing” bystander he’s always made out to be in the gospels. Some posh academics reckoned there was lots of evidence the Roman leader was a nasty piece of work who crucified thousands of people daily.
Fascinating enough – all rather spoiled by some very dodgy dramatic reconstruction.
Still, nice hair, Jesus.

IT was a wee bit hit-and-miss but, when it worked, Harry and Paul (BBC1, Friday) was bang on. The Dragons’ Den spoof, with Theo Profiterole, John Lewis, Duncan Guillotine and The Grumpy Woman, was hilarious. “I hate you – and for that reason, I’m out!” Brilliant!