TV COLUMN: The Island with Bear Grylls, Victoria Wood, Chippers, Dickensian

James Waller-Davies
James Waller-Davies

Columnist James Waller-Davies gives his view of some of the recent events on television.

Accidents don’t just happen. They need some idiot with a special talent for the inevitable and a cavalier ‘follow me over a cliff’ attitude. This week’s The Island with Bear Grylls (Channel 4) provided just that, literally.

A breakaway group, led by Ben – a cross between Rambo and Jack from Lord of the Flies – went a cliff hopping in search of food. The inevitable happened.

Voiced-over, in almost slow-motion premonition, by Bear Grylls, a man so not squeamish he might eat Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s vomit, Paddy the hapless student took a thirty feet tumble off the cliff edge, slamming into the rocks below.

It looked so serious, I couldn’t even bring myself to laugh in the time-honoured British fashion of laughing at anyone who trips over in the street.

Poor Paddy. Earlier in the episode he had done what every good dog owner knows your mutt shouldn’t do and munched on chicken bones. Cue a sequence of Paddy having his bowel ripped to shreds by the chicken-bone shrapnel and passing more blood than stool.

Whatever Ben-the-doctor did to Paddy off-screen, it involved rubber gloves and a degree of modesty not usually encountered on reality TV. On balance, the thirty feel cliff crash seemed the less painful of the two ordeals. Bones can mend. Shame is eternal.

Whatever 2016 is remember for, the passing away of so many iconic celebrities is going to be there for ever. Next year’s awards ceremonies are going to consist of nothing but the annual montage to the departed. This week, Victoria Wood.

It’s hard to believe today with so many talented female comedians that back in the early 1980s there was just Victoria Wood. Whilst she was writing, singing, performing and directing a fresh brand of fresh and beautifully observed modern humour, the male dinosaurs from the 1970s were still pedalling the anachronistic toxic blend of sexism, racism and homophobia. The dinosaurs became extinct. Wood endured and spawned a dynasty of female protégés.

Her most well-known song, Let’s Do It - The Ballad of Barry & Freda, a classic in the tradition of Noel Coward or Joyce Grenfell, has enough one-liners of its own to fill a whole show.

Wood, at 62, went far too young, but not many people get to go with their legacy nailed down in advance.

Also gone, but to less acclaim, is Choppers the chimpanzee, the last surviving PG Tips chimp from the TV ads. The adverts, which proved there’s no ignominy that can’t be inflicted on a sentient animal in pursuit of a marketing mogul’s whim, clothed and dubbed the family of chimps into an anthropomorphic nightmare.

Choppers at least had the dignity and comfort of dying peacefully in his natural habitat of Twycross zoo.

The last rites have also been read over the corpse of Dickensian (BBC1). Having been lambasted in these pages during its Christmas and new year run for idiotic scheduling and audience loss, even the BBC has realised you can’t continue to spent £10 million on a series no one can keep track off. Not everything that passes will be missed.