Those who hate both Big Brother (daily, all the time, C4/E4) and the World Cup might well have entertained thoughts of entering a house of peace, and taking holy orders. Potential bonuses include: no more trying to find things to delete because Systems Administrator tells you that you’re over your mailbox limit; no more deadlines; no more £3.50 pints of beer; no more floating in a sea of sweat on the Tube; no more robot phone calls telling you that you’ve won a holiday in Florida; and no more boss shouting at you. Digging vegetables and praying doesn’t sound too hard, either. In some ways, then, we envy the three participants in The Convent (Wed 9pm BBC2), who are going on a break from modernity – in front of the cameras, of course. It’s a simple but brilliantly effective format, as anyone who watched The Monastery last year will remember, and a life inside isn’t as easy as a flippant TV columnist might have you think. We’re a bit fed up with BB at the moment, for a variety of reasons (the plinth task was cardboard boxes redux but less interesting, Goldengate is dull, dull, dull, and we haven’t had a chance to vote for Mikey yet) – we expect it’ll pass soon, don’t worry – and The Convent‘s contemplative air, with the focus on inner development rather than how a given action wil play in the tabloids is pretty refreshing. Why don’t the BBC put it on one of their digital channels 24 hours a day? It’d be better for us than a diet of BBC3 ‘comedy’, for sure.
There are a couple of thought-provoking (but not dull) documentaries this week for the more serious-minded among us. Two we’ve got an eye on are My New Home (Thur 9pm C4) and China (Tue 9pm BBC2). In the first, we follow three children whose families have arrived in the UK from places rather less salubrious and, indeed, conducive to stayng alive and not being tortured. TV Troll is, believe it or not, a real softy when it comes to stories of brave children having to learn to adapt to strange and difficult circumstances, so we’ll be watching this with a box of tissues to hand. Readers of the xenophobic hatepapers – and the hopeless Home Office – should be forced to watch this until they understand that immigration isn’t about numbers, but about real people. China is pretty self-explanatory: a meaty BBC doc that aims to give us a snapshot of life and goings-on in this huuuuuuge and diverse country. Watch, and be thankful you live in a country where you can watch TV that asks sharp questions without fear of a knock on the door in the night followed by years in a prison camp.
If you’d like slightly lighter watching material, and we can’t really blame you, this week’s Horizon (Thur 9pm BBC2) should be a good candidate. Subtitled Genius Sperm Bank, it looks at what happened to the women who availed themselves of sperm popsicles from Robert K. Graham’s jizz storage facility, donated by, well, clever people (IQ 180+). Graham sounds like he was a bit of a crack-pot eugenicist. Read his book here – it’s a big PDF, beware; random extracts: “Man has substantially freed himself from natural selection without adopting a viable alternative. As a consequence, he has become an evolutionary derelict. The direction of his drift is, if anything, downward”, “those with more limited minds are more likely to make sex their major concern”. It’s the kids we’re most worried about – imagine the pressure of growing up with parents who had bothered to seek out the cleverest man-juice they could! If you got less than gold at the Physics Olympiad, it’d be tears at bedtime.
Moving from the documentary to the hysterical, Category 6: Day Of Destruction is a made-for-TV movie from 2004 that dramatises the destruction of a major US city (Chicago) by a hurricane unparalleled in its ferocity. Hmm. Seems a bit unnecessary now, really. Also, the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale goes from 1-5, so we’re thinking that a category 6 mega-mega storm is a bit like Gillette adding yet another blade to one of their razors, i.e. a triumph of semantics over common sense. What the hell, we’ll watch this with our feet up – nothing like seeing millions of dollars’-worth of CGI ripping skyscrapers to bits.
Trust Channel Five. They go to great lengths to try and shake off their “films, football and fucking” tag, then make a documentary called The Secret Life Of Elizabeth I: Revealed (Wed 8pm Five) all about how the Virgin Queen was no such thing and was probably doing it with Ye Englande Footeballe Elevene every night. All of them at once, what’s more. Yawn, heard it all before. We’d rather they stuck to making more stuff like The Singing Estate (Sun 8pm Five) which, though formulaic and labouring under the bog-standard reality TV arbitrary deadline – can’t we have a fly-on-the-wall where we can see talent emerge in its own time, without lots of frantic editing and references to big days drawing ever closer? – is gripping and wonderful. We can’t wait to see the final performance – just like we cannot WAIT to see how Grace justifies herself to Davina on Friday night (BB, Fri 8.30pm/10pm C4). Just cross your fingers and hope she doesn’t walk before then, OK? Don’t deny us our pound of flesh, Gracie dearest. There’s a love.