Saturday, March 11
GERI’S 1990S: MY DRIVE TO FREEDOM, BBC2, 9pm
I’VE never had an especially high opinion of Geri Horner – better known as Ginger Spice.
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She was just the brassy, loud one in that girl band, famous for red hair and a Union flag mini dress.
However, she went up in my estimation after I watched this show. She takes us back through the music and popular culture of the 1990s and this is interwoven with her own memories of growing up in an era when Madonna and secret raves were showing working-class girls from Watford a new way to be.
Geri and pals used to hang around the local pub (now a Wetherspoons, naturally) to get the nod on where that night’s mad rave was going to be held. Then they’d descend, en masse, into the woods and fields or abandoned factories to dance and sweat all night. I liked this version of Geri – not a daft wee pop star but someone who earned her stripes and knows her music.
But it’s not all pop, we also look back at the defining moments of the decade such as Diana, New Labour and the Cool Britannia craze. It’s surprisingly enjoyable.
DOGS BEHAVING BADLY, C4, 6.05pm and CRUFTS, C4, 7pm
I’M a dog-owner but have never been tempted to watch Crufts. Surely it’s all prim, posh people trotting around with alien-looking dogs by their side? Looking at my own dog, who loves to rub himself on our neighbours’ doormats, I think: “No, we don’t belong – Crufts is for good dogs, not wee bams.” But apparently Crufts is not about dogs; it’s about culture wars.
The traditional Brits who run it are getting all snooty about the Americans and Australians comin’ over ’ere, winning our dog shows. They insist on putting bows on their toy dogs’ heads and the Kennel Club says that’s often a ruse to hide imperfections. It’s jolly well not British, but the foreigners say it’s a cultural thing. Behold the canine culture wars!
Prior to Crufts there’s an entertaining programme where a dog trainer, The Dogfather, claims he can cure a pooch of bad habits such as jealousy, aggression or stealing food straight from the oven. He doesn’t deal with doormats, though.
Sunday, March 12
WILD THINGS, SKY1, 8pm
DO you listen to me? Do you value my opinion? Maybe not, and who can blame you? After all, I once sent a Valentine’s card to Jeremy Paxman and I like to eat tuna straight from the tin, so why should you take advice from me?
But if you do, if you take just one tip from me, let it be this: watch Wild Things. Don’t expect greatness. It’s on Sky 1, so no-one is promising you the spectacular, but I do assure you that’s it’s screamingly, tearfully, painfully funny.
Presented by Kate Humble and Jason Byrne, it’s a game show set in a forest where various obstacle courses and physical challenges are set up.
The reason it’s so funny is that the contestants are dressed as woodland creatures in giant, padded costumes. Plus, their vision is restricted by the costume, so they are guided via headset by a partner.
The result is giant badgers ramming into fat rabbits and as they grapple on the ground (“gerroff me, mate!”) a clumsy squirrel might come charging through the trees and trip over them. It’s totally ridiculous and I cry with laughter at it.
DOWN THE MIGHTY RIVER WITH STEVE BACKSHALL, BBC2, 9pm
TO its credit, this two-part series shows us a river whose name is probably unknown to most of us – the Bailem in New Guinea – and this gives the show a hint of real adventure. When Backshall tells us, as he’s practically tumbling from the open door of a helicopter in excitement, that no-one has ever travelled the length of the river before, and that there are still areas on the island which are unexplored, we do get a little frisson of the classic Victorian expeditions.
New Guinea is an island composed almost entirely of jungle, and the Bailem cuts through it. It is an angry river, swollen with rapids and furious water and the landscape is rough and wild: “It just looks like there should be dinosaurs everywhere!”
As the team attempt to navigate the river’s length they’ll also stop to meet the ancient tribes who live nearby and learn their customs, one of which is to cut off their fingers when a loved one dies, so they can demonstrate the depth of their mourning.