I HARDLY ever swear. That’s not because I’m calm and gentle; it’s probably due to my synaesthesia – a condition which lends texture and taste to words. This neurological quirk makes some words taste like raspberry mousse or melting chocolate, but tends to make swear words taste absolutely foul. So I hardly ever swear.

You’d have to do something pretty horrendous to prise a curse word from me. You’d have to kick a kitten, put salt in my tea, or tell me my favourite Chinese restaurant had closed down. Alternatively, you could make me watch Front Row (BB2, Saturday).

I was so keen to see this new series. The BBC is always telling us about its commitment to arts programming and yet BBC4 remains crammed with pop music shows and subtitled crime dramas. Give us something serious, BBC! Educate and enlighten us, BBC! Don’t just give us more Dolly Parton clips or another Swedish person dead in a forest.

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Finally, it happened. Radio 4’s beloved arts review show Front Row was getting a TV version. Each Saturday night a bunch of knowledgeable critics and commentators will scrutinise the week’s cultural offerings. We’ll get some feisty debate and useful recommendations, and might actually learn something.

I was so glad. I wanted flags, fireworks, and party poppers. Instead I ended up swearing. I actually yelled, “Oh just f**k off!” at the screen. I turned into my dad when he watches an Old Firm game. I hardly recognised myself …

Yes, Front Row – the TV version – was a screaming disappointment. As a literary critic, I can tell you about the many excellent books which are being published just now – but did this show discuss any of these new works? No. Instead it went on about bloody Harry Potter, which has been absolutely done to death.

The choice of the Potter books seemed embarrassingly lazy. For a start, they’re children’s books. Secondly, it is not a fresh and invigorating topic. Finally, it was quite insulting to the audience: it was like saying “the poor dears won’t know about big grown-up books, or the recent trends in literature, so just stick to something familiar.”

Adding insult to idiocy was the format, with the presenter giving his guests 60 seconds to debate Harry Potter and “battle it out”. Why don’t they just go and get Ant and Dec in for this gig?

THANKFULLY, BBC2 redeemed itself this week with a great new series on Russia. Over the course of three episodes Russia with Simon Reeve (BBC2, Thursday) will take us across the huge expanse of Russia, the largest country on Earth, from its desolate, chilly east to the cosmopolitan cities in its west.

The opening episode summed up Russia perfectly: a country which you may think you know from popular culture, but which is actually, as Churchill famously said, “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”. We saw a frozen landscape of reindeer, dogs, craters and sleighs – but we also saw a glitzy city full of casinos and neon lights. Two extremes in one region.

The casino city is Vladivostok. Sitting on Russia’s far eastern coast, looking to China, it is refashioning itself as a gamblers’ paradise, hoping to tempt wealthy Chinese tourists.

Any impression you may have of Russia as a grey Soviet land will dissolve inside these glamorous casinos (one of which is run by a wee Scottish bloke), but when you’re back out on the streets the old Cold War feeling might easily come creeping back.

Reeve and his camera crew were followed and harassed by police, who Reeve assumes were acting on orders from the FSB (the successors to the notorious KGB).

They removed his cameramen to a local psychiatric hospital for drug testing and hours of questioning, and then they were all very strongly encouraged to get to the train station and leave town.

It seems very odd that the city is reaching out to tourism, while simultaneously harassing foreigners.

An enigma indeed.

EVERYONE measures each new series of Star Trek against the original series, don’t they?

If so, then the latest series Star Trek: Discovery (Netflix) is hugely different from what has gone before. The original series had a largely ensemble cast, with several main characters, and their interactions provided the heart of the show, logical Spock debating with the more fiery Kirk and the grumpy Dr McCoy. Discovery, having watched the first two episodes, seems to be about one character: Michael. It is shaping up to be her story, rather than the story of a crew. And while the special effects were clever and spectacular, they made the show look very slick and serious. There was no sense of fun, such as we got in the original series, although there were some little humorous flashes, such as Michael gently nudging Saru aside. She had the air of a weary woman thinking, “If you want something done, then you’ve gotta do it yourself!”