Alison Rowat’s TV reviews: Joe Lycett’s Got Your Back, I Am Maria; Changing Rooms

READERS may recall when the fight for consumer justice on British television was built on little more than Esther Rantzen, a bevvy of random blokes, and some curiously-shaped veg.

Today, we have Joe Lycett’s Got Your Back (Channel 4, Thursday). Though we are half a century on from That’s Life, Lycett’s show is not that different in its essentials from Rantzen’s. So the audience are wearing Covid masks, the host is a comedian, and the subject of the day is the death of the planet no less; its heart is still in the same place.

In the first of a new series the main item was plastic bottles and how they are recycled, or not. Basically, clear bottles are good, white and coloured are bad. It took a fair old time and a lot of faffing – including Lycett impersonating Gregg “Inside the Factory” Wallace at a recycling plant – to get the message across. But what do you know: the lesson stuck (as I found in the supermarket the next day), and a major manufacturer made the switch to clear bottles sooner than they had said was possible. Result.

Dominic Savage’s trilogy of dramas went out in memorable style with I Am Maria (Channel 4, Thursday), in which Lesley Manville starred in the title role as a middle-aged woman with a bad case of the FOMOs (fear of missing out, daddio).

Maria came across at first as a classic Eleanor Rigby type, alone and lonely. But she had a good job, nice husband, and lovely grown up kids who came to lunch on her birthday. It was difficult to feel sorry for her, even more so when she went full Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf during a boozy lunch. Oh do pipe down about you and your Brodiesque prime, there’s a dear. First world problems, eh?

Yet the wonder of Manville is that she brought the viewer round to her character’s side. As Maria smashed up one life in the hope of building another, she was as much part of the wreckage as her bewildered husband.

There was a wonderful moment at the end when Manville managed to get this loss and renewal across without a word. It was all there on her face as she drove away from her 30-year marriage: the tears, the shock. But then you saw it, a light coming back to her eyes, the smallest suggestion of a smile. There must be a special class in drama school for such an exit. “Woman departs wistfully to accompaniment of plinky plonky music”, that sort of thing. Manville could teach a masterclass.

Upgrade Me! Secrets of First Class (Channel 5, Sunday) was typical of the deeply shallow, always irresistible fare we have come to expect from the channel. It went from soup to nuts on the first class experience, from a limo to the airport and the luxury lounges to the haute cuisine food and the lie-flat beds.

All thumpingly obvious and nothing you had not seen before in ads. Some of the talking heads were decidedly economy. The biggest draw was the section on how to get upgraded, even though it seemed to confirm that such a thing was the stuff of urban legend. “The best way to get upgraded,” said one ex-crew member, “is to pay for it.”

Write Around the World with Richard E Grant (BBC4, Tuesday) came to a timely end with a visit to Spain. Timely because if we had to watch another hour of Reg (as I like to call him) wandering around a beautiful part of the world reading excerpts from books, stuffing his face with yummy food, and generally having a splendid time, it might have been too much to bear. Annoyingly, seeing the obvious pleasure he took in the experience, you could not stay mad at him for long.

During his travels around Andalusia he dropped in on Chris Stewart, former Genesis drummer turned author. Stewart bought the farm, but in a good way, donkey’s years ago and has lived there happily ever after since.

Hemingway inevitably rocked up in Ronda, which meant dealing with bullfighting. Grant was at pains to point out his opposition to it, while at the same time trying not to offend his hosts. This was one instance, though, when we would have welcomed him losing the rag. He also walked in Laurie Lee’s footsteps as a busker, though with a mouth organ in place of Lee’s violin. Pretty good at the old moothie was Reg, even if he did only earn two euros.

Brace yourselves: Changing Rooms (Channel 4, Wednesday) is back. There have been a few changes made in the move from BBC to Channel 4, principally Anna Richardson taking Carol Smillie’s place as presenter. Thank the Lord, Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen in all his fabulous naffness, has remained.

The first show suffered from a bad case of everyone trying too hard to be wacky and ironic. It was filmed in the summer, so we were greeted to the sight of LLB steaming gently in his black leather trousers: not a good look on anyone. Gerrem off and get yourself some shorts, man.

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992