Tony on TV - 7th March 2012

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COMPLAINTS over car parking charges in Mansfield and Nottingham have forced a partial U-turn from council bosses.

In Mansfield there’s plans to bring back a one-hour ticket for short-stay visitors, while in Nottingham a complicated evening and Sunday system heavily criticised by traders and shoppers is going to be replaced by a flat rate charge of £1.

While the original charges were badly thought out, the powers-that-be show that they are listening . . . at least when it suits them.

I often wonder if the same rules apply to TV chiefs, considering the rubbish that fills the schedules, be it endless cookery progammes or every variation on the ‘Come Dine With Me’ theme.

Other offenders include those property upgrade shows, usually featuring a well-shod family who flaunt their £750,000 budget and waste our TV time criss-crossing the country looking at “new gaffs” they always seem to reject.

The theme of home -- how we see it and how it is seen by others -- is central to two very different programmes that can be viewed as must-see TV or a modern history lesson, depending on your point of view.

‘Homeland’ (Channel 4, Sunday) is a double award-winning contemporary drama (loosely based on Gideon Raff’s Israeli television series ‘Prisoners of War’) about an American soldier, Brody, being freed in a commando raid and returning home after eight years in captivity in Iraq.

British actor Damian Lewis as Brody (is he still loyal, an Al-Qaeda spy or a double agent?) and fellow Brit, David Harewood, as a CIA chief, seem just at home in this 12-part Stateside thriller that keeps ramping up the tension ahead of the fourth episode this Sunday.

Home as seen by millions who had never been to Britain is one of the threads expertly picked up on by TV inquisitor Jeremy Paxman in his absorbing five-part series ‘Empire’ (BBC1, Monday) as he criss-crosses the globe (at least those parts that used to be marked red on the map) to understand the ambitions and principles that created the British Empire -- four times the size of Ancient Rome.

After examining the power and “home abroad” elements of Brits in far-flung spots, Paxman checks out sport, making money and improving the lot of others which, for better or worse, were an integral part of a 200-year-old Empire that unravelled itself in 20 years.


White Heat -- BBC2, Thursday. ‘The Past Is a Foreign Country’ is the title of the opener of this six-part series in which two sets of actors recreate the life and loves, highs and lows of seven friends from the “white heat” of the 1960s, when they were flatmates in London’s Tufnell Park, through to the present-day. The big names playing the group in later life include Michael Kitchen, Juliet Stevenson, Hugh Quarshie, Sorcha Cusack and Ramon Tikaram, who was on stage in ‘The King and I’ at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal last week.