TV REVIEW 'Beginners' Chelsea ripens on the vine in drought of decent shows

Where have all the good programmes gone? Have the BBC lost them down the back of the sofa? I’d even take a half-decent show. Or is this the result of the long writers’ strike in America?

Scouring the listings is a forlorn exercise right now as we seem to be suffering a dearth of good drama i.e. shows that everyone is talking about.

Bridgerton (Netflix) scraped into that category but it seems to be fast running out of plot. Responder (BBC One) also gets mentioned, for the incredibly gritty performance of Martin Freeman but otherwise the pickings are slim.

ITV, for the time being, seemed to have given up. We’re meant to be booking into The Fortune Hotel for two weeks — that’s optimistic — followed by a week of Britain’s Got Talent semi-finals. And we’re about to hit the biggest ever wall of sport with Euro football, Wimbledon and the Olympics.

Who would launch a new show against that background? Still let’s be optimistic: a home country may win the Euros, a British player may conquer Wimbledon again and we might top the medals table in Paris.

If all else fails, here’s a reason to be cheerful… Love Island starts soon on ITV2, one of the best comedies on the box.

Gardeners’ World presenter Monty Don is a seasoned presenter, as friendly and as warm as you could ever want in a host. But he made a right ‘hosta’ of himself when he reached into the wardrobe for his outfit for this year’s Chelsea Flower Show (BBC One, Mon). He put on a greengrocer’s jacket.

Okay, this outfit is not completely at odds with Chelsea — even turnips are on display — but it was a bold choice. It appeared the following night, too.

He may even embrace it by the end of the week by auctioning off some fetching aubergines to keep spirits up in the rain.

The BBC have dug up every available gardening presenter for Chelsea, whether they’ve picked up a trowel or not.

More than ever, they want beginners watching the coverage so those who only have a small place for a garden plant are encouraged to branch out.

Otherwise, it was a tale of two Chelseas. The first was “afternoon Chelsea” presented by Nicki Chapman and Angelica Bell.

They were very enthusiastic. “I’m beyond excited,” said Bell. She demonstrated that by wearing a patterned green dress allowing her to blend in with garden borders.

Both interviewed a range of celebrities, including effervescent Bruno Tonioli, the BGT judge who still hasn’t realised how to use the buttons on his shirt. Another judge, Bake Off’s Prue Leith admitted to “a lifelong passion for gardening.” Leith never stops. Do show her the relaxation garden.

Celebrities and presenters alike, were a little carried away by the scent, the sun and the season.

Singer Alfie Boe told Angelica Bell he wasn’t much good at gardening. You should sing to the plants, she thought. “I don’t think that would help,” said the opera man. “I’m a terrible singer.” Oh… Still, everyone laughed.

Then there was “grown-up Chelsea” in the evening, presented by Joe Swift and greengrocer Monty.

This version was extra sensitive to beginners.

“If you have enough space for it…” said Monty calmly. Of course, it was too late really after former Wimbledon commentator Sue Barker said she “had an acre in the Cotswolds.” Prepare for Barker’s Farm!

Monty then gave us a tour of the Great Pavilion where he had his “beyond excitement” moment.

“Here we have a polytunnel!” he rejoiced. Perhaps he could do a live link from Lincolnshire, home of the polytunnel, next year.

My favourite garden was the “Edible Meadow” which is very good for your gut health when you walk through it. Yes, difficult to stomach.

Weirder yet was showing “forest bathing”.

I think we all need to lay down now.

A show well worth watching was D-Day: The Unseen Footage (Channel 5), which challenged what we thought we knew about this momentous event. As we approach the 80th anniversary of the day, an enormous sacrifice, it was fitting to re-acquaint oneself with this staggering achievement.

Among other things, it showcased the role of Bomber Command which effectively took key French cities out of the equation for our ground forces. No wonder the French who also lost loved ones in the bombings still greeted the invading Allied troops excitedly.

Finally, there was also exceptional bravery on show, albeit in a fictional setting, for the final episode of the excellent Blue Lights (BBC One, Sun).

Praise must go to this show for the realism in which they captured complex police operations in Belfast.

There was also a happy ending. I wasn’t expecting that!


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