Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Old Masters

Every so often, and when you least expect it, a quiet little TV show hooks you in. You know, the ones that really relax you like River Cottage or Pie In The Sky or Name That Tune.

One such favourite of mine was daytime daubfest Watercolour Challenge with Hannah Gordon? Was there ever a more mellow show? Amateur artists, often with an inflated opinion of their own abilities, noodled about in the shadow of a cathedral or by a riverbank overhung with willow trees. Often in gently rained. Hannah would go from one artist to the next discussing technique, life, colour, love, etc. Then, at the end, there'd be a winner. What a lovely way to spend half an hour. Was there ever anything more soothing?

Since that got the axe there's been not much in that vein, but now I think I've found what I've been after. Tucked away on BBC2 at 8.30 on a Monday night is Antiques Master. I don't even know if it's series one, it's gone so under the radar. Here, four amateur collectors, often with an inflated opinion of their own abilities, are presented with a bunch of artefacts they must either put in the correct date order then value, identify an object from the past, answer questions on their chosen speciality then face a small quiz at the end of the show to determine the winner. Sandi Toksvig is your host, while Eric Knowles is the resident expert.

Shot - in all places - in a stately home in Burnley, these often pompous know-alls are soon shown up for what they are. You see them in antique markets and fares the length and breadth of Britiain, loudly proclaiming something to be worth a fortune, or misidentifying an object d'art. It's worth it to see the wind taken politely out of their sails, though last night they weren't too bad.

Sandi Toksvig is suitably jolly. In the hands of say Sue Perkins or David Dickinson it would be far too tense and noisy. She gets it just right. Her jokes are subtle and she's got a nice voice. Nasty line in suits though. She looks like Bernard Bresslaw on a daytrip to Cromer in 1974, only shorter.

We're reaching the semi-finals soon, and what I haven't gleaned about Spode or mid-Victorian spun glass is nobody's business. Catch it while you can. Some would call this a guilty pleasure, but not believing in such a thing I just call it pleasure. No need to feel guilty about liking something others may not. Only those who believe themselves to be on a higher cultural plane than everyone else have guilty pleasures.

Are you a fan?


Cocktails said...

I don't watch it. I don't understand this country's obsession with antiques and their value, rather than whether they're, you know, nice or not and whether you actually want to put them on your sideboard.

Five-Centres said...

Do they have antiques in Australia, Cocktails?

Mondo said...

Soothing TV there's a genre. Like the visual versh of Chill Out albums. Expanding on the theme you'd have expected someone to have started a digital channel specialising in down-tempo programmes by now wouldn't you.

Out of Town Jack Hargreaves always did it for me. I was too young to have a clue what he was on about (dray horses and types of thatch I expect) but very calming. One Man and His Dog - lovely. And the name Phil Drabble - even sounds like a Pennine's brook.

Five-Centres said...

Out Of Town! I used to find it odd as a child, this old man in a fake shed smoking a pipe looking at obsolete gardening equipment for half an hour, but now I think I'd embrace it.

Good to have you back, Mondo.

Matthew Rudd said...

I have seen this programme and I did rather like it, though not to the extent that the "series link" button was pressed.

Sandi Toksvig is much underrated as a host and raconteur. Odd that Whose Line Is It Anyway? made her famous, given that's the only show she's done where she was actually useless.

As for soothing TV - you can't go wrong when the World Bowls Championship is on.

Cocktails said...

What are saying FC?!

Actually, one good thing about Australia's lack of 'antiques' is that people do take 20th century history, like deco, more seriously.

Ishouldbeworking said...

I imagine Sandi's a bit less hysterical on this one than she gets on the Newsquiz? If you can give me absolute assurance that she doesn't break into her 'crazy vicar's wife' laugh every five minutes, I might give the programme a go when I next get a mellow moment.

Out of Town has a fond place in my memory, too. Gideon Coe uses the theme tune for his 'Duffer' section on 6 Music, which pleases me a lot.

John Medd said...

Dick Van Dyke, in Diagnosis Murder, is the new Jack Hargreaves. Brutal murders (usually in a hospital setting) parlour game style. Feet up, a pot of Yorkshire tea (c/w cuzzy creams) and the job's a good 'un.

Suzy Norman said...

it sounds like my cup of tea.

Five-Centres said...

Much like Midsomer Murders or Marple. Relaxing, oddly.

And yes, ISBW, she doesn't do too much laughing at all, so give it a go.