Colin Hogg on television

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Colin Hogg: Oddball docos-pointless but fun

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TV One schedules Thursday night slot for selection of absurd but strangely compelling programmes.

Kevin McCloud builds a cottage in TV One's  Man Made Home . Photo . TVNZ
Kevin McCloud builds a cottage in TV One's Man Made Home . Photo . TVNZ

Eliminating Basil might have been a better title for When Tourists Attack, a British documentary that popped up last Thursday night on TV One in what seems to be the channel's oddball doco slot at 8.30.

It's hard to know what commercial television's idea of a documentary is anymore, but it certainly seems it should have a catchy title. The title was what drew me to When Tourists Attack - well, that and the topic, examining the impact of amateur internet reviewers on the awful B & Bs and small restaurants of England.

Through judicious research, the documentary makers contrived to have the shadow of Fawlty Towers and its mad hotelier star Basil Fawlty loom large across the show.

For every nerdy nitpicker posting a nasty review on TripAdvisor there was a fizzing mad hotelier serving up overcooked, overpriced food and substandard rooms while screaming about the dreadful people they have to deal with.

It was great fun, though, and like so much of this sort of stuff, almost completely pointless, unless its aim actually was to eliminate the Basils of Britain, which would be a fine crusade.

This Thursday in the loco doco slot there's one called Extraordinary Storm Chaser, which generously offers two issues for the price of one as a young English epidermolysis bullosa sufferer heads to America to - what else? - chase cyclones.

Such conceptual craziness isn't always available on the television we make in New Zealand for ourselves and perhaps that's for the best. Certainly, the early announcements about what TV One is replacing the recently deceased Close-Up with don't have my pulse racing. What we know so far is that it's called Seven Sharp, which slightly begs the return, Campbell Smarter.

And we know it's going to be a three-headed beast - fronted by Ali Mau, Greg Boyed and Jesse Mulligan. That's two safe choices in Mau and Boyed, both channel veterans, and a wild card in Mulligan, lured from TV3 comic shows 7 Days and Would I Lie to You?

What's actually going to be on the show seems to be a secondary consideration, but if the content is as zippy as the title, we're for another average time.

On the other hand, dear old TV One does occasionally still suffer sudden wonderful attacks of quality - as it did on Sunday night with a double serving of good viewing.

First, at 7.30pm was Kevin McCloud's Man Made Home, which had the regular frontman of Grand Designs, indulging his back-to-nature urges by building a cottage in the woods of Somerset.

He has an unlimited supply of talented friends, of course, but that's half the fun with these things.

As McCloud put it, "I'm not an expert of anything, which is why I've become a television presenter."

No fun at all, but a chilling reminder of how great TV can still pin you to the wall was Appropriate Adult following it at 8.30.

This two-part drama about British serial killer Fred West tells its dreadful tale with a disturbing matter-of-factness and Dominic West, playing the murderous West, is extraordinary.

It's almost too much to watch. But not quite.

- NZ Herald

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