The best of this week’s TV

The Herald on Sunday - Sunday Herald Life - - NEWS - BY DAMIEN LOVE

Thurs­day Blitz: The Bombs That Changed Bri­tain – Cly­de­bank 9pm, BBC Two

OUR flat in Glas­gow still has the old sash win­dows, which aren’t great at keep­ing out the cold, and a night­mare for con­den­sa­tion. But I’m loath to have them re­placed. There’s some­thing about the glass. It rip­ples. When sun­light hits the ten­e­ment in the morn­ings, if you look closely at the bright patches the win­dows cast over the car­pet, you’ll no­tice the light lies mot­tled with strange lit­tle shad­ows – im­per­fec­tions buried in the glass.

One day, Mary, the lady who used to live down­stairs, asked if we’d no­ticed it, then re­vealed the rea­son. “Cheap, poor-qual­ity glaz­ing,” she said. “It was all they could get dur­ing the war. These win­dows were all blown out by the bombs.”

She was liv­ing here when they fell. In the street around the cor­ner, a parachute land­mine took out three closes. Thirty-six peo­ple were killed. Walk­ing along it to­day, you wouldn’t no­tice where they re­built the de­stroyed build­ings. There are faded scar spots like this scat­tered around the city, places you pass ev­ery day, obliv­i­ous to what hap­pened back then.

There are other places, though, where you can still feel the past. The peo­ple around the cor­ner from my flat died on the night of March 13, 1941, from “stray” de­vices dropped from a fleet of over 200 Luft­waffe bombers as it droned west, fol­low­ing the river to­ward Cly­de­bank.

The bombs that hit cer­tain parts of Glas­gow were called “stray” be­cause they had no iden­ti­fi­able tar­get. The bombs that dev­as­tated Cly­de­bank over March 13 and 14, how­ever, had def­i­nite ob­jec­tives: the John Brown ship­yard, the ar­ma­ments fac­tory at the Singer Sewing Ma­chine works. By the sec­ond re­lent­less night, though, it seemed Cly­de­bank it­self was the tar­get, sin­gled out to be made an ex­am­ple of, wiped off the map. Sta­tis­tics sum it up. 528 killed, 617 in­jured. Of 12,000 houses, only eight left un­dam­aged. But the most haunt­ing fig­ure con­cerns a sin­gle ad­dress: 78 Jel­li­coe Street, where 15 mem­bers of one fam­ily, the Rocks, all died to­gether the first night.

Cly­de­bank is the fo­cus of this week’s episode in the ex­cel­lent se­ries Blitz: The Bombs That Changed Bri­tain. It’s a valu­able pro­gramme. The sus­tained bomb­ing London en­dured is justly re­mem­bered, but aware­ness of the con­cen­trated at­tacks on other ar­eas has faded, to the point it is be­com­ing spe­cialised lo­cal knowl­edge. We know about the suf­fer­ing of Cly­de­bank in these parts, or think we do. But peo­ple in Hull or Bris­tol might not – just as we might not know much about their blitzkriegs, which are the sub­jects of other episodes. The se­ries is cre­ated by the Who Do You Think You Are team, and has the same way of blend­ing of­fi­cial records with fam­ily archives and oral his­to­ries to bring the past as­ton­ish­ingly close. Along­side a metic­u­lous ac­count of the dev­as­ta­tion, the Cly­de­bank doc­u­men­tary does a su­perb job sketch­ing the tense, po­lit­i­cal, class-war di­vi­sions along Red Cly­de­side dur­ing the early part of the war. Yet the most mem­o­rable fig­ure was just a child then: Bren­dan Kelly, last sur­vivor of the Jel­li­coe Street ten­e­ments at the time of the blitz. As a boy, he counted the Rocks fam­ily among his friends. As an old man, his mem­o­ries re­main vivid. “My head’s full of tomb­stones.” Cly­de­bank knows this his­tory, but its streets might be un­usu­ally empty when the pro­gramme goes out. Watch­ing it made me think about my par­ents, telling me about when they were kids dur­ing the war: one black­out night in their La­nark­shire town when they heard the planes; see­ing a red glow grow­ing in the north­west. Prob­a­bly the same night Bren­dan Kelly lost his pal, and our win­dows shat­tered.

Sun­day Blue Planet II BBC One

THE Rolling Stones sang of The Mid­night Ram­bler – but that’s kid’s stuff com­pared to … The Leap­ing Blenny! Tonight’s episode of David At­ten­bor­ough’s weekly day­glo brain­melter ex­plores the weird king­doms of the coast, where ocean and land col­lide, and the be­hav­iour can get very strange. Found on re­mote Pa­cific is­lands, the blenny is a gloopy lit­tle crit­ter that lives in tiny wee caves just above the tide­line – these are fish that have given up the sea for life on dry land. Poor swim­mers, they hate the wa­ter, and pre­fer just to stay a bit damp. But the waves that threaten to drag them back into the ocean are a con­stant hin­drance, par­tic­u­larly when a male blenny is try­ing to court a fe­male. As a re­sult, they do a lot of leap­ing, fly­ing from rock to rock. They’re among the odd­est fish this se­ries has yet fea­tured. Else­where, there are ha­rassed puffins, and an ex­am­i­na­tion of life in the rock pool that plays like a banned psy­che­delic stop-mo­tion kid’s show.

Mon­day The Art That Made Mex­ico: Par­adise, Power And Prayers, 9pm, BBC Four

IN this three-part se­ries, Mex­i­can-Bri­tish artist and pho­tog­ra­pher Alinka Echev­er­ria ex­plores what she de­scribes as the three dom­i­nant forces that have shaped Mex­i­can art. Fu­ture pro­grammes con­sider the en­dur­ing roles played by faith and the strug­gle for po­lit­i­cal power, but she be­gins with the fun­da­men­tal in­flu­ence of na­ture and the land­scape. In the early 20th cen­tury – 100 years af­ter Mex­ico won in­de­pen­dence from the rule of Spain – a rad­i­cal gen­er­a­tion of artists be­gan to look back to the pre-Euro­pean era, and the tra­di­tions and im­agery in place be­fore the Span­ish con­quest of the 1500s. The indige­nous in­flu­ence was ex­pressed in de­pic­tions of an­cient land­scapes, such as the sym­bolic vol­ca­noes that dom­i­nate the Val­ley of Mex­ico, and a new style of paint­ing that was res­o­lutely Mex­i­can. Launch­ing a short sea­son on Mex­i­can art, it’s fol­lowed tonight by Hand­made In Mex­ico (10pm), which tonight con­sid­ers the mak­ing of huipil, the loose, in­tri­cately em­broi­dered tu­nic, as ex­em­pli­fied by the tehuana dresses fa­mously worn by Frida Kahlo.

Tues­day Bal­ti­more Ris­ing 9pm, Sky At­lantic

IN April 2015 in Bal­ti­more, a young black man called Fred­die Gray died from spinal in­juries sus­tained while in cus­tody in a po­lice van, fol­low­ing his ar­rest for pos­sess­ing a knife. His death sparked ri­ots, and this rough-edged, in­ti­mate film fol­lows what hap­pened next, as an in­creas­ingly tense com­mu­nity waited for the out­come of the pros­e­cu­tion of the po­lice of­fi­cers in­volved – a di­vi­sive case many felt sure could only lead to more vi­o­lence. Bal­ti­more, of course, had its most fa­mous TV treat­ment in The Wire, and schol­ars of that show will have ex­tra rea­son for seek­ing this film out, as it’s di­rected by Sonja Sohn, who played Detective Kima Greggs in the drama, and has since worked on com­mu­nity out­reach projects in the city, aimed at young peo­ple in­volved in crime. Talk­ing with all sides – po­lice, an­gry ac­tivists, com­mu­nity lead­ers and reg­u­lar res­i­dents – as they await the re­sults of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, Sohn si­mul­ta­ne­ously gets up close, yet takes a step back. It’s a beau­ti­fully bal­anced film, a por­trait of frus­tra­tion that doesn’t try to of­fer easy an­swers.

Wed­nes­day De­tec­torists 10pm, BBC Four

THE mag­pies are not what they seem. And the hedge­hogs know more than they’re let­ting on, too. It’s the penul­ti­mate episode of – ap­par­ently – the fi­nal se­ries of Macken­zie Crook’s mas­ter­piece of slow folk sit­com, and the pace, rel­a­tively speak­ing, is reach­ing break­neck speed. Lance re­mains ob­sessed with track­ing down the feathered thief who stole his gold, but is he sim­ply us­ing that as an ex­cuse not to ad­dress his press­ing per­sonal prob­lems? Mean­while, Andy is in­creas­ingly anx­ious about hav­ing quit his job, and wor­ried about how his fam­ily will man­age. On top of this, a new emer­gency: their favourite tree has been con­demned to be cut down. What can they do? Who can help? Keep calm. In De­tec­torists, the land­scape, its flora and fauna, is as im­por­tant as any other char­ac­ter, and it has a way of nudg­ing things in the right di­rec­tion. Just an amaz­ing pro­gramme – be­neath all the gags, there’s a deep, con­stant aching af­ter the past, and yet it still holds out hope for the fu­ture.

Fri­day The Crown Net­flix

I T was de­cent of the royal fam­ily to or­gan­ise a new wed­ding as a promo for the sec­ond se­ries of Net­flix’s smash hit saga. We’re in 1956 now, and the mar­riage be­tween young Queen El­iz­a­beth II (Claire Foy and Matt Smith, both ex­cel­lent) is hit­ting a rocky patch. Rest­less, feel­ing the weighty bore­dom of duty, and dis­tant from the mis­sus, Philip has let his eye wan­der to­ward a bal­let dancer. Mean­while, the Queen has other prob­lems, in­clud­ing the Suez Cri­sis, an af­fair not be­ing well han­dled by her Prime Min­is­ter, An­thony Eden (Jeremy Northam). As ever with writer Peter Mor­gan, he re­spects the his­tory, while fill­ing in the cracks to craft char­ac­ters easy to be­lieve in as hu­man be­ings – and in fo­cussing so closely on them, paints a pic­ture of the wider so­ci­ety around them. This 10-part se­ries will be the last we see of Foy and Smith in the roles. When the show next re­turns, it will be on to later years, with Olivia Col­man wear­ing the crown.

Satur­day John Noakes: TV Hero 5.30pm, BBC Two

O OH, get off me foot ...!” Sure, you’ve seen it a gazil­lion times, but there’s al­ways room for one more help­ing of John Noakes’s star turn in the leg­endary “Lulu The Ele­phant” Blue Peter clip of 1969. Across the 1960s and 70s, Noakes’s North­ern brio helped shake the show out of its staid mid­dle-class stance. In this tribute to the great man, who died in May, for­mer co-pre­sen­ters in­clud­ing golden-era faces Va­lerie Sin­gle­ton, Peter Purves and Les­lie Judd share mem­o­ries of the sleeves-rolled en­thu­si­asm that made him a nat­u­ral for live TV. Mean­while, col­leagues re­call try­ing to keep up with his of­ten reck­less ad­ven­tur­ing, in­clud­ing in­sane stunts like scal­ing Nel­son’s Col­umn with­out a har­ness. There are also words from his wife, Vicky, who took her own place in the his­tory books af­ter Noakes con­cussed him­self on the Cresta Run to­bog­gan­ing track in Switzer­land, and later re­vealed his bruises to the na­tion … while wear­ing her knick­ers, which he’d ac­ci­den­tally put on in the dark.

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