TV Review – Richard III: The King in the Car Park, Top Gear, The Great Album Showdown, When Albums Ruled the World, Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe, World Without End

Retro Nonsense

Something unbelievable happens about ten minutes into Richard III: The King in the Car Park (C4). The trouble is it happens to the sort of person who believes, and wants to believe, in things very much. Simple ordinary life is too dull; she’s forever motivated by “the strangest sensations.”

Her name is Philippa Langley and one of the things she believes in very sincerely is that King Richard III was not a Shakespearean monster, rather a slandered King who never had any kind of twisted back and ruled both justly and, indeed, wisely. Langley deeply believes this, as Catholics believe the Pope is one of them. So much that she raises enough money to dig up a car park in Leicester.

Langley has gotten advice from an historian that Richard might be buried in the car park, the former sight of a medieval friary. This is based on the theory that his post-battle corpse was displayed for all to see then interred in the nearest church. Despite this vagueness she chooses the first digging location because she sees an ‘R’ painted on the tarmac. To everybody else this would mean ‘reserved’, but she isn’t and is relying on her sensations. That’s where they find a pair skeletal legs.

This is what happens 10 minutes in. Bear in mind they’re not even sure of the location of the church attached to the friary that might be the final resting place of the last Plantagenet king. The original plan was to uncover the friary first and locate where they might find Richard’s remains from that. To uncover his remains the first time they digged down should be impossible.

Yet that’s what they did. Whilst other diggers are still looking for the friary, Langley is standing on the bit where ‘R’ used to be and looking down into a trench whilst be-masked “bone expert” Jo uncovers more of the remains. Jo finds a skull with a hole in it but has to apologise because she made the hole herself with a pickaxe ten minutes earlier. Then Jo finds that the skull is attached to an abnormal spine. Weird has just gone beyond weird.

“I just thought she was insane.” The presenter and man on the ground is Simon Farnaby, comic actor most famous for, er, Horrible Histories. You can imagine how low rent he is. He looks like Tom Baker’s dim cousin and has a Yorkshire accent. Richard III was a Yorkist so there’s the obvious connection.

Farnaby was obviously brought in by Channel 4 at the beginning of this documentary because he was cheap and the whole thing was patently ridiculous. Unluckily for him and them, this epic search for Richard III found him in the first ten minutes. The bones are uncovered and deposited in the University of Leicester, in a cardboard box wouldn’t you know. Philippa wants to put a Royal Standard over the box, which brings out the uncomfortable in everyone.

“This seemingly bonkers project might just have pulled off the impossible,” says light relief Farnaby, whilst the viewer wishes that someone like David Attenborough could take over now it’s gotten fascinating. Indeed, Farnaby is disappointed this isn’t all more like a Steven Spielberg film. The music isn’t helping either, jaunty twinklings seemingly piped in from the Great British Bake-Off when we’re looking at a freshly dug up corpse rather than a nicely-iced Battenberg.

The bones are laid out in the university’s archaeology lab. Farnaby brings disbelief whilsy Langley brings Michele Bachmann’s fervour and glassy stare. Jo the Bone Expert is quite breezy about handling the skull. Imagine if they dug up the Queen’s father, as played by Colin Firth, and did that. There’d be a public execution. Langley is upset. “It’s all just laid out for the world to see. Again.” So why did you dig him up? She’s actually upset that the corpse has a twisted spine. She thought that was Tudor propaganda. A professor assures her that such a spine would be hardly noticeable when clothed. Langley calms down.

Carbon dating puts the bones at the time of the Battle of Bosworth and the wounds on the skull that weren’t put there by pickaxe-wielding Bone Experts match the descriptions of how Richard died in battle. But it’s DNA that will finally prove it. The closest relative they can find is a cabinet maker in Belgravia with an American accent. There is a match. “So we can categorically say we found a king in a car park,” says Farnaby, choosing the exact words to not match the occasion. This documentary told a remarkable story that the makers clearly weren’t expecting to tell. “Royalty’s a queer old thing,” sums up Farnaby.

It’s been a while but the new series of Top Gear (BBC2) finally arrived last week. However nobody cared as they were reviewing new cars, which blah blah snore. People don’t watch Top Gear to see cars being reviewed. What we like is three middle aged blokes going on road trips and arguing about nothing. Anyone who’s ever seen their dad and his brothers fiercely facing off over the pop music of their youth will know there’s nothing funnier.

This week’s Top Gear takes place in the USA and they do a road trip in expensive cars for no obvious reason. Clarkson turns up in a yellow Lexus blah, which is apparently the best car ever. James May turns up in a blue Aston Martin snore moments later, which Clarkson calls “The most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.” In return, May calls Clarkson’s hideous yellow blah ‘fantastic’. Hold on, where’s the middle-aged bickering?

Thankfully, self-styled short angry bloke Richard Hammond arrives in a black blah and the pointless shouting commences. “That looks ridiculous. This is a bunch of retro nonsense.” It may sound forced but they are all getting quite old now. To compensate, the show throws a game of laser quest involving two planes strafing them as they race round a track. The planes especially liked shooting the Lexus thing, possibly because it’s bright yellow but probably because it’s driven by Jeremy Clarkson.

The climax is a race to the Mexican border, with the loser getting the honour of actually going into Mexico. Our trio are worried about this, thanks to derogatory remarks made on a previous show. Clarkson and May contrive to make sure it is Hammond who loses, which they regard as only fair as it was Hammond who offended the most. Offensive remarks against a whole country? Just another week on Top Gear.

Jeremy Clarkson also showed up on televised radio show The Great Album Showdown (BBC4). Part of the BBC’s Golden Age of the Album strand, Danny Baker hosted with the breathless excitement of someone who genuinely knows what he’s talking about and has the tools to articulately share that knowledge.

“Welcome to my world,” he introduced, which was mostly a chat between Baker, Clarkson, producer Stephen Street and journalist Kate Mossman about rock albums. Unfortunately, the chat was interrupted throughout just as it was getting good by Baker introducing pre-recorded clips of him explaining what they were talking about. Since the only people watching are people who already know what he was talking about it seemed a little pointless.

Without the pre-recorded clips, The Great Album Showdown was a radio show on TV and there’s honestly nothing wrong with that. Only people in cars listen to the radio these days anyway. What’s the problem with watching Baker and Clarkson arguing about which year was the best for rock music? Clarkson thought 1973, Baker thought 1971. There’s merits to both sides, and they were more believable than the disagreements on Top Gear.

At the end of the programme, the guests chose their favourite albums and Baker visibly bristled when Mossman chose a Queen album. Clarkson chose Rumours by Fleetwood Mac, despite Baker earlier saying “there’s another Fleetwood Mac?” in admiration of the earlier Peter Green version. Clarkson’s other choices were the Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and End of the Century by Supergrass, thereby telling us, as if we didn’t know, that he is a true populist. The Great Album Showdown was cheap, disposable and pointless. I could have watched it all night.

Related documentary When Albums Ruled The World (BBC4) prominently featured an irritatingly braying hipster in hornrims unforgivably called Travis Elborough, who somehow got more screen time than the likes of Rick Wakeman and Noel Gallagher. Even worse, it had a segment on Dark Side of the Moon that bafflingly showed the rear of the album, where the rainbow light converged. This should be a scandal worse than Sachsgate.

Never mind radio on the TV, Charlie Brooker finally returned in front of the cameras for Weekly Wipe (BBC2), a newspaper column on the TV. He said that Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards’ victory in Splash, “proves once and for all that even our fittest celebrities are no match for our shittest Olympians.” Wish I could come up with stuff like that. It’s probably because I don’t watch Splash.

In World Without End (C4), the Black Death finally arrived. To celebrate, our now nunnified heroine fell into a plague pit with the élan of Miranda Hart. Naturally, a fellow nun consoled her with some sapphic snogging. As daft a programme that has ever shown an England where it never rains, Show Without End still has two shitisodes to go.


About klausjoynson
I'm a writer, editor, musician, DJ and cartoonist. Contact me at: klausjoynson(at) or follow me on Twitter: @KlausJoynson

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