Fake or Fortune?

Fake or Fortune? (BBC One)

Every time I watch Fake or Fortune – in which Fiona Bruce and Mayfair art dealer Philip Mould team up to investigate whether a potentially priceless painting is the real deal or a cheap copy – I can’t help thinking what a stylish drama series it might have made. With his plummy accent and collection of raffish cravats, Mould would be perfect as the suave John Steed to Bruce’s Mrs Peel, a kick-ass newsreader capable of propelling international art forgers through a plate glass window with just the flex of her famous eyebrow. But, er, maybe that’s just me.

Back in the real world, this week’s eighth series opener found the dynamic duo following a breadcrumb trail of clues through time in a bid to establish whether Mark, a Cumbrian paper mill owner, was in possession of a famous lost Gainsborough.

‘My balloon of hope has been inflated,’ said Mark, as the weight of evidence began tipping in his favour. But that balloon would shrivel and re-inflate several times over the course of a rollercoaster hour – one that took in everything from a dissolute earl who’d gambled away his fortune to a half-obscured Christie’s catalogue number that could only be revealed under infrared light.

Adding to the show’s dramatic credentials, we even saw the emergence of a shadowy secret from Mould’s past (‘I need to tell you about a painting I had dealings with 20 years ago…’ he announced, solemnly). Plus, like any good investigators, Fi and Phil have their own tech support wiz in the form of Professor Aviva Burnstock, whose forensic analysis of the painting resulted in the episode’s most brilliant coup de theatre: the ghostly figure of a young woman, hidden unseen beneath the paint for some 250 years.

Finally, a Gainsborough expert was brought in for the big verdict. Would he pop Mark’s balloon once and for all? Yes, sadly. But wait: while that painting might have been a fake, the one underneath turned out to be a valuable piece by the renowned 17th century portrait artist Michael Dahl – a twist in the tale worthy of any drama.

TV extra:


The Misadventures of Romesh Ranganathan (BBC2)

It’s fair to say that Romesh Ranganathan, back for a new series of travels to destinations with a slight PR problem, had his doubts about visiting Zimbabwe, the so-called ‘basket case of Africa’. But whether bathing at the very lip of Victoria Falls (‘I’m not sure Crawley Council would have signed this off’) or getting up close with rhinos and cheetahs, even this professional grump couldn’t hide his sheer joy. Or as close to sheer joy as he gets, anyway.


Inside the Factory (BBC2)

Kicking off a new run of Inside the Factory on a cherry bakewell production line in Stoke, Gregg Wallace bellowed his way through every pun he could think of. ‘You are the icing on the cake!’ he told the man who puts the icing on the cakes. ‘We’re jammin’,’ he sang, inevitably, as they put the jam in. But when co-host Cherry Healy had a pastry-making lesson, he missed the ‘can Cherry bake well?’ open goal entirely. He’ll be livid when he realises.

Published in Waitrose Weekend, 1 August, 2019

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