Who Do you Think You Are? (2018)
This is the 15th series of Who Do You Think You Are?, but only the second AD (After Dyer). Which presents the producers with a problem – namely, how to top that immortal edition in which the East End hardman turned out to be the 15 x grandson of some geezer called Thomas Cromwell: from Wolf Hall to the Queen Vic in 500 years.
Even so, each new episode succeeds in teasing out its own quietly dramatic revelations. Michelle Keegan being a case in point: with her olive skin and 50-a-day voice (not the product of actual smoking, in case her mum’s reading), she’s a striking mix of Mediterranean beauty and earthy northern matriarch, which I guess is what made her so perfect for Coronation Street.
The Iberian influence is from her mother’s side: her grandmother was from Gibraltar and, as she discovered here, she’s actually of Italian descent, her 7x great grandfather Jacomo having travelled from Genoa to join a military garrison on the Rock in the 1700s. (His full name was Jacomo Filipo, which made me start singing ‘My great great great great great great great grandpa and your great great great great great great great grandpa, sitting by the fire…’ No? Please yourselves.)
There was the requisite scene in which Keegan donned white gloves to leaf through some parish records (you only ever see white gloves on Who Do You Think You Are? and the snooker), followed by the mandatory tears when she visited the ancient font in which generations of her Italian peasant ancestors had been batpised.
Her dad’s family were of peasant stock, too, but in a less exotic way. In the Manchester districts of Moss Side and Gorton, they drank contaminated water, breathed in industrial smog and buried their babies. It turned out her ancestors were also on first name terms with the Pankhurts, and her great great grandmother Elizabeth had defiantly listed her occupation in the census as ‘suffragette’.
Keegan was justly proud of this association with ‘strong northern lasses’. In retrospect, it perhaps she was always destined to end up behind the bar of the Rovers.
With its whip-smart gags and matchless ensemble cast, Mitchell Hurwitz’s riches to rags comedy is a credible contender for the 21st century’s funniest TV show. Following cancellation and one misfiring reboot, this fifth season is a partial return to form, with Jason Bateman still the best straight man in the business (despite competition from Ron Howard’s deadpan narrator). Sometimes it feels like there are too many ideas competing for attention, but when the jokes land, they really land.
For a series that attracted much attention for its racy bedroom scenes, Versailles isn’t half dull. With its dodgy wigs and endless earnest discussions about military strategy, it’s like Horrible Histories-does-Louis XIV, with all the jokes removed. It wasn’t until the 37-minute mark that someone finally said ‘I believe His Majesty would like some company…’ – at which point all thoughts of how best to retain the territories of Strasbourg and Luxembourg went clean out of his head…
Published in Waitrose Weekend, June 7, 2018
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