Best of British on long winter nights

REALITY: A peek behind the scenes at Claridges.
REALITY: A peek behind the scenes at Claridges.

As the weather gets colder and the nights get longer, the standard of television tends to improve.

Already it's easy to spot some improvements with some decent British programmes making their way here.

On Sunday nights there is now Broadchurch to brighten up our viewing pleasure and the second episode was every bit as good as the first. It proved to be so popular in Britain that a new series is already under way, which is good news.

The other new series to catch our attention was Claridges (TV One, Thursdays 7.30pm). It's an example of reality television at its best. Three months of negotiations were followed by a year of filming at this London hotel which is a byword for luxury and service.

It's a British institution and is a fascinating peek behind the scenes at how the uber-rich spend their wealth. It was even more fascinating, if you will allow me to have degrees of fascination, to see how their every whim was catered for.

Mind you, as one who spends a great deal of time ensuring that happens for Mrs Brown, despite her lack of wealth, I can understand the need to please. The only difference is that Claridges charge like wounded bulls, while I do it because I can, and happily so. The charges at Chez Gordon's are non-existent and even this week I had the pleasure of co-hosting Mrs B's sister and her latest, um friend.

I must admit it was a bit cheaper this time though because said friend has a few more bob than the others and actually brought a bottle of wine to drink before starting on our collection.

Anyway, back to Claridges. A famous unnamed female pop star wants a suite with a jacuzzi on a high floor. The only problem is the hotel doesn't have any jacuzzis in suites on the high floors. No problem. They rip out the existing bathroom and put in a jacuzzi into a suite on a high floor.

Then there was the royal princess who needed a whole floor for her staff of 33. The floor was to be totally inaccessible to anyone, especially men, and all alcohol had to be removed from the not-so- mini bars. The princess and her entourage deigned to turn up a couple of days late, but no worries, at that price who cared. The average suite costs about [PndStlg]5000 - [PndStlg]6000 a night. One room even had to be totally cleared for shopping bags!

One odd thing was there seemed to be very few English staff members at this most English institution. The general manager was German, who seemed to be more British than the British, as the saying goes. "Yes I do find it amusing sometimes. I don't find it a challenge to represent Claridges, which is the quintessential English hotel in London. I'm German but I can't change that." Quite, old bean.

The series is well worth a look to see how the other 1 per cent live.

Whatever was TV One thinking? The self-acclaimed home of news and current affairs didn't have any live coverage of the Budget being delivered by Bill English last week.

It continued with usual programming, while on TV3 former TV One news reporter Lisa Owen did a series of interviews with political leaders during the Budget, as well as having an excellent panel analysing every key figure as it was announced. Whatever happened to TV One's news sense? Or have the marketing people taken over completely?

A regular reader of this column, obviously an intelligent chap who I shall just refer to as John Curd, rang this week to ask if I knew when the Baftas would be on Sky. He'd spotted a preview of them while watching the British Sky News one early morning, and wanted to know. A fair enough request, given that Stephen Fry was such a superb host last year. I couldn't find any information about it, but John contacted Sky TV in New Zealand, who didn't know but said they'd find out and get back to him. They did. The answer from them was about as illuminating as an ICC investigation into match fixing. Sky couldn't say what channel it would be on, but it would be shown sometime between now and the end of June. Gee, thanks!

Finally, with all the debate, claim and counter-claim over the match-fixing involving some of our cricketing chaps, it's worthy of note that none of the betting scandal accusations involved our national team, the Black Caps. That's almost certainly because the Indian bookies and their crooked pals could never have imagined a scenario where they would have to pay some of our chaps to play badly to lose a test. For many years now, we've done that for free, no extra payment required.

The Timaru Herald