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PAUL WHITELAW: Our TV critic on catastrophic floods, the continuing saga of Blair & Brown and The Outlaws

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Paul Whitelaw looks forward to some climate conscious programming ahead of COP26, recommends Blair & Brown as continued essential viewing and laments the demotion of excellent comedy The Outlaws to the graveyard slot.

It Takes a Flood… – Tuesday, STV, 9pm
Hebden Bridge resident Amy Harbour remembers the terrible Boxing Day floods of 2015.

It’s no coincidence that, as COP26 unfolds in Glasgow, green themes loom large on television this week. And here’s the urgent centrepiece. Directed by acclaimed Scottish filmmaker Kevin Macdonald (Touching the Void; The Last King of Scotland), this compassionate documentary examines the devastating physical and psychological damage of the floods that hit Britain during the summer of 2021. Told via testimonies from people whose homes and businesses were destroyed in a matter of hours, it provides stark evidence of our omnipresent climate change crisis. And it’s only going to get worse. One in six homes in the UK are now at risk from flooding. Macdonald’s film is a vital emergency warning; its message cannot be ignored.

Blair & Brown: The New Labour Revolution – Monday, BBC One, 9pm
Gordon Brown arrives at 10 Downing Street in June 200 as the new Prime Minister. 

The final chapter of this probing essay begins in 2005, when New Labour won a third term in office; albeit with its majority slashed by 100 seats. It charts the growing tensions between Blair and Brown, and the eventual ‘coup’ that finally allowed the latter to become PM. When Brown was handed the keys to 10 Downing Street, he was generally well-liked and trusted; a welcome alternative to Blair. But the honeymoon period was brief. Despite his commendable handling of the global financial crisis, Brown’s days were numbered. The Tories and their friends in the media went in for the kill. By 2009, after 12 years in power, New Labour were finished. Out of the frying pan…

Joanna Lumley & The Human Swan – Monday, STV, 9pm
<br />Sacha Dench and Joanna Lumley with Sasha’s electric paramotor at Beachy Head.

In September of this year, environmental activist Dan Burton tragically lost his life in a mid-air collision. He was circumnavigating Britain alongside fellow campaigner Sacha Dench; their heroic electric paramotor mission was launched to raise awareness of climate change. COP26 in Glasgow was to be their final destination. Joanna Lumley followed this story from the ground; Burton and Dench’s families encouraged her to complete the programme. The results are sensitive and inspiring. Burton and Dench come across as modest yet remarkable people. As Lumley admits, feeling small and helpless is an understandable reaction to the situation we’re in. The worst case scenario is overwhelming. But we can still make a difference. Hope endures.

The Outlaws – Monday, BBC One, 10:35pm

For some strange reason, BBC Scotland have demoted episode two of Stephen Merchant’s enjoyable comedy drama to a graveyard shift. Its primetime 9pm slot has now been filled by a series called Scotland from the Sky, which may be essential viewing for all I know, but it still feels like a foot-shooting blunder. This is a crowd-pleasing show. Anyway! This week we find out more about our sympathetic gang, while the plot kicks into second gear. Merchant, unlike his erstwhile comedy partner, has a fundamental grasp of narrative structure and character development. The Outlaws is funny, compelling and good-natured. I actually care about these people and their predicaments. It deserves to be a hit.

Growing Up Green – Monday, BBC Scotland, 11pm
Sustainable living at the Findhorn Foundation.

The Findhorn Foundation is a unique rural community in the North East of Scotland. Built on an eco-friendly ethos of holistic spirituality and natural sustainability, it’s a green oasis of calm. This documentary communes with three young adults who were raised there. People from ‘the outside world’ often assume that they’re members of a weird religious cult, but that’s clearly not the case. The programme carries no sinister subtext: these kids are astute, intelligent and well-adjusted. They’re fully aware that wagging a self-righteous finger is counterproductive, they’re not here to preach, but the gentle message they expound is now more important than ever. The cat and I have already booked a one-way ticket.

Orkney: Britain’s Green Islands with Julia Bradbury & Alex Beresford – Tuesday, STV, 8:30pm
Julia Bradbury and Alex Beresford on Orkney.

And here’s yet another healthy gust of environmental cheer for us all. It’s a new series in which the eternally peripatetic Julia Bradbury and ITV weatherman Alex Beresford travel around the Orkneys – via electric transport, of course – to marvel at the considerable benefits of wind turbines. They meet a local jam-maker whose energy bills have been reduced by two thirds, and a miller whose mill harnesses running water, while visiting a fishing community that’s thrived since going green, and a natural harbour used as a test site for wave energy. They also reveal how surplus turbine-generated electricity is being converted into hydrogen, which can be used instead of fossil fuels. They’re way ahead up there.

Sort Your Life Out – Thursday, BBC One, 8pm
Stacey Solomon gets sorting.

“The average family home contains thousands of items we don’t really need, and living in all this clutter is making us miserable.” So says Stacey Solomon at the start of this sunny lifestyle series, in which she helps people to declutter their lives. This week she visits a single working mum of three girls. Solomon and her team gently encourage them to let go of certain things, but never in a judgemental way. “I’ve got three childhoods in here,” says Mum with a bittersweet smile. It’s an emotional experience for all concerned. I was reminded of the toys and drawings-friendly single-parent household I grew up in. The exceedingly likeable Solomon is in her natural habitat here.