Paul Whitelaw shares his TV highlights for the week ahead, with the simple pleasure of watching Bob Ross paint the pick of the bunch.
The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross- BBC FOUR Monday to Thursday , 7pm
The BBC’s most inspired decision during this horrific year was the emergency archival revival of Bob Ross, that exquisitely hirsute American painter whose gently hippie-infused presentation style is the very definition of escapist calm. When Bob daubs, all your worries vanish. In this latest run of repeats, originally broadcast in the early 1980s, Bob paints wintry vistas inspired by his love of nature. “Sometimes winter scenes can be so cold, they’re almost unpleasant. I like to make winter scenes…that make you feel good in here.” Irony be damned, watching Bob in his engrossing element is a wonderful thing. A nice, talented person creating art before your very eyes. He does make you feel good in here.
The Year that Changed Love – Channel 4, Tuesday, 10pm
The use of online dating sites such as Tinder went through the roof when Britain went into lockdown earlier this year. People needed to feel needed again, their loneliness exacerbated by a heightened sense of isolation. This candid documentary follows various folk as they attempt to either find or hold on to love during the pandemic. We meet a couple from Edinburgh who isolated together after their first date, a pair of exes who decided to live together for the sake of their son, a young couple with learning difficulties, a middle-aged divorcee who recently recovered from a brain tumour, and a heartbroken young man who can’t deal with being alone following the end of a serious relationship.
Vicky McClure’s Dementia Choir at Christmas – BBC1, Wednesday, 7.30pm
Two years ago, Vicky McClure of This is England and Line of Duty renown hosted an uplifting programme in which people living with dementia formed a choir. I haven’t seen this follow-up, preview copies weren’t available, but I can pretty much guarantee that it will move you. Music has an unparalleled ability to stir memories, it’s a powerful form of cognitive therapy. McClure catches up with the choir during lockdown, as they prepare for a special Christmas performance with members of the English National Opera at the London Coliseum. For one choir member, it’s a final tick on his bucket list. McClure’s Line of Duty co-star, the great Adrian “Jesus, Mary and Joseph” Dunbar, makes a cameo appearance.
Paul O’Grady’s Great British Escape – ITV, Wednesday, 8pm
And so, the end is near. I hope, like me, you’ve enjoyed this comforting series in which O’Grady explores his adopted home county of Kent. The final leg involves a visit to some abandoned WWII sea forts – they look like something from a chilling dystopian sci-fi film – and a celebration of the indestructible Dover Castle. He also pops into one of Britain’s foremost animal conservation centres, and pays his respects at the graveside of the great arthouse film director Derek Jarman, a leading voice for gay rights during his all too brief lifetime and an old friend of O’Grady’s. “I could tell you a few stories, but I won’t. You’ll have to wait ‘til the next book.”
Nadiya’s American Adventure – BBC 1, Thursday, 8pm
California is next stop on Nadiya Hussain’s culinary celebration of cultural diversity in loser Trump’s America. This isn’t just another jolly travelogue, its political subtext is clear. When Hussain samples some delicious Mexican food in Los Angeles, where almost 40% of the population was born outside of America, she highlights the fact that cooking and selling is the only way for these vendors to survive. She also meets Muslim and Latino communities coming together via food festivals. They refuse to be silenced or demoralised. Hussain is a beacon of positivity. For an hour at least, she makes the world feel like a slightly nicer, more delightful place. Bye-bye, Donald.
Christmas at The Savoy – ITV, Thursday, 9pm
This festive edition was filmed last year, when business reigned as usual. Most of their luxury suites will presumably be empty this year, but let’s cast our minds back to a relatively simpler time when all they had to worry about was an extra influx of champagne-guzzling, turkey-gobbling guests. The staff are stressed and overworked, they don’t have time to stay at home for Christmas with their families. These people are the sympathetic heart of this series, the factotums who cater to the whims of wealth-sodden holidaymakers. I hope they haven’t lost their jobs in the last twelve months. I’d also like to see an end to massive economic inequality. Still, nice monogrammed pillows. Bottoms up!
The Sound of TV with Neil Brand – BBC Four, Friday, 9pm
In the concluding part of his marvellous odyssey into “some of the most potent music of our times”, Brand focuses on the transformative – some might say manipulative – effect of television scores. Whether they’re specially composed or based around pre-existing music – programmes under review include Game of Thrones, The Singing Detective and The Sopranos – the best scores strike a rich emotional chord. Brand also examines the epic symphonic scores from landmark documentaries such as Blue Planet and, on the other end of the spectrum, the constant beds of music familiar from The New Housewives of Sheboygan and suchlike. In case you were in any doubt, this is what BBC Four is for.