Friday, October 15, 2004

The CBS TV Week

For this week's look at the next 168 hour's worth of televisual delights, I'm going to concentrate on a quintessentially British archetype; the eccentric Englishman. We seem to love people with a quirky side to their nature; bumbling inventors, nutty professors etc. You see them in all walks of life and the TV schedules are no exception, as we shall see.

Firstly, we have that most eccentric of actors, Stephen Fry. Highly educated, very intelligent and just a little bit odd. Even when he went off the rails a bit a few years ago, everyone still loved him. He seems like a modern day Oscar Wilde so it's probably no surprise that you can see him tomorrow night in Wilde (BBC2 10.10 p.m.). If that's not your cup of tea then there's also the excellent panel quiz show QI on Friday (BBC2 10 p.m.). Quite rightly at the top of the list.

Now, I'm not sure you'd necessarily call perma-tanned, antique David Dickinson eccentric (criminally insane seems to fit better) but he does have a certain something about him which qualifies him for this week's feature. Maybe it's his odd expressions ('Bobbydazzler' and the like) or his strange mannerisms. I'm not sure, but if you want to catch him, the Duke of Orange is in Bargain Hunt on Wednesday (BBC1 7 p.m.)

Sunday evening on Channel 4 gives us a double-header of peculiarity. At 5.30 p.m. there's the last of a four-part series fronted by Pete Waterman (he of Stock, Aitken and Waterman and, more latterly, Pop Idol fame). His would not be a name that sprang immediately to mind if you were to think of famous eccentrics. His fame and money have come from manufacturing highly successful pop acts. That alone is not enough. No, his quirky side can be found not in how he made his money but in how he's spent it. He's an absolute nut about trains. The term trainspotter doesn't quite cover it - he's a fanatic. He owns a company that refurbishes old steam trains. He even used to own one of the most famous trains of all time, The Flying Scotsman. That definitely qualifies him. His series, called 'Trains' is a fascinating look at the history of the railways in this country. Last week's programme was about the role the rail network played in the second world war and was packed full of stuff I had no idea about. This week's focuses on the post-war, Dr Beeching years and should be very good. If you like that sort of thing, of course.

Immediately after that, at 6.30 p.m., is the show that brings the picture of the bumbling inventor slap bang up to date, Scrapheap Challenge. Fronted by the undeniably quirky Robert Llewellyn, it's stars are the beer guzzling bikers and nutty engineers that form the teams tasked with creating strange machines from whatever they can find in the scrapyard. I've loved this show since it started years ago and it never fails to amuse me. Maybe this says more about me than it does the show but no matter. It is a celebration of English eccentricity.

If that's not enough for you then you could always tune in to An Audience With... Harry Hill (ITV 9.10 p.m.), Jonathan Ross in Film 2004 (BBC2 1.35 p.m.) or John McCririck in The Morning Line (C4 8.55 a.m.), all on Saturday. All of them eccentrics in their own little ways.

There you are, a week's worth of odd people on TV. What more could you want?

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