CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: Forget Poldark… try the saga of Redknapp’s rascally ancestors
Lost Boy: The Killing of James Bulger
One of the myriad, little-known lockdown rules appears to be that any celebrities filmed in the back of a car must drive past the home where they grew up.
We’ve seen everyone from Hollywood actor Michael Sheen to England striker Marcus Rashford doing this since January. Getting out of the car and ringing the doorbell is apparently forbidden, but the celebs are expected to holler, ‘That’s my house!’ as the front door flashes by.
It was Freddie Flintoff’s turn on a visit to Preston on DNA Journey (ITV). He got carried away: ‘See the car port? My dad built that.’
That was practically the only spontaneous moment in the episode, in which former England cricket captain Freddie and his mate, soccer pundit Jamie Redknapp, were ferried to a series of ambushes. At the end of every car ride, a historian was waiting for them with selected highlights from their ancestry.
In DNA Journey, Freddie Flintoff (left) and Jamie Redknapp (right) were thrust into surprise meetings with ‘relatives’, including some seventh cousins twice removed. That’s not so much an extended family, more stretched to the point of twanging
The format was so contrived that the boys were struggling to take it seriously. After one genealogist with a goatee and a Hawaiian shirt flagged them down for the second time, the microphones caught a disgruntled mutter from the back of the car: ‘There’s Doctor Death.’
Both men were thrust into surprise meetings with ‘relatives’, including some seventh cousins twice removed. That’s not so much an extended family, more stretched to the point of twanging.
The pity was that Jamie, especially, had ancestors whose stories deserved to be treated in more depth and might have been told better on BBC1’s far less larky Who Do You Think You Are?
Virus-bashers of the night:
Security was as tight as ever in Heathrow: Britain’s Busiest Airport (ITV).
But the cleaners now have WMD, or ‘weapons of mass disinfectant’, and robot mops are sanitising the toilets.
It’s a sci-fi world in 2021.
Victorian smuggler turned customs officer William pulled off a wages heist worth £2.5 million in today’s money.
Enos was a royal waterman, one of the team of elite bodyguards who rowed the king’s barge on the Thames between palaces.
Another forebear, on his mother’s side, earned the Edward Medal for bravery after leading an underground rescue following a disaster in 1911 at the Northumberland colliery where he was a miner.
Then there was the dandy ancestor who looked so like Queen Victoria’s eldest son that he used to stand in for the Prince of Wales, a double for days when the skirt-chasing royal was off gallivanting.
That’s not a family tree — it’s a full-blown saga, the basis for a costume drama spanning generations.
Now Poldark has finished, Sunday nights are crying out for The Redknapps . . . an everyday story of Cockney rascals and English heroes.
This material was mostly wasted through flippant presentation and a superficial approach.
But there was nothing flippant or superficial about Lost Boy: The Killing Of James Bulger (C5), the first of a two-part documentary on one of the most sickening crimes in recent history.
But the 90-minute episode was heavily stylised in places, which distracted from the testimonies of police, journalists and James’s family — including his brothers, speaking on camera for the first time.
There was nothing flippant or superficial about Lost Boy: The Killing Of James Bulger (C5), the first of a two-part documentary on one of the most sickening crimes in recent history
Archive footage was framed by an old TV set, a device better suited to comedy. And a counter kept flashing up, ticking away to tell us how many minutes and hours Jamie was missing, as though his distraught mother’s account was not tense enough.
Despite this, the programme managed to be respectful because of the dignified demeanour of the many people who were involved in the search.
Their lingering shock and disbelief was evident, even 28 years on. And it is painful to see how mother Denise Fergus can’t help blaming herself for an evil that was none of her doing.