CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: What a carry on, with a Fawlty flashback at the V&A museum
Secrets Of The Museum
Wild China With Ray Mears
Here’s a variation on Desert Island Discs that will keep any comedy fan happy for hours. Pick eight items of clothing to sum up the British sense of humour.
A Home Guard uniform has to be top of the list, perhaps with Private Pike’s maroon scarf knotted round the collar. Mr Bean’s tweed jacket is a must, and Patsy’s leather jacket from Ab Fab.
Add to the collection Tommy Cooper’s fez, or maybe Pete and Dud’s flat caps, and Del Boy’s sheepskin jacket.
You could argue for hours what to choose from the Carry Ons, and whether Eric Morecambe’s glasses count… but no one could object to Manuel’s bow tie and white waiter’s jacket, as worn by the late Andrew Sachs in Fawlty Towers.
Manuel (‘I know nothing, I am from Barcelona’) is celebrated as part of the Laughing Matters display at the Victoria and Albert museum in Kensington, after his daughter Kate donated the costume — stains and all.
On Secrets Of The Museum (BBC2), details from exhibitions are shown, including a Steiff teddy bear from 1908, less than 6in tall, whose name was Little Tommy Tittlemouse (pictured)
That presented two problems for conservator Nora Brockmann, on Secrets Of The Museum (BBC2). Firstly, there was the tricky job of cleaning the material without washing out the tell-tale spatters of tomato soup.
Secondly, Nora had never seen the show. She’s German, you see. Her boss promised to bring her up to speed. Let’s hope nobody mentioned the war.
Careful inspection of the jacket revealed one trick of the trade. The middle button was on a loop of stout elastic — no doubt so that it wouldn’t ping off when Basil shook Manuel by the lapels.
Details like that are the delight of this series. The camera picks up on minutiae we might never spot at an exhibition.
Even when 30ft cloths, decorated with patterns copied from the domes of mosques in Iran, were unrolled, the intriguing part for me was the way curators fastened the pennants to the wall with magnets — disguised with coloured paper.
Among the priceless morsels was a Steiff teddy bear from 1908, less than 6in tall. His name was Little Tommy Tittlemouse and he was being cleaned before going into storage — or hibernation, as narrator Dorothy Atkinson put it.
The toy was a gift in the 1960s to the V&A from James Gowan, who owned the bear from his boyhood. He sent it a birthday card every year, a tradition now continued by teddy fans from all over the world.
It doesn’t seem right that such a well-loved personality should go into a box in a warehouse. He needs to be in his natural habitat — a display cabinet. Free Little Tommy Tittlemouse!
On ITV, presenter Ray Mears (pictured) was also helping cute bears find freedom, as he visited a panda conservation programme in Wild China
Ray Mears was also helping cute bears find freedom, as he visited a panda conservation programme in Wild China (ITV).
Adorable cubs came bumbling out of their enclosure and lined up to slurp milk from bowls. A couple rolled and tumbled, while another lay on his back in a tree, chewing a leaf.
But Ray isn’t the right presenter to coo over baby animals in captivity. He needs to roam unchained. It wasn’t until he was filling his water bottle from a stream in spectacular mountains that he started to unwind.
The problem was that these mountains were vast and covered with 500 different types of bamboo. And there were only 11 wild pandas in the entire park.
One conservationist admitted he’d been working there for 18 years and only seen a panda once. For all his tracking skills, Ray didn’t have a hope.
He did find some droppings, and spent several minutes showing us those. But it would have made better viewing if he’d swallowed his pride and stayed at the breeding centre.