UK

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: Well chuffed! Train buff whose favourite destination is a station 

The Architecture The Railways Built

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Staged 

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Whatever else the nation has learned in lockdown, we have got the hang of the red button.

New figures reveal that last year Brits watched 5.8 billion shows via BBC iPlayer — that’s nearly 100 programmes for every man, woman and child.

Normal People was the favourite boxset, streamed 63.7 million times. Either that means every person in Britain watched at least one episode, or some people have been staring at those candid sex scenes on a constant loop.

Last week alone, we caught up with an incredible 162 million shows on iPlayer — the service’s busiest seven days ever. The Serpent, A Perfect Planet and Traces topped the charts.

It took a pandemic to make this happen, but we’ve finally got to grips with video-on-demand. And it’s not just the BBC: the low-budget Dave, Drama, Alibi, Eden and Gold channels all gained tens of thousands of new viewers in 2020, with their UKTV Play catch-up site experiencing increased online traffic of over 40 per cent.

There are now bigger audiences for offbeat shows such as The Architecture The Railways Built (Yesterday), presented by train buff Tim Dunn (pictured at Wemyss Bay Station, near Glasgow)

There are now bigger audiences for offbeat shows such as The Architecture The Railways Built (Yesterday), presented by train buff Tim Dunn (pictured at Wemyss Bay Station, near Glasgow)

That means bigger audiences for offbeat shows such as The Architecture The Railways Built (Yesterday), presented by train buff Tim Dunn.

Tim’s the type of chap who, unlike Michael Portillo, doesn’t carry a railway timetable with him —because he’s memorised every page. And he doesn’t need a guidebook because, also unlike Portillo, Tim’s idea of the perfect trip is one where he never sets foot outside the station.

In Portugal, he marvelled at the Sao Bento terminus in Porto, whose cavernous hall is decorated with fairytale murals of knights in armour, painted onto a vast jigsaw of wall tiles. He explored the platforms, the clock tower… but didn’t so much as walk down the street for a coffee.

If the station didn’t have a cafe, Tim might starve.

Tim¿s the type of chap who, unlike Michael Portillo, doesn¿t carry a railway timetable with him ¿because he¿s memorised every page

Tim’s the type of chap who, unlike Michael Portillo, doesn’t carry a railway timetable with him —because he’s memorised every page

In Scotland, he did take a ferry from the Isle of Bute across the Firth of Clyde, but only so he could admire the station on Wemyss Bay from the sea. This S-shaped building extends over the water on a pier — ideal for the 19th-century holidaymakers who used to flock here from Glasgow.

Tim couldn’t stop gazing at the semi-circular fan roof of iron and glass, drawing our attention to it not once or twice but repeatedly for the first 20 minutes. He compared it to the spokes of an umbrella, though it might just as easily have been inspired by the enormous, half-moon moustache sported by its architect, James Miller. The Victorians didn’t only know how to make girders appear to float — they were also masters of facial hair.

Beards are out of control on Staged (BBC1), the lockdown sitcom that’s so arch it has to be aired in 15-minute bites. No one could cope with a full half-hour of such ironic self-deprecation.

Beards are out of control on Staged (BBC1), the lockdown sitcom that¿s so arch it has to be aired in 15-minute bites. No one could cope with a full half-hour of such ironic self-deprecation. Pictured: David Tennant (left) Michael Sheen (right) on Staged

Beards are out of control on Staged (BBC1), the lockdown sitcom that’s so arch it has to be aired in 15-minute bites. No one could cope with a full half-hour of such ironic self-deprecation. Pictured: David Tennant (left) Michael Sheen (right) on Staged

Michael Sheen has reached the point where he needs a gardener, not a barber, while David Tennant looks like fitness guru Joe Wicks auditioning for Jesus Christ Superstar. It appears every bored A-lister between London and Los Angeles is desperate to be in on the joke, that there’s no one more insufferable than an actor with nothing to do.

In this second series, which has the duo trying to cast a remake of the first series (with more famous stars playing their own parts), we’ve seen Ewan McGregor, Whoopi Goldberg, Michael Palin and Hugh Bonneville — with The Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parsons the latest to join in.

But a gag doesn’t get funnier with constant repetition.

It starts to grate. And that’s what has happened to Staged. It’s going in circles… down the plughole.


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