Troughs and pique

Gary Day on victims of the credit crisis, women on top, glamorous historians and a bit of Strictly escapism

October 23, 2008

The credit crisis must be serious. The BBC put on a special edition of Panorama to discuss it. "Britain in the Red" (Thursday 8pm) replaced the scheduled programme, "The Planners are Coming". Was that wise? They, not a bunch of economists, might have rescued us from this debacle.

Every day there are 123 repossessions and 301 bankruptcies. But these are just statistics. "Let's see what this means," said Jeremy Vine, who fronted the programme, to "ordinary people". It was much easier to feel sorry for Malcolm Poole, whose small brick-building business had gone bust, than for Graham Middleton, who was playing golf at the same time as he was bewailing the declining return on his investments.

But where were the ordinary people? Not the chap getting out of a Rolls-Royce, surely? No, that was Sir Alan Sugar. What did he have to say that might help Mr Poole? Sir Alan looked lost for words. "Hang on in there and hope," he said eventually. Realising that the nation might expect something more from the boss of The Apprentice, Sir Alan suggested that Mr Poole might like to liquidate his own company.

It's a mystery, when we have men such as Sir Alan who know so much about business, why we are in this mess. Journalist and commentator Will Hutton was on hand to explain. Greed, market fundamentalism and lack of regulation. Not to mention all those loans. Apparently, we borrow £2.28 million every day, so is it our fault that the economy is melting faster than the Larsen ice shelf?

Vine put the Lennon family from Wales in the dock. Squashed on the sofa in their small sitting room they confessed to buying a juicer that they don't use very much. "What about the neighbours?" demanded Vine. Were they making improvements to their house or going away on holiday? Didn't they realise that their extravagance had put honest bankers out of work? The family, even baby Oscar, hung their heads in shame.

The experts agreed that the crisis had been caused by too much borrowing. So what was the solution? "The banks must start lending again," said Michael Coogan from the Council of Mortgage Lenders. "Banks must lend again," agreed Will Hutton. "We have taken decisive action so lending will start again," said Treasury Minister Stephen Timms, looking and sounding like a self-conscious sixth-former.

The pressing issue on When Women Rule the World (Channel 4, Thursday 11.10pm) was which man had sabotaged the aqueduct. The programme is filmed on a Caribbean island whose residents probably fled when the contestants arrived. There don't appear to be any mirrors on the island, which may be why the men turned to vandalism.

Queen Christine and her court were determined to discover the culprit. Firstly, they used their feminine wiles, but this elicited nothing, which must have been galling. Secondly, they summoned the men one at a time and collectively berated them. Ed, who was last seen hosing himself down in a pair of Y-fronts, cracked first and named the evil-doer.

The men are on the island to serve the women and learn about themselves. The women are there to eliminate them. Each week, the man who has not been sufficiently attentive or who has failed to achieve enlightenment is sacrificed. Not literally - there are still a few taboos reality TV has yet to break.

The rapper G-Range came close, but was saved by his insight that the world wouldn't exist if it weren't for women. Instead it was A. J., a Bollywood actor, who had to make the long swim back to civilisation.

It was difficult to decide whether Kate Williams, presenter of Young Victoria (BBC Two, Saturday 8.10pm), was more interested in her subject or in modelling new outfits. Each scene seemed to demand a change of clothing. What the Pre-Raphaelite Kate was going to appear in next was nearly as riveting as what she had to say about Victoria, a woman who did indeed rule the world, although first she had to break with her ambitious mother.

Strictly Come Dancing (BBC One, Saturday 6.40pm) provides the sort of escapism we are told we need in a recession. Malcolm Poole will cheer up enormously when he sees political journalist John Sergeant in sparkling purple braces, then. The audience applauded anyone who didn't fall over. A contestant called Jodie Kidd - a one-time supermodel, they tell me - said she wanted to do well for the British public because they voted for her. It would be nice to hear that from the politicians and bankers.

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