Alison Rowat's TV preview: The Prince's Master Crafters; Spreadsheet; The Airport: Back in the Skies
As calls to the barricades go, it’s hardly French Revolution standard, but there is no doubting Jim Moir’s enthusiasm as he introduces The Prince’s Master Crafters: the Next Generation (Sky Arts, free to view, Wednesday, 8pm).
Speaking in defence of disciplines from stonemasonry to wood carving and several points between, Moir declares: “This year alone in the UK, four heritage crafts were declared extinct and a further 56 critically endangered. It’s time to take action!”
You may not be surprised to learn that the main man leading the drive to pass on traditional skills is The Prince of Wales, who has set up his own foundation to do just that. Aiding efforts further is this new series in which six “passionate amateurs” try their hand at various crafts, the first of which is wood carving. At the end of the series, one contestant’s piece will be displayed in Highgrove House. Think of Master Crafters as a kind of Bake Off by royal appointment, or Sewing Bee with bespoke knobs on.
The first masterclass is led by Sarah Goss, who worked at Dumfries House and is a graduate of the Prince’s Foundation. She now works for clients all over the world, reason enough on its own to spark interest in those who fancy a career change.
The six contestants are asked to create a small relief carving in the Arts and Craft style. While they are all familiar with William Morris most are new to the tools and techniques required to turn a lump of wood into a thing of beauty.
Moir, in a previous life the artist known as Vic Reeves of Big Night Out fame, jollies the contestants along and fills in their backstories (compulsory in any such show). There’s the fashion designer who switched to carving, and the stained glass maker who confesses to being the “weird” kid who loved to go round churches while her peers played outside.
Moir introduces past masters of the crafts which takes him to Petworth House in West Sussex to see The Carved Room by the Dutch wood carver Grinling Gibbons. He also finds time to paint a water colour by the Thames, demonstrating that he is no mean artist himself.
Before long it is back to competition business as usual as he tells the contestants that they have two hours left to finish their tasks (it takes longer to carve wood than whip up a sponge). They are an obviously skilled bunch and the vibe is friendly and supportive, as in all the better competitions. One hopeful is simply chuffed to have completed the task without losing any fingers. Next week they will be working with stained glass. Expect a few dreams to shatter.
How good is it to see Katherine Parkinson do her comedy thing in Here We Go (BBC1, Friday, 8.30pm)? There is more of her in another family sitcom, Spreadsheet (Channel 4, Wednesday, 10.05pm/10.40pm). In the latter case, to quote George Bush Snr, the family is a lot more Simpsons than Waltons. Add the fact that the sitcom is made in Australia and centres on the Parkinson character’s eventful sex life, and the post-watershed start time makes sense.
The IT Crowd star plays Lauren, a lawyer and newly divorced mother of two. Now back in the dating game –“Isn’t she brave?” says a woman colleague – she keeps track of her experiences on the spreadsheet of the title. While not as family friendly or laugh out loud as Here We Go, Spreadsheet is worth sticking with after the first hit and miss episode. In sitcoms, as in life, it’s all about commitment.
Among the first and best reality shows, though we did not call them that at the time, was Airport, an everyday story of Heathrow folk, staff and passengers alike. One of its “stars” was ground services manager Jeremy Spake. Don’t worry: you’ll know him as soon as you hear him. Now an aviation expert who advises airports all over the world, Spake returns to the old place for The Airport: Back in the Skies (BBC1, Monday, 10.40pm).
Like many another place, Heathrow was a ghost town during lockdown. Bringing the people back gives rise to some new problems, such as “skills fade” among out of practice staff, to place alongside the old familiars, including birds on the runways. Then there are the forms. The forms! So many, and different from country to country.
Nothing is too much trouble for Spake as he zips from runway to check-in, stopping off at the shoe shine stand to cheer up the poor vendor who has been there all day and had just three customers.
Everyone gets such a kick about getting back to normal it is hard to believe how much we used to moan about air travel.