“A deadpan treat in an age of overenthusiastic and wildly gesticulating television presenting.” Read on for the verdict on last night’s TV. 

Jonathan Meads: The Joy of Essex (BBC4)

“He stands, in black and permanent dark glasses (is he laughing behind there, at us, at everything, or does he simply think he’s in The Velvet Underground?) in front of beautiful Essex-scapes – ancient chapels, nuclear power stations, Roman castles, modernist factories, muddy marshes and massive skies. And he delivers his sardonic monologue, a deadpan treat in an age of overenthusiastic and wildly gesticulating television presenting.”
Sam Wollaston, The Guardian

“It provided an intriguing, grown up tour of this rarely glimpsed Essex, and was, as ever refreshingly willing to speak his mind. The one time restaurant critic is a rich dish, though, and a little goes a long way. He didn’t seem to find much Joy in Essex and after a while his witty, sardonic delivery started to grate.”
Matt Baylis, Daily Express

“It was such a beautiful programme, so wittily written, one wondered why Meades tried so hard to trash it, a process that began with its very first image, a pair of legs sticking out of an essex marsh. His film was punctuated by a fictitious local radio DJ’s reciting fictitious tales of Essex eccentricity, and ended with a joke that referenced a gay MP that didn’t really work. I didn’t mind the skittishness, but the connection between form and content, if present, were as deeply buried as the gangsters’ bodies beneath Southend Pier.
Andrew Billen, The Times

“It began with Aaron Copland’s “Buckaroo Holiday” on the soundtrack – an unexpectedly Western accompaniment to an uncherished bit eastern hinterland. Perhaps it was a kind of coded warning. Wedge one hand tight under the saddle and prepare to cling on for as long as you can.”
Tom Sutcliffe, The Independent

The Mary Berry Story; (BBC2)

“It’s not even an especially interesting life story, not in this first part anyhow. Mary’s childhood was reasonably happy, it seems. She lived in a nice big house. People came and went. Dad was strict, as dads were, back in the day. Mary wasn’t brilliant at school but she was good at other things. There were ponies and picnics and puddings. Though to be honest I think I’d prefer my pimped Angel’s Delight to Mary’s mother’s bread and margarine pud, but then I’m not very classy.”
Sam Wollaston, The Guardian

Natural Curiosities (Eden)

“It was on pay-channel Eden that Attenbourough gave two clear pitch perfect lectures about the chameleon and the giraffe. I doubt the air mile king went further that Whipsnade, but he proved that even in his twilight years he does not need big budgets and incredible camera teams to hold us.”
Andrew Billen, The Times