The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross (4 stars)

The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross

Half-hour slices of calming creativity should keep all our worries at bay

With his soothing Floridian tones, tendency for tangents, and incredible thatch of permed hair that he allegedly hated but realised was part of his 'brand', Bob Ross was a crazily popular painter on US TV from the '80s and '90s. Having achieved a posthumous cult status online (he died from lymphoma in 1995), there has been a Bob Ross merchandise explosion featuring everything from cereal to a sleep app. Over the festive period, BBC Four will air 24 of this ex-US army guy's 403 half-hour displays of soothing, meditative art creation; quite a turnaround for someone who vowed after military service never to scream and shout at anyone ever again.

The opening episode (from 1990) takes its sweet time to get going as Ross helps feed four fox squirrels, worrying (ever so gently) about the world's ecology: 'if the animals disappear, guess who's next?' Ever the regular guy, he actually does say things like 'son of a gun' alongside pithy catchphrases such as 'there are no mistakes, just happy accidents'.

While taking disproportionate pleasure out of cleaning his two-inch brush, when Ross declares 'let's go crazy', don't expect a Jackson Pollock flurry of splatter; he's more likely to be making one tree in a winter scene slightly taller than the others. Of course, Ross was notably not a fan of abstract art insisting that, for him, having to explain a painting defeats its purpose. Instead, he'd prefer that anyone influenced to try their hand at 'wet on wet' painting should do their own thing within the parameters of reality: 'if you want to give your trees some arms and foots and names, that's OK'.

It goes without saying that Bob Ross' calming display of in-the-moment creativity is just what this extremely trying year needed. And if it helps inspire another generation to pick up a brush and paint away, heck, we're darned sure that Bob would heartily approve.

BBC Four, Mondays–Thursdays, 7.30pm. Available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

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