Brian Donaldson never thought he’d see it happen again in his lifetime, but BBC1 have actually produced a funny sitcom.
Fired up with a blaze of publicity, including the less than mysterious tale of some missing tapes (robbing from rich execs at the BBC to give to the poor public?), the £8m production of Robin Hood (BBC1, Sat 7 Oct, 7.05pm) is not exactly money well spent. Attempting to cure the Saturday evening post-Doctor Who blues, newcomers Jonas Armstrong and Lucy Griffiths do youthful smouldering for their Robin/Marion pas de deux. But the decision not to include Friar Tuck because a jolly portly chap would be deemed too stereotypical for a modern audience is somewhat undermined by having Keith Allen perform his Sheriff of Nottingham as a template of cartoon malevolence. Basing his baddie on Gordon Brown, Lily’s papa gets to utter lines about ‘standing shoulder to shoulder with Rome’ in the Holy Wars while keeping a close eye on expenditure as he seeks to bleed his shire dry.
There’s something faintly déjà vu about Jonathan King: Life on the Outside (Channel 4, Tue 10 Oct, 10pm). Having served three-and-a-half years for sex crimes going way back to his 1970s showbiz heyday, Jonathan King is now seeking to relaunch his media career while telling the voices in his head to shush as they surely whisper that no one will touch him with a bargepole. But not too far in you realise that Channel 4 have pretty much already made this documentary, prior to his conviction. We get the same images of him in his mirrored bathroom and with that daft multi-coloured afro wig while we hear from the victims about his abuse and from the colleagues who continue to defend him. The only difference is that then we had Jon Ronson hanging out with King before the subject got all paranoid about having a camera follow him around; this time it’s Nick Hornby (no, not that one) hanging out with King before the subject got all paranoid about having a camera follow him around.
The story behind The Dog Suicide Bridge (Five, Wed 18 Oct, 10pm) may also be hauntingly familiar to you. Near Dumbarton stands the Overtoun Bridge where large numbers of dogs have jumped to their deaths since the 1950s. Nothing odd about that you might think, except they have all leapt from the exact same spot and all in broad daylight. What has been enticing them to the stony ground below? Nuclear waves sent from the nearby Faslane base? Animal or spectral sounds which are inaudible to human ears? Or is it all just one crazy coincidence?
What We Did on Our Holiday (Scottish, Sun 8 Oct, 9pm) brings together Roger Lloyd Pack, Pauline Collins and Shane Richie in a family drama. And against every odd in the book, it happens to be a subtle and moving story of a clan disintegrating under the weight of earth-shattering secrets revealed over dinner and the upsetting yet inevitable consequences of physical and spiritual disintegration. As much of a shock as Shane Richie popping up in a quality ITV drama has to be BBC1 producing a funny sitcom. On a Friday evening, no less. Yet Not Going Out (BBC1, Fri 6 Oct, 9.30pm) is just that. Written by Lee Mack and Andrew Collins, and starring Mack, Tim Vine and Megan Dodds, it features yet another well-trodden path: two men and a woman juggling love and friendship. Yet it injects the familiar with surprising jokes and warm performances hitting a target of one hearty laugh (or at least a giggle) per scene. Not Going Out on a Friday night is a superb idea.