Jeremy Clarkson could build an orphanage and I still think great swathes of the public would hate him for it.
Their unwavering dislike of all things Jezza means that his new Amazon project, Clarkson’s Farm, won’t get a second thought but they’re missing out, because it’s genuinely the best thing he’s done in years.
What starts off as a show that sounds ripe for some Top Gear/Grand Tour contrived hijinks – “hapless Jeremy takes over the running of his Cotswolds farm and all manner of hilarity and chaos ensues!” – actually transforms into a bracingly sincere love letter to farming and all the toil and trouble that goes into it.
Yes, some parts of “Top Gear Jeremy” do seep through – he buys a gigantic (and totally impractical) tractor in episode one because it’s made by Lamborghini – but for the most part this is a Jeremy the public rarely gets to see.
The faux arrogance that often boils viewers’ blood is turned down to a peep and any time he attempts to ‘go rogue’ and ignore the advice of the experts frequently ends up being costly.
One of those experts is a 21-year-old farm hand called Kaleb, who is refreshingly un-starstruck and doesn’t stand for a second of Jeremy’s nonsense.
Seeing Kaleb scold his multimillionaire boss for being an idiot is one of the many pleasures in the eight-part series.
You soon realise there’s no reason to resort to the Grand Tour-style contrivances because real-life drama is baked into the endeavour.
There’s no faking Jeremy’s worries as the autumn floods of 2019 threaten his crops and, of course, when coronavirus hits in early 2020 he faces even bigger problems.
Even if you’re one of the haters, I would urge you to give this a try.
Whether he’s crying after sending sheep off to slaughter, lamenting the terrible weather or getting awe-struck by nature, Jeremy’s enthusiasm feels completely genuine and heartwarming.
A bitter reminder of lockdown
The stresses and strains of lockdown came vividly to life this week in Together (BBC2), a brilliant one-off drama starring Sharon Horgan and James McAvoy.
Adding to the prestige nature of this claustrophobic, sometimes uncomfortable, 90-minute film was the fact it was also directed by Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot).
Horgan and McAvoy looked like they were having a blast spitting out playwright Dennis Kelly’s bilious barbs, as we watched their marriage implode during the isolation of lockdown and after years and years of pent-up resentment.
Sometimes full-on dramas like this can be almost unbearable to watch, but this was deliciously bitter.
Pointless rehash of country’s worst crimes
I know that crime television is popular, but you’d need to be the most undiscerning of viewers to get anything of value out of the lamentable In The Footsteps of Killers (Channel 4).
Crime drama actress Emilia Fox and criminologist David Wilson certainly gave the impression they were investigating real-life unsolved murders – they had a situation room with whiteboards covered in mugshots and everything! – but really they were just googling the cases.
In other words, they brought nothing to the table.
Fox did get to show off her acting abilities though –she frequently had to act surprised whenever an old piece of information was presented to her as new.
Happy to miss this feast of football
I’m glad everyone’s enjoying the football – no really, I am.
The folk I feel truly sorry for are those of you who don’t have a choice in what you watch – so the husbands, wives and flatmates of football fans who now find their viewing habits horrendously curtailed by the Euros.
I’m one of the lucky ones (my wife is as disinterested as I am) but my heart goes out to those of you who can’t change channel without World War 3 breaking out.
Movie of the week: The Killing (Film4, Friday, 1.25am)
Stanley Kubrick had not yet turned 30 but already had two feature films under his belt when he made this racetrack heist movie classic in 1956.
Despite his relative inexperience, Kubrick’s confidence and swagger behind the camera bursts from every frame of this stylish thriller starring Sterling Hayden, who plays a career criminal who’s plotting one final job.
As with most heist films, the devil’s in the detail, and the joy comes from watching Hayden and his ruthless gang try to figure out how to pull off the big raid.
By the time the racetrack robbery gets underway, you’re almost rooting for the gangsters to get away with it.
Although it’s almost 70 years old, The Killing still feels strikingly modern and few heist films have topped it since, even though ones like The Italian Job and Reservoir Dogs have clearly tried.