CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews the weekend’s TV: With a clueless hunk in command this must surely be a Bridge too far
Agatha Christie: 100 Years Of Poirot And Miss Marple
One of the positive aspects of 2020 is how much more tolerant it has made me toward contrived and unlikely formats on TV. A year ago, I would have dismissed The Bridge (C4) as stupid, vapid nonsense.
This reality endurance contest takes 11 over-privileged millennials and one short-tempered old codger, and dumps them in the wilderness beside a lake. Half a mile away, in the middle of the water, is an outcrop with a metal pylon and a box of buried treasure.
Their task is to build a bridge from the shore to the money using a supply of logs and ropes handily left nearby, belonging apparently to no one. They have two months.
Whenever a flare goes up from the tower, the bridge builders must down tools and canoe to the island to retrieve fresh instructions. The first message ordered them to choose a leader. They picked Zac, a 23-year-old male stripper.
The Bridge takes 11 over-privileged millennials and one short-tempered old codger, and dumps them in the wilderness beside a lake
An impossible challenge, arbitrary rules, incomprehensible communiques and a clueless leader with boundless self-belief who does admittedly look good . . . The Bridge might seem at first sight to be a half-baked game show but it may be, in fact, a razor-sharp political satire on the Covid crisis.
The decisions of the contestants make us mutter, just as we’ve all been doing since March, ‘Why? Why do that? It’s obviously the wrong choice.’
For his deputies, Zac chose the other two hunks in the group. They were immediately nicknamed ‘the boy band’.
Then he ordered them to set about sawing up the logs and lashing them together into floating panels. It took two days to make the first one, taking them 6ft of the way across 900 yards of water. At this rate they won’t be finished before Christmas 2022.
COVID hero of the weekend:
Michael Palin recalled meeting Arctic fur trapper Harald Solheim, living alone on Svalbard in 1990, in his Travels Of A Lifetime (BBC2). Incredibly, Harald still lives up there, utterly isolated. Now that’s real social distancing.
No one thought about tying the uncut logs in pairs to create a narrow walkway, or suspending a rope line from the trees to the tower.
The only camper with any practical expertise is 60-year-old Sly, who describes himself as a ‘car fabricator’. Perhaps he’s the bloke who lays wall-to-wall carpet in stretch limos.
Sly is in a huff, because the young’uns won’t beg him for the benefit of his wisdom. He might have a long wait, since the rest seem to think it’s their God-given right to know everything already.
As with most Channel 4 reality shows, from Hunted to The Island With Bear Grylls, the footage is so heavily edited that it’s hard to be sure what you’re watching. The screen shows one face, while we hear another person talking, and it’s impossible to know if the words and the reaction belong together.
This sort of misdirection is nothing new. It was second nature to Dame Agatha Christie, whose first novel, The Mysterious Affair At Styles, was published in 1920.
Agatha Christie: 100 Years Of Poirot And Miss Marple (C5) was really an extended puff for the latest movie starring Kenneth Branagh as the Belgian detective, in Death On The Nile — due out this December . . . that’s if there are any cinemas left by then.
Actors such as Hugh Fraser, who played Captain Hastings, told us how much they enjoyed their characters, though we heard nothing from Branagh himself, nor from the newly knighted Sir David Suchet, who will always be Poirot incarnate.
Facts were spread thinly. But we did find out that Christie learned about poisons while serving with the nursing corps during World War I.
She put her success ‘all down to the fact that I never had an education’. If that were true, half the world would be geniuses.