1) Great British Railway Journeys: From Uxbridge To Hillingdon (2021)
Having exhausted every other train journey in the world, Michael Portillo travels from the first stop on the Metropolitan Line of London’s famous underground system for several hundred yards to the second.
Along the way, Michael meets rail maintenance worker Ted Boreham, who informs him that platforms can sometimes get a little crowded at peak times. Michael expresses astonishment when regular rail-user Daphne Dullard shows him how she and her fellow commuters get through the barriers using their credit cards.
Finally, a local historian tells Michael how Uxbridge can trace its name back to an ancient bridge. ‘Fascinating,’ enthuses Michael, who wears his familiar pastel-coloured slacks and blazer for what he excitedly describes as ‘the trip of a lifetime!’
Having exhausted every other train journey in the world, Michael Portillo travels from the first stop on the Metropolitan Line of London’s famous underground system for several hundred yards to the second [File photo]
2) T.S. Eliot And The Sole Of Man (1964)
In this six-part series T.S. Eliot teams up with Liverpool lass Cilla Black for a ‘lorra laffs’ as the two of them go fishing on the Isle of Man. Along the way, Tom learns to play tambourine with Gerry Marsden, and Cilla teaches top poet Ezra Pound how to speak Scouse!
3) Sandi Toskvig’s America (2017)
National treasure Sandi Toksvig travels around America on a penny-farthing. ‘What I never realised about the US of A is just how big it is — particularly when you’re a little lady on a penny-farthing!’
Join Sandi as she discovers that the little-known city of Las Vegas is full of casinos, that New York is sometimes called ‘the Big Apple’ and that Mount Rushmore is home to the heads of several American presidents sculpted in rock.
‘Expect the unexpected!’ she enthuses, as she dresses up as a cowboy to visit the site of the gunfight at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona.
4) When Basil Met The Chairman (1973)
Visiting China in 1971 Basil Brush, the world-renowned glove puppet, clinched a world exclusive by securing a wide-ranging interview with Chairman Mao Tse-tung.
It came at an important time for both the interviewer and the interviewee. Mao was starting to look outward, and wanting to present a friendlier face to the West. At the same time, Brush’s career had reached a turning point: feeling increasingly restricted by his reputation as a lightweight family entertainer, he craved acceptance as an international reporter.
‘There was always a much more serious side to Basil,’ recalls his contemporary Sooty, one half of the distinguished glove-based comedy duo Sooty and Sweep. ‘He was well-loved as a fox with an infectious laugh, but he was so much more than that. One would regularly catch him backstage reading Jung and Freud, and he was a serious collector of the works of Frida Kahlo and Jackson Pollock.’
Visiting China in 1971 Basil Brush (pictured), the world-renowned glove puppet, clinched a world exclusive by securing a wide-ranging interview with Chairman Mao Tse-tung
When Basil Met The Chairman was broadcast on ITV at peak time on a Saturday. The communist leader and the glove puppet were filmed shaking hands on the Great Wall. ‘Very pleased to meet you,’ said Chairman Mao through an interpreter, to which Brush retorted, ‘How now, Chairman Mao! Boom! Boom!’
This set the right tone for an easy-going, wide-ranging chat.
‘We have great respect for the fox in my land,’ continued the Chairman.
‘I beg your pudding?’ replied Brush, with one of his infectious throaty laughs.
The two of them were filmed fishing together and sharing a laugh in a bicycle factory. In another sequence, Mao taught Brush how to use chopsticks.
When Basil Met The Chairman was shortlisted for a TV Times Documentary Award, though it was eventually pipped at the post by Des O’Connor’s ground-breaking interview with Fidel Castro, in which the Cuban dictator confessed to being an ardent fan of Dr Finlay’s Casebook and The New Seekers.
5) Jackie Weaver’s Great Big Adventure (2021)
Members of the Handforth Parish Council attempt to row around the world in a bronze-age coracle, with break-out star Jackie Weaver as their captain.
Just ten nautical yards out of Falmouth, the team fall into a heated disagreement over whether to circle the world clockwise or anti-clockwise. Bitter words are exchanged, but they finally settle on a compromise: they will split the boat down the middle, with Jackie Weaver swimming between the two halves. Halfway round the world, in accordance with official TV guidelines, they are joined by national treasure Mary Berry.