CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: Feeling nippy? Pop a pup in each pocket to warm up your paws!
Egypt’s Great Mummies: Unwrapped With Bettany Hughes
Anyone can have too much of a good thing, as our poodle-cross Fizzy found out on Boxing Day.
Not satisfied with the scraps from every plate, she somehow levitated onto a table and stole half a Toblerone. Dogs and chocolate are a bad combination, so I’m grateful the consequences were nothing worse than an hour spent shampooing the stair carpet.
Pooch Perfect (BBC1), the dog grooming contest hosted by Sheridan Smith, suffered a similar fate. It crammed in so much sweetness that it ended up being a little bit sick-making.
The basic idea was to take four professional groomers and set them two challenges — prettifying a shih tzu, then giving a ‘teddy bear’ trim to a cockapoo or some other woolly poodle-cross (Toblerone not included).
Pooch Perfect (BBC1), the dog grooming contest hosted by Sheridan Smith, suffered a similar fate. It crammed in so much sweetness that it ended up being a little bit sick-making
It’s a niche concept for a show, the sort of thing you might find on an obscure U.S. cable channel but hardly enough for prime-time BBC1. The producers clearly agreed, because they tried every trick to make it more exciting — until the format sagged under its own weight.
The whole hour was speed-edited like a 1980s music video, with many shots lasting no longer than a second or two. Sheridan was paired in a double act with a trained mutt called Stanley, who barked on command. Even the clock on the wall was trying too hard — a digital counter in the shape of a bone.
At the start of each round, Sheridan said: ‘Dog squad, release the hounds!’ which sounds like it was written by someone with a canine phobia . . . perhaps mauled by a rottweiler as a child.
And the studio was ridiculously busy, with a vet, two judges, two dog handlers, Sheridan and the contestants, as well as four families eager to see what the groomers did with their pets.
The animals were lovable, and we picked up the odd tip. Don’t rub long fur in circles when you’re washing your pet, or you’ll make tangles. And do try miaowing or trilling a whistle to distract a dog who doesn’t enjoy being bathed.
But unlike Bake Off or the Sewing Bee, there wasn’t much chat during the rounds. Most dialogue consisted of: ‘Who’s a good girl? Yes, she’s a good girl!’ — though one groomer preferred: ‘Right, my little cherub man.’
A simpler show might have worked better, perhaps a flea-on-the-wall documentary in a grooming parlour. We did discover, though, that ancient Chinese emperors used to keep shih tzus in the pockets of their silk robes, as hand-warmers.
Professor Bettany Hughes had lashings more ancient history for us in a two-hour gallop round the Valley of the Kings and beyond, in Egypt’s Great Mummies: Unwrapped (C5).
Professor Bettany Hughes had lashings more ancient history for us in a two-hour gallop round the Valley of the Kings and beyond, in Egypt’s Great Mummies: Unwrapped (C5)
She went crawling through stone tunnels and clambering into tombs (wearing her viper-proof boots — Prof Bettany, like Indiana Jones, isn’t keen on snakes). At one dig, she saw scattered across the ground the bones of 5,000 labourers, many just children as young as 12, who died building a city for Pharoah Akhenaten, the religious maniac who was King Tut’s father.
The professor is an excellent explainer, and she rattled off the stories behind ten of the best preserved mummies. Remote and fantastic as much of their culture was, it was also strangely familiar in some ways.
Facelifts, fillers and nosejobs were the norm for dead monarchs. Pharoah Seti I, who died more than 3,000 years ago, had cheekbones like an ageing Hollywood star. And mummification, combined with the Egyptian heat, is great for sucking out all your fat. That’s taking Dry January too far.
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