CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night's TV: At long last a grown-up

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: At long last, C5 makes a grown-up show… and it’s blooming lovely

Great British Gardens With Carol Klein

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Not before time, Channel 5 is beginning to behave like a grown-up.

After an eternity of sullen, teenage strops, the station is finally starting to act its age — and take an interest in gardening.

For most of its 24 years, C5 has cared about nothing but cheap reality TV and ‘gross-out’ shows about hoarders and debt collectors. It wallowed in titles such as Can’t Pay: We’ll Take It Away, Bargain Brits On Benefits, My Mum’s Hotter Than Me and The Nightmare Neighbour Next-Door.

These programmes are telly’s equivalent of refusing to tidy your room and staring at your phone all the way through a meal when your grandma visits.

But more civilised behaviour is emerging, with Great British Gardens With Carol Klein (C5). It follows her series from her own home, simply called Gardening, and the entertaining four-parter, Kew Gardens: A Year In Bloom.

Before long, we can look forward to shows like A Cup Of Tea And A Nice Scone At The Garden Centre Cafe, and the edgier Next Door’s Bloody Cat Has Dug Up My Petunias Again.

Great British Gardens With Carol Klein (pictured) on Channel 5

Rather than concentrating on the suburban, Carol was gardening with the aristocracy as she strolled through the grounds of Arundel Castle, ancestral home of the Dukes of Norfolk. She made four visits, one for each season, which allowed us a pleasant sense of the gradual kaleidoscopic shifts throughout the year.

The gardens have been transformed in the past 20 years, including the conversion of a car park into a maze and fairy grotto. Carol helped to plant mini-tulips in the stumpery, a wonderland of gnarled tree roots and tiny blooms.

First popular in Victorian times, a stumpery is not to everybody’s taste. Prince Charles has one at Highgrove. When his father, the Duke of Edinburgh, saw it, he demanded: ‘When are you going to set fire to this lot?’

Garden owner Adrian Bloom and Carol Klein chatting in the garden on Great British Gardens

The fairytale theme continues at Arundel with Oberon’s Palace, an arbour where a golden crown appears to float on a spray of water.

Carol’s tours were conducted by head gardener Martin Duncan, and such was their shared enthusiasm that they struck up a genuine friendship over the year. Inspecting a bed of sweet peas, Martin quoted a 1960s bubblegum pop hit: ‘Oh sweet pea, won’t you marry me?’

Blushing, Carol pointed out they were both married. But she looked jolly pleased to be asked.

Peter Taylor: Ireland After Partition

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Blossoming friendships featured in of BBC reporter Peter Taylor’s retrospective of his career in Ulster, Ireland After partition. Footage from interviews and documentaries introduced us to MI5 men who palled up with terrorists, and politicians forging unlikely bonds. One clip had Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness, the Loyalist demagogue and the Republican thug, sending each other into fits of giggles at Stormont.

Peter Taylor: Ireland After Partition. Pictured: Peter Taylor at his home

Footage from interviews and documentaries introduced us to MI5 men who palled up with terrorists, and politicians forging unlikely bonds

The most touching segment came early on, as Taylor recalled making a film about Joe — an 11-year-old Catholic from Belfast, sent on a summer camp to Snowdonia. For the first time in his life, Joe mixed with Protestant lads his own age. But asked if they would remain friends, he was matter-of-fact: when the boys returned home, he would never see any of them again.

We weren’t told what became of Joe. Nor did we learn more about Tom and Doris, the Hull bus driver and his wife, brought to Belfast by the BBC in the early 1970s, who were aghast at what they saw.

These human glimpses were buried in a morass of political complications. ‘Hell of a mess, innit?’ muttered Tom. Though he was commenting on the aftermath of a bombing, he might have been describing the programme.

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