Simon Hoggart

Picture perfect

Picture perfect

There are weeks when I even feel privileged to be a television critic. You’re vaguely aware that out there somewhere people are watching Celebrity Love Island (though not very many), those dreary Saturday-night dancing contests, and Your 100 Favourite Embarrassing TV Animal Moments on Channel 4. Then along comes a clutch of shows and you realise that there are still a few people in the industry who care about making good television. You want to find out where they live, and go round to give them a great big hug and a box of Black Magic.

For example, I expected David Dim-bleby’s A Picture of Britain (BBC1, Sunday) to be annoyingly whimsical — beautiful scenery spoiled by having David Dimbleby stand in front of it. I was wrong. It was gorgeous, the kind of programme which seems miraculous to those of us who remember 14-inch Bakelite televisions offering various shades of grey, the picture so pale that you had to sit in darkness in order to discern any image at all. Heaven knows why the 1953 Coronation made everyone decide they needed a television — it was raining on the day, and the images must have looked like drizzle seen through fog.

Now, with a widescreen set, the picture is as precise as an etching and vivid as a kaleidoscope. It’s like looking out of a window in a mountain-top hotel, only more so, since the camerawork is designed to make everything seem even more ravishing than it actually is. No dank mists, no dark dreary dawns, no clammy rain.

My goodness, our country looks like this? My ancestors came from the Lake District, and I’ve been there many times, but I’ve never seen it look so sensational — beguiling yet threatening, cosy yet scary, dark and sinister yet splashed with welcoming sunshine.

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