MANY an Archers fan has had “the dream” of giving up the city home, buying some land and animals, and embarking on the good life proper in the country. How hard could it be?
Jeremy Clarkson managed it and has an Amazon Prime hit to show for his efforts. Now the BBC is about to repeat the experiment with Kelvin’s Big Farming Adventure (BBC1, Monday, 8.30pm).
That would be Kelvin as in Fletcher, as in Strictly winner and Emmerdale character Andy Sugden.
Despite his decades on a farming soap, Fletcher has zero experience on a farm, narrator Maxine Peake tells us (that’s three weeks in a row the Anne and Rules of the Game actor has been on primetime TV. I’m not complaining).
Fortunately, Fletcher’s 120-acre former working farm comes with a tenant who does know one end of a sheep from another. “It really is madness,” says neighbour Gilly of the task her new pupil has taken on, “but I do wish him all the luck.”
He is not the only one who will need it. His wife, Liz, lists among her allergies horses, hay, dust, cats, and, er, sunlight. The couple have two young children running around, and a cockapoo that’s barely out of puppyhood. Still, Fletcher is determined to have a go and, even more ambitious, make the farm commercially viable.
His first task, set by Gilly, is to clip the “muck” from a sheep’s bottom. That proves as enjoyable as cleaning maggots out of another beast’s feet. “This is the side [of farming] you don’t see,”says Fletcher grimly.
“Kelvin can’t deal with things going wrong basically,” says Liz in another sign there could be long days ahead.
But they are a likeable pair, and the show tries to accentuate the positive. Even better, each episode is a snappy half hour long, so not much time to dwell on the disasters.
Marty and Wendy Byrde could tell the Fletchers a thing or 42 about starting a new life. In the first series of Emmy-winning crime drama Ozark (Netflix, new series Friday), the financial adviser, his wife and two children lived in Chicago, apparently the very model of middle class respectability.
But then Marty fell foul of a Mexican drugs cartel, as you do, and the family had to head for the hills of Missouri.
Now, three series in and still living in the Ozarks, their lives are a bloody mess in every sense.
Jason Bateman and Laura Linney have been a triumph as the warring Byrdes. It has been fascinating to watch their descent from the moral high ground, a plunge fuelled by their greed and the sheer will to survive, because what else is there to do?
The show has made stars out of the younger cast members, led by Julia Langmore as Ruth, the trailer-dwelling, curly haired, shorts- wearing queen of crime, and Charlie Tahan as Wyatt, her sometime soulmate.
The fourth and final series has been split in two and will be spread across the year. Tough for fans, but if the Byrdes have taught us anything it is how to play the long game, right?Titles matter in Keeping Up with the Aristocrats (STV, Monday, 9pm). It is not so much that the personnel in this three part docu-series are lord this, lady that and princess the other.
The title itself is presumably meant to call to mind that other fly-on-society’s-wall show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians.
Question is: which one has true class, the very minor British royalty or the equally minor Los Angeles lot?
While narrator Simon Callow is too polite to make any such judgment, this is a documentary where the nod and the wink and the naughty edit say so much.
First stop on the tour is Bridwell Park in Devon, home to Lord Ivar Mountbatten and husband James.
Their relatively modest pile has its own deer park and more than 100 windows, some of which the couple clean themselves.
Like the others featured, this pair are “asset rich but cash strapped” (that’s still rich to you and me). They come up with the idea of having a “pop up” restaurant night with the Michelin-starred Jean-Christophe Novelli, charging £165 a head.
Elsewhere, one couple is hoping to emulate another in making their own wine and flogging it. Then there is Princess Olga Romanoff, whose great uncle was Tsar Nicholas. She’d like to meet a man –“a trained killer type with charm” – but is not having any luck.
Olga does a nice line in posh swearing, but some of the choicest remarks come from the staff. David the butler got into the business through his father, who used to be a pig farmer.
The two trades were alike, dad told him, in that they both involved feeding the subjects when they were hungry and cleaning up their mess. Wise man, David’s dad.