TV COLUMN: Sherlock, How To Diet Well, Common Sense

James Waller-Davies
James Waller-Davies

Columnist James Waller-Davies gives his view of some of the recent events on television.

The latest run of Sherlock (BBC1) limped its way to its end. The finale, The Final Problem, pitched the Holmes brothers and Watson against the smarter, but more deranged, Holmes sister, Eurus.

Apart from a knowing glance to the devout Holmes’ fans, Eurus – the god of the east wind echoing Holmes’ “there’s an east wind coming Watson” from the story His Last Bow – has no connection with the Conan Doyle hero.

This series of Sherlock was all Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss. And that was the problem. Conan Doyle’s detective is far more interesting than Moffat and Gatiss’s neurotic, overgrown teenager.

There’s a lot left in the Holmes’ canon should the writers wish to get back to the detective brass tacks of crime, clues and deduction. The experimental divergence into psychological drama hasn’t worked, of for no other reason than Holmes and Watson are both psychological shells. They are the wrong character canvass onto which to paint a psychological drama.

Audiences have left Sherlock consistently over the last series. The Final Problem returned the lowest viewing figures of any Sherlock series. Chances are, you’ve seen the last of this incarnation of Holmes and Watson.

It’s diet time. That time of year when even middle-aged men – especially middle-aged men – develop the sort of weight obsession usually associated with a teenage girl and television this week has been equally bloated with all manner of weight-losing advice. The best of which was How To Diet Well (Channel 4).

Presented by Dr Xand Van Tulleken, How To Diet Well examined the myriad of dieting fads and regimes and put them to the test.

Some, such as the low-fat diet, or the low-carb diet, will be familiar to viewers, but the ‘warrior diet’ came as a surprise. The warrior diet involves grazing on nuts and fruit during the daylight hours, before gorging yourself to Bacchanalian proportions on meat and even alcohol after dark. Exercise presumably comes from bloody combat, where having a limb lopped off counts as immediate weight loss and a good week at the local Warrior Weight Watchers class.

All the participants lost weight on their various diets, proving perhaps that any care overt what we eat will be better for us than what we do eat. The preachy tone of diet programmes is making food as the new smoking, threatening that food will kill you if you do it long enough. If evolution is struggling to catch up with the burger, natural selection is busy thinning us out through obesity, diabetes and tight trousers.

Having labelled Common Sense (BBC2) the ‘worst TV of 2017’ last week, I still felt compelled to give this socially condescending show another go.

Twenty-first century sensibilities pour scorn on the bearded ladies and elephant men of the Victorians, but Common Sense and its ilk are just the same. The slow realisation is that it’s a programme built on the premise of ‘laughing at’ not ‘laughing with’.

Apart from the two lads in the nail bar, the cast is one of caricature, hand-picked to be derided and sniggered at with a clear conscience. It’s Little Britain with real people.