CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night's TV

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: Long shadow of domestic abuse looms over this homecoming tour

No Place Like Home

Rating: ****

Billion Dollar Downfall: The Dealmaker

Rating: ** 

Celebrities delving into their past on ancestry shows are expected to get tearful over the ordeals suffered by Victorian forebears.

Victoria Derbyshire remained sensibly dry-eyed as, walking the postcodes where she grew up, on No Place Like Home (C5), she learned about a great-great-aunt who worked in the Lancashire cotton mills as a child.

Mary Ellen Mulrooney lived to be 92, and Victoria’s mum, Pauline, remembered meeting her. But as a girl of 13, Mary Ellen was a cotton winder in the factories beside the Rochdale Canal, risking her life to keep the machinery fed with thread. It was grim, dangerous work.

Victoria saved her tears. There was a sense of real grief hanging over her explorations, echoes of a much more recent pain.

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: Victoria Derbyshire remained sensibly dry-eyed as, walking the postcodes where she grew up, on No Place Like Home (C5) , she learned about a great-great-aunt who worked in the Lancashire cotton mills as a child

We glimpsed it at the beginning when Victoria and her mum sat on a bench outside the house in Bury where they lived in the 1970s. Both women spoke with lumps in their throats. Pauline had ‘mixed feelings,’ her daughter said. Her husband was ‘capable of violence’.

She touched on it again, when she learned about the nearby tannery, a base set up by the Adler & Oppenheimer company before World War II to give work to Jewish refugees from Germany.

Some of those who fled the Nazis settled in the same house where Victoria and her parents later lived. Even then, it was plain from her reticence that she felt ambivalent about her childhood.

Her emotional wall broke when she visited a hillside cairn, a memorial to a woman named Ellen Strange who was murdered in 1761 by her drunken husband.

It has become a tradition to lay a stone there in memory of other victims. Victoria read some of their names aloud and welled up.

‘When I was growing up,’ she said, ‘experiencing domestic abuse, I never knew what domestic abuse was. No one talked about it, it was a shameful thing. And for me, it was quite a normal part of my upbringing.’

‘Now, at least, people talk more about it. There is less stigma. It is significant and important that people like Ellen Strange are remembered, because it reminds us that this has been going on for too long.’

Victoria’s journey around the outskirts of Manchester worked to loosen and free her memories. Her estranged father, Anthony, died in 2020, and talking about her abusive childhood is clearly difficult.

With such a lot of buried history to uncover, this show could have concentrated more on her family and included fewer frivolous items, such as her first taste of black pudding at Bury market. ‘Very pleasantly surprised,’ she said tactfully. The real surprise is how effective a stroll around familiar streets can be at stirring the emotions. This series is starting to look really promising.

Billion Dollar Downfall: The Dealmaker (BBC2) might have been a lot more promising if the producers had been able to coax an interview from the central character, money man Arif Naqvi, instead of relying on the maudlin monologues he recorded on his mobile phone.

Naqvi is under house arrest, facing trial on charges of fraud and money laundering. As the head of a private equity firm that specialised in investments in the developing world, he is accused of diverting hundreds of millions of dollars out of the business.

But financial journalists investigating the collapse of his firm had to be circumspect in their allegations. Naqvi’s luxury life of yachts and Dubai mansions was barely visible. Too much of this story lies beneath the surface for it to be worth telling yet.

Billion Dollar Downfall: The Dealmaker (BBC2) might have been a lot more promising if the producers had been able to coax an interview from the central character, money man Arif Naqvi. Pictured is Shahid Abbasi

Grotty studio of the night: The set for Gordon Ramsay’s ‘toughest cooking competition ever’, Next Level Chef (ITV), is like a multi-storey car park — with kitchens stacked in three badly lit layers. 

The place looks like it smells dank. 

And I wouldn’t fancy eating anything that had been in the lift.

The set for Gordon Ramsay’s ‘toughest cooking competition ever’, Next Level Chef (ITV) , is like a multi-storey car park

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