ROLAND WHITE reviews last night’s TV: This trip down memory lane might make you feel ancient! 


ROLAND WHITE reviews last night’s TV: Warning – this trip down memory lane might make you feel ancient!

Back In Time For Birmingham

Rating:

How To Hire A Hitman 

Rating:

There should have been a trigger warning before Back In Time For Birmingham (BBC2). Something like: ‘Scenes in the following programme might make some viewers feel really, really old.’

For example, there was a moment when healthcare worker Vishal Sharma introduced his son Akash, 19, to a mechanical device of great eccentricity.

Vishal opened a large wooden box to reveal a lever-like contraption hovering over a rotating platform on which, he explained, circles of vinyl would be placed.

The strange device was, of course, a record player.

Akash could not believe his eyes. ‘I think I’ll stick with Spotify,’ he said. Quite right. Spotify doesn’t get scratched.

Back In Time For Birmingham (BBC2) sends the Sharma family back in time to sample life in 1950s Birmingham

Back In Time For Birmingham (BBC2) sends the Sharma family back in time to sample life in 1950s Birmingham

The series takes a family and plunges them into the living conditions of the past, where they discover — to nobody’s astonishment — that life was more uncomfortable and less sophisticated.

In this case, the Sharmas sampled the lifestyle of South Asian immigrants in 1950s Birmingham.

Living conditions were tough. Bed was a mattress on the floor, often shared on a rota basis.

Cooking facilities were rudimentary. Some food was still rationed.

SAUCY ROYAL OF THE WEEK 

In Queen Victoria’s Letters: A Monarch Unveiled (BBC4), A. N. Wilson read the royal diaries and discovered ‘a charming weakness’. 

He explained: ‘She always fell for men who made her laugh. The flirty, fun-loving teenage Queen leaps from the pages.’ 

Whatever happened to ‘We are not amused’? 

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The working day was long and hard. Men earned about £12 a week, and sent £9 back home to their families in India and Pakistan. ‘I came home from work and I used to cry every day,’ said Pravin, one of the early immigrants. ‘The thing that kept me here was I said I’m going to make life better.’

The Sharma family tackled the challenges with optimism and charm, although there was a sober moment when they watched Enoch Powell’s Rivers Of Blood speech on a black-and-white television set, stony-faced with disbelief and fury.

At one point Akash was considering a job selling spices door to door. ‘You’re a bit of a Del Boy,’ said his mother, Manisha. ‘Daal boy,’ replied Akash, quick as a flash. A TV comedy career beckons.

You’ll be relieved to learn that How To Hire A Hitman (C4) did not actually offer instructions on how to hire a hitman.

Presenter Yinka Bokinni revealed halfway through the first of two programmes that a website to which hundreds of people have applied to hire an assassin was nothing but an ingenious scam. The site offered to arrange death by sniper ($20,000-$60,000), shoot and run ($5,000-$10,000), arson ($4,000) or kidnap ($5,000-$30,000).

Luckily, people wishing to hire hitmen are often gullible mugs. They paid in bitcoin, but the assassin always ‘got caught in traffic’ or ‘got lost’. Not only did these people lose money, but they were often arrested for conspiracy to murder.

Presenter Yinka Bokinni in Channel 4's How To Hire A Hitman. Halfway through the first episode it was revealed a website to which hundreds of people have applied to hire an assassin was nothing but an ingenious scam

Presenter Yinka Bokinni in Channel 4’s How To Hire A Hitman. Halfway through the first episode it was revealed a website to which hundreds of people have applied to hire an assassin was nothing but an ingenious scam

In one case, a customer from North Carolina who wanted her husband murdered demanded evidence that the hitman was actually in the area. She received a picture of a local petrol station, obviously taken from Google Earth and photoshopped.

Yinka interviewed the husband, who was remarkably cheery. ‘Do you think somebody can love you and put out a hit on you?’ asked Yinka.

There was a slight pause. ‘Maybe not,’ he admitted.

It would obviously be reckless to upset anybody who knows so much about hiring assassins. So let me say, hand on heart, that this was certainly the best programme I have seen on the subject on Channel 4 at 10pm last night.

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