Queer Eye

Netflix, Friday

While it may spend billions of dollars creating, developing or simply acquiring content, Netflix is under no obligation to release viewing figures into the public domain. The streaming behemoth might occasionally brag about the size of its subscriber base – currently over 125 million worldwide – but when it comes to ratings for individual shows things always go very quiet. In the UK, we rely on the Broadcasters Audience Research Board (BARB) for this sort of data but Netflix operates outside its jurisdiction like an offshore tax venture with an unhealthy interest in second-rate Nicolas Cage movies. It might even be sneakily proud of its diplomatic ratings immunity. Lest we forget, the first character to be eaten by a supernatural demogorgon in Netflix’s sci-fi hit Stranger Things was named Barb.

So with no viewing figures to pore over the best yardstick for gauging how Orange is the New Black is doing compared with, say, The Crown is to take a sounding of the cultural buzz surrounding each show. By that metric, House of Cards is in a tailspin, Stranger Things is high and holding firm and Queer Eye – a reboot of 15-year-old makeover format Queer Eye For The Straight Guy – is absolutely skyrocketing. The first Queer Eye season of eight episodes, released in Netflix’s signature one big binge-ready chunk, only arrived in February but interest in the series has been so intense a second eight-episode season arrives this Friday. It represents some wonderful and canny counter-programming to the bandwidth-jamming festival of football that is all about to kick off in the east.

There are lots of things to like about the new Queer Eye but I find it particularly pleasing that it is that rare makeover show that has successfully undergone its own makeover. (“Lose the ‘For The Straight Guy’, sweetie, it will make you seem much slimmer.”) The basic concept remains the same: a heroically gay hit squad of lifestyle experts assess the various failings of a willing participant and suggest ways to improve their situation. The new Atlanta-based Fab Five are suitably loud and fabulous and catty and all the rest of it but in the course of driving round the state of Georgia crammed into a 4x4, they have successfully gelled as an irresistible unit.

Square-jawed and Superman-haired Antoni Porowski comes billed as the food and drink expert but aside from some occasional smalltalk about the health benefits of avocados, his main job seems to be reading out the briefing dossier on the Fab Five’s next target from a tablet. Karamo Brown is a lean, striking dude with both a large collection of satin bomber jackets and the rather vague brief of “culture”. Bobby Berk is a buff, blond toolbelt guy, executing ambitious interior design fixes with admirable diligence and patience. Tan France is a likeable Brit from Doncaster who dispenses both dry asides and smart fashion advice. And the undisputed star player, the Cristiano Ronaldo of this team? Jonathan Van Ness, a quick-witted grooming expert who rocks some astonishingly smooth headbanger locks.

The success of season one instantly made the new Fab Five in-demand superstars and their rehabilitative effect on their initial batch of subjects has already inspired two marriages (OK, one was a re-marriage). Season two has been preceded by a global press tour that included the unforgettable experience of a mini-makeover of Shaun Williamson – who will forever be known as Barry from EastEnders – on an even rowdier than usual episode of Loose Women.

Diving into the new batch of episodes means starting with what at first seems like a rather lame gag: the boys roll up in the extremely rural town of Gay in Meriwether County, Georgia, a place with a population of less than 100. After that jokey start, it turns into one of the most emotional episodes to date, with the Fab Five tasked with helping hardworking mother, church elder and recent cancer survivor Tammye. She wants them to apply their boundless energy to restoring the local community centre, a place that meant a lot to her late mother. Her 22-year-old gay son Miles, recently moving back home from Atlanta, could also use some support. There are tears, teachable moments and knowing references to Steel Magnolias. If your heart does not melt a little and then swell with happiness, you’d be better off sticking with the clinical, cynical House of Cards.



9pm, BBC One

Brooding, honourable and handy with a scythe, Aidan Turner has been so impressive as war-hero-turned-country-squire Ross Poldark that his name routinely gets tossed into the mix whenever discussion turns to who will be the next Bond. As the fourth season of the BBC’s flagship period drama gets under way, Turner essentially gets his own sneaky 007 audition reel in the opening scenes, taking a coastal dip and emerging from the waves in his longjohns looking as taps-aff bodacious as Daniel Craig in Casino Royale. Unfortunately, the situation in the UK is as agitated as the Cornish surf, with the country gripped by uncertainty and elections on the way. Ross may have resisted all calls to join the political arena but when some of his nearest and dearest get entangled in civil disobedience it seems like only a matter of time before he faces off at the ballot box with scheming arch-rival George (the brilliantly sneering Jack Farthing). Before all that, though, there’s the small matter of a family funeral.


Fight Like A Girl

7.30pm, BBC One

A wrestler’s life might seem glamorous, with all that pre-match razzamatazz, the adulation of the crowd and the high-octane drama of exaggerated combat. But life in the squared circle is tough, even as independent wrestling promotions in the UK and beyond seem to be enjoying a grassroots revival. This highly entertaining one-off doc shadows 26-year-old Kimberly Benson from Kilbirnie, aka the deadly grappler Viper. Hailed as “the vixen of violence, the babe of brutality” and one of the few female wrestlers able to hold their own at the Square Go (a jam-packed battle royale that looks like Scotland’s chaotic answer to the WWE’s Royal Rumble), Kimberly has to juggle her day job at the family coach hire firm with up to four nights performing on the road. After gaining an insight into her taxing training regime, the cameras shadow Viper on a gruelling trip to wrestling-mad Japan, culminating in a crucial double-title match against Toni Storm, an affable but strapping Kiwi. Edith Bowman narrates.


The Terror

9pm, AMC

This final double-bill of The Terror caps an absolutely monumental tale of hubris, madness and desperation at the ends of the Earth, inspired by the true story of Sir John Franklin’s lost Royal Navy expedition to the Arctic in 1845. Already a critically acclaimed hit in the US, in the UK there have been some perhaps unintended thematic resonances of feeling isolated and utterly removed from civilisation because The Terror screens on AMC, the easily overlooked channel that comes bundled in with most BT TV packages. It is absolutely worth tracking down and catching up on, though, with grizzled veterans Jared Harris, Tobias Menzies and Ciaran Hinds all terrific as the burdened, fractious officers leading an accursed voyage through an environment that seems determined to tear bodies and souls apart. It is a beautifully crafted, exquisitely acted and deeply unsettling mood piece although as the chronicle of precarious survival wraps up, it has to be said that a second season looks pretty goddamn unlikely.


The Fast Fix: Diabetes

9pm, STV

Maybe this two-part series could be a lifesaver, as Anita Rani trials a radical treatment that could potentially neutralise a condition that affects four million people in the UK (with another 12 million at increased risk). Five overweight volunteers diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes commit to a completely liquid diet, living on just 800 calories a day for four long weeks to see if radical weight loss will reverse their condition. Away from the kettled civilians, celebs including Loose Women’s Coleen Nolan, chef Rosemary Shrager and quizzing heavyweight Paul Sinha also attempt some furious fasting to see if it improves their health, under the watchful eye of Rani and her lieutenants: obesity specialist Dr Zoe Williams and diabetes expert Professor Jason Gill. Will this extreme action deliver any useful results? The series concludes tomorrow, coincidentally a day when many football fans will also likely commit to a predominantly liquid diet for the next month.



9pm, More4

At times it can be hard to keep track of this racy romance based on Diana Gabaldon’s series of historical novels: season four will debut on Amazon Prime later this year, with at least another two confirmed. Meanwhile, on what we used to quaintly refer to as terrestrial TV, season two is only just about to get under way on More4, a fittingly grown-up berth for what is a much more nuanced and complex story than its twee Skye Boat Song theme tune might suggest. A case in point: instead of returning to the 18th-century adventures of time-travelling world war two nurse Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and her clansman lover Jamie (twinkly-eyed Sam Heughan), we are dumped back in the 20th century, with our bewildered heroine struggling to explain to husband Frank (Tobias Menzies again, much warmer than his cruel cheekbones suggest) where she’s been for the past two years. Did Jamie really die at Culloden, as the sketchy records suggest? And how will Frank react when he learns about Claire’s unfaithfulness?


Blind Date

8pm, Channel 5

As someone who has endured a lot of “and here’s our Graeme” greetings from people who fondly remember Cilla Black’s handover to veteran announcer Graham Skidmore on the original ITV Blind Date, I was initially pretty down on Channel 5’s reboot when it debuted last summer. Despite the assured presenting efforts of Paul O’Grady – easily living up to the legacy of his dear old pal Cilla with a spiky mixture of natural warmth and acid lines – it is a creaky format that will probably always feel just a little past its sell-by date. There may be far more tattoos and enormous beards on display than in its 1990s imperial phase but turns out if you stick three dudes on stools behind a sliding wall and get a girl to ask them daft questions the result is still usually a lot of forced innuendo. Still, this rebirth (overseen by Graham Norton’s production company) has been judged successful enough to justify a third series, which debuts tonight, and Melanie Sykes strikes the right upbeat but faintly bemused note as the announcer.


There is a Charles Rennie Mackintosh exhibition currently on at Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum to mark 150 years since his birth. That means Mackie’s mug – one of those Instagram-ready black-and-white snaps that captured him in his boho moustachioed pomp, looking like the hipster patron saint of Finnieston – is plastered all over the place. It also begs the question: when is there not a Charles Rennie Mackintosh exhibition on in Glasgow?

The city has hungrily reclaimed him as one of its most celebrated creative sons, to the extent that calling a documentary Mackintosh: Glasgow’s Neglected Genius (BBC Two) feels almost disingenuous. As artist and presenter Lachlan Goudie admitted, the creative polymath behind those iconic spindly high-backed chairs has become part of the furniture. Yet in his appealingly anecdotal style, Goudie was keen to remind us that while the city seemed to mourn en masse when Mackintosh’s Glasgow School of Art was consumed by fire in 2014, it was not always so welcoming to his fused flights of geometric and organic fancy.

This was some high-quality prancing about architecture, a galloping history that seemed in hurry to get somewhere and make a mark, just like the ambitious young Mackie. Bopping around the city, Goudie – often sporting a big scarlet bunnet that made it look as if he was an escapee from Dexys Midnight Runners – excelled at illuminating what made Mackintosh’s work so daring for its time. The imposing church at Queen’s Cross was “like a ship ready to set sail up the Maryhill Road”. A bespoke Willow Tea Rooms bench was “the kind of seat you’d imagine Flash Gordon occupying”. Mackintosh’s sole architectural commission in England, a Northampton terrace blinged out with hundreds of dazzling yellow tiles, was “hallucinogenic”.

Goudie’s enthusiasm for the man he described as a design dictator was infectious, especially as he tramped up to the door of Helensburgh’s Hill House while explaining why Mackie would take one look at your home decor and immediately throw your couch in a skip. There was, of course, a melancholic undertow, especially as the commissions dried up, causing Mackintosh and his equally gifted wife Margaret Macdonald to adopt a peripatetic existence that sunk into near-poverty.

Goudie was also brilliantly scathing about what Mackie might make of Glasgow today, a city seemingly so desperate to escape its industrial heritage that it will allow any old rubbish to be erected. With this

lively biography screening the same week as the well-crafted and wittily-edited Scotland 78: A Love Story,

and with the tasty wrestling profile Fight Like A Girl incoming, BBC Scotland has scored a hat-trick of distinctive docs.

Damien Love is on holiday