Thursday, July 13

Roll Up, Roll Up

Richey Nash finds the sentimental bone in his body for a nine-year-old acrobat, and can't praise Paul Merton highly enough. Is Nash feeling okay?

Circus (Sky Travel, 7.30pm) won’t breathe new life into docu-soaps. How could it? It’s on Sky Travel. But there was one engaging character: Dima, a nine-year-old Russian acrobat in an Australian circus. He doesn’t see other children because he’s home schooled, so acts up in rehearsals. Then everyone gets pissed off until he cries.

“He’s luckier than other kids because he’s got a whole family here,” said the home schooling teacher.

“No he’s not,” says me. “It’s basically child abuse. You can’t make chimps perform in the circus against their will, so why can you with a child? Eh?”

It’s an unanswerable question, a fact that wouldn’t matter on Ant and Dec vehicle Pokerface (ITV, 8pm) because the show’s all about bluffing. But the show won’t last long. Why? No tension. During the game the home audience sees who’s winning, who’s losing and who'll get the boot.

“We’ll be back in three,” said Dec, to build tension before a break.

“But I know what’s going to happen when we get back,” says me. It must be tense if you’re in a studio, but not at home. And irritating pair Ant and Dec don’t help matters: they’re too happy-go-lucky. They can’t do tension. They’re happier making dick jokes about Vietnamese currency, the dong.

“Have you ever walked into a Vietnamese bar and slapped your dong down on the bar?” asked Dec, amusing the nation’s 10-year-olds. Well, it amused children and the idiots jazzed from the free thrill of sitting in a studio audience. Come on Ant, come on Dec: go and torture some idiot celebs in an Australian jungle. Far away. Please.

Then I flicked to Only Fools On Horses (BBC One, 9pm) to see celebs being tortured nearer to home, in the world of competitive show jumping. Yawn. Still, I’d rather watch that than see Sophie Anderon get all neurotic on the non-celebrity Love Island (ITV, 10pm) because Shane from Boyzone won’t do her. Oh, boo hoo… get a life… and a personality.

But I’d rather watch neither so I waited until a programme I like, Paul Merton’s Silent Clowns (BBC4, 9.30pm). Okay, this was a repeat of the first in the series – about Buster Keaton – but I hadn’t seen it.

Now, it’s about silent film. Don’t roll your eyes. Really, if you’re willing to give it a go you’ll find Merton a passionate, engaging host and will come away with an appreciation for the technical skill needed by Keaten, Charlie Chaplin and the like in their art. Yes, it's an art.

The show keeps up the energy by flicking between bits of Merton lecturing, interviews with fellow fans and original clips. And the conversation bits don’t detract: chances are, silent film sceptics would find it boring if they weren’t there. Then the show rounded off with a whole 25-minute Buster Keaton film: The Goat. Seriously, I know you don’t believe me, but I can’t recommend Silent Clowns highly enough.

Still, I couldn't watch Keaton clowning that acrobatically without thinking about shedding a tear for poor young Dima. I mean, most people run away to the circus. Lets hope that poor kid can do it the other way round.

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