Saturday 9th July

Today’s previews by Ceri Thomas

Secrets Of The Pop Song

9.45pm, BBC2 ★ ★ ★ ★

“We won’t necessarily write a hit,” says Guy Chambers with a sheepish smile. “It’d be great if we did but hits are incredibly rare things. It’s like spotting a lion when you’re on safari. You’re more likely to see a few giraffes…” After working with Rufus Wainwright last week, Chambers is off hunting hits with another writing partner this week as the frankly fascinating look at the inner workings of the music industry continues.


Just as he’d never met Wainright, the affably charming Chamber hasn’t crossed paths with Mark Ronson before either. Chambers may have literally dozens of chart toppers to his name, but Ronson isn’t far behind. He’s got credits as a solo artist, as a producer and as a writer, notably with Amy Winehouse. Despite all that, at first the two seem like an uncomfortable pairing: Chambers is a casually bedraggled middleaged man with a flop of grey curls, while Ronson is all skinny jeans, branded T-shirts and studiedly cool vagueness. Surely this is a team-up destined for giraffes not lions?

But as soon as they sit down to work together (their mission is to write a pop song), you can almost hear the big cats roaring in the distance. Strumming on guitars, playing around with base beats, tinkering with structure, their differences soon fall away…

As with last week, there’s a ton of talking heads material bolted on around this core story, some of it good, some of it bad. I could do without Boy George endlessly banging on about his one hit, but the insights into the workings of Motown are fairly revealing. As are the snippets with modern producers that challenge the idea that pop song writing is formulaic and simple. Or that formulaic and simple are necessarily bad things in the first place.

However it’s watching Chambers, Ronson and later soul singer Tawiah who comes in to write lyrics (and who will ultimately release the song as a single) that drive another involving docu forward. You can almost see them pulling a song together out of a mass of noise. But even three people isn’t quite enough to get from nothing to finished record. It takes the intervention of a fourth to give the song a final tweak before it gets released…

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After last week’s thumping tragedy, things are still pretty bleak for Mildred Pierce (9pm, Sky Atlantic). Kate Winslet’s 1930s single mom is trying to repair her fractured life after the death of her youngest kid, but choosing to spoil the eldest probably isn’t the way to go. Veda’s a snooty brat already and feeding her delusions of superiority is just storing up more misery for later. Oh, and Guy Pierce’s charming Monty is a disaster waiting to happen too as the downbeat but compellingly harsh drama continues

John Barrowman’s back with two shows this week. You’ll have to wait until next Thursday to see Torchwood: Miracle Day (yay!), but his Saturday night crowdpleaser Tonight’s The Night (7.10pm, BBC1) returns first. It’s still basically a musical Jim’ll Fix It – members of the public get to meet Dolly Parton and sing with the cast of a West End musical in this one - but it’s solidly, lazily, enjoyable weekend telly.

If you want something a bit harder hitting, then give a doublebill of repeats a go. The Beeb’s rerun of the second series of Wallander (9pm, BBC4) continues with our crumpled and crumbled Swedish copper attempting to track down a sniper. Earlier on, Sherlock actor Benedict Cumberbatch adds a veneer of real class to otherwise bogstandard docu-drama Vincent Van Gogh: Painted With Words (7.40pm, BBC2). Alan Yentob presents, but it’s the dramatic reconstructions of Van Gogh’s letters to his family with Cumberbatch as the great artist that make this watchable.

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You’ve Been Framed – 6.45pm, ITV1

Penn & Teller: Fool Us – 8pm, ITV1

T In The Park – 8pm, BBC3

Casualty – 9pm, BBC1

The Marriage Ref – 9pm, ITV1

Camelot – 9pm, Channel 4

Law & Order Special Victims Unit – 9.50pm, Channel 5

Family Guy – Midnight, BBC3

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The Wicker Man – 10pm, Sky Modern Greats


Bleakly uncompromising Brit horror with Edward Woodward as the buttoned-up policeman investigating strange happenings on a remote Scottish island. Its weird grainy look makes it feel like a 1970s public safety film at points, but there’s something so dark and creepy about it that – even though the look is dating a bit – there are images here that worm their way inside your head and refuse to leave. Something the horrifying-for-all-the-wrong-reasons remake starring Nicolas Cage will thankfully never do… (Ceri Thomas)

Worth A Look…

The Simpsons Movie – 7.15pm, Channel 4

Jurassic Park III – 7.15pm, ITV2

Grown Ups – 8pm, Sky Premiere

Shutter Island – 8pm, Sky Crime/Thriller

The Jerk – 9pm, ITV4

Beetle Juice – 9pm, 5*

Iron Man 2 – 9pm, Sky Action/Adventure

Mystic River – 9pm, TCM

Chain Reaction – 10pm, E4

The Wicker Man– 10pm, Sky Modern Greats

Narc – 10.20pm, Sky Crime/Thriller

Barbarella – 10.55pm, ITV4

Analyze This – 11.10pm, ITV2

Dark Water – 11.35pm BBC1

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