WITH the acres of gold plating on display in Inside Dubai: Playground of the Rich (BBC2, Monday, 9 p.m.), it looks like the kind of place Donald Trump would feel right at home. Everything in this tax haven, the fourth most visited city in the world, screams “money“, but is it for everyone?
The expatriate millionaires who live there clearly think so, as do the native Emiratis who are handed everything – land, work, post – on a (gold) plate. But what about the many low-paid migrant workers, or anyone who dares to criticize the ruling elite? As Will Mellor, narrator of this three-part docu-series, puts it, Dubai is “some people’s paradise – if you follow the rules.”
Among the expats is the wife of a businessman who shows us around one of Dubai’s closed communities. It points to a house belonging to the Mugabe family; they have amazing parties on New Years Eve, apparently.
Then there is the fashionista who bought her lifelines at Hermès and Chanel. She has trouble remembering the price of anything. In every life a little rain, etc. Disabled, the producers help by providing the prices in captions.
The gulf between haves and have-nots becomes painfully apparent when filmmakers talk to some of the domestic staff. A chef, who sends money home for his son’s education, has seen the boy once a year since he was born. He is now 20 years old.
In the wake of its festive special, Call the Midwife (BBC1, Sunday, 8 p.m.) starts a new race in eight parts.
The Heida Thomas drama is now in its 11th series. The Christmas Day episode proved to be a divisor of opinion with some viewers wondering if the baby (spoiler alert) born to a heroin addicted mother was not too realistic. But mixing the personal and the political has always been the force of this drama, and there is no slackening on this front as the timeline moves to 1967.
After another year of lockdowns and more than a few rehearsals, 2022 is off to a strong start with a rush of new drama to accompany old familiars.
The Tourist (BBC1, Saturday / Sunday, 9 p.m., and on iPlayer) is a six-part by Jack and Harry Williams (The Missing, Angela Black) that stars Jamie Dornan as a visitor from the Australian outback who does has no idea how it got there. It must have been a pretty wasted weekend.
British television has no shortage of strong actresses, and few do justice to true stories like Sheridan Smith and Maxine Peake. Smith stars in Four Lives (BBC1, Mon-Wed, 9 p.m.) as a mother seeking justice after her son’s murder, while Peake stars in Anne (STV, Sunday-Wednesday). Anne Williams’ teenage son Kevin was one of many who went to watch a football game at Hillsborough Stadium one day in 1989 and never returned home.
Art on the BBC (BBC4, Monday, 9 p.m.) allows four young art historians to wander through society’s rich archives to find out how Aunt has helped or hindered understanding of great artists and their works. David Dibosa is about Salvador Dali. Easy, you might think, judging by Dibosa’s description of the Spanish surrealist as “one of the greatest showmen of modern art.”
But was there more to him than the publicity stunts and the posters on many student walls?
Perhaps having so many materials to choose from was more of a curse than a blessing. Sometimes the film is a mess, without really knowing if it wants to be a conventional portrait of an artist, or a criticism of the critics.
It’s worth watching, however, for Dibosa’s scholarship and wit, and for the chance to wander through Auntie’s artistic cover once again. Omnibus, Arena, Malcolm Muggeridge, Sister Wendy (do you remember her?), They are all there, some tease each other deliciously, as in the clip of Alan Yentob speaking of André Breton. “Breton was the godfather of surrealism. Breton was the midwife of surrealism. Breton was the seamstress of surrealism. Make up your mind, mate. Sister Wendy thought Dali was trying to disturb and called her works “horrible”.
Philippa Perry’s 2017 film How to Be a Surrealist is receiving rave reviews from the very picky critics interviewed, and you can watch it again right after Dibosi Hour is over. Other topics in the coming weeks will be Van Gogh, Monet and Turner.
It occurred to me that this second Art Series on the BBC is doubling up with some kind of X factor to uncover the next big name in arts TV coverage. As such, Dibosi stands out as a man to beat. I was also struck by the number of artistic presenters on the BBC. In terms of longevity on TV, the job is the equivalent of a stuntman or a crocodile hunter. Good luck to the next man or woman who lands the job.