CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: Clint of India spices up the Wild East

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: Clint of India spices up the Wild East

Beecham House  Rating: Piers Morgan's Life Stories  Rating: Though we were promised a more exotic version of Upstairs Downstairs, a costum

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Beecham House 

Rating:

Piers Morgan’s Life Stories 

Rating:

Though we were promised a more exotic version of Upstairs Downstairs, a costume drama with added spice, Beecham House (ITV) is no Downton-upon-Delhi.

Instead it transported us to the Wild Wild East for a game of cowboys and real Indians, with dashing Tom Bateman as John Beecham, the rawhide hero who has turned his back on his old life to live at peace with the locals.

We first saw him come galloping out of the dust, a lone ranger with a brace of pistols at his belt, to foil a stagecoach robbery. Who is this taciturn stranger in his cattleman’s long coat and wide-brimmed hat? It’s Clint of India!

Bateman had barely unpacked his trunk before he whipped off his cowboy togs and his shirt too, to go hacking at the undergrowth with a machete

Bateman had barely unpacked his trunk before he whipped off his cowboy togs and his shirt too, to go hacking at the undergrowth with a machete

Bateman had barely unpacked his trunk before he whipped off his cowboy togs and his shirt too, to go hacking at the undergrowth with a machete

He arrived home at his torch-lit mansion near the North-West Frontier in 1795, to be greeted by his loyal below-stairs staff, with a baby and a bibi. Bibis were Indian mistresses, said by Sir Richard Burton (the explorer who translated the Kama Sutra) to be so skilled in the arts of love that no European who slept with one could ever be satisfied by an English wife again.

That’s bad news for Miss Osborne the governess (Dakota Blue Richards) and Violet the lady’s companion (Bessie Carter), who have both set their bonnets at Beecham.

Theme song of the weekend: 

As Villanelle throttled a tycoon with his tie in a lift on Killing Eve (BBC1), I found myself humming, ‘Ground floor perfumery, wigs and haberdashery, going up!’ Sometimes this viciously witty thriller is almost a sitcom. 

Bessie is the daughter of Jim Carter, alias Mr Carson the butler, and Beecham’s vinegar-mouthed mother is played by Lesley Nicol, who was Mrs Patmore the cook, so the Downton Abbey connections are strong.

Fans of Mr Selfridge will be delighted to see smouldering shop worker Henri Leclerc back on a Sunday night, too, with actor Gregory Fitoussi this time playing the villain — devious, manipulative General Castillon.

There’s a lot more bare-chested bravado than you get in Edwardian England. Bateman had barely unpacked his trunk before he whipped off his cowboy togs and his shirt too, to go hacking at the undergrowth with a machete. The neighbours all gathered round for a good gawk.

It would all be a jolly romp, if writer and director Gurinder Chadha could resist the right-on urge to lambast the beastly British and their Empire every five minutes.

Beecham told everyone how ashamed he was of his nationality. ‘Judge me not by my flag but by my actions,’ he proclaimed. Apparently inventing Waitrose 200 years early, he swore that he would ‘trade fairly’ and share his profits with the locals. Make mine an eco-friendly cup of masala chai latte, please.

He sat in the chat-show chair, arms folded so tightly that he appeared to be in a strait jacket, and scowled at every bit of soft soap

He sat in the chat-show chair, arms folded so tightly that he appeared to be in a strait jacket, and scowled at every bit of soft soap

He sat in the chat-show chair, arms folded so tightly that he appeared to be in a strait jacket, and scowled at every bit of soft soap

There’s more tonight, when we will learn the identity of the Englishman puffing an opium pipe in a harem. That wasn’t Rory Stewart, was it? And so to Alan Sugar, a man who could lose his rag with Mahatma Gandhi. The good Lord Sugar was the subject on Piers Morgan’s Life Stories (ITV) and the more the host buttered his ego, the more the Baron of Clapton bristled.

He sat in the chat-show chair, arms folded so tightly that he appeared to be in a strait jacket, and scowled at every bit of soft soap. Clip after clip was played of old chums lavishing him with compliments and Angry Al tried every way he could to dismiss them or take them the wrong way.

This charmless persona clearly works on some people. Celebs lined up to tell us what a super fellow he is. It must be his personality — I can’t imagine what else the miserable, cantankerous billionaire could have to win over so many friends.

The pity is that shows like this never pick deserving subjects to shower with praise. Why be nice to Alan Sugar?

He clearly loathes it.

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