The TV shows to watch this week: From Johnson v Corbyn debate to I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!

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Sean O'Grady
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ITV
ITV

A highlight, then of sorts, is the first proper TV prime ministerial debates since 2010, which arrive on ITV on Tuesday evening. In fact there will be two debate sessions…

The first will be the “once in a lifetime” choice between Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson, (yes, I know), who will be going mano a mano for the keys to No 10. (It means “hand-to-hand”, so I’m not being sexist there, btw).

The Liberal Democrats have mounted a legal challenge to get their leader, Jo Swinson, onto the show on the grounds that she is the “voice of the Remainers” and a woman. I’m not in a position to say whether casual sexism is at work in this case, but merely observe that in the Gordon Brown-David Cameron-Nick Clegg contests in 2010 the Liberal Democrat leader did so well he managed to propel himself into government. The other parties are not going to make the same mistake again, whatever and whoever the Lib Dem happens to be. The 2010 election, if you recall, was the one where “I agree with Nick” became a national catchphrase, and Cleggmania broke out from East Dunbartonshire to Reading West. Those were the days, eh?

Anyway, the big boys don’t want to play with Jo (or Nigel or Nicola or anyone else for that matter), and the broadcasters don’t seem bothered about it, so that is probably that.

As a measly compensation prize, we/the smaller parties (one of which, yes, I know, is the largest party in Scotland), are promised an additional, subsequent seven-way debate between whoever wants to turn up, but only after an intervening edition of I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! Thus so the leaders, or deputies, or surrogates, or empty podia, representing the Scottish nationalist, the Green Party, the Brexit Party, the Liberal Democrats, Labour, the Tories, Plaid Cymru and, who knows, the Democratic Unionists and Mebyon Kernow will have to wait their turn after Wrighty off Match of the Day, Kate Garraway off Good Morning Britain and a range of fresh-faced B-listers have pitched their own visions for the future. I think it is what ITV calls balance.

Further debates will follow, from the BBC and Sky News, just in case you’ve not had enough politics already. ITV’s excellent Julie Etchingham hosts the first bout, this being first general election where female broadcasters have outnumbered and generally outshone their male counterparts.

Another few words, perhaps, on the aforementioned I’m a Celebrity… , which is merely to observe that, like The Apprentice, also around this week and still going strong after 14 years, it is another of those reality TV shows that might usefully think about retirement. After all, Big Brother, and its various offshoots, has finally stumbled into its diary room for the last time.

I think I’ve seen enough celebs, and not-quite-celebs, being covered in maggots and eating kangaroo testes, which I am sorry to say, is all it amounts to. It’s been boring us since 2002, and I think we ought to vote the whole show out. Rather like the current generation of remarkably poor quality politicians I suppose: If only we could.

Is it a bird or is it a dinosaur? Sir David meets the colourful cassowary (BBC)
Is it a bird or is it a dinosaur? Sir David meets the colourful cassowary (BBC)

A much more interesting inhabitant of Australia’s ancient tropical forests is the cassowary. In case you’ve not been introduced to one, it is a kind of missing link creature, bridging the gap between dinosaurs and birds, or at least that’s what I fancifully believe. It’s about six foot tall, it has a big horny crest on top of its head, a black Beatles-style mop set off by some colourful flashes, as if created by Zara Rhodes.

Unlike the contestants on I’m a Celebrity… , the cassowary has real star quality. The southern cassowary, one of three species of these bizarre giant flightless birds, or ratites, makes an appearance in latest instalment of Sir David Attenborough’s series Seven Worlds, One Planet, and pretty much steals the show. I’d like to have one as a pet, but I am told its powerful clawed feet are more lethal than those of its instant relative/ancestor the velociraptor (which I am also somewhat obsessed by).

You can usually tell whether a food show is any god enough because its quality is generally in inverse proportion to the amount of non-food nonsense that the producers also try to pack in. This, you understand, is a symptom of fear, the lack of faith in the attractions of the foodie elements of the show, which are supposed to be not enthralling enough to capture the casual viewers; attention and have to be supplanted by random pointless stunts.

Most contemporary shows on Italian food, in particular, are especially are infected with this televisual salmonella e bacillus, and feature “celeb” chefs doing ridiculously stereotypical Italian things. I am sorry to report that Gino’s Italian Express is suffering from the same disease, and insist on showing us a sequence where Gino D’Acampo driving an (original) Fiat 500 on the roof of the old Fiat factory, a filming cliche ever since the Italian Job made such a good, well, Italian job of it a half century ago. Gino is a perfectly good chef and hardly needs the automotive garnish. I’ll just have the gnocchi, thanks.

I am more intrigued by Cold Call, Channel 5’s nightly drama about a care worker conned out of her life savings by one of the too-many scamsters still operating by phone and phishing online. We’ve all had the calls, and the mails, and we may think ourselves far too smart to be deceived… but are we? Sally Lindsay, who we don’t see enough of these days, is the victim who refuses to accept her victimhood.

The Crown, a collection of the more gossipy bits of our contemporary history, with little to no social, economic or political context offers its grotesquely skewed view of recent history again come Sunday night, though I concede the acting-as-impersonation is accomplished.

Last, there’s always the unique charm of test cricket to distract you from the unsatisfactory state of the world. Coverage of New Zealand vs England starts on Wednesday, live from Tauranga, where many of us would really rather be.

Johnson v Corbyn: the ITV Debate (ITV, Tuesday 8pm); The ITV Election Interviews (ITV, Tuesday 10pm); I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! (ITV, Sunday 9pm); The Apprentice (BBC1, Wednesday 9pm); Seven Worlds, One Planet (BBC1, Sunday 6.15pm); Gino’s Italian Express (ITV, Tuesday 8.30pm); The Crown (Netflix, Sunday from 8am); Cold Call (Channel 5, Monday 9pm); New Zealand vs England Test Series 2019​ (Sky Sports Main Event, Wednesday 9pm)