Previously what every celebrity wanted after the big hoose in Surrey near the golf club was a trivia game. Regular money, not too strenuous, make it a series in a day and take the rest of the week off.
Travel programs then replaced quizzes as a staple career prop. Now, judging by the number of new releases, quizzes are back in fashion. Considering the high failure rate, there will likely be more. For every Blankety Blank and Deal or No Deal there is a WonderBall, the BBC Scotland quiz so bad even students wouldn’t watch it.
ITV and the BBC are betting big on The Tournament (BBC1, Monday to Thursday 2:15 p.m., Friday 1:45 p.m.) and Sitting on a Fortune (STV, Sunday, 7 p.m.). The evening show is hosted by Gary Lineker, the current face of the sport on television, with Alex Scott, the woman most likely to succeed him, leading the Tournament. As they battle to see who picked the best quiz, contestants go about their usual duties of answering general knowledge questions for money.
The tournament has echoes of The Weakest Link in that it’s a knockout show with talks between the host and the contestants, but there’s no Anne Robinson-style snark here. Different times call for more friendly approaches. As for Lineker, he told the Radio Times this week that filming the quiz was an uplifting experience. “It was nice to be able to give money that changed the life of the candidates,” he said. May the best quizmaster win.
Just six years ago, Nadiya Hussain won the Great British Bake Off and made the transition from bettor to presenter. She is now a staple of programs and such an important television presence as Mary Berry, formerly GBBO judge, who is launching her new six-part show, Mary Berry: Love to Cook (BBC2, Thursday, 8 p.m.) just before Hussain makes his business.
The idea behind Nadiya’s Quick Flavors (BBC2, Thursday, 8:30 p.m.) is that we all did so much cooking during the lockdown that we miss the old familiars. Enter Hussain with a mission to “throw the rulebook out the window”.
She’s not kidding. His first course is the one everyone thinks they make right: mac and cheese. Simple, right? Hussain does provide its own twists, however, including adding puffs of crushed cheese to the sauce to provide a delicious crunch. I will certainly steal that tip, if the cheese puffs survive long enough in the cupboard. Certainly not a show to watch on an empty stomach.
Anyone who witnessed the 2019 arrival of Inside Central Station (BBC Scotland, Sunday, 9 p.m.) could tell straight away that it would be a banker for the new channel. All human life passes through the stations. They are witnesses of the beginning, the middle and the end of the stories. By one station or another, we’ve all, like Elizabeth Smart, sat up and cried (even though it’s just over six hours missed at Ayr).
Back for a third series, Inside Central Station has settled into its groove. When we return to Scotland’s busiest station, the place starts to move again after the Covid upheaval, in which the number of passengers rose from 100,000 travelers per day to 3,000. Among the crowd is a couple who married in Glasgow 30 years ago and brought their daughter to the city to celebrate her graduation. Other families and groups of friends are reuniting after a long Covid-induced separation.
Produced by STV Productions for BBC Scotland, the program takes on a decidedly happy and friendly tone. Staff are introduced by first name only, like we’re already friends, and I’ve never seen an episode featuring anything mean. In the first episode of the new series, some guys get a bit grumpy when told that alcohol is not allowed on trains while euros is as “real” as it gets.
Snafus are coming, as we can see. In one, a conductor is missing and the passengers are directed to another train, but the conductor ultimately turns out to be there. Basically, it’s the story of experienced hands that come out quietly, on great days and regular days. A member of staff, enjoying the atmosphere as the crowds scurry for the euros, said: “That’s what makes this place a legend.”
Who remembers The Little House on the Prairie, the staple TV from the 1970s and early 1980s? Laura Ingalls Wilder: Prairie to Page (PBS America, Friday, 8 p.m.) takes a look at the extraordinary life of the woman who, for many, defined pioneering life in small American towns. Watch this and find out how, if at all, the real Laura, who died in 1957 at the age of 90, looked like her fictional counterpart. If you think Ma, Pa, Laura and the rest of the clan struggled at times …