Joanna Lumley’s Home Sweet Home – Travels in My Own Land
OF all the reasons for taking a long hard look at yourself, being attacked by Piers Morgan ought to be at the bottom of a very long list.
The Good Morning Britain presenter operates at the pig’s bladder on a stick level of journalism, there for amusement – if that’s your kind of whoopee cushion thing – rather than edification.
Yet as we saw in Darren McGarvey’s Class Wars, the first of a four-part series, it was Morgan calling him a “raging lunatic” that led to a bout of soul-searching for the eponymous author and rapper.
It was not just Morgan piling on after McGarvey’s appearance on Question Time. Social media was awash with insults such as “no idea what he said”, “needed subtitles”, etc. Nor was Morgan the first snob the Glaswegian had encountered. But why had he made the cut?
Because when you are sending a new documentary out into a multi-channel world, a filmmaker needs all the help they can get to stand out. It’s all in the name of a greater good, in McGarvey’s case exposing the toxic effects of class in Scotland. If that meant giving more publicity to Piers Morgan, so be it. Go along to get along.Play up and play the game. It was to prove something of a theme for the episode as a whole.
The series finds McGarvey working again with filmmaker Stephen Bennett (Insane Fight Club, Brian Cox’s Russia). It is neither man’s first rodeo, so it did prompt a groan when McGarvey came down with a bad case of Reporting Scotland and did a vox pop in Dundee. Ditto for his dressing up in plus fours, and playing croquet. Cliches are cliches, wherever they are aimed.
Again, you could see why they thought hitting the dressing up box was a way of making the film less like homework. If nothing else, Lauriston Castle in Edinburgh, where McGarvey was meant to be the laird of the manor, was a great setting for interviews.
McGarvey did not need gimmicks to hold viewers’ attention, however. The finest moments came when he was simply being himself. When the butler chappie told him to take his hands out of his pockets, the look on McGarvey’s face was worth a 100 worthy essays on class. Get that clip ready for the Baftas.
Even better was when it turned out the butler was hardly to the manor born himself. As we saw in interviews with everyone from a professor of socio-linguistics to columnist Hugo Rifkind, the case against class discrimination was clear, yet the subject as a whole was not as straightforward as it seemed.
Seeing McGarvey wrestling with this complexity, often in very personal ways, raised the film several cuts above. For fearlessness, he’s easily up there with Louis Theroux and his like. I found myself thinking about the film for hours afterwards, which is more than you can say about anything Piers Morgan has ever done.
As a presenting duo, McGarvey and Joanna Lumley would be quite the pair. Watching her waft around Scotland – La Lumley does not merely travel – and charm everyone within a 50 mile radius, she could make anything work.
“Although my accent is completely English I am in fact three quarters Scottish,” she said, adding that if you took her apart the Saltire would be tattooed on her bones. No need to go that far to get in the door (or not yet anyway).
She zipped up to Harris to talk tweed, and for the occasion wore her 40-year-old coat made of the very same. “It’s Jean Muir.” Well, of course it was. From there it was on to Eilean Donan castle, the setting for an episode of The New Avengers.
In the series, Lumley starred as high-kicking, karate- chopping Purdey, a character so famous she had a hairdo named after her. “Good days,” she recalled wistfully. “The fighting days were the best fun. Lines? Anybody can do lines!”
Lumley’s ability to laugh at herself is all part of her appeal, and she was no mean comedian when the mood took her. The “smuggling whisky under her skirt” skit was a hoot and a half, and she raised a giggle with Janey Godley on a visit to Glasgow (though Lumley did look quite stunned at times).
The film had its cliches (more bare-chested, kilt-wearing personal fitness coaches: yawn), but she was a good spud and the hour passed pleasantly enough.
McGarvey and Lumley: both class acts in their own ways.