TV review: Starkey raving bonkers about the Boleyn girl

Crush hour: The Last Days Of Anne Boleyn. Photograph: BBC/Oxford Film and Television/Tim Cragg
Crush hour: The Last Days Of Anne Boleyn. Photograph: BBC/Oxford Film and Television/Tim Cragg
lucy-bellerby-byline-photo-bwLucy Bellerby reckons TV history would be better off without a certain grumpy academic pouring his bucket of scorn over everything


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Pardon my French, but what has crawled up David Starkey’s arse lately (The Last Days Of Anne Boleyn, BBC2)? He’s always been a cantankerous old miser, sucking in so much air that his chin completely disappears into his neck, but he’s really stepped it up a notch recently. Baring his little teeth on Newsnight, jabbering rudely about Harriet Harman and Victoria Coren.

And now he’s been attacking yet more women; this time it’s historical novelists like Philippa Gregory. Apparently they shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the Tudors, lest they turn the subject into chick lit. He’s managed to side-step the fact that Gregory holds a PHD in historical literature, and that she clearly writes dramatised novels and not history books.

He’s been mouthing off because they both appeared on the BBC2 programme The Last Days of Anne Boleyn, alongside Hilary Mantel, whose books on Henry VIII’s court are similar to solving an impossible Sudoku puzzle while your head is squashed in a vice. An outstanding trio of experts, but I do wish they had made them film in the same room; Starkey would have fled, arms flailing, shrieking “the girls gave me a wedgie!”.

As regular readers will know, I’m history obsessed and I (sort of) fancy Anne Boleyn. So I watched the programme glassy-eyed, imagining myself slagging off Cromwell in Latin and writing saucy messages to all and sundry. TV always makes it seem quite romantic, and as the reality is that everyone stank and had black teeth, I’m happy to believe the sanitised version, chick lit or not.

Just for God’s sake get Starkey off the screen; he may know his history, but his jowls don’t half put the breaks on any bodice ripping.

The Graham Norton Show (BBC1) is an oft overlooked telly gem. Norton is still softly funny (unlike the glass-shattering Alan Carr), lightheartedly poking fun at even the most famous guests.

He’s not exactly one for pushing boundaries, but sometimes it’s nice to have a break from Frankie Boyle making yet another ill-judged and unfunny joke about gynaecology. And this week… well. This week saw one of the best TV moments of the year. For Will Smith appeared on the show and performed with not only Jazzy Jeff, but (deep breath), Carlton bloody Banks.

If you’re not a Fresh Prince fan then the rest of this is going to be rather uninteresting for you, but then it’s your own fault for having such poor taste. The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and The Simpsons were the teatime soundtrack for a generation; I can’t even catch a whiff of a fish finger without thinking of uncle Phil in a satin dressing gown, listening to Barry White.

I don’t know what kids eat for tea these days, but back then it seemed like the only food we ever ate was fish fingers and pasta. Did pesto even exist? It was a simpler time, a time of snazzy leggings and Ecco The Dolphin on Sega Megadrive. Everyone still loved Michael Barrymore and Dierdre hadn’t sullied herself with her torrid affair with Dev Alahan.

But most of all it was a time of utter, utter boredom. There was nothing to do except read books or wait for tea time telly. As soon as the theme song to Fresh Prince started, you knew you had a lovely little half-hour sliver of snap-backs, fat jokes, and strip club dance routines to Apache by The Sugar Hill Gang; so seeing the cast reunited on Graham Norton made me beam. Pass the fish fingers.