Byline: JACI STEPHEN
Mad About Pets ITV, Friday ** (Passable)
Fresh Food BBC 2, Wednesday **** (Excellent)
Money Money Money BBC1, Monday **** (Excellent)
Butterflies BBC2, Tuesday ***** (Unmissable)
They say that both children's and adults' lives are enriched by pets, but presumably that is only if the pet is free of physical or psychological problems.
When I was five I had a budgerigar called Georgie, who died prematurely, and I was devastated.
Not because of the death itself, but because my mother told me Georgie had flown to a hot country, and I could not comprehend the selfishness of my feathered friend.
I was 18 before I learned the truth.
There followed many other traumatic incidents with various two and four-legged creatures. We had a poodle called Emma whose greatest pleasure in life was playing with my favourite toy, Hats Off.
The game involved her using her paw to bounce plastic cones into a central reservation. She died of carbon monoxide poisoning from a clogged boiler flue. I was suicidal.
Another poodle called Tara lived a long life but lost her bark when her 'sister', Sally the chihuahua, had to be put down. By this stage Sally had three legs, no womb, no eyes, arthritis and a stomach which kept splitting open. But the vet said that her nose was still wet, so we kept her going.
Mad About Pets is a new series which claims to celebrate the nation's enthusiasm for pets, but, as in my own experience, there's a lot of trauma along the way. The first programme featured a budgie called Lucky, who couldn't fly, two disgustingly fat cats, and a terrier who hates tractors.
Pet psychic (I kid you not) John Starkey was brought in to 'talk' to Lucky. Now, I don't know how much information a budgie's brain can hold, but I'd say it's pretty much limited to 'Why do I only ever have seeds for every meal?' and 'There must be more to life than swinging on a trapeze.' It shows how much I know.
Lucky told John that there was a dog with a white chest in his life and that his aviaries might be extended soon (at least, I think it was aviaries; it might have been ovaries, which would put a whole new slant on things).
The owner was stunned: yes, they did have a dog with a white chest.
And the wings that didn't work?
Lucky explained that it was all to do with flying over a railway line.
'How do you convince people you're for real?' asked a reporter.
You don't, John.
Mad About Pets fails where other animal-based programmes succeed in that it does not convey the deep relationship between pets and their owners.
Animals are brought on as if they are in The Antiques Roadshow, given the once over, then it's quickly on to the next item.
The pace is frenzied, irritatingly jolly throughout, and far too loud; it is, in essence, for viewers with the attention span of a gnat. Then there's John Noakes.
John is even louder now than when he presented Blue Peter more than 20 years ago. He laughs loudly, shouts loudly, and displays a fascination with the animals like Noah on speed.
Flapjack the hamster was road-testing some hamster toys and was struggling to dive down a plastic tube. 'Go on, get yer back legs up!' yelled John.
Flapjack finally did; sadly, he then got stuck upside down in the tube.
John's vocal cords could hardly contain the excitement. …