Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Catch Up TV; Missed the TV Moment Everyone's Talking about? Alastair McKay Is Charmed by Peter Snow in Trainspotting Live and Captivated by Ahmad's Tale in Exodus

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Catch Up TV; Missed the TV Moment Everyone's Talking about? Alastair McKay Is Charmed by Peter Snow in Trainspotting Live and Captivated by Ahmad's Tale in Exodus

Article excerpt

Byline: Alastair McKay

IN THESE Monty Python days, with the People's Front of Judea arguing among themselves as Boris Johnson glides by on the zipwire of public office, the absence of Peter Snow from our television screens has been a continuing regret.

Snow the Elder -- cousin of Jon, father of Dan -- is one of the great explainers of politics, whether digging in his sandpit to explain the Gulf War or spinning the Swingometer to elucidate the electoral tombola of the pre-digital age. Of course, on election nights Jeremy Vine now tries to mimic the effect of Snow's wobbly compass with a load of incomprehensible digital malarkey, but it's not the same.

Snow is 78, and deserves a rest. But this week he came back, not to explain Brexit, or Mayday, or the beer and sandwiches of Labour's NEC. He came to wait for trains, an experience that many of us can identify with. Trainspotting Live (BBC iPlayer) was that odd and very British thing, a programme about hobbyists that sought not to patronise its subject and ended up underestimating the intelligence of the broader audience. It was Springwatch gone loco, Slow TV with added facts, and men with beards finding significance in random numbers.

And yet it was gloriously shambolic and eminently watchable, mostly in the bits when the trains weren't arriving and Snow was forced to fall back on his election night wits.

Was Snow convinced of the glories of trainspotting? Hard to say. "Expect all kinds of excitement," he teased, before introducing engineer Dick Strawberry, "who likes nothing more than being covered in engine oil and grease from head to toe".

The BBC, sensing that some broader context might be required, had hired Hannah Fry, who was demonstrably a woman, and was able to do clever things with equations. There was also Tim Dunn, whose whiskers and cufflinks placed him on the junction between hipster and fogey.

Tim was stuck in Fort William, waffling while a train failed to appear. Steam locomotives were like iron dinosaurs, he said. "They're elemental. They're built from iron, mined from underneath the earth where we stand, they're fuelled by coal that we've hacked out from prehistoric plants, and they're fuelled by the water that falls from the sky and lit by a flickering flame" The train still didn't come. …

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