TV REVIEW: The History Boys, Horizon: How to Find Love Online, Game of Thrones

James Waller-Davies
James Waller-Davies

It’s a subtle metamorphosis, that almost imperceptible sense of becoming something special, as opposed to just being something. Such is the birth of a ‘classic’.

Alan Bennett’s The History Boys (BBC4 and Radio 4 Extra) has become that most lovely of things, a modern classic. Getting a double outing this week on both radio and television, Bennett’s pathos filled, bittersweet comedy, brilliantly explores the coming of age passions of a group of grammar school students in Sheffield.

So few dramas can make you genuinely laugh and cry in the same gasp of breath, but The History Boys does it all the way through, with a delicate balance of depth and one-liners.

From Rudge’s wry observation that “history is just one thing after another”, to Frances de la Tour’s Mrs Lintott’s pained retort that “History is a commentary on the various and continuing incapabilities of men. What is history? History is women following behind with the bucket.”

Bennett’s observations are sharp and sniping and his writing is the sparkling paradox of the base sublime. Both audio and visual version are on iPlayer for a month. Not to be missed.

This week’s Horizon: How to Find Love Online (BBC2) was one of the better recent offerings from the long running science series.

According to presenter, Dr Xand Van Tulleken (yes, that’s his real name), one-in-four relationships begin online from one of the many dating sites and apps.

Gone are the days when Man-the-caveman no longer has to bonk Mrs Cave-woman over the head and drag her back to the cave for a roll on the animal skins. Modern man – and woman – can just ‘swipe left’ for a way-hey, or ‘swipe right’ for an urr-no-way.

Dr Xand made his way through a maze of incompatible potential paramours, proving along the way the old adage that “to err is human…but to really foul things up, you need a computer”.

It’s not quite the Skynet apocalypse predicted in the Terminator movies, but the thought that computers in the future will be responsible for more domestic strife because our inability to manage a decent chat-up line and a friendly conversation doesn’t bode well for the future of the planet.

In the future a nice smile and a good sense of humour will be replaced with a “hmm, what a cute algorithm my smartphone says you have”.

Even if you haven’t seen it, it can’t have escaped your notice that Game of Thrones (HBO) is back for season 6.

The internet has been swamped with gossip about the globe-stomping fantasy adventure series, which marries dynastic intrigue, grotesquely inventive murder, dragons and enough gratuitous nudity to make a Carry On film blush. It’s little more than ‘Tolkien with totty’.

Fans are still waiting to see if Jon Snow is really dead. And I don’t think anyone is going to look at the Red Witch in quite the same way again.

Game of Thrones is compelling. If you’re short of something to do over the bank holiday, a DVD binge catching up on seasons 1 to 5 is well worth the waste of time. It’s good...but not yet a classic.