• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Brazil With Michael Palin, BBC One

In the first episode of Brazil With Michael Palin (BBC One, Wednesday, 9pm), the comedian and presenter tried capoeira, a type of dance created by South American slaves.

It's a graceful, balletic and beautiful art form, but when Palin gave it a go, all he could manage was a kind of embarrassed dad-dance stamping, like he was trying to put out many teeny-weeny fires or squish The Borrowers. There is nothing quite so awkward as the British middle-aged man trying to get down.

In every other way, Palin is the ideal presenter of a British travel programme. He has a vaguely patrician, curious and slightly amused air, like most British people do when they go abroad. We come from the country that taught the world to do many things yet still have much to learn. In this, Palin, with his eyebrow arched and his lip on the verge of a smirk, is our ideal representative.

Palin chose Brazil for this latest programme because it's the great gap in his passport; he's been travelling for 25 years but has never been to the fifth biggest country in the world, the sixth biggest economy, and the nation that is about to host the World Cup and the Olympics. And why wouldn't he be drawn to this country, like millions of other Europeans have over hundreds of years? Travelling from somewhere like Britain to somewhere like Brazil is like discovering widescreen colour TV after years of watching a black and white portable.

One of the first things Palin did when he arrived in the country was gently point to some of the differences between Britain and Brazil. He visited one of the poorest parts of the city of Sao Luis, for example, and found them putting on a huge, colourful, passionate festival; creating something, as Palin put it, out of nothing. He also visited the beach, where on Sundays, thousands of people gather in what Palin described as a semi-naked suburbia. Huge sound systems blast out music but no one ever complains. In Britain, said Palin, someone would ask them to keep the noise down.

This often seems like the point of Palin's programmes: to celebrate the culture of the place he's visiting but also, in a very nice way, to point out what is lacking in ourselves. Here are Brazilians with no money putting together a giant street festival and here they are totally chilled out about communal living and the noise and colour of life. The British could never be like that. We've become too grumpy, introverted and suspicious – probably because we're too cold.

The Town That Caught Tourettes (Channel 4, Thursday, 9pm) followed the true story of a group of girls in a town in upstate New York who began to demonstrate the repetitive behaviour typical of Tourettes. Various theories spread - radiation from mobiles, possession, drugs, poison - but eventually there was a convincing diagnosis: mass hysteria in which girls who had undergone some kind of stress (often trouble at home) would convert the anxiety to physical symptoms.

Some of the girls' parents resisted the diagnosis, but don't we all know that hysteria can spread? Don't we know from our own lives that when some people behave in a certain way, before long we're all doing it?

Contextual targeting label: 
Arts and Entertainment

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

122385