Once upon a time I reviewed films for a living. After a while I became familiar with certain early warning signs. For instance, a dead giveaway in art house films was trudge rate. The slower a character walked across the screen in an opening shot, the more bahookie-numbingly tedious the next couple of hours were going to be.

So it was with a sinking feeling that I began watching The Gallows Pole (BBC2, Wednesday). The scene: Yorkshire, 18th century. A man trudges across a dreich moor, dragging a bag of clanking iron. His breathing is laboured, he is a mess of hair and mud and blood. “Mmm,” thought I, “we’re in for the long haul here.”

I’m delighted to say I could not have been more wrong. This tale of destitute weavers rebelling against their lot was one of the sharpest, funniest, most original dramas I’ve seen in a long time. I should have known, given it comes from Shane Meadows (This is England), but one doesn’t like to presume.

Michael Socha, a Meadows’ regular, plays David Hartley, the local wild boy home after seven years doing God knows what in Birmingham. David’s brother William (Thomas Turgoose) and his gal Grace (our Daisy from Downton) are still furious at his leaving in the first place. Now he’s back and there’s no work, no food, and no bloody hope.

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Meadows throws the period drama rule book out the window, his characters using modern words and phrases, expletives not deleted. The music is terrific and it is shot handsomely too; very Tess of the d’Urbervilles.

When it works it does so beautifully, as when Grace inches towards forgiving David all the while cursing his selfishness. “So you’re not dead,” is her affectionate opener.

Changing Ends (ITVX/STV Player) was the story of Alan Carr’s childhood days. Carr thought he had it tough growing up in the 1980s; you should have tried the 1970s, mate.

On balance, he did have a worse time. The son of the local football club manager, young Carr met homophobia wherever he went. At school the bullying was vicious, and when he got home the neighbour across the road would have filled his mum in on Alan’s latest outrage.

Oliver Savell played the young Alan, with today’s Alan turning up every now and then to break the fourth wall.

Carr was also on writing duty with Simon Carlyle (Two Doors Down). All concerned played the tale for laughs, which might have backfired but doesn’t. The six half hour episodes are so packed with gags, and the whole thing is played with such genuine warmth, it is impossible not to cheer it from the stands. Any show that combines Prince the pop star and an Alsation is fine by me.

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60 Days on the Estates (Channel 4, Sunday) is the latest in a run of programmes - 60 Days on the Streets, 60 Days with the Gypsies - in which former Army captain Ed Stafford walks for a bit in other people’s shoes.

The first stop was Northumberland Park in Tottenham. The estates of the title are not the hunting and fishing kind, but there are guns. There is also poverty, drugs, and despair. Stafford is an affable bloke but he does pose daft questions sometimes. “Were you rioting?” he asks a young guy when talk turns to the summer of 2011.

His heart is in the right place, his anger too, as when he meets a single mum with six children living in a one-bed council flat with mould running up the walls. It is so bad one of the children needs a pump to breathe. And this, as Stafford points out, in one of the most affluent cities in the world.

Sarah Beeny's New Country Lives (Channel 4, Monday-Friday) is not to be confused with Sarah Beeny’s New Life in the Country (Channel 4, Monday), although no jury in the land would convict if you did get mixed up. Basically, the former is about her and her family living the rural dream, and the new series is about other people’s families trying to do the same while she advises them.

I have a lot of time for Beeny. Over the years she has steered a whole generation of women through the property market, donning her hi-viz jacket and hard hat and dishing out sound advice. Even so, six programmes in one week?

Well that’s it, you’ve had your Succession (Sky Atlantic/Now, Monday). Just to add to the excitement there were no previews, so the dog and I had to get up at 2am to watch. She sneaked back to bed after five minutes. Not telling tales, but just so you know.

You can read the full bells and whistles review at www.heraldscotland.com Let’s say it was a highly satisfying finale in that all the awful people got what was coming to them. If only life was like Succession.

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A quick but heartfelt cheerio to Jeremy Paxman, who ended a 29-year shift on University Challenge this week. A scholar and a gentleman to the end.