A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles, is such a beloved novel it always seemed odd that it was not turned into a film soon after the book’s publication in 2016. Here was a tale that had everything - an epic sweep, great characters, and vast reserves of charm.

Nothing came of the chatter, however. At one point it was thought Kenneth Branagh would helm a movie and star in it, but that fizzled out. In the end, the marathon was won by Ewan McGregor, the Scottish actor who sprinted into film history in Trainspotting, and the result was not a movie but an eight-part series, A Gentleman in Moscow (Paramount+, episode one available Good Friday).

McGregor takes the lead role of Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, a moustachioed blue-blood who makes a surprise return to Russia in 1918, shortly after the Bolsheviks have seized power. Most of his fellow aristocrats have already been shot or are desperately trying to flee, yet here is Rostov, heading the wrong way at the wrong time.

He duly attracts the attention of the authorities and is summoned to learn his fate. Rostov is told he must spend the rest of his life in the same Moscow hotel. It seems as if he has escaped relatively lightly. After all, the alternatives to this “hotel arrest” were death or exile. But this is no ordinary hotel. For a start, if Rostov puts one foot outside its doors he will be shot.

As with any bestseller, there is a lot of pressure on McGregor and the rest of the cast to get the adaptation right. First to pass muster is the Count’s moustache, a thing so grand it surely had a trailer of its own on set.

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You would not think it to see me in the queue at Tesco, but I’m a dab hand with a set of nunchucks. Give me two sticks joined by a chain and a fair wind and I can hold an assailant back for as long as it takes to get to an exit and scarper.

For those skills I have to thank a brother who was obsessed with the subject of Bruce Lee: A Life in Ten Pictures BBC2, Thursday) and liked to re-enact scenes from Enter the Dragon. Luckily, I also had a pair of clackers, two rock-hard balls on a rope, so I was used to the punishment. Ah, the 1970s.

Lee was a fighter and a philosopher rolled into one, an Ali of the martial arts scene. In the first of the ten photos chosen to illustrate his life, and provide a springboard for reminiscences from those who knew him best, we see a 10-year-old Bruce on a ferry in Hong Kong.

Born in 1940 in San Francisco, Lee was brought up in Hong Kong by an actor father and a mother who was an heiress. The young Bruce had already appeared in a couple of films courtesy of his father. He really wanted to learn martial arts, and in particular Wing Chun, which he did under the tutelage of the legendary Ip Man. Picture number two is a shot of the pair together, relaxed and smiling.

The tale then shifts back to San Francisco. Lee had been getting into too many fights in Hong Kong and his parents thought he would be better off in America. College followed, then years of waiting around while trying to break into films.

After demonstrating his skills at a Long Beach gathering of martial arts experts, a Hollywood producer invited him to do a screen test.

Success followed in The Green Hornet TV series, with Lee as the main character’s sidekick, Kato. But it wasn’t long before racism reared its head, with Lee not being given any lines to speak and being paid the rate of a stuntman rather than an actor.

The Herald:  Bruce Lee Bruce Lee (Image: free)

Wherever he turned in Hollywood he met barriers. The only way to get in the door, he reasoned, was to go back to Hong Kong, become a star there, and return triumphantly to the US. It worked. After a couple of warm-up films, Enter the Dragon started production, which is where we came in.

The ten pictures idea is a superb format. A lot depends on the ability of the interviewees to bring the photos to life, and Lee’s story benefits immensely from a line-up of contributors that stretches from his wife, daughter and granddaughter to fellow actors and producers.

An hour felt too short to pack everything in. That was always Lee’s trouble, time went frustratingly slowly or too fast, never quite keeping pace with his dreams.

Mandy (BBC2, Wednesday, 10pm) is back and crazier than ever. That takes some effort on the part of the character’s creator, Diane Morgan, also giver of much joy to the world as Philomena Cunk. The third series starts sanely enough, with Mandy once more hoping for a new job that will turn her life around, but where the episode ends you’ll have to see, and believe, for yourself. Fasten those seatbelts now.