JUST imagine the conversation Kate Winslett had with her agent after reading the script for the new HBO-produced series The Regime, (Sky Atlantic, Now, from Monday). “Darling, this is wonderful. Don’t you think? I can’t possibly not do it, can I?  It’s directed by Stephen Frears and Andrea Riseborough is co-starring.  And the plot line is tremendous; despotic, neurotic middle-European leader is terrified of spores attacking her lungs – a great metaphor for fear of conspirators – but this fragile and ever so slightly insane woman’s life changes dramatically when she hires a spore detector/bodyguard called Herbie who becomes her very own Rasputin, but with muscles.”

“Kate, darling, it’s so much of a dog’s breakfast it should be renamed Pedigree Chump.”

“Oh, come on. My character is fabulous. Elana and the bodyguard are fabulous together.”

“Kate, yes dear, Herbert Zubak saves Chancellor Elena from a crazed terrorist, and you can see her passion rise as he beats the man half to death, but the viewers won’t be keen on him when they learn he’s recently been murdering innocent miners in the cobalt mine.”

“You’re over worrying, darling.  Look, this series is perfectly timed. It’s a brilliant satire on the rise of right-wing leaders across Europe, and we get to see how a megalomaniacal ruler can be taught the economic theories of imperialism and neo-nationalism by this hunky killing machine.

“Kate, remember when you made Titanic, and you were sniggered at because critics said you looked like Leo’s auntie, and there was that unbelievable water scene when you wouldn’t let him onto the door, even though he was turning purple? Well, this will be a hundred times worse.”

“But this series has real echoes of Trump, and Putin and American and Chinese imperialism. And the writer Will Tracy has just come from Succession!”

“Darling, Succession worked because the characters were horrid, but human and nuanced. There is no one in The Regime who’s believable in the slightest.”

“I get to sing a cabaret version of If You Leave Me Now.”

“I rest my case.”

“Look, sweetie, it’s backed by HBO. They’re throwing money at me like China is tossing cash at Africa.”

“What? That much?  Well, why didn’t you say so. Let me negotiate for a second series. Hang on.  I’ve even got a subtitle for it. Herbie Rides Again.”

Questions of commissioning must have been asked also of the BBC’s Abba night, and the documentary, When Abba Came to Britain (BBC2, Saturday).

Haven’t we had enough of Abba on television? Tributes, documentaries, re-runs are screened as often as the Dancing Queen is played at weddings. What makes the Swedes so deserving of continual recycling, when all they’ve offered is Europop tunes and often confused lyrical imagery?

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Haven’t we seen enough of the Seventies lip gloss, the satin trousers and page boy hair styles? (And that’s just Benny and Bjorn). 

This documentary promised new insight, special recordings from the group’s songwriters, and new interviews with those whose life was changed by the band (gushing fans).  And to be honest, there was little of any revelation.

But here’s the thing: despite not being part of the band’s fanbase, this documentary, and indeed the tribute night itself was magnetic. Yes, we’ve all seen a million clips of Agnetha singing with the blue tea cosy on her head and caught sight of her ‘perfect’ Spandexed bottom and grinned at Benny’s platform heels, yet the output proved to be compelling.

It’s impossible not to be lured in by a great story; that incredible success rarely arrives without incredible work rate.

What also may be tricky to discern (at first) is the attraction of Mary Beard’s Meet The Roman Emperor with Mary Beard, (BBC2, Monday). But the classical historian, it turns out, is an out-and-out populist, revealing so much personal information about these ancient demi-gods it all reminds you of Up Pompeii.

The Herald:

Haven’t noticed it? The bike-riding storyteller with the gold trainers again sold us a series of saucy tales, revealing for example that Emperor Domitian covered his palace in mirrors so he could see his enemies coming. Or perhaps it was to check his wig, given he was an early Elton, determined not to let his fans see him hairless.

She explained that Tiberius liked to have his privates nibbled by small boys in the swimming pool. And that Nero had a slave castrated (who resembled his late wife) whom he then married.

Ooh, titter ye not! “Male and female boundaries were often fudged,” said the presenter.  “And Hadrian was obsessed with a young Greek slave, Antinous, who mysteriously drowned in the Nile.”

These emperors were certainly a colourful lot. Unlike our own royalty, they were happy to bathe without their Speedos in public. It was a great social leveller, said Mary, but it was mostly about putting ‘hot’ bodies to on display.

Is all the detail offered up absolutely correct? Well, Beard has had a couple of close shaves with her colouring in over the years; she likes to suggest what may have been. But when you can create transfixing historical documentaries such as these, what’s wrong with channelling a little bit of Frankie Howerd?