IT is not about the winning, it is about the taking part. Aye, right. No-one would ever say such a thing about a war, or Euro 2020, which we will draw a veil over for obvious reasons. (That goal! What did we ever do to the Czech Republic to deserve that?) Competition is healthy, it drives up standards and encourages ambition. It certainly spawns a lot of telly.

For the past four weeks, six hopefuls have been duking it out on The Great British Photography Challenge (BBC4, Monday), all under the watchful eye of Rankin, a chap who is to photography what Hockney is to painting. Among the contenders was Jackson Moyles, a 21-year-old from Dunfermline who started out full of the arrogance of youth. It was all a front, and once his defences started to come down he proved to be one of the most eager to learn students, and a sweetie (technical photography term) to boot.

The programme stood out from the rest of the pack in as much as it did not send a “loser” home every week. With that pressure off, the students could relax and lose themselves in learning.

This week it was the final. At last, a winner, their prize a digital exhibition, had to be chosen. But Rankin and his fellow judges awarded the title jointly to Jackson and another lad, Tyrone. Someone else was given an internship. It was very decent and “all shall have prizes”, but at the same time you did wonder if it was the best way to prepare the contestants for what is a ferociously competitive field.

No such carry on in the final of The Great British Sewing Bee (BBC1, Wednesday), which ended as it had begun – a vicious fight with sewing machines instead of knives. Only kidding. The Sewing Bee lot made the Bake Off-brigade look like Hells Angels.

From an original line-up of 12, just three remained, one of whom was Serena, a second year medical student from Glasgow who had taught herself to sew from YouTube videos. Any one of three would have made a worthy winner, the judges agreed, but in the end a choice was made and it was Serena.

The sewing and photography competitions showed you can have engaging, informative television with and without someone leaving each week. It’s all about the mood created, the tone set. In Rankin’s case this was supportive but always honest, and in Sewing Bee host Joe Lycett, funny and upbeat. TV without cruelty. What will they think of next?

The recent Queen’s Birthday Honours distinguished itself by awarding gongs to genuine heroes, the scientists and others who created vaccines for Covid-19 and got them into arms (some arms) in record time. Horizon Special: The Vaccine (BBC2, Wednesday) was a chance to meet some of these hitherto unknown soldiers, and an impressive lot they were.

The Horizon crews followed teams on five continents as the hunt for a vaccine intensified.

By April last year some 120 groups around the globe were on the trail. Drugs companies and governments handed over blank cheques. The word went out: do whatever it takes, whatever it costs. When victory came, in the shape of vaccines one after the other, billions cheered. “Revenge of the nerds!” said one Aussie newspaper congratulating researchers.

There was a price to pay other than the monetary one. As the 90 minutes went on the interviewees who had been so fresh faced in the early stages became grey with exhaustion. Like many, they suffered loss and illness within their ranks, but they kept going because that's the job.

The Vaccine was serious about science but at the same time it was fast-paced, full of twists, and had some great characters speaking lucidly about their work. In time to come there will inevitably be movies and other dramas about these Covid times, but this was the real deal and all the more engrossing for it.

With filming taking place around lockdowns, this series of The Hotel Inspector (Channel 5, Thursday) looks more than usual like a Darwinian fight for survival in the poor bloody hospitality sector. After last week’s bruising encounter between Alex Polizzi and a couple who had barely a clue how to run their pub with rooms, you might have thought the hotelier would have eased up a little, but no. You don’t get 16 series (Polizzi herself has been in the job of presenter for a decade plus) by taking the foot off the gas.

Sarah, this week’s owner, did not have her troubles to seek. Recently divorced, she had a squad of staff but worked 45 hours in the kitchen as well as everything else. “It’s like an octopus with no brain, just lots of tentacles, ” said Polizzi in her usual delicate way.

In this case, her tough love paid off. Polizzi could see behind the fraught, exhausted Sarah of today to the confident, capable woman who had once started her own business.

Slowly, the pub and bedrooms were spruced up, the staffing sorted out, and Sarah found her groove again, a winner once more.