WHO among the TV gods first decided that when it comes to dishing out paid holidays – not just free breaks – celebrities should be at the front of the queue?

Travel show presenters used to hail from journalism, with past experience in a foreign field seen as an asset. Alan Whicker, for example, was a distinguished foreign correspondent in print and on television before he fronted Whicker’s World.

The programmes reflected his hard news background, often featuring big name interviews, including one with Haitian dictator Papa Doc. Particularly in the early years, Whicker’s films were more documentaries filmed abroad rather than travel shows, but as an introduction to a country or a culture they were first rate. Awards and huge ratings followed.

As going abroad became cheaper, so travel programmes became more consumer-led and softer at the edges. Viewers wanted to know a little of the background to their destination, but they were also keen on pointers to the best areas for shopping and eating.

The pendulum swung again with Michael Palin’s round the globe travels. Now the presenter of the programmes became an essential part of the mix, with everyone from Billy Connolly to Joanna Lumley packing their bags.

All of which is a long way for a short cut to Write around the World with Richard E Grant (BBC4, Tuesday, 9pm). Note the name in the title, very of the moment.

The format for the three part series is simple. The star of Withnail & I, Gosford Park and Can You Ever Forgive Me goes to the places where great authors set their works. With the help of local guides, and by reading excerpts from the books, he gives a sense of the place that is richer, and more fascinating, than anything that can be gleaned from a mere travel guide with its facts and figures. As he puts it, “Part of the joy of following in the writer’s footsteps is that they lead you to places most tourists won’t go.”

In the first programme Grant heads to southern Italy. He starts in the city of Naples, the setting for Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, Dickens’ Pictures from Italy, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, and Norman Lewis’s Naples 44. From there it is on to Pompei (with Robert Harris’s novel in his bag, naturally), and Positano, where Patricia Highsmith conjured up The Talented Mr Ripley.

His final destination is Matera, where he reads from Carlo Levi’s memoir Christ Stopped at Eboli and finds himself shocked once more at how the poor in twentieth century Italy once eked out an existence in caves.

As anyone who has read his highly entertaining memoirs will know, Grant is good company, and no mean writer himself. He can be deliciously luvvie one minute, serious and moving the next. After southern Italy he’s off to the south of France and Spain. Nice work if you can get it, especially the pizza eating in Naples.

Between the Euros, Wimbledon, and now the Olympics, it has been a TV summer packed with sport. After last year’s Covid-induced drought, few are complaining. Still, it is a treat to see new drama back in the shape of I Am Victoria (Channel 4, Thursday).

Created by the Bafta-winning writer-director Dominic Savage, the “I Am” series of dramas began in August 2019 with Vicky McClure in I Am Nicola; Samantha Morton in I Am Kirsty; and Gemma Chan in I Am Hannah. This year’s three, hour-long films are I Am Victoria, with Suranne Jones, I Am Danielle, with Letitia Wright in the lead role, and I Am Maria with Lesley Manville.

It is a stellar line up, no doubt drawn to working with Savage because of the way he likes to involve the actors in every stage of development. Besides collaborating with them in shaping the stories, the dialogue is largely improvised.

In I Am Victoria, Jones plays that character tempting fate, the woman who seems to have it all. Successful business, busy family life, supportive husband (Ashley Walters), and a home straight out of the glossy magazines, Victoria has a lot going for her in life. So why does she seem like a woman on the verge of a you-know-what?

Like Sarah Lancashire and Joanne Froggatt, Jones is one of a number of successful British women actors who started out on Coronation Street. From 1997-2004 she was Karen McDonald, one of the many Mrs McDonalds to have stomped the cobbles. From there she went on to detective drama Vincent, then Kay Mellor’s Strictly Confidential, and Harley Street. By the time of another detective drama, Scott and Bailey, she was on the way to starring roles.

Her biggest break arrived when she was cast as a certain Doctor Foster in the BBC drama of the same name.