AN exchange at the beginning of Imagine … Stephen Frears: Director for Hire (BBC1, Monday, 10.40pm) sums up the subject of Alan Yentob’s excellent profile rather nicely.

Hugh Grant: “If you ask me what [Stephen Frears’] genius is, I would say he wants to be entertained. He watches the monitor, he has an absolute instinct for what is entertaining or not.”


Yentob: “But?”

Grant: “He’s a grumpy f*****.”

Frears’ legendary crankiness receives almost as many mentions as the 81-year-old’s films. In fact, he spends a fair bit of the time with Yentob smiling.

It helps that the pair have known each other since Adam was an usher at the Royal Court. It’s handy, too, that Yentob does his homework and doesn’t ask fluffy questions (luvvie ones occasionally, fluffy never).

A look down the list of Frears' films on imdb turns up The Grifters and The Queen (for which he was Oscar-nominated), My Beautiful Launderette, Dangerous Liaisons, Philomena (which follows Imagine at 11.45pm), and many others.

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These days Frears is as likely to be found making television, taking him full circle back to his Play for Today period at the BBC. His many collaborations with Grant includes A Very English Scandal, a drama about the Thorpe saga, for BBC1.

Yentob catches up with Frears in Vienna, where the director is filming a series for HBO. Starring Kate Winslet and Hugh Grant, The Palace is a drama about the collapse of a European dictatorship.

After a brief look at Frears’ early days and love of cinema, it is on to the films. My Beautiful Launderette, as much a take-down of Thatcher’s Britain as it was a love story, is remembered by its writer, Hanif Kureishi. The movie was made for just £400,000, a relative pittance at the time compared to Hollywood’s offerings.

Launderette was Frears’ ticket into Hollywood’s directing elite. Still a relative unknown to the Americans, he was given a foreign period piece titled Dangerous Liaisons to direct. Three Oscars followed. Martin Scorsese asked him to helm the neo-noir drama The Grifters. It wasn’t all Oscars and calls from Marty. Among his failures Frears lists the “catastrophic” Mary Reilly, starring Julia Roberts as an Irish housemaid, which is as bad as it sounds.

Frears returned to the UK and hasn’t looked back. He has done the occasional film in the US since, but his interests are closer to home now. As well as a film nut he is a politics anorak. It was Frears who directed The Deal, with Michael Sheen and David Morrissey playing Blair and Brown. “Blair always denied having seen the film, which I didn’t believe for one minute,” says Frears.

There is not much on his personal life, save for a declaration that he has never met a weak woman. And yes, he does acknowledge being “an absolute pain in the ****.” From the warmth of the tributes here, he has been forgiven.

HeraldScotland: The Gold,. Brian Boyce (Hugh Bonneville) and Nicki Jennings (Charlotte Spencer)The Gold,. Brian Boyce (Hugh Bonneville) and Nicki Jennings (Charlotte Spencer) (Image: free)

Don your best shoulder-padded PJs and grab the eighties-themed snacks (mini quiches anyone?), it’s the final instalment of The Gold (BBC1, Sunday, 9pm). What do you mean it was binge-watched weeks ago? Some of us have gone old school and taken Neil Forsyth’s superb drama about the Brink’s-Mat robbery week by week.

At the beginning I was sniffy about the “Kenny” Noye character, as played by blonde, tousled and charismatic Jack Lowden, fearing the drama was glamourising the man and intellectualising the motives of those involved with the crime. I still think Noye got off lightly, but I’m more at peace with the class war politics of Forsyth’s six-part drama.

High points: the Edwyn Cooper character, played by Dominic Cooper, deserves a drama in his own right; Sean Harris, brilliant as ever; the Nicki-Tony detective pairing (Charlotte Spencer and Emun Elliott); and the general swagger and style of the piece. Bring on the Baftas.

Just between us, I have always fancied a holiday in a campervan, as seen in Motorhoming Yorkshire with Merton and Webster (Channel 5, Thursday, 7pm). The Merton is comedian Paul and the Webster is fellow comic and actor Suki, his wife.

According to this, half a million people go motorhoming in the UK every summer. Funny, it feels more. Especially when you are stuck behind one, as is often the case here with Merton and Webster.

Not that this chilled pair stress about it. They don’t seem to fret over much, happy to pootle along talking about this or that and making each other laugh. There are worse ways to spend the time.