It's autumn and there's a bumper crop for viewing

Liz Nicholls

Liz Nicholls

First published in Columns by

Autumn is coming. And, as we launch into September, all the fat flagship shows start sailing in. After a summer that is, as ever, an ocean of repeats, the channels will start bringing out the big guns and vying for our attention.

So, what’s your poison? A bleary-eyed Simon Cowell is already back on, with his bevy of beauties, filtering through another lorryload of tone-deaf and deluded wannabes to find The Talent (and a fresh batch of boy band contenders to cheer Louis up, of course). The X Factor is a juggernaut that chugs on all the way into winter, but, let’s face it, the first few rounds of failure are the best bit. Anyone who has accidently tuned into The Singer Takes It All on C4 over the summer should welcome back the old drama queen that is X Factor (with 10.5million viewers on its launch, which ain’t too shabby). Alan Carr’s creaky and morally dubious talent show was quite surely the most squirmworthy and shambolic primetime offering that has ever been screened.

As each contestant sang for their supper on a supermarket conveyor belt rigged up to send them forwards to a neon-flashing glory hole or backwards through the serving hatch of shame (depending on the votes of the viewers at home, when the voting system wasn’t on the blink), even Simon Cowell must have cringed. If Strictly Come Dancing is your bag, you can stuff your face on Sunday (8pm, BBC1) for another sequin-speckled bun fight, with the crown for most competitive likely to be grabbed by Masterchef “fruit and veg expert” Gregg Wallace or tennis mum Judy Murray. The best celebrity news, though, is that Brucey has gone (hurray!) making way for his replacement… Claudia Winkleman.

As ever, the Americans are set to splash on our screens with the very best drama offerings.

If you haven’t seen the creepy and compelling adverts for The Leftovers and masterfully twisted Boardwalk Empire (both on Sky Altlantic later this month, which was reason enough for me to make sure I had the channel), prepare to be hooked.

For those of us not lucky enough to get concert tickets there was Kate Bush: Running Up That Hill on BBC4. We could bask in the grande dame’s mad, magical music that really did change the face of popular culture (check out the fandom on iPlayer).

Then there’s BBC2’s Louis Theroux’s Extreme Love: Dementia. Now, Louis is adept at sniffing out the weird. His unsettling 2000 documentary When Louis Met Jimmy poked at the underbelly of the as-yet-unmasked broadcasting paedophile Jimmy Saville with unsettling results.

Extreme Love: Dementia is heartbreaking. Set in Phoenix, Arizona, America’s geriatric capital – “a world of encroaching shadows and of keeping relationships alive in circumstances among the strangest and most challenging imaginable” – this show is a delicate exploration of a fate worse than death. Louis, who could could charm the pants off off a nun, is the perfect interviewer to delve into the world of these subjects – some not even that elderly, such as the 49-year-old mum who struggles with basic cognitive tasks such as recognising numbers while her family watch her slowly forget them.

But the programme manages not to be gloomy, even with this subject matter, as an 89-year-old former model kisses her husband and sings and waltzes around The Beatitudes care home. “If you’re going to live in a fragment of time, it’s not a bad fragment, right?” says the son of one confused old lady.

Poignant and sensitive: Louis is master of the small screen.

  • Do you want alerts delivered straight to your phone via our WhatsApp service? Text NEWS or SPORT or NEWS AND SPORT, depending on which services you want, and your full name to 07767 417704. Save our number into your phone’s contacts as Oxford Mail WhatsApp and ensure you have WhatsApp installed.

Travel: Bodrum, Turkey - We’re too busy chilling out

Oxford Mail:

12:00pm Thursday 21st May 2015

Katherine MacAlister discovers ultimate understated luxury in Turkey’s Barbaros Bay

Jersey - Taking the liberty to explore

Oxford Mail:

1:57pm Thursday 14th May 2015

Lucy Ford learns that there is much more to Jersey than TV detective Jim Bergerac

In the shadow of Rubens

Oxford Mail:

3:02pm Thursday 30th April 2015

There is much more to Antwerp than frites and fat ladies, finds Carol Wright

Addicted to Jamon – A foodie’s tour of Spain

Oxford Mail:

4:01pm Thursday 23rd April 2015

Jonathan Broadley likes ham so much he took a foodie tour of Spain to sample it

Accordions, schnapps and adventure: Austrian enchantment in Lech

Oxford Mail:

4:23pm Thursday 16th April 2015

Tim Hughes experiences the delights of traditional Austrian hospitality in Vor Arlberg

Get moving if you want to feel benefit

Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author

11:00am Saturday 11th April 2015

Lisa Cueurden gives motivational tips to get people exercising

Why making sure you are vaccinated is very important

Oxford Mail: Renee Watson

11:00am Saturday 11th April 2015

The single most effective medical intervention EVER is the vaccine...

My mounting problem with Mr Mole’s hills

Oxford Mail: Sheena Patterson

11:00am Saturday 11th April 2015

Sheena Patterson on her mole problem

Studio doors open as city celebrates its art

Oxford Mail:

11:00am Saturday 11th April 2015

With creative types preparing for Oxfordshire Artweeks, festival director Esther Lafferty gives a preview of what is in store during the 2015 event

Why I’m dreaming of a good night’s sleep

Oxford Mail:

11:00am Saturday 11th April 2015

No-one quite knows why a bit of shut-eye is good for us, but, says Renee Watson, it certainly is

Fall under a magic spell at Canadian spectacle

Oxford Mail:

11:00am Saturday 11th April 2015

Breath-taking Niagara Falls spectacle is the high point of Helen Peacocke's trip of a lifetime

‘My fight to beat Bullfinch abusers’

Oxford Mail:

11:00am Saturday 11th April 2015

Book tells how adoptive mum’s love saved troubled teen from a sex and drugs nightmare. Jaine Blackman reports

Bidders might place hot bids for little gems

Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author

11:00am Saturday 11th April 2015

Gill Oliver on auctions

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree