Joanna Lumley’s Nile Review: Walk The Plank

April 12, 2010 by  
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JOANNA LUMLEY’S NILE: Monday April 12th, ITV, 9pm ALERT ME

In Joanna Lumley’s Nile we watch as ‘one of Britain’s most treasured stars’ whispers and apologises her way along this world famous river. I guess you have to like Joanna Lumley to even consider tuning in, and I found her a tedious narrator as she takes us to various parts of Egypt on this inconclusive journey.

Following the passion for Egyptology in the 1920s, us Brits have always been intrigued by Egypt, and specifically the Nile, which is what inexplicably brings Joanna Lumley to the area. The 50 minutes basically just consists of Lumley trying to be overly nice to locals, whilst the programme desperately attempts to link what this posh woman is doing, to the rites and passages of the ancient Egyptians. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t wash.

Via lingering camera shots and hackneyed Arabic sounding music, Joanna Lumley’s Nile has tried to attach some mystique and intrigue to the stretch of water. Of course there is intrigue, but we don’t get so much of an informative look at it, more an examination of the minutiae of Lumley’s travelling habits. She’s pleasant and intelligent, but you don’t get a sense of passion or intrigue, which shows in the flimsy material that makes up the show.

The romanticism the programme tries to conjure is most lacking when Jo goes on a cruise. She attempts to make it sound special and part of an ancient custom, but there’s something about cruises that will always me feel ill. All those people having organised fun in such close proximity is my worst nightmare. There’s no way of escaping either. You’d end up brainwashed by karaoke and bad food before the ship reached the next harbour. Additionally, with Joanna Lumley’s hushed voice trying to tell me the traditions and history behind the cruise, whilst the camera shows us pissed parents wrapping each other up in toilet roll, I’m going to be even less convinced. I’d rather swim.

She’s following the Nile to the heart of Africa, but whilst Joanna pops champagne and thanks someone four times for bringing her a coffee, you just wonder why she’s doing it. I haven’t learnt much, and I’m not particularly enjoying her presence on screen. I’d much rather have the guy from Wonders of the Solar System explaining things to be in that sincere, Lancashire voice.

Indeed, the crucial difference is that Brian Cox would be looking at stars regardless of whether there was a camera in his face, Lumley, I suspect, would not be embarking on a revelatory trip of Egypt had ITV not approached her agent with an attractive programme premise.

Petite Belge says:

Watched the first programme recently on Belgian TV and I must say I share the journalist’s view. I am a big fan of Joanna Lumley, she is fantastic as Patsy in Ab Fab and I’m even old enough to remember her as Purdy in the Avengers but I’m afraid she is just not the right person for the job (forgive me Joanna). I was considering a trip to Egypt (never been there) but the idea now just doesn’t seem attactive anymore, quite to the contrary.

kay kennedy says:

Well I watched all 4 of these programmes and although I have been to Africa many times, and Egypt on numerous occassions, I found this programme both informative and delightful. Why is Joanna Lumley doing this? you ask. Beacuse it was very informative and a sheer delight to watch. Well done Joanna.

Tash says:

Interesting. The whole article just reeks of jealousy. I wasn’t sure whether to be bothered watching this or not as i’ve been to Egypt many times myself and done the ‘god awful’ cruise as you described it. But as i’m an adult I chose not to bother with wrapping my partner in toilet roll. I thought journalists were supposed to provide balance views – but I see no balance here. I have not seen any other programmes that present Sudan in anything but a bad light. Same for Ethiopia and Rwanda. Media can spin anything however they want, and TBH i’m sick of vitriol spewed all over our media channels. It seems if someone is nice about anything these days it’s deemed boring.

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