Greatest Cities In The World Review: Roman Ruins

April 21, 2010 by  
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History or travelogue? It’s hard to say.

I mean, if you are going to present a history programme you should have the decency to walk archly around candle-lit churches and libraries whispering camply about dead monarchs, while accusing contemporary politicians of being unworthy of polishing Thomas Cromwell’s roundhead. Then popping up on Question Time accusing Scotland of being full of horrid little lepers. Griff Rhys Jones is a little too nice. And lightweight. Much too lightweight.

But then being the straight one from an unfunny comedy double act in the eighties, doesn’t qualify you to be a travel presenter either. Just turning up in a city, making twee remarks about the local traffic policemen in a nasally voice isn’t enough. Really you need to tour around the Tropic of Cancer or Capricorn or the Equator or something equally desperate. Or you need to go from pole to pole or do something in eighty days. A gimmick! I mean, even Ben Fogle cries all the way across the Atlantic in a rowboat, or cries all the way to the North Pole in a pair of skis. Griff Rhys Jones just grins.

And if he’s not prepared to cry, then his gimmick needs to be a bit more rigorous than pitching up in Rome and making not terribly original observations about how the traffic is murderous, the coffee delicious and the church important. Kibbutz in the Gaza Strip with Griff Rhys Jones would be more impressive. Griff Rhys Jones’s Great North Korean River Crossings, would certainly rack up the tension. This programme is just dull.

Rome might be one of the world’s greatest cities; it’s certainly one of the most historic. But in his hands neither element is interestingly explored. Like an ill-advised tryst with one of Thailand’s most famous exotic residents, this programme is neither one nor t’other. Yet should Jones decide Bankok is one of the world’s greatest cities you can bet he’d take the excitement out of that too.