Idris Elba: No Limits
You reach a certain level of stardom and doors open. If you’re not actually cast in a major Hollywood film, you just go off and make any kind of show that appeals to you. Downton Abbey’s Matthew Goode set himself up in an Italian villa and spent two seasons drinking wine. Ewan McGregor jumped on his motorbike and circumnavigated the globe. Idris Elba decided to indulge his passion for speed. Vehicular speed, that is. Over four episodes he sets himself the goal of mastering four absurdly dangerous skills that all involve travelling very, very fast: rally driving, aerobatics, drifting and attempting to break a land speed record.
There is a bit of woo-hoo blokey stuff but what’s most interesting about this series is the great seriousness with which Elba approaches each task, the technical detail included and the useful lesson he must learn over and over again, which is that you have to banish your inner hoon if you’re going to do this stuff well.
How the Victorians Built Britain
The triumphal soundtrack and overwrought narration are vaguely Pythonesque – as the introductory music reached its crescendo I half-expected a giant animated foot to descend and crush everything. Things quickly settle down, though, and it is remarkable to consider the incredible engineering and technological advances made over Queen Victoria’s almost 70-year reign.
From bridges to sewage works, ships to looms, Victorian ingenuity transformed the country and this ends up being as much a sociological and political study as it is about building stuff. Those of you who feel SBS’ programming could be improved by more shows about trains will be delighted to learn this first episode of season two focuses on the explosion of Britain’s railway network in the mid 19th-century.