So what was Baldrick's cunning plan? Sadly, he didn't have one: CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night's TV

Time Crashers (Channel 4) 

Rating:

Country Strife: Abz On The Farm (BBC2)

Rating:

Tony Robinson, the actor formerly known as Baldrick, built his second career as a telly archaeologist digging up half-forgotten odds and ends.

He’s excelled himself in Time Crashers (C4), by excavating a collection of celebrities so obscure it would take a specialist academic to identify half of them.

The most recognisable was Fern Britton, the former This Morning presenter. Then there was some bloke off Coronation Street, and that woman who co-starred in Cheers during the Nineties when it had stopped being funny, and whatshername from BBC Breakfast.

The most recognisable face in Time Crashers was Fern Britton (right), the former This Morning presenter. Then there was some bloke off Coronation Street, and that woman who co-starred in Cheers during the Nineties when it had stopped being funny, and whatshername from BBC Breakfast

The most recognisable face in Time Crashers was Fern Britton (right), the former This Morning presenter. Then there was some bloke off Coronation Street, and that woman who co-starred in Cheers during the Nineties when it had stopped being funny, and whatshername from BBC Breakfast

Oh, and Lily Allen’s dad. But lord only knows who the rest were, because I didn’t.

Sir Tony had also unearthed the bones of a format that has already been thoroughly investigated on TV — fake time travel. In various recent series we’ve had people pretending to be Edwardian servants, we’ve watched a family eating meals from the Sixties and Seventies, and historians building a medieval castle.

We’ve also had celebs living as servants and paupers in Victorian costumes. So what was Baldrick’s cunning plan to reinvent this overworked telly concept? He didn’t have one. Time Crashers was stale and unconvincing, with a fraction of the educational value of the children’s show Horrible Histories.

The producers had raided the Wolf Hall dressing-up box and costumed the celebs as servants at a Tudor mansion in 1588, before setting them a succession of degrading tasks. They bleached linen in buckets of urine, slept on stone floors and butchered carcases in the kitchen.

Sir Tony had also unearthed the bones of a format that has already been thoroughly investigated on TV — fake time travel

Sir Tony had also unearthed the bones of a format that has already been thoroughly investigated on TV — fake time travel

Up to her elbows in gore, kitchen maid Fern skinned a black boar’s head, and then casually remarked how much the animal reminded her of a labrador.

This was telly that left you wondering whether there was anything that some people wouldn’t do if a camera was pointed at them. Luckily, we couldn’t see much of it. It wasn’t just the clothes that were stolen from Wolf Hall: so was the lighting. It appeared to be done with candles.

The producers might argue they were striving for realism, but this was a show that wanted to pretend the celebs were magically teleported into the past and woke up dumbstruck in Elizabethan togs.

Everything was getting worse and worse still for ex-pop star Abz Love and his girlfriend Vicky, in their half-baked efforts to escape the rat race on Country Strife: Abz On The Farm

Everything was getting worse and worse still for ex-pop star Abz Love and his girlfriend Vicky, in their half-baked efforts to escape the rat race on Country Strife: Abz On The Farm

And were we really expected to believe the ten of them had cooked all the food for the final feast, when it included a dozen huge pies, a peacock and more roast chickens than they could cram onto the banqueting tables? The whole charade was nonsense. Switching the lights on wouldn’t have made it any worse.

Everything was getting worse and worse still for ex-pop star Abz Love and his girlfriend Vicky, in their half-baked efforts to escape the rat race on Country Strife: Abz On The Farm (BBC2). Their ideas of rural living must have been gleaned from Glastonbury, because they’ve bought a farmhouse that is basically a tent made out of bricks in the middle of a quagmire.

MUM OF THE WEEKEND

Good parents abounded on Animal Mums (ITV) — affectionate rhinos, gentle orangutans and even a tender crocodile. But the most extraordinary was Lee, a male zookeeper in Torquay, who adopted a baby fur seal and taught it to swim. Chaps can be good mothers, too.

Londoner Abz, who was part of a long-forgotten boy band from the Nineties called Five, is a sweetly clueless bloke who has been living a life of plastic fame so long that he doesn’t know how else to exist. He probably talks to imaginary cameras even when the reality TV crew isn’t there.

He speaks in an affected patois that surely sounds in his head like Bob Marley, though it’s more like Richard Madeley doing an Ali G impression.

His new neighbours in West Wales are too polite to mention his accent. But when they try to chat with him, Abz just gawps and pleads for a translator.

He and Vicky are truly sincere about wanting to embrace the Good Life. They’re ready to dig vegetable patches and milk cows. Abz even smashed up a guitar for firewood, and his gusto spoke louder than anything for his determination to leave the music business behind.

But while he might be streetwise, this ageing rapper is defenceless in the country lanes. The first property he tried to buy featured half a roof, a tumbledown barn and had been on the market for five years.

Abz offered the full asking price, no haggling. Those country folk are going to eat him alive.

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