On the box: Prince Philip at 90 | Paul Merton's Birth Of Hollywood | All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace

AND the winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award is... Sir Trevor McDonald. Well done, McDoughnut, I said to myself during the British Academy Television Awards (BBC1, Sunday, 8pm).

You were cool in those international hotspots and in the right place for a truly momentous story which shaped our civilisation: the Argentina World Cup when drugs cops caught a Scotland footballer with a Sherbet Fountain.

But as your career highlights were celebrated, I waited for a clip from your interview with the Duke of Edinburgh which I knew would never come.

A low point for McDoughnut, for sure.

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He'd got exclusive access to Sandringham but came back with nothing more than a dollop of mud, licked off the royal gumboots. The most penetrating question I can remember was: "You must take a great deal of satisfaction over what you've accomplished on the estate." Yes, a peerless display of outcisive outerviewing.

Or it was until Prince Philip At 90. ITV again, only this time the channel had wheeled out a big gun – Alan Titchmarsh. Titch: "You were thrust into combat at a very early age."

HRH: "So were lots of other people." "Was fatherhood a role you were conscious of fulfilling?" "No, I was just a father." "It (the role of Queen's consort] has been a unique position." "There have been several others, Prince Albert, Prince George."

"Were you (when appointed president of one of the 847 organisations he heads] trying to make a difference?" "I was asked to do it." "You've been voted Oldie of the Year." HRH: "So what?"

I haven't inserted the harrumphs in those exchanges because there were too many. Quite a lot of exasperated wheezing as well – and deathly glowering.

It wasn't as if Titchmarsh strayed into difficult areas, re Indian-installed fuseboxes, spear-throwing Aborigines, alcoholic Scots, the eating habits of the Cantonese (anything that moves which isn't human) and the eating habits of Papua New Guineans (humans).

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Maybe HRH would have appreciated more of a challenge, but Titchmarsh probably got the gig on condition he sat there like a servile gonk and laughed at all the Duke's jokes.

Frost/Nixon this definitely wasn't. Jings, it wasn't even Alan Titchmarsh vs Lionel Blair on Pebble Mill At One. I'm not sure that ever happened, by the way, but if it didn't a trick was missed.

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Heath Vs Wilson: The 10 Year Duel (BBC4, Wednesday, 9pm) was a proper heavyweight contest, the battle for political supremacy between the nowt-taken-out Yorkshireman and the jolly sailor, as handy with an orchestra baton as a tiller.

This programme tried hard to find similarities: born the same year, they were both grammar-school boys, and after the last of the Tories' Old Etonians (for a while, anyway) retired to the grouse moor, Ted was the closest thing the party could find to a Harold. Ultimately, though, not that close.

Wilson was at ease with everyone, Beatles and mere mortals, while Heath was uncomfortable in his own skin. And Ted had that voice: smug even when he was being sincere.

James Mason's voice wasn't exactly warm and welcoming but that wasn't the point of him: he was rarely trying to sell us a Common Market or a three-day week.

It was the voice Kevin Brownlow and David Gill used to tell the story of the early days of the movie industry in their magnificent Hollywood, back in the 1980s when ITV had a crown with lots of jewels.

Paul Merton's Birth Of Hollywood is the same tale but the comedian utilised a different voice to describe how the European emigres who founded the great studios first travelled "free fousand" miles to New York, then another "free fousand" to the orange groves of southern California.

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This bothered me in a way Merton's estuary tones never bother me on Have I Got News For You, but this series soon settled down and I started to enjoy it.

Merton's love of old comedians is well known and only he would have detained us with the anorak's attention to detail concerning a piece of Charlie Chaplin malarkey ruined by a director's bad cut, missing the shot of him hooking his feet on a window ledge after a classic tumble.

After that, Chaplin directed himself.

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The revelation of Hollywood was those old films being shown at the correct speed; not jerky (with honkytonk piano) but slow and dream-like.

In All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace, Adam Curtis did something similar to that famous clip of Monica Lewinsky being introduced to Bill Clinton for the first time – just one of many in a montage typical of this brilliant documentarist who found the connection between the utopian novels of Ayn Rand, a generation of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and the US economist Alan Greenspan, a key figure in the credit crunch and a follower of Rand's ideas of "virtuous selfishness".

Rand died in 1982, so in the wake of the financial meltdown no-one could say to her, as Hardy used to say to Laurel: "Here's another nice mess you've gotten me into."


STV, Tuesday, 8pm


BBC2, Friday, 9.30pm


BBC2, Monday, 9pm

This article was first published in Scotland On Sunday, 29 May, 2011