Aidan Smith's TV week: The Great Escape (Channel 5), The Princes and the Press (BBC2), An Audience with Adele (ITV)
And who hasn’t played The Great Escape Game? You know, the characters are read out and you have to remember their respective fates.
Did they get away? How were they most looking forward to spending their freedom? Did they survive?
For instance, Flying Officer Archibald Ives played by Angus Lennie, the Glasgow-born actor who was something of a go-to gadgie for Scottish pluck.
Ives wanted to be sauntering along Sauchiehall Street again, but unfortunately for him pluck wasn’t enough and, desperately trying to evade the guard’s machine guns and vault the fence, he was turned into a human colander.
Later Lennie played a cook in Crossroads and there are bonus points for remembering the character’s name.
Lennie was perfectly cast and I suppose after all these re-showings at Christmas-time you can’t imagine another actor in any of the roles.
But now, after watching The Great Escape, Channel 5’s documentary about the true story of Stalag Luft III, I’m not so sure.
For instance, Richard Attenborough, who played the mastermind of the big breakout, based on Squadron Leader Roger Bushell.
The latter’s idea of a good war, according to historian Guy Walters, was “shooting down a load of Germans then back home for tea, medals and women – boy was he an alpha male!” That doesn’t really sound like dear Dickie, does it?
To be fair to the doc, well told by a refreshingly different selection of talking heads rather than the usual suspects, it did not reference the movie.
No need to do this when the truth was so thrilling. An “escape-proof” camp. Built on stilts to compromise tunnelling, also on sand (ditto).
But no: the POWs intended to burrow 9m beneath the shifting surface and 30m under the wire. “Completely insane,” says Prof Hugh Hunt, an expert in engineering dynamics.
Ah, but the POWs had assistance from within. Nazi-hating Germans who helped Bushell make contact with MI9 back in Blighty and others who could be bribed with chocolate and ciggies.
These were the “stooges”. Escape committee members were called “ferrets”, “penguins” and suchlike.
Why try to escape, though? Why not see out the bally war in relative comfort? After all, Walters says Stalag Luft III was no worse than “a minor boys’ boarding school in some brutal part of Britain”.
Well, escaping was “essentially a sport, giving the Hun a run for his money”. And one day they might make a film about your derring-do.
The Great Escape is the doc of the week. But the one garnering the most attention – a tabloid tsunami of it – is The Princes and the Press (BBC2).
The two sides involved here edge warily round each other like in one of those ancient, strange, interminable tribal dances the Royals must observe on their travels.
Truces, when they happen, are always uneasy.
Reporter Amol Rajan talks of “The Deal”, possibly hoping he’s got a series as weighty as the recent Blair & Brown: The New Labour Revolution. But this is undermined somewhat by the row about a tiara.
You remember this one. It prompted Prince Harry to, allegedly, snap: “What Meghan wants, Meghan gets.”
Tiaragate did not seem to be part of The Deal, explained by Ragan thus: “The Royal Family get to live in a palace, and as long as they grant access and a steady supply of stories and pictures they’ve given favourable coverage.”
Still, the tabs loved the unfavourable Tiaragate.
Similar to the inmates of Stalag Luft III, the residents of Buck House seem to be involved in “essentially a sport”. But Harry doesn’t like to play.
“A visceral reaction to cameras, notebooks, journalists,” remarks a Royal correspondent. And presumably his brother didn’t much care for The Deal either when he was being dubbed the gap-year prince – Workshy Wills the waster.
As in real sport, fortunes can change in an instant. When the Duchess of Cambridge wouldn’t give good face – her hair was always in the way – this caused resentment among the hacks.
The Sussexes overtook Wills and Kate in the popularity stakes, only now the Cambridges are back on top.
Not unreasonably, Ragan wonders why it always has to be binary – one couple winning while the other are battling relegation.
Sport, mate, although sometimes there’s dirty play, such as when a private investigator, Gavin Burrows, hacks into Harry’s ex-girlfriend Chelsy Davy’s voicemails to try to find out her sexual past then flogs the info to the red-tops. “I’m very sorry,” he tells Ragan, but far too late for Harry.
Men, relationships – they’re Adele’s Stalag Luft III. Then she escapes and writes brilliant songs about them.
In An Audience with Adele (ITV), she spills her guts and does her dirty washing in public, performing her latest break-up belters for key workers and, down the front rattling their jewellery, celebs.
I wasn’t invited, but don’t think I’d have wanted to be sat behind Boy George and his very tall hat, or anywhere close to Emma Thompson, dancing like a whirligig.
The best question comes from Alan Carr – what would her exes say in a song about her?
She says: “Well, it would have to be called ‘No One Like You’, but I couldn’t ever see that happening. Most of them couldn’t even do normal everyday tasks.” Ouch.
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