TONY ON TV: Plenty of thrills and chills for armchair viewers

WINTER’s a grim time for many of us, but the BBC’s ratcheting up the chills, as well as the thrills, with extensive coverage of the 22nd Winter Olympics now on at the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.

During this 16-day sports fest the BBC are broadcasting 200 hours of network TV coverage, more than 650 hours of live action via six HD streams as well as analysis, insight, news and highlights from Clare Balding and team (Robin Cousins, Jonathan Edwards, Hazel Irving and Amy Williams), who all seem more at home on the snow rather than those forelorn contestants skidding around at home in ITV’s ‘Dancing on Ice.’

And for some light banter away from the serious stuff tune into ‘Alan Davies Apres- Ski’ (BBC2, Friday) in which the comedian and a selection of guest from the worlds of comedy, entertainment and sport take an irreverent look at all the news and action from the Games.

The Sochi Olympics are rumoured to have cost around £30 billion, something akin to my most recent bill from British Gas, so it’s good to see that TV still has some winter warmers that don’t need the thermostat cranking up.

These include the silliness of ‘Benidorm’ (ITV1, Thursday), which wraps up its sixth holiday season tomorrow evening, but not before Joan Collins as the head of the hotel chain jets in with some shock news for the Solana team.

More sun is to be had in the Caribbean in the third series of ‘Death in Paradise’ (BBC1, Tuesday) with Kris Marshall as DI Goodman, who seems to have settled into the role after the demise of the Ben Miller character. However, it’s no holiday for him as he is called into catch a murder suspect after one of a group of birdwatchers, visiting the island to catch a sight of the famous Saint Marie Green Parrot, is found stabbed with his own knife.

Pigs, rather than our feathered friends, are to the fore again in a second series of BBC1’s ‘Blandings’ (based on P. G. Wodehouse’s classic novels) which is filmed entirely on location at Crom Castle in Northern Ireland.

Wise-cracking Tim Vine joins a cast of comedy greats appearing in this seven-part Sunday afternoon series, taking the role of the long-suffering loyal butler Beaches attending the every whim of Lord Emsworth (Timothy Spall) who would rather be left in peace with his beloved pig, the Empress.

Not sure what the Chinese, with their fondness for pork dishes, would make of Lord Emsworth’s beast, but plenty of facts about the global superpower are delivered by BBC economics editor Robert Peston in ‘How China Fooled the World’ on BBC2 next Tuesday.

Among the nuggets are that over the past five years the country has built 30 new airports, the three longest bridges in the world, started metro systems in 25 cities and added 26,000 miles of motorway. If only that list could include an upgrade of the A38 from Mansfield to McArthurGlen, now that would be news to report.