Television: Dead passengers? Whatever you do, don’t put them in the toilet

‘A Very British Airline’ ends up feeling corporate. That’s not a problem ‘Orange Is the New Black’ has ever had

New recruit: A Very British Airline

New recruit: A Very British Airline


Corporate training courses for new recruits always seem a bit weird to outsiders. They look like cult meetings, but with whiteboards and colour-coded handbooks. British Airways’ course for would-be cabin crew – air hostesses in the days when travel was glamorous; trolley dollies now if you’re sneery – is nearly military in its demands. Four “snapshots” – cautions for any infringement, from a ladder in their tights to being two minutes late – and you’re out.

In the “behind the scenes” documentary A Very British Airline (BBC Two, Monday), one trainer explains tardy Patrick’s empty chair by saying that “the delegate has been terminated”. The remaining recruits are told softly that “they should take some time”, so they file out, dabbing their eyes as if Patrick has died in the middle of the night instead of being sent back to his old job at a call centre.

Groomed to within an inch of their lives, the recruits learn how to deal with a variety of tasks, including what to do with a dead passenger. “Don’t put them in the toilet,” they’re told. “It’s disrespectful.” The dead used to be given eyeshades and newspapers, and have vodka and tonics plonked cheerily on their trays, the recruits are told, but there’s no pretending now.

We briefly meet BA’s Irish chief executive, Willie Walsh, and spend more time with its Dutch branding and customer-experience boss, Frank van der Post. But this show is too torn between pleasing human-interest fans (the training-course colour) and plane spotters (technical minutiae about the new Airbus) to make a really satisfactory film.

There are two more parts to A Very British Airline, and I can’t image what they’ll fill them with. Either the airline business isn’t as vibrant and full of fascinating people as you might imagine or, as seems more likely, British Airways hasn’t become one of the most famous brands in the world without being able to make sure that, no matter how behind-the-scenes it seems, any film about it stays on corporate message.

Getting Keelin Shanley to present The Consumer Show (RTÉ One, Tuesday), which is back for a new run with its jaunty magazine format, is a wise move, and lends the show heft. While her fellow presenters do items on budget food shopping and hair curlers she has a meaty one on the dangers of blind cords.

Four children have died here in cord accidents in their homes in the past five years – an alarming statistic. John Shine of the National Consumer Agency appears to talk about the helpful tips on his agency’s website and the blind-cord safety video they’ve made. (Seriously, who’d bother logging on for that?)

Then it gets a bit Prime Time as Shanley presses home the points that dangerous blinds shouldn’t be allowed on the shelves, that legislation, not guidelines, is needed to ensure children don’t accidentally hang themselves, and that the National Consumer Agency should be getting on with that instead of faffing about with guidelines.

I find the HSE anti-smoking ads featuring the Greystones man Gerry Collins, who has now died from cancer, too sad to watch, so I don’t hold out much hope that I’ll be able to stay with

My Last Summer

(Channel 4, Wednesday). Filmed over two years, the three-part film follows five people, aged from 38 to 58, who have been given terminal diagnoses. Over several weekends they come to a country house to “talk about dying away from suffocating sympathy and free from people who don’t know what to say”.

It feels like an extreme reality-show format that takes a group of people and sets them tasks so that, by the end, only one or two are still standing. And they know it. “It would make a better television programme if one of us died,” says Ben, a 57-year-old who is dying from lung cancer, as he drags furiously on a cigarette.

My Last Summer isn’t framed that way, of course – that would be monstrous – but you can’t help wonder, as we’re introduced to the five, which if any of them will be here in the last of the three parts.

The more outgoing are given more airtime than the quieter ones, who are allowed to fade into the background, as if, despite the series’ lofty ambition to explore the concept of a “better death”, having a terminal illness isn’t enough. It’s as if being louder and able to perform for the camera is still the prized asset. My Last Summer is sad, moving and occasionally uncomfortable. But “a pioneering approach to dying”, as the voiceover says? I don’t think so.

All 13 episodes of the new series of

Orange I

s the New Black appeared

on Netflix yesterday, and by now true fans will have seen the lot. I binge-watched the first brilliant and fresh, crackingly clever season in a single day last summer. I’m more measured this time, watching just the opener of the women’s-prison drama, which isn’t so much a standard sequel as a reboot.

Piper (Taylor Schilling), the preppy girl doing time for drug and money-laundering crimes, is back to where she started at the beginning of the first series, when it was briefly all about her. She’s in a new jail, with a new crime, but this time she has more consciously made the mistake that has put her there, and she’s no longer a wide-eyed prison virgin.

The first series differed from Piper Kerman’s book – the show is based on her true story – mainly through the use of flashbacks that fleshed out the prisoners’ backstories. They helped make this one of the most satisfyingly character-driven dramas of last year. The flashbacks were sparse and sharply revelatory, and the action quickly returned to the brilliantly orchestrated claustrophobia, bizarre hierarchies and power struggles in the women’s prison.

The first episode in season two, directed by Jodie Foster, is all about Piper. Fans hoping to meet Red, Crazy Eyes and the rest of the mesmerising inmates from series one are disappointed, for the moment anyway.

The first series loosely followed the narrative arc of the book, ending when it did. Series two has to make its own story. And in episode one there are so many flashbacks giving information we instinctively knew anyway, or didn’t need to know, about Piper’s childhood – she was a cautious child, her father had an affair – that for the first time Orange Is the New Black dips into being a smart but soapy American drama, not the superlative, relentlessly edgy show it has been.

With luck there’ll be fewer flashbacks and more jail time in the remaining dozen episodes.

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