Defiant smoker Hockney shows no sign of being extinguished: CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV
David Hockney: A Celebration
Where was the trigger warning? These days, after all, supermarkets have to shield tobacco products behind shutters for fear of vulnerable individuals catching sight of 20 Bensons.
And when a theatre in London staged a play about Groucho Marx last year, audiences were alerted by email to the danger of witnessing an actor with ‘a prop cigar’.
Yet viewers of David Hockney: A Celebration (Sky Arts) were confronted without warning by the spectacle of the world’s greatest living artist chatting — while smoking cigarettes. What’s more, he was unrepentant. ‘Smoking doesn’t matter,’ he told Melvyn Bragg. ‘Some people can smoke and some people can’t. It’s just all these bossy people, I think. Too many.’
Through a cloud of fumes, he pointed to a nicotine yellow badge on his lapel that read, ‘End bossiness soon,’ and chuckled over the diffident wording: ‘If I’d have put “End bossiness now,” well, that would have been a bit too bossy, wouldn’t it?’
Hockney lives in France, thank goodness. If he’d tried lighting up in front of a film crew in his native Yorkshire, someone might have turned a fire extinguisher on him.
Viewers of David Hockney: A Celebration (Sky Arts) were confronted without warning by the spectacle of the world’s greatest living artist chatting — while smoking cigarettes. Hockney is pictured with Melvyn Bragg
‘Smoking doesn’t matter,’ Hockney told Bragg. ‘Some people can smoke and some people can’t. It’s just all these bossy people, I think. Too many.’
Aged 86, he shows no sign of being extinguished. This gentle retrospective — artist and interviewer are old chums — showcased every stage of his multivarious career, from the defiantly crude early images to the glorious Californian swimming pools, and collages of photos to vibrant landscapes created with an iPad.
Some of his anecdotes have been recited so often they have become almost meaningless to him. He garbled the oft-told joke of how he was inspired by a 1960s newspaper headline: ‘Man clings all night to cliff,’ fantasising that it referred to Cliff Richard.
Other stories were more illuminating, as Melvyn coaxed him to talk about his parents. The first painting Hockney ever sold, for £10 in 1954 while he was still at art school, was of his father. The teenage portraitist was reluctant to let the work go, until Dad pointed out, ‘You can do another’ — a philosophy he’s lived by ever since.
In 2018, another vintage Hockney portrait, of a soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend, sold for $90 million (£71m), an auction record for a work by a living artist. You have to hope that whoever bought that first picture for a tenner looked after it.
No one was actually smoking in the CID room, as The Tower (ITV1) returned, but there was some distinctly old-school banter. DS Sarah Collins (Gemma Whelan), transferring to the homicide squad, found herself teamed with a lazy, mouthy detective constable known to everyone as Fat Elaine (Ella Smith). This crime drama made a shaky start when it launched in 2019. DS Collins seemed to be defined by her orange anorak and her strops, rather than any talent as a detective.
Gemma Whelan as DS Sarah Collins and Jimmy Akingbola as DC Steve Bradshaw
But the series has found its feet and so has she, so much that ITV has already ordered a third season. It’s particularly good at building an interview scene, allowing time for the dialogue to circle and then spiral inwards until it reaches the point.
Tahirah Sharif plays rookie PC Lizzie Adama, cleared of misconduct but still apt to let her emotions run away with her and upset an investigation. DS Collins can’t stand her, and so of course they’ll have to solve a crime together.
But the real clash is between the face fur of the two leading men, Emmett J. Scanlan as a smooth-talking detective inspector and Jimmy Akingbola as our heroine’s former boyfriend.
Jimmy’s whiskers are bushier, Emmett’s more waxed, but it’s obvious that both men spend more time thinking about their beards than catching bad guys.
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