Alison Rowat TV premieres: House of Maxwell; Pilgrimage: the route of the Scottish islands; Travel Man: 48 hours in the Basque Country


As news spread that media mogul Robert Maxwell had disappeared from his yacht off the coast of Tenerife, a dark farce began to unfold in London.

“What do you think happened?” asks a voice on the end of the line.

“Hush! Don’t talk on the phone!” comes the response.

Too late. The recorded calls and other never-before-seen and never-before-seen material are part of a treasure trove at the center of a gripping three-part documentary, House of Maxwell (BBC2, Monday, 9 p.m.).

Maxwell had been secretly bugging his executives’ phones for years. Out of sheer vanity, he also had an in-house camera crew following him around.

Say the Maxwell name in relation to the scandal now and the name most likely to pop up, certainly among younger generations, is his daughter, Ghislaine, a convicted child sex trafficker for Jeffrey Epstein and others.

As the film begins, the camera follows one of its many columnists, Scott Sharp, creator of the show True Crime Loser, as he travels to the Metropolitan Detention Center in New York where she is being held.

“Fifty years this family has been in scandal,” Sharp says. “First the dad, then the brothers, and lo and behold, Ghislaine is on the chopping block. Stay tuned.”

Stay tuned indeed. The film ventures back and forth from Maxwell’s final days on his yacht, Lady Ghislaine, as it charts her life and times. What a life it was. The Czechoslovakia-born poor farmer’s son who became a war hero, KGB/MI6 double agent, MP, self-made millionaire, media giant who took on Rupert Murdoch (“a moth-eaten kangaroo” Maxwell the was calling) in the Fleet Street traffic battle to end all battles, Maxwell was a character who seemed to have stepped out of the pages of an airport novel.

Behind the facade, it was another story, which, even today, takes your breath away. Produced by Colin Barr (Glasgow Girls, Damilola, Our Loved Boy), this film tells the story brilliantly.

Along with the pictures and tapes, there’s an A-list of talking heads, ranging from Tom Bower, ace biographer and regular spine alongside Maxwell, to various executives who watched the publisher work their way to the top of a empire.

The quality bodes well for the next two games, starting next week with the Maxwell brothers and ending with Ghislaine. Her father’s favorite, she brought Maxwell’s name back into the headlines in a way few could have imagined. What would the old man have thought? This is just one of the many questions he left behind. Such is the record of this infamous family that no one would dare close Ghislaine’s story with the words “the end”. This one could run and run again.

Pilgrimage: The Road to the Scottish Isles (BBC2, Friday, 9 p.m.) finds another group of reasonably good Kent faces on the road looking for…what exactly?

There is certainly a religious theme as the group of seven trace the footsteps of St Columba from Donegal to Iona. Most participants claim a faith, while others are not entirely sure what they believe. It doesn’t seem like it would make for exciting viewing, but like the previous three series, which took the roads of Santiago, Istanbul and Rome, the combination of the open road and wide-ranging conversations somehow works. of another.

If all else fails, there’s the scenery to enjoy, which in the first episode consists of Ireland in the rain. In keeping with the topic, there are no five star hotels at the end of the day, just ordinary accommodation which is a revelation in itself.

It all depends on the celebrity mix, which here ranges from TV types Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen (“I don’t think I’ve ever walked this far without wearing Cuban heels”), Nick Hewer and Scarlett Moffatt to a cricketer, a Paralympian, a comedian and an actor. Like pilgrims, you might be surprised where the path leads.

The vacation industry is back and so are the travel trade shows.

Travel Man: 48 Hours in the Basque Country (Channel 4, Monday, 9 p.m.) reunites with host Joe Lycett and his guest, comedian James Acaster, on a short jaunt from Bilbao to San Sebastian.

Travel Man is your kind of cheap and cheerful travel diary, never probing deep and always eager to move on to the next thing, whether it’s a museum or a restaurant serving up the latest designer bar snacks.

As in the pilgrimage, the pleasure depends on who makes the journey. I find Lycett less of a pot than former presenter Richard Ayoade, but everyone has their own thing, as one might say on Pilgrimage. Either way, each show is only half an hour long, so if you don’t fancy a particular couple or destination, skip to the next one (the whole series will be on All 4 from of Monday).

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