A pointless wilderness travelogue hits the BBC

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Any travel activity should be reconsidered if you’re issued with “bear spray”.Unless of course, you are indeed a black bear, in which case, someone’s being very rude about your personal hygiene. This is what contestants in the new series of Race Across The World (BBC One) were given by a ranger/Canadian Mountie-type person in Vancouver when they first set out on their trip across Canada.

“When do I use it?” asked one of the “racers?”, adding, sensibly, “When it’s charging at you?” “Yes…” said the smiley ranger. It’s the sort of in-joke that only Canadians would enjoy.

Race Across the World, or more accurately this time, “Canada”, has been promoted to BBC One. This means… well, nothing much at all, only that someone in your living room will no doubt say, “Wasn’t this on BBC Two before” just to check everyone is still awake.

But no need for snoozing here. This race turned out to be very tense – and very close. It didn’t start this way. Friends Tricia and Kathy, who had first met aged 13, couldn’t decide, despite decades of friendship, how to get out of the picturesque park in which they found themselves, and on their way to the first checkpoint.

Canada looked difficult to me. This is not a comment on the people, but more on how you can get around in this giant country without access to the internet – the point of the game – because, crucially, there’s no one really to ask. Where is everyone? Is daytime telly here the best in the entire world?

According to the World Wide Web, one of the most popular soap operas is something called Coronation Street with 800,000 viewers. Three cheers for the cobbles.

Hitchhiking by the roadside is illegal, so our brave challengers were accosting innocent people in small garage services, “Hello, I’m from England, and I’m lost…”

Throwing themselves on the charity of these good people who, after encouragement (sometimes pleading) worked well. One couple even went wild swimming with a local to celebrate the place where he first met his girlfriend, or similar. We were touched.

Unbelievably, our personal favourites, Tricia & Kathy, despite leaving that park lastly, and taking a circuitous route inland, arrived at the ferry port which would take them to the checkpoint along with most of the others. Extraordinary.

It’s one very addictive show, not least for the two sets of dads and daughters who are battling it out as teams.

“It’s a bloody nightmare,” said one dad – and he hadn’t even seen the black bear in episode two yet.

Well, Brucie would have been proud. Hasn’t his protege, Anton du Beke, done well? Firstly, star dancer in Strictly, then a top judge. Now, he’s partnering fellow Strictly hoofer Giovanni Pernice on the campest – and best – tour of Sicily ever – in Anton and Giovanni’s Adventures in Sicily (BBC One).

With nods to Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin this duo soft-shoed their way around this pretty Mediterranean island, showing a side to it we have never seen before.

James May and that noted travelogue specialist Ray Winstone have both toured the island recently with varying success, but Gio and Anton brought both a lightness of touch, together with local knowledge to make most of us clamour for a travel agent.

Just as Fred, Gino and Gordon are breaking up – Gino D’Campo is “leaving” – Anton and Gio are poised to take over the mantle of shows that involve saying silly things to each other in the baking sunshine.

And don’t they do it well – “You’re just a lovely, lovely guy,” says Gio to Anton. The Englishman returns with, “You’ll be a wonderful, wonderful father one day…” Have they got something to tell us?

It was certainly a case of opposites attract in terms of style, Anton sporting traditional panama and pale chinos, straight from a Fifties croquet club, while Gio was more louche, in shorts and unbuttoned shirt, wherever possible.

But the Italian won through with the singing voice, stunning everyone with his rendition of O Sole Mio in a sandstone cave – all the greats start here – leaving Anton to deliver the much-needed line, “I feel a Cornetto coming on…”

Bellissimo, chaps!

Grisly Grace

You would never hear many people say, “I really enjoy watching Grace (ITV)…” “Endure,” is much more likely. The Peter James novels have returned to ITV for another series, starting with Dead To You, a modern-day horror story.

I’m bound to say the grisly tale was completely dead to me. Indeed, it repelled me throughout. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, but there will be complaints to Ofcom because of the challenging sexual content before the watershed.

It was too much. Most of us will have recoiled in horror; if you didn’t, well, it takes all sorts. Nicely acted as ever by John Simm, but not for me. Pleasant dreams, all.

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