This column first appeared on Reaction.

Chesapeake Shores, Netflix

In the 1970s it was The Waltons and Little House of the Prairie that provided us with so-called ‘Feel Good’ programmes. They went out of fashion for quite a long time but in recent years, the advent of Netflix and Amazon Prime, and more recently Disney and Apple TV have brought this type of entertainment back to our screens. And about time too. During lockdown they are much needed. A few weeks ago I wrote about the brilliant Netflix series ‘Virgin River’. Based on rural life in a north Californian community it had some great story lines and very relatable characters. Once I had finished the two 10 episode long series, I was desperate to find something similar. I had developed a routine and when I come off air on LBC at 10pm, I have something to eat while watching the BBC News at Ten and catching up on emails. And then I want to relax and watch something which I don’t have to think about too deeply. I call it ‘Switch Off TV’. I just watch it and let my brain start to calm down. And then I’m ready for bed.

When I finished ‘Virgin River’ I asked for suggestions as to watch next and someone suggested ‘Chesapeake Shores’. It is set in the eponymous (fictional) town on the coast of Maryland, not far from Baltimore and it follows the fortunes of four generations of the O’Brien family. Most of the storylines are based on the personal relationships between the different characters and the morals and ethical dilemmas they encounter. It can be both moving and schmaltzy at the same time. The most well known character is Jesse Metcalfe (the hunky gardener in Desperate Housewives) whi plays the rather troubled Trace Riley, the love interest of the main character in the first season, Abby O’Brien. They were teenage sweethearts until Abby upped and left Chesapeake Shores at the age of 16 for the bright lights of New York without so much a by your leave. Trace made a name for himself as a Nashville singer but a tragedy brings him back to his home town coincidentally at the very same time that Abby returns to live there for reasons I won’t divulge for fear of issuing a spoiler.

There are 5 children in the O’Brien family, all in their twenties or thirties. All their characters could easily be in ‘The Waltons’. Abby is Mary Ellen. Bree is Erin. Jess is Elizabeth, Connor is Jim Bob and Kevin is Jason. I think.

Some people will think this is ‘Mush TV’ and they’d probably be right. But sometimes we don’t need action films. We don’t need more murder, blood and gore. Sometimes we need to feel comfortable, happy and optimistic. This is one of those times. And I for one am grateful I have another 25 episodes to get through. I may be some time.


Ian King Live, Sky News

You might think that as a publicly funded broadcaster, presumably with public service broadcasting at its heart, that the BBC would devote a lot of time and effort to making programmes about business and enterprise. You might think that in its news output it would have a regular, if not daily, business programme as part of its news output. You’d be wrong. The BBC does none of these things. It pays lip service to business news at a time when it should be front and centre of its output.

Sky, on the other hand, broadcasts an hour of prime time business based news each day, fronted by former Sun City Editor Ian King. He used to have half an hour at 1.30pm, but in recent months he’s moved to the 10am-11am prime time slot. When it was announced I must admit I thought it was a bizarre scheduling decision by Sky, but it has worked out brilliantly. It’s a bright and breezy hour, fast moving and informative. King doesn’t talk down to his audience, he makes his subject accessible and interesting, even if you’re not particularly involved in the world of business and commerce. He has a massive contacts book and uses it to the full. Business people often resist broadcast interviews because they always imagine they’ll be done over in the same way politicians routinely are. King isn’t interested in doing this, partly because he knows if he does it, they’ll never return. This can lead on occasion to some interviews being unnecessarily soft and appear as if it’s one mate interviewing another. One example was an interview with IAG head Willie Walsh at the height of the dispute over working conditions.

However, that’s a minor carp. Sky are to be congratulated for giving this show a prominent position in their line-up, and the BBC should be ashamed that they haven’t done something similar.