TV Preview, The Windsors Royal Wedding Special (Channel 4, Tuesday): We are most amused

Kathryn Drysdale as Meghan and Richard Goulding as Harry in ‘The Windsors Royal Wedding Special’, living up to the show's regal standards of lampoonery: Channel 4
Kathryn Drysdale as Meghan and Richard Goulding as Harry in ‘The Windsors Royal Wedding Special’, living up to the show's regal standards of lampoonery: Channel 4

The viewing highlight of the week has to be the royal wedding. Not the actual royal wedding, mind you, though I appreciate it will command a global audience running into billions, only the North Koreans being spared the majestic spectacle of a parasite marrying an soap actress.

No, I mean The Windsors Royal Wedding Special. This lives up to all the regal standards of amusement set in the regular series, and I was delighted to see the comedy versions of drunken simpleton Harry (Richard Goulding) and the lovely Meghan (Kathryn Drysdale) making satirical sense of the whole sorry national lunacy.

I think you too will be amused by what happens to HRH Prince Henry of Wales on his stag night, how Fergie (Katy Wix) manages to smuggle herself into he wedding, how evil Pippa (Morgana Robinson) sabotages Kate’s “usp” (Louise Ford), evil Camilla (Haydn Gwynne) sabotages Meghan, and William (Hugh Skinner) struggles with the challenges of fatherhood (ie organising now the three nannies). Plus there are the supreme aristocratic caricatures perfected by Celeste Dring (Eugenie) and Ellie White (Beatrice), and there’s a very special royal wedding role for the leader of the opposition (Tom Basden).

The Windsors Royal Wedding Special is so good it is worth camping out in the rain for two weeks just to get a glimpse of, but you can just press the button marked “4” on your remote control on Tuesday night or find it on the internet somewhere.

The national festival of fawning starts, by the way, on BBC1 on Friday night with The Royal Wedding: They’re Getting Married in the Morning. I’m actually hoping they’ll do an all-night live stream from Harry’s stag do as it progresses from pub to bar to nightclub to casino to brothel to the Royal Chapel of All Saints at Windsor, but I think we’ll probably just get a load of stuff from the flunkies about flower-arranging. Missed opportunity.

As a sort of warmup act to tide us all over til The Big Day, we also have BBC Young Musician of the Year 2018: The Grand Final on Sunday night (yes, it’s party time for the kids on the clavichords), and, even more exciting, The Eurovision Song Contest; Grand Final, with Graham Norton doing a better job of not sneering at Johnny Foreigner than Terry Wogan ever did (always thought his wig would have been an alternative Eurovision contestant, even if it couldn’t sing or play the tambourine, which, in fact, it could).

Maybe, like me, you’re especially looking forward to the Greek entry, if only to see how many votes it elicits from the Turks, and I look forward to being gobsmacked by the generosity of the Serbian audience towards their Bosnian and Croatian neighbours. Maybe Britain will win, just as we’re getting out of the customs union and the single market. There’s a joke in there somewhere: let me know if you find it.

Even if you’ve traced your family tree back to someone who died of syphilis in the late 19th century (ie just about everyone), or starved to death in medieval times (ditto), you’ve probably not managed to get all the way back to the Neanderthals. Still, the BBC is offering you the chance to do precisely that in Neanderthals – Meet the Ancestors.

In recent years the Neanderthals have enjoyed a bit of reputational rehabilitation, moving from knuckle-dragging apemen to sensitive, brainy types, who invented mindfulness and tai chi, and liked to dress well. Apparently 2 per cent, on the average, of your DNA is Neanderthal, proving that there’s a little bit of caveperson in everyone.

Smarter than he looks: ‘Neanderthals – Meet the Ancestors’ (BBC)
Smarter than he looks: ‘Neanderthals – Meet the Ancestors’ (BBC)

In this very entertaining show, Neanderthal fan/expert Ella Al-Shamahi team up with actual movie ape man Andy Serkis to create a scientifically accurate 3D working avatar of a real Neanderthal, complete with Ukip membership card and nomination papers for the next party leadership contest. Unfair on Neanderthals, I know.

At the other extreme of evolution (ie the one that’s not happened yet and may never), Channel 4’s Humans returns for a third series. It seems relations between the Synths (androids) and us real humans are hitting an all-time low, as humans reject claims for “synth rights”. A kind of politicised version of Westworld, then, and no bad thing.

Patrick Melrose is this week’s Sky showpiece, starring Benedict Cumberbatch – who else? – as the eponymous druggie shooting his dragon around 1980s New York. Obviously this adaptation of an Edward St Aubyn novel adds far too much glamour to the squalid reality of controlled substances, but it’s got Cumberbatch in it, so I suppose that’s all right then.

Turning to the non-human world, this week’s stars are pangolins and spider monkeys. Pangolins: the Words Most Wanted Animal will break your heart as you witness the vast, industrial quantities of those cute little armoured anteaters being slaughtered to manufacture bogus “traditional” medicine in China, their meat cut up to get chucked in a stir fry. The Secret Life of the Zoo is a bit more cheery, because it focuses on the randy habits of some monkeys, and the sheer ugliness of the naked mole rat, possibly the world’s least loved land mammal, after that woman who put a cat into a wheelie bin. Some of us will never forget.

I should also mention that you can find some very funny mini-movies, Comedy Shorts, on the BBC iPlayer by Spencer Jones, Nick Helm, Sara Pascoe and Tim Key. Jones’s work is especially odd, and startling, like a modern day Spike Milligan, but all these midget gems represent proof, were any needed, that British comedy is going through its most creative phase in decades. Some good news there, them, and I hope the BBC will invest some more time and exposure in these remarkable talents.

The Windsors Royal Wedding Special (Channel 4, Tuesday 9pm); The Royal Wedding: They’re Getting Married in the Morning (BBC1, Friday 7pm); BBC Young Musician 2018: The Grand Final (BBC4, Sunday 7pm); Eurovision Song Contest: Grand Final (BBC1, Saturday 8pm); Neanderthals – Meet the Ancestors (BBC2, Sunday 8pm); Humans (Channel 4, Thursday 9pm); Patrick Melrose (Sky Atlantic, Sunday 2am); Pangolins: the World’s Most Wanted Animal (BBC2, Tuesday 8pm); Comedy Shorts (BBC iPlayer)