TV review: One Man and his Dog; David Suchet on the Orient ExpressForget The Apprentice, this was one TV final where the bleating was left to the sheep
I've just had a friend staying, from the country. It had been a while since he'd last been to London and he arrived in the evening, wide-eyed and excited about it – all the people, the madness, his own insignificance on the planet.
I'm a bit like that with One Man and his Dog (BBC2, Saturday). Or the opposite really, because this is the countryside and I'm a townie. The brilliant thing about OMAHD is that it brings the country to me so I don't have to go to it, and deal with the smells and the cold and all of that. Anyway, I watch it with a mixture of confusion and wonder. It's so amazing that just by whistling, these people can get their dogs to steer whole gangs of sheep through gates, and cajole them into pens. (Is that even right, a gang of sheep? Or is it a posse?) The dogs are brilliant, so intelligent and quick and eager to please. Where I live, owning a dog isn't even about making a fashion statement. They're only good for defecating on the pavement and attacking children.
I like the sheep too. So they're a bit sheepish and lack leadership qualities, but they're very pretty. Look, that one looks a bit like Kate Humble. Oh, it is Kate Humble. I see, she's presenting.
Kate's got some proper country folk to help, real men with red faces who know stuff. Are the judges expecting a good competition? "Oh yes," says one. "Good," says Kate. See, I told you it was exciting. "Who's going to win?" she asks an expert. "On paper it could be Wales," he says. But on paper counts for nothing, and in the junior competition Wales turns out to be a bit useless. Very undisciplined, I'd say, from my position of knowing nothing at all. It all goes wrong in the shedding ring where sheepdog Eryri Taran (translation: Snowdonia Thunder) shows shedloads of naivity and overenthusiasm, totally fails to separate off two sheep, and loses points for young handler Elin Pyrs (it can be One Woman and her Dog too). "It's a lonely place, that shedding ring," explains one of the experts.
When the juniors are done, it's time for the big boys, who get twice as many dogs and sheep to handle – two and 10 respectively. It's incredible: 10 stupid animals being made to perform complicated manoeuvres on the other side of a field by two clever animals which are controlled, via whistling, by an even cleverer one. One of the country dudes puts it more succinctly: "There's three species, really: there's you, there's your dogs, and there's the sheep, and if you get it all right at once, you maybe win the trial."
But we don't find out just yet. There's a whole second day to go, and at the time of writing I don't know who the winner is (the BBC quite rightly is keeping it a keenly guarded secret). Never mind Strictly Come Dancing and The Apprentice, this is the one that really counts this weekend. My money's on the Irish, I think they're looking invincible.
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