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CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: Whoever wrote this drivel about Anne Boleyn, off with their heads! 

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Anne Boleyn

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Extra Life: A Short Story of Living Longer  

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Pish! Faugh! My lord Thomas Cromwell is annoyed. And well he might be, good sirrah. Not long ago he was the hero of Wolf Hall.

Now he’s reduced to a walk-on part in a steaming pile of codswallop about Henry VIII’s doomed wife, Anne Boleyn (C5). Plotting to loot the monasteries, Cromwell (Barry Ward) was so infuriated by the queen’s opposition that he really did stalk from the room, muttering: ‘Pish! Faugh!’

If only he’d thrown in a ‘Gadzooks!’ or ‘Odds bodkins!’ — though there’s time for that as the drama continues tonight and tomorrow. Practically every line in this Tudor costume melodrama was a shocker, lurching from fake Shakespeare to millennial slang.

In the opening scene, Anne (Jodie Turner-Smith) was predicting a glorious reign for their unborn son: ‘He is our blood combined, the sky itself will not limit him.’

‘One for the history books,’ agreed the king.

Jodie Turner-Smith is a stately, statuesque actress, and she is convincingly regal, in magnificent dresses. She’s also black, and C5 bosses seem worried that viewers will baulk at that.

Anne is the focus throughout and, if the script wasn't so lumbering, that would be a refreshingly welcome way to retell the story. It's about time history was seen through Anne's eyes. But half the dialogue is lumpen, and the rest is ludicrous. Pictured: Jodie Turner-Smith as Anne Boleyn

Anne is the focus throughout and, if the script wasn’t so lumbering, that would be a refreshingly welcome way to retell the story. It’s about time history was seen through Anne’s eyes. But half the dialogue is lumpen, and the rest is ludicrous. Pictured: Jodie Turner-Smith as Anne Boleyn

The preview came with a 37-page press release and a note: ‘We kindly ask if journalists can read the introduction on Re-Imagining Anne Boleyn, as some elements may be helpful.’ Dutifully, I read it.

On page five, I learned: ‘The producers adopted the approach of identity-conscious casting, which makes space for and embraces how actors and artists can bring their whole identities or even parts of their identities to a character.’ Pish and faugh.

Henry is played by Mark Stanley as a fractious, middle-ranking business executive, the sort who drives a company Vauxhall. Anne is the focus throughout and, if the script wasn’t so lumbering, that would be a refreshingly welcome way to retell the story.

Catastrophe of the night 

Chefs Julien and Elise saw their biscuit tower collapse, scattering macaroons, in Bake Off: The Professionals (C4).

Elise wanted to save the unbroken ones. If they only touched the floor for three seconds, that’s OK . . . isn’t it?

It’s about time history was seen through Anne’s eyes. But half the dialogue is lumpen, and the rest is ludicrous. Irritated by the squawking peacocks, she announces that she wants them shot. With what — cannon? Handguns were unknown in England in 1536.

And when she notes her husband’s wandering eye is taken with lady-in-waiting Jane Seymour (Lola Petticrew), Anne summons her for a walk: ‘I want to take a moment to talk with you, woman to woman.’ Then she kisses her. ‘Yes,’ she declares, ‘I can see the appeal.’

I suppose a certain sort of bloke might find this attractive. Perhaps the sequel will be called The Six Lesbian Wives Of Henry VIII, which sounds like a movie that Penthouse boss Bob Guccione would want to make.

The historical travesties were just as annoying in Extra Life: A Short History Of Living Longer (BBC4). 

Writer Steven Johnson was moaning that, while memorials abound to military heroes, there are almost none to doctors.

That’s simply wrong. For a start, there’s a whacking great statue in Gloucester to Edward Jenner, the doctor who discovered the smallpox vaccine, a story told in the first episode. 

This time, Johnson was talking about 19th-century breakthroughs — though he didn’t mention William Budd, whose work on typhoid is celebrated with two plaques in Bristol.

Part of the show was taken up with advertising whizzy ‘wearable tech’ that monitors heartbeat, oxygen levels and so on.

If you assumed these gizmos were overpriced tat for the fashion-conscious, Johnson explained they might be able to spot a Covid infection more than a week before symptoms show, by measuring vital signs. 

Everyone else, from pubs to shops, can trace us and tell us to self-isolate. Why not our watches?

Part of the show was taken up with advertising whizzy 'wearable tech' that monitors heartbeat, oxygen levels and so on. Pictured: Steven Johnson in Extra Life: A Short History Of Living Longer

Part of the show was taken up with advertising whizzy ‘wearable tech’ that monitors heartbeat, oxygen levels and so on. Pictured: Steven Johnson in Extra Life: A Short History Of Living Longer