Christopher Stevens for the Daily Mail
Sporting a beard like the mould on three-week-old bread and growling about how a tough upbringing underpinned his wheeler-dealer business empire, the ‘entrepreneur tsar’ bragging about his elevation to the House of Lords could only be one man.
But hang on a tick. Lord Sir Baron of Clapton Alan Sugar isn’t due on our screens till next week, when The Apprentice returns. So who was this, gazing from plate-glass windows at the City panorama, his fist cradled in his palm as he ground imaginary enemies to dust?
It was Trevor Eve in Unforgotten (ITV), menace seeping like blood through his barrow-boy baritone and reminding us that given a good script (which he definitely didn’t get on his last outing, in BBC1’s The Interceptor) he is a supremely villainous actor.
Christopher Stevens was impressed with the twists in ITV’s Unforgotten, starring Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar
We didn’t see enough of him, partly because the opening episode of this six-parter took a dangerous risk with its sheer complexity, four main plotlines jostling for space, and partly because of the stellar cast.
Usually Eve can expect to be the big name in any production he does, even if the role is a sideline. But look at the quality of his competition here.
It wasn’t just Last Tango’s Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar (of The Kumars At No. 42) as the detectives investigating a historic murder, following the discovery of a skeleton buried under the concrete basement of a Victorian house. We had Bernard Hill as a bullying priest with his fingers in the parish cashbox and a penchant for singing along to One Direction. Tom Courtenay played a stubborn, sinister grandad in a motor-wheelchair, with Gemma Jones as his wife.
And that’s before you mention Hannah Gordon, Cherie Lunghi, Peter Egan, Tessa Peake-Jones, Brian Bovell . . . think of practically any major show of the Seventies and Eighties, and one of that lot was in it.
Writer Chris Lang has hit upon a brilliant format, taking the New Tricks concept of unravelling an ancient crime and adding layers of psychological darkness.
The difficulty was that, with so many rich characters fighting to establish themselves, the opening episode felt cluttered. Like an impatient reader flicking through pages, we hopped from football practice to a church hall to a family meeting, never certain how all these set-ups would connect.
And what we really wanted was to follow Walker and Bhaskar as, with forensic ingenuity, they puzzled out the identity of the victim.
TV is not short of crime dramas, but two twists of detection, the discovery of a car key from the Sixties and the illumination of ink traces in a rotted diary, were outstanding and original.
The solution might have been to screen Unforgotten in three double-length parts, or at least to make the initial episode two hours long. The storytelling could then have been more measured and we would have had time to get used to each set of characters.
Chris Tarrant discovered he may as well have stayed in England after finding cold, wet weather and late trains on his trip attempting to cross the Andes
Extreme Railway Journeys
Two hours would have been a brief interlude for Chris Tarrant as he attempted to cross the Andes by locomotive in Extreme Railway Journeys (C5).
Punctuality isn’t a pressing concern in Chile or Bolivia, and he spent half his time grumbling on platforms in unseasonably cold, wet weather. He could have stayed in England for that, an irony that hadn’t escaped him.
Chris Tarrant cheerful is not a companion to uplift the heart — Chris Tarrant morose is as pleasant to behold as a French lorry driver with gout and a grievance.
He tried to be pleased at the sight of the ingenious railway tracks that zigzagged up the mountain-sides, but the thought of all the Chilean navvies who had died in the construction work made him grumpy again.
Then he discovered that, thanks to a 19th-century feud that was never patched up, Chile and Bolivia hate each other so much they won’t even share a frontier post: Chris had to hike across a mile of no man’s land to get from one border town to another.
The landscapes were splendid and the Andean skylines at sunset were glorious. But heaven save us from ever spending half a day on a wet station platform with Chris Tarrant.