The Story of Women and Art, The Graham Norton Show and The One Show – best TV on tonight

Emily Blunt, Hay Festival and empowered women artists top the bill for our top telly picks tonight Friday 30th May


The One Show – 7pm, BBC1


As part of Director-General Tony Hall’s arts push, the BBC is camping out at Britain’s biggest book festival, Hay. The idea, newly appointed head of arts Jonty Claypole recently told RT, is to “reach audiences who might not necessarily have thought they were interested in Hay”. So as well as extensive coverage on Radio 3 and 4, The One Show is taking a holiday.

Alex Jones and Chris Evans will be shooting the breeze with well-read guests in the festival’s garden. I hope they remember to pack wellingtons and a sturdy umbrella: blustery downpours are as frequent a visitor to this picturesque Welsh market town as literary lions.

The Story of Women and Art – 9pm, BBC2

“Nerve” is the quality shared by all the remarkable female artists Professor Amanda Vickery has celebrated in this series. The courage to live and create art in the way they wanted, not just to reflect the world but also to change it, is how she describes it. 

Every single one of these women is so talented and has such a fascinating life story that it’s a scandal they’re not all household names. Not many of us would be able to list the works of impressionist painter Berthe Morisot or recall the fluid, draped clothing designed by Madeleine Vionnet that liberated French women from corsets. Equally few would be able to explain how the delicate Lady Elizabeth Butler, who never set foot on a battlefield, overturned centuries of male prejudice to paint war scenes of extraordinary pathos and power.

At least contemporary audiences are aware of the pioneering work of Gertrude Jekyll and Georgia O’Keeffe. But hats off (if we women were still to wear hats on a daily basis) to Vickery for filling in the gaps in our education so vividly.

The Graham Norton Show – 10:35pm, BBC1

Either actress Emily Blunt is a smart, funny person or she’s unbelievably good at chat shows. If you’ve seen her previous appearance on Norton’s show – memorably jousting with Russell Brand – you’ll know she’s terrific value, and the fact that she had a baby this year can only, hopefully, add to her stock of funny stories. 

It says something for the show’s pulling power that Blunt is probably the least starry name on the sofa. Her co-star in sci-fi thriller Edge of Tomorrow Tom Cruise returns to the show – oh yes – while Seth MacFarlane and Charlize Theron drop by to promote their comedy western A Million Ways to Die in the West. Making up the numbers on music duties are a band called Coldplay.


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