The Men Who Made Us Spend, House of Cards, Music That Defined a Generation – best TV on tonight

Stay glued to your telly with our top picks tonight Saturday 12 July

The Men Who Made Us Spend – 9pm, BBC2


Fancy an upgrade to your mobile handset? Thinking of getting a new sofa? Oh, you capitalist patsy, you! Jacques Peretti knows exactly why you’re locked into a consumerist cycle of shopping and throwing away, and he tells us in another of his crisply argued series.

The gist of it is that, whereas once we bought stuff that lasted, and only replaced it when it was knackered, now consumer goods are designed to become obsolete, to be thrown away and replaced in favour of something newer, shinier and more fashionable.

This hasn’t happened by accident but as a result of antiheroes whom Peretti names and shames, from the 1920s light-bulb-makers’ cartel to Swatch watches to Steve Jobs at Apple. The programme is full of striking images, too: one look at a post-festival field strewn with new tents that have been used once then discarded, and you see Peretti’s point.

House of Cards – 7pm, Drama

Even if you haven’t seen the American House of Cards, starring Kevin Spacey, you’ll probably have heard all the chatter about it. So it’s a good time to catch up on the original BBC adaptation of Michael Dobbs’s political thriller.

The magnificent Ian Richardson is Francis Urquhart, Conservative party chief whip and a master of the dark arts. He’s a charming Machiavelli who plots to seize the ultimate prize: to become prime minister.

Richardson is thoroughly magnetic, giving us one of THE great portraits of out-and-out winning wickedness ever seen on television. He even makes us complicit as he addresses us directly with that immortal line: “You might very well think that, but of course I couldn’t possibly comment.”

Greenwich Village: Music That Defined a Generation – 7pm, Sky Arts 1

The moment politics enters music it has a deadening effect; polemics are rarely things of beauty. But in the 1960s, in lower Manhattan, a collection of boho artists, folk singers and socially-conscious groups provided a catchy soundtrack to the counterculture springing up around them in Greenwich Village. 

Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and the Mamas and the Papas could be earnest, yet they knew their way around a tune. Here, Kris Kristofferson, Don McLean and Lucy and Carly Simon reflect on how the Village troubadours collectively became the voice of a generation.


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