Peter Rhodes on 'boring' Pythons, a great place for a holiday and getting period drama right

A holiday in the Lake District can cost four times as much as a similar break on Italy's Lake Garda, according to the consumer watchdog Which? My advice? Go for it.

Morecambe and Wise – still making us smile
Morecambe and Wise – still making us smile

Paris has its boulevards, Venice its canals and Windermere its watery, Wordsworthy languor. But to dine outdoors by the Hotel Europa in sunny Riva del Garda watching the boats arrive and the trippers come and go, while stuffing your face with pasta and cold Bardolino (they serve their local red wine chilled), is as cheerful and relaxing as anywhere I've ever discovered on holiday. Frankly, Ambleside can wait.

Movie makers should never forget L P Hartley's famous opening words in his novel The Go-Between: “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” Ignore those subtle differences and you get a production which is supposedly set in the past but has “Made in 2021” stamped all through it.

Take the otherwise-excellent thriller The Defeated (Netflix). No expense is spared in the computer-generated images of the ruins of post-war Berlin. But some of the characters are straight out of the present day. The chief of police is a woman (how likely is that in 1946?), the villain has a shaven chest (ditto) and the hero is a New York cop, Max McLaughlin (Taylor Kitsch), a designer-stubbled hard man whose every other word is the F-word. In a genuine hearts-and-minds operation in the 1940s, Max would have been told on day one to moderate his language and get a shave.

Funny thing, comedy. A recording from 1973 shows Morecambe and Wise admitting they were bored by much of Monty Python's Flying Circus and considered the Pythons unprofessional. That's understandable. Comics like Eric and Ernie honed their skills the hard way in music halls and working men's clubs, while the Pythons wafted effortlessly into prime-time television after nothing more challenging than university audiences. But maybe Eric and Ernie's disdain went deeper than that. They were from a deferential, class-based wartime generation who suddenly saw the people they had been taught to admire and respect - soldiers, officers, archbishops and judges - being mocked by kids with plummy accents.

The curious thing is that the old-fashioned comedy of Morecambe and Wise has probably aged better than the Pythons. The sketches with Andre Previn still make me smile, which is more then can be said for that wretched dead parrot.

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