We’ve Been Watching.. ‘When I’m 65’ Season

There was a distinct whiff of irony at the BBC this week as the public service provider ousted 38-year-old Chris Moyles from his Radio One breakfast show slot in favour of Nick-11-years-younger-Grimshaw. Meanwhile, on the box, the Beeb were running ‘When I’m 65’; a season of shows focusing on the older generation designed primarily to show that unlike Michael Parkinson ads for Standard Life, they’re not ageist.

Occupying BBC1’s post-10’oclock-news graveyard slot on Monday was How to Live Beyond 100; a genuinely inspiring retrospective over the life and times of 101 year-old former schoolmaster Harry Wylie. Harry, as it turned out, had lived quite a life, setting up an educational TV network in Florida during the mid-60’s before becoming a headmaster at a failing school in Glasgow, which he quickly turned around.

But why that was all well and good, what we really wanted to know was exactly how do you live on after the Queen sends you that hallowed card of congratulants? While Harry’s answer wasn’t quite as magical as we might have hoped “I use a rowing machine every dayâ€? its earnestness made it rather endearing. How To Live Beyond 100 was a gentil and really rather lovely show that had all of the comforting attributes of Bovril.

Airing on Wednesday and also part of the When I’m 65 season was the first of two-part documentary/reality show hybrid The Town That Never Retired. Bestowed with a 9pm prime-time slot, presumably because it was presented by Apprentice facial expression extraordinaire Nick Hewer and his former sidekick Margaret Mountford, the show sent fourteen pensioners back to the world of work.

Watching Lancashire folk the other side of seventy get stuck into skilled and physically demanding jobs such as plastering and roofing was dead uplifting.

Unfortunately, it then fell into the age-old trap of adding unnecessary competition for dramatic effect “Next time those who are staying face young competitionâ€? announces Mountford towards the end as it’s revealed that the elderly folks progressed to the next recruitment stage by their employers will have to battle it out for a final position in show two, against younger counterparts. This Are you Smarter than a 10 year-old?-ish change of format seemed completely at odds with the show’s serious points about our ageing population and the competence of the elderly. If we’d wanted a gameshow we’d have watched one, although when was the last time you saw someone over the age of seventy on Total Wipeout?