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Louis Theroux Interviews…Dame Judi Dench

Rating: *****

The Great British Bake Off 

Rating: ****

Dame Judi Dench twinkles so tirelessly that to call her a national treasure misses the point. She ought to be our national Christmas tree decoration.

Star of the National Theatre stage and TikTok, she’s known to countless millions worldwide as James Bond’s spymaster, M; at the door of her cottage is a mat emblazoned with the words ‘I’ve been expecting you, Mr Bond’.

‘That’s not for you,’ she told her guest, on Louis Theroux Interviews… Dame Judi Dench (BBC2). The implication was that it is there in case Pierce Brosnan or Daniel Craig drops round for tea.

The conversation when they do will be resolutely light and, well, twinkly. You won’t catch Dame Judi indulging in maudlin chat. She refused to answer Louis’s questions about mortality or the afterlife.

Most of his forays were deflected with mischievous jokes. Whenever he referred to his research, or produced video clips from her decades of theatre triumphs, she teasingly accused him of being sneaky.

The conversation when they do will be resolutely light and, well, twinkly. You won¿t catch Dame Judi indulging in maudlin chat. She refused to answer Louis¿s questions about mortality or the afterlife

The conversation when they do will be resolutely light and, well, twinkly. You won’t catch Dame Judi indulging in maudlin chat. She refused to answer Louis’s questions about mortality or the afterlife

Twice she threatened to throw him out, for daring to mention her movies that fell short of Shakespearean heights, such as The Chronicles Of Riddick — sci-fi twaddle with Hollywood’s Vin Diesel.

She could hardly refuse to make the film, Judi explained: Mr Diesel sent so many bouquets to her dressing room at the Old Vic they went halfway down the corridor.

Louis’s guileless interrogation techniques were hardly needed. Dame Judi eagerly chatted about her favourite roles and reminisced about her late, adored husband, Michael Williams.

She is fiercely loyal to friends, even those whose reputation is wrecked and who can never be of any use to her future career. The disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein, now in jail for a catalogue of sexual assaults, was always a gentleman to her, she insisted.

‘He was jokey and funny and kind and complimentary,’ she said, adding that, nevertheless, she had the utmost sympathy for the women he abused.

Hosts Matt Lucas and Noel Fielding amused themselves by addressing her as Prulio Iglesias, the Spanish singer. They forgot to mention the hits Baking The Beguine and To All The Girls I¿ve Loafed Before

 Hosts Matt Lucas and Noel Fielding amused themselves by addressing her as Prulio Iglesias, the Spanish singer. They forgot to mention the hits Baking The Beguine and To All The Girls I’ve Loafed Before

This was a rare moment when the conversation turned serious. She preferred her Hollywood tales to be playful and light — revealing, for instance, that when Clint Eastwood is directing, he’s as taciturn as he is in front of the camera. The Man With No Name doesn’t say ‘Action!’ or ‘Cut!’, just ‘In your own time’ and ‘Stop’.

Mostly, Judi was happy to send herself up with stories about filming TV ads or even her parrot Sweetheart’s reaction when she tripped and fell recently. ‘Wotcha doing?’ the bird repeated for half an hour.

She was fearlessly honest about her failing sight, from macular degeneration. If the chat strayed into unwanted areas, though, she diverted it expertly — often by asking Louis about himself. She did this so well we need a return match: Dame Judi Interviews… Louis T. He’ll be powerless to keep any secrets from her.

Prue Leith, on The Great British Bake Off (C4), might make a colourful Christmas decoration too, with her gaudy glasses and multi-coloured beads.

Hosts Matt Lucas and Noel Fielding amused themselves by addressing her as Prulio Iglesias, the Spanish singer. They forgot to mention the hits Baking The Beguine and To All The Girls I’ve Loafed Before.

This was quarter-final week, when the show starts to get tense. The bakers were challenged to make sweet vol au vents and spring rolls, to demonstrate their pastry skills.

Not for the first time, in a series that has also featured Mexican recipes, these choices seemed a bit forced. Spring rolls — really?

Gale force of the night: The tail-end of Storm Claudio was shaking my windows as I watched Trawlermen: Hunting The Catch (C4). If bad weather can make a house seem to rock on its foundations, the effects at sea are shocking to imagine. How brave those fishermen are.

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