The Musketeers – TV review

This swashbuckling romp will appeal to teenagers dreaming of adventure – and fortysomething TV critics too

We're not bothering with Call the Midwife today – too dreary. Don't call her. Or Mr Selfridge – who cares? I'm seeking adventure, romance, the buckling of swash. Found it! In The Musketeers (BBC1, Sunday).

Two men – father and son, last name d'Artagnan – arrive, weary and wet, at a rustic inn somewhere outside Paris some time in the 1630s. The young man, dripping and tousled, is devilishly handsome. More men arrive, bad guys hiding their faces, they hold up the place. It all kicks off.

And there it is, already, that noise – the metallic swishing sound of tempered-steel sword being whipped from its scabbard. These days it mainly goes with razor adverts and macho celebrity chefs; in 17th-century France it was a more noble noise, it generally meant that honour was about to be defended. There were other good noises around at the time – the sword-on-sword clickety-clackety of the duel, the cocking of pistol, the snorting of steaming horse, the trundle of wooden wheel on cobble, the hearty chuckle of musketeer. All present here, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. This is how it should be.

No! The old man, d'Artagnan Senior, is slain. By Athos! Wasn't Athos a good guy? Now d'Artagnan Junior must avenge his father's death. To Paris!

Oh I see, that was someone else pretending to be Athos, here's the real one, a moody bugger. Plus Porthos and Aramis, dressed in leather. When d'Artagnan joins there's something of a boyband about them. Une Direction? No, because with all their hair and flamboyance and strutting they're more 80s, more like Duran Duran. D'Artagnan Le Bon maybe. Her name is Constance and she dances on the sand …

Oh yes, there are girls too of course, all over the place – marble-skinned lovelies bursting out of their bodices. Aramis, unwisely, is sharing his lady – Adele – with the dastardly Cardinal Richelieu (a splendid Peter Capaldi in splendid scheming-scoundrel mode). D'Artagnan has his pistol grabbed, so to speak, by a maneater named Milady, on the stairs of another inn; it's not far back to his room. But it's Constance from the market who has really caught his eye. She takes him home to treat his wounds and get a proper eyeful of his six-pack.

It's a romp, in every sense. Any excuse, these boys get their tops off. And whip out their swords. [Makes that steel noise]. Golly, I've just found a modern meaning of swashbuckling, on Urban Dictionary.

The Musketeers certainly doesn't take itself too seriously. There are comedy capers, and a comedy landlady at the Paris inn. Some funny accents about too – a bit of French, East End (of London), posh, a hint of Yorkshire. It doesn't have an awful lot to do with Alexandre Dumas. More like Alexander Dumb-Ass possibly? But it's certainly fun. And will appeal to teenagers dreaming of adventure and love, of being swept off their feet by handsome men in leather or rescuing hot French babes. You know, a Merlin/Atlantis audience. As well as new romantics, One Directioners maybe, fortysomething television critics etc.

OH. MY. GOD! Don't Look Down (Channel 4, Sunday). About James Kingston, who seems like a perfectly nice young man except for this hobby. He climbs up cranes, walks out along the arm, and hangs off. That, way down there, is Southampton. And it's making my palms melt and my cojones shrivel up just watching.

And it's not just James who does it; it has become quite a craze, especially in Russia and Ukraine, where several people have died. Not just cranes, but buildings, bridges, communications masts, anything, as long as it's very very high. So James goes to Ukraine, to hook up with this Mustang Wanted guy, who's even nuttier. If you didn't see it, catch up, I dare you. Or just look at the crane climb on YouTube.

And what about James's poor mother, hearing him slipping out of the house before dawn? Imagine. She probably doesn't even ring him to see if he's OK, because she doesn't know what he might be hanging off, and what an unexpected phone call would make him do. I ask him – @JamesLKingston on Twitter – if he switches his phone off during a climb. "Nope," he says, concisely. And if it went off? "I'd answer it."

Oh God. If you know James, and know his number, please please never call it. Just in case.


Sam Wollaston

The GuardianTramp

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