TV review: The Aristocrats - C4
The Aristocrats C4
"HAPPY families are all alike," goes the first line in Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy's 19th century forerunner of Fifty Shades Of Grey. "Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."
According to The Aristocrats, Channel 4's look at the dinner gong community, no family is truer of this adage than the Marlboroughs of Blenheim Palace.
Although the Mitchells of Albert Square come close.
Blenheim's fame, like Lisa Riley's, is derived from its large scale.
The Marlboroughs have been there for years, although their tenancy is threatened by the collapse of the cigarette business.
Running it is 'Sunny', 11th Duke of Marlborough, 86 years old, courteous and fastidious.
Hoping to get his hands on it is 56-year-old son Jamie, better known as the hellraising Marquess of Blandford, a man whose excessive lifestyle made Keith Richards look like Andy Pandy.
Jamie has served three prison terms – for drugs, failure to pay maintenance, and road rage.
To be fair, he's never had an overdue library book.
The Aristocrats followed Jamie as he attempted to convince his dad and the palace's trustees that he was fit to run it.
Sunny went to court in 1994 to disinherit his son, the first time an aristocrat had done so for 100 years, and that was on Upstairs Downstairs.
At 187 rooms, Blenheim is no small responsibility.
The Hoovering alone is a military operation. "When you've got a monster like that," noted Jamie, surveying the structure, "albeit a pretty monster, it's rather like having a high maintenance wife."
Except you can't stick 50 quid in her cleavage and send her out for a frock to keep her sweet.
The house can only survive by having the plebs, sorry the public, in.
And so they were having a new lavatory block fitted. "It's the one place," noted an aide, "you can be sure that everyone will go at least once in a visit."
Not only that but it saves the hedges being over-watered.
Jamie, who's got a lived-in look about him (when I first saw him I thought a settee had burst), has his own ideas.
He wants a 'huge fountain in the lake – the 9th wonder of the world'.
To make it greener, it could go off every time someone flushed the toilet.
His father was somewhat more conservative.
"I'm very particular about verges," he said. "I think it gives a good impression of a well kept place."
It's where they're going wrong at Glastonbury.
The toilet block was opened by David Cameron. He refused to go on camera. "Number 10," we heard, "didn't want him filmed in the presence of the aristocracy."
He must have found the Jubilee excruciating.