We’ve seen more than one show where a celebrity tours around the country with a camera crew and chats to people about stuff. In fact, we’re all seen more than a dozen.
But when the celebrity is Paul Merton, who’s never knowingly short of an off-the-cuff gag, and when the topic is Britain’s surprisingly high number of ‘request stop’ railway stations, then the ‘famous person having a lovely holiday on your money’ format suddenly seems like a good idea.
Some six per cent of railway stations have no scheduled stops. Trains will just pull up if someone on the platform signals them to do so.
And a reasonable proportion of that six per cent of station are in quite interesting locations, near salmon farms and nuclear power stations, for instance: the kind of places that you might know about intellectually, but not necessarily have much knowledge of.
Merton visits just a few such places, and while there aids in the artificial insemination of fish, helps dispose of nuclear waste and generally asks the kinds of question that we’d ask if only we were there.
Oh, and he operates one of the last of the country’s dwindling number of manually-operated level crossings.
When someone’s this enthusiastic about their subject, it’s hard not to be caught up in it.
Paul Merton’s Secret Stations airs on Chennel 4 at 8pm on Sunday, May 8.