Dermot O’Leary and Sting talk in Reel Stories

Saturday:Reel Stories: Sting; (BBC2, 9.25pm)

By The Newsroom
Friday, 10th December 2021, 5:00 pm

Sting turned 70 in October, but he’s not thinking about retirement – he released his latest album, The Bridge, last month.

However, if his milestone birthday has left him in a reflective mood, he’s in luck as he becomes the latest legendary musician to have a Saturday-night schedule on BBC2 dedicated to him.

It begins with a TOTP2 Police Special, which features performances of some of the band’s biggest hits, such as Roxanne, Can’t Stand Losing You, Message in a Bottle, Walking on the Moon and Every Breath You Take as well as a few of Sting’s solo classics like Fields of Gold.

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There’s also the 2013 programme Sting: When the Last Ship Sails. It focuses on songs from the album and musical The Last Ship, which was inspired by the shipbuilding community of Wallsend, Northumberland, where the musician was born and raised. (Although back then he was known as Gordon Sumner – the nickname Sting came about due to a black-and-yellow striped jumper he wore while playing with the Phoenix Jazzmen.)

Going back further into the archives, the evening concludes with the documentary Old Grey Whistle Test: Police in the East, which finds Annie Nightingale following Sting and his then bandmates Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers on their 1980 tour of Japan, Hong Kong, India, Egypt and Greece, complete with interviews and performance footage.

However, the main event is the new Reel Stories: Sting. For people who haven’t seen the occasional series before, it sees Dermot O’Leary inviting a musician to join him in a cinema to watch back clips from across their career. Previously he’s chatted to Noel Gallagher, Dave Grohl, Kylie Minogue and Rod Stewart, but it seems Dermot is particularly excited about this latest edition.

He says: “One of my earliest memories was watching the Police on Top of the Pops. I hadn’t met Sting before and it was a real privilege to sit down and listen to his story, which spans decades of musical history.”

There should certainly be plenty of archive footage to choose from. Sting made his TV debut on The Old Grey Whistle Test back in 1978 and since then much of his career has been captured on screen, from his performance at Live Aid in 1985 to his reunion tour with the Police in 2007.

And that’s just the music – if he wanted to, O’Leary could dedicate another episode to Sting’s acting career, which began with Quadrophenia in 1979 and also took in the controversial Brimstone and Treacle, the 1984 version of Dune and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. And then of course there’s his activism – he’s campaigned on human rights and environmental issues.

So, given all he’s crammed into his 70 years, it’s not surprising that Sting hasn’t had much of a chance to watch himself on the TV, and he’s never seen many of the clips – until now.

They do bring back memories though, as he shares his experiences and stories with Dermot and the viewers.

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