Last Night’s TV – Sue Johnston’s Shangri-La

by Lynn Connolly

I had expected this to be much like every other travelogue to which we’ve been subjected of late; a celebrity goes off to ‘find’ him/herself and words like “personal journey” are bandied about, but this one was exceptional and, in my opinion, peerless.

Sue Johnston – for whom I’ve always had a great affection – is many things, but one could never accuse her of being in awe of herself, as so many celebrities are, and for this film, Sue lowered the guard that’s been a mainstay of her career, if not her entire life, to allow us a front row seat as she achieved a childhood dream.

It made for charming viewing as we heard her recalling how her mother had captivated her with stories of the Far East, and how that sense of mystery and wonder had deepened when she read Lost Horizon by James Hilton.

And I could very easily relate to that in particular because that book held me captive for many years too. I would read and re-read it and imagine myself lost in a world that was as close to heaven on earth as we mortals could get.

I could also relate to Sue’s sense of being emotionally overwhelmed as she watched the beautiful and profuse ceremonies that form part of everyday life for the Chinese and Tibetans. Buddhism and all its teachings do tend to hit right at the soft spot – for me anyway – and I find I’m left wondering why they should affect me so, while at the same time, not wanting the answer lest it ruin the mysticism.

But on a practical note, the scenery that was recorded for this film was breathtaking. I’d like to have found an adjective that hasn’t been done to death to describe it, but oft used though it is, breathtaking is really the only word for it.

The views of Tiger Leap gorge were awe inspiring, and one can only imagine how much more so in real life they would be. And the culmination of Sue’s trip was equally as astounding…

When we saw her standing on the hillside surveying the valley and the looming majesty of the snow-capped mountain, I shed a little tear along with her as she told how happy she felt and how “privileged” she felt to be able to see it for herself.

This really was a beautiful film, and if you missed it, treat yourself to an hour over the weekend maybe to catch it on iPlayer here.

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.