Monthly Archives: June 2013

‘Your Face Sounds Familiar’ (ITV) Review

ITV’s much-publicised Your Face Sounds Familiar began on Saturday night. It’s a simple format: six celebrities each week take to the stage as a different music legend, the identity of which is chosen by the Randomiser (or ‘Ramdoniser’, as Paddy accidentally called it), all in the hope of accumulating enough votes from the judges, their fellow performers and the viewers at home (during a six minute-long phone vote) to be crowned that night’s winner and therefore win £10,000 for their chosen charity. Then the following week they do it all again – only as different people and with a different guest judge.

FRIVOLOUS FUN’

Every part of me is telling me that I shouldn’t like Your Face Sounds Familiar. I really want to write it off as the epitome of car-crash TV, just as I did with Splash! in January. I can’t, though, because I actually enjoyed it. I mean let’s face it, it’s just a bit of Saturday night frivolous fun – Celebrity Stars in Their Eyes on a larger scale.

Absolutely everything about it was typical of an ITV Saturday night offering. The set was bright and  loud, the format was interactive and an excitable audience filled the studio. Is the fact that it is an archetype of primetime ITV such a bad thing, though? My problem with Splash! was that it was boring – we waited ten minutes to see a ten second belly flop. Your Face Sounds Familiar on the other hand is far from boring. It is in fact very entertaining and quite plainly does not take itself remotely seriously. Plus, as Rob Brydon’s much-overlooked creation Keith Barret used to say, it’s just a bit of fun! Why are audiences always looking for sophistication and class when it comes to entertainment shows? Most people don’t treat sitcoms like that – I can enjoy Mrs Brown’s Boys just as much as The Office, and find Miranda as funny as The Royle Family. Whether it’s garish or subtle, surely the most important thing is that it’s funny? And it’s exactly the same with entertainment shows: if it can get people’s bums on seats and brighten up their living rooms, who cares if they have Matt from This Morning rocking out as Jon Bon Jovi, or Julian Clary making a joke about pubic hair?

#BLOODYHASHTAGS

One person who did take the show seriously, however, was guest judge Donny Osmond, who passed critique in such a way that I believe he thought he was on The Voice. And by that I mean he knew that it wasn’t as important as X Factor but liked to think it was. Hopefully next week’s guest judge won’t be a earnest.

Apart from Donny’s sincerity, only one thing annoyed me about Your Face Sounds Familiar: the appearance of ‘#Randomiser’ on the screen. Seriously, when will ITV learn that Twitter users do not need to be told which hashtags to use? People were taking to Twitter to voice their opinions and, judging from their harsh summaries, #Rubbish, #WorstShowEver and #MightPutInItToWinItOnInstead would have been more apt than a tag about a (let’s face it) unimpressive selection device!

To the performers now, though, and we were treated to a splendid plethora of stars to impersonate legends such as Springfield, Turner and Cash. There wasn’t one performance which I didn’t enjoy – I  thought Alexander Armstrong was excellent as the aforementioned Johnny Cash, although I was surprised that he agreed to take part (then again, he used to regularly appear as a naked vet in his Channel 4 sketch show, so he was likely unfazed by the potential embarrassment of Your Face Sounds Familiar). I also thought EastEnders and The Spa’s resident Bergita, Cheryl Fergison, delivered a lovely performance and, while she resembled Edna Turnblad more than Dusty Springfield, she brought a touch of class to the proceedings. My favourite performance of the night by far, though, was Bobby Davro as Tom Jones. The impression was spot on and he even looked a little like him! I just thought it was so funny.

So, unlike many I did enjoy Your Face Sounds Familiar (or, as my dad thought it was called, Your Face Rings a Bell). If there’s one thing I would change, though (apart from the irritating #Randomiser) it would be the voting system. People just aren’t likely to be picking their phones up in their droves, are they? No one’s getting booted out and, although the charities are all very worthy of the money, it doesn’t mean anything to the show, does it? We’re seeing the same celebrities week in, week out (albeit as different people) so it might mean that their charity becomes £10,000 better off but it’s not going to affect the following week’s line-up. So maybe either the phone vote/charity donation system should have been scrapped, allowing us to see different celebrities each week, or the performer with the most votes should have joined a new line-up the following Saturday, meaning that there would actually be some weight to the ‘competition’. Actually, on second thoughts, perhaps that was the original plan but the producers couldn’t find enough willing celebrities to fill six weeks…

Your Face Sounds Familiar will be on Saturdays at 7:30pm on ITV

What did you think of Your Face Sounds Familiar? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Feel free to comment below or tweet me – @UKTVReviewer.

You can also see my recommendations for the coming week’s TV on this blog, published every Saturday at midnight.

TV Highlights (29th June – 5th July)

Here I provide a comprehensive list of the best of the coming week’s TV – from warbling celebrities to Haiti, guide dogs and supermarkets. Don’t say I don’t vary my posts!

Saturday 29th June

Your Face Sounds Familiar

ITV, 7:30pm

This brand new star-studded and much-plugged show from ITV appears to simply be Celebrity Stars In Their Eyes under a different name – except with Your Face Sounds Familiar we will be seeing the same celebrities week after week.

I’m really looking forward to it. Don’t get me wrong, part of me can’t shake off the feeling that this will belly flop like Splash! and be in for a similarly ceaseless mauling by the press. Then again, Splash! got a second series so perhaps mirroring it may not be such a bad thing. Like I said though, it’s only a small part of me that harbours that thought – the rest of me can’t wait to sit and watch a show which, as is a growing trend nowadays, isn’t taking itself too seriously.

Every week, six celebrities including Pointless’ Alexander Armstrong, comedian Bobby Davro, EastEnders and The Spa star Cheryl Fergison, Olympian Denise Lewis, This Morning’s Hub hunk Matt Johnson and Emmerdale’s Natalie Anderson will perform as a variety of music legends, all vying for the public’s votes to keep them at the top of the leaderboard. However, the twist is that they will have no say in who they will be taking to the stage as: that will be decided by the show’s dreaded Randomizer.

Now, it would be very easy to sit and say, ‘Well if on one’s going to be voted off, dancing to the Rumba or gnawing through a kangaroo’s vagina, why should I pay good money to call in?’ And you’d be absolutely right to think that but the reason for the phone vote is that each celebrity has a chosen charity, to which all of the money from their votes will go. And I must admit that they are all extremely worthy organisations which help children, cancer sufferers and people with mental health issues. The participants’ respective charities will be mentioned during the show but, to find out more about them, visit the Your Face Sounds Familiar website.

We will also see change on Your Face Sounds Familiar as a different judge will be joining regulars Emma Bunton and Julian Clary (who will no doubt have something to say about Alexander  Armstrong’s performance of ‘Ring of Fire’ on Saturday). This week, the guest judge is none other than Donny Osmond. Another possible change is the presenting team because, with Paddy McGuiness’s wife Christine due to give birth at any time, he has vowed to leave the show – on- or off-air – if necessary. If that happens, Catchphrase host Stephen Mulhern will step into his shoes, although he has stated that he would be reworking the script for himself and removing any ‘Paddyisms’ – “If they can’t hit the note, don’t bother to vote”, and the like.

Of course there’ll be the snooty critics who refuse to join in with the merriment and frivolity which Your Face Sounds Familiar is bound to offer up but I think it’ll be a laugh. I mean let’s face it: it can’t be any worse than Paddy’s last effort, Paddy’s TV Guide – which Channel 4 are bravely giving a repeat run from 12:50am.

Also today: Stan and Jack find work at a holiday camp in film Holiday on the Buses (ITV, 1:20pm); Casualty’s Patrick Robinson and BBOTS’ Rylan Clark kick off a new series of All Star Family Fortunes (ITV, 8:45pm); and Al Pacino and Helen Mirren star in Phil Spector, a drama about the famed music producer’s murder trial (Sky Atlantic, 9:00pm).

Sunday 30th June

Michael Bublé’s Day Off

ITV, 9:00pm

For this special one-off documentary, singer Michael Bublé has taken a Ferris Bueller-style day off from his hectic work life to return to his home town of Vancouver and spend some time with his family and friends, before heading off to surprise everyone at his school reunion.

During the programme, we will see Michael meet up with friends and family at his local McDonalds (a favourite haunt of his grandpa), where he shows them scans of his baby, and hear his sisters share embarrassing anecdotes about their brother. Then Michael anxiously heads off to the reunion and meets up with old friends who he has not seen for two decades.

The Canadian crooner will also be treating us to some music as he performs classics such as ‘Young at Heart’, ‘World on a String’ and his hit, the aptly named ‘Home’.

Also today: George Clooney and Meryl Streep lend their voices to Fantastic Mr Fox (Channel 4, 4:55pm); Jenny Eclair, Matthew Wolfenden and, unbelievably, Coolio take part in Tipping Point: Lucky Stars (ITV, 7:00pm); Top Gear is back (BBC2, 8:00pm); Louis Smith and Mark Wright take on The Cube (ITV, 8:00pm) as the new series begins; Lincoln Castle is in the spotlight for a Time Team Special (Channel 4, 8:00pm); documentary film Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007 (Sky1, 8:00pm); and I find him unfunny and to have a voice which is akin to fingernails scraping a blackboard but some may want to watch Rich Hall present You Can Go to Hell, I’m Going to Texas (BBC4, 9:00pm).

Monday 1st July

Coming Up

Channel 4, 11:05pm

Despite running for twelve years, a lot of people will be unfamiliar with Coming Up – Channel 4’s showcase for up and coming writing talent.

If you are someone who has never watched Coming Up before, I urge you to do so. Of course there are some weak episodes but most are simply engaging and beautifully filmed dramas. Last year, for example, we had Tom Wells’s funny and moving Ben and Lump, as well as Laurence Marshall’s thought-provoking Postcode Lottery.

This year seems to be just as strong as previous years as, over the next seven weeks, emerging writers will be telling stories of broken dreams, tumultuous relationships, the pain of conflict and much more. A host of the country’s top acting talent will be taking part, too: Celia Imrie, Una Stubbs and Getting On stars Jo Scanlan and Ricky Grover will be appearing across the series.

Tonight’s opening episode features Phoebe Waller-Bridge (The Cafe) as Karen: a woman whose love for her two-year-old son is such that she believes he would have a better life without her. Pressured, she makes a hugely important decision but is offered a glimmer of hope due to the kindness of a complete stranger.

Also today: The Specials, following the lives of special constables, begins (BBC1, 11:00am); Dancing on Ice judge Ashley Roberts joins hosts Gino D’Acampo and Melanie Sykes as the first guest on the new series of the ever-fun Let’s Do Lunch (ITV, 12:30pm); listeners to Scott Mills’s Radio 1 show will be familiar with the name Dick Strawbridge – and he’s back with a new series of The Hungry Sailors (ITV, 2:00pm); Undercover Boss is back (Channel 4, 9:00pm); Channel 5’s obsession with the Traveller community continues with The Town the Travellers Took Over (9:00pm); more wacky shows are uncovered in Daisy Donovan’s gripping The Greatest Shows on Earth (Channel 4, 10:00pm); and the final series of Skins begins (E4, 10:00pm).

Tuesday 2nd July

A Very British Appeal: 50 Years of the Disasters Emergency Committee

ITV, 10:35pm

In this moving documentary, ITV News correspondent Rageh Omaar celebrates the Disaster Emergency Committee – a group of 14 charities which, for the last half a century, have raised billions of pounds to help people in other countries get through the horrors of disasters and starvation.

Three years ago, around 22,000 people were victims of the Haiti earthquake – the most deadly of modern times. Rageh visits the country and sees how the incredible £107 million pounds we as a country kindly donated has helped the people there.

With Age UK, Christian Aid and Oxfam just some of the charities involved, the DEC is vital to relieving suffering across the world. It is them, and the British public’s generosity, which is celebrated in this film.

Also today: Gok Wan gives two women a new seasonal look in Gok Live: Stripping for Summer (Channel 4, 8:00pm); Cherry Healey’s Property Virgins (BBC3, 8:00pm); Idris Elba is back for more Luther (BBC1, 9:00pm); comedy-drama series Starlings, led by an all-star cast, returns to Sky1 (9:00pm); Sheridan Smith is back as Jenny in Dates (Channel 4, 10:00pm); and romantic epic Cold Mountain is on BBC2 at 11:20pm.

Wednesday 3rd July

Me and My Guide Dog

ITV, 8:00pm

ITV have been granted exclusive access to The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, which has been running for 80 years, to create this one-off documentary, narrated by For the Love of Dogs presenter and animal lover, Paul O’Grady.

Me and My Guide Dog meets a variety of people who rely on their dogs in their day-to-day lives. We will hear the inspirational story of Steve Cunningham – a racing car driver and the world’s fastest blind man – and the heart-warming tale of Mark and Claire, whose guide dogs’ romance sparked one of their own and has led to their engagement.

Guide dogs make such a huge difference to a blind person’s life, as this documentary attests, and Paul O’Grady is the perfect host to see us through an emotional hour of the stories of the dogs and their owners.

Also today: Nicky Campbell, Sian Williams and Rebecca Wilcox host consumer series Your Money, Their Tricks (BBC1, 8:00pm); the six remaining candidates must grow businesses from scratch in The Apprentice (BBC1, 9:00pm); Dates comes full-circle as Mia and David, who opened the series, star in the final episode (Channel 4, 10:00pm); and Guinness World Records Gone Wild begins on Watch (10:00pm).

Thursday 4th July

Supermarket Secrets

BBC1, 9:00pm

Masterchef judge Gregg Wallace presents this series, which looks at how supermarkets – the 'Supermarket Secrets' - BBC1, 9:00pmplace where we buy a huge 90% of our food – produce their goods.

A year in the making, Supermarket Secrets goes behind the scenes of some of the UK’s biggest food retailers to expose how they source, make and move the products which we then buy from the stores.

The first episode focuses on summer, and how supermarkets deliver the products we demand for the warm weather – from barbecues to the perfect strawberry.

Also today: Waterloo Road (BBC1, 8:00pm), Paul O’Grady: For the Love of Dogs (ITV, 8:00pm) and Happy Families (ITV, 9:00pm) all end their runs; new documentary series Greatest Little Britons, following aspiring bakers, begins on Sky1 at 9:00pm; and Russell Kane returns with stand-up showcase Live at the Electric (BBC3, 9:30pm).

Friday 5th July

The Graham Norton Show

BBC1, 10:35pm

It’s the last in the series of The Graham Norton Show but before the host takes his break he (or rather a member of the production team – not that I’m cynical) has compiled his (their) favourite bits'The Graham Norton Show' - BBC1, 10:35pm from the thirteenth series.

There have been a lot of highlights – Graham’s show is always something to look forward to as  beyond all of the film- and book-plugging there are some hilarious moments, most of which are generated by the guests just chatting among themselves, to be honest.

There’s not a lot to say about a highlights package (and it shows how there is little new on TV tonight that I’m writing about it at all) so I’ve compiled my five favourite moments from this series:

  • Michael Bublé and Amanda Holden candidly discussing their sex lives
  • Mo Farah not having a clue who Lee Mack was (doesn’t he watch BBC1 on a Friday?)
  • The Benedict Cumberbatch and Chris Pine episode in general. I didn’t think I’d be interested (I’m not exactly a Trekkie) but it was actually really funny – from Chris kissing his ‘Pine Nuts’ to Benedict interacting with his ‘Cumberbitches’ and doing a surprisingly accurate impression of Graham himself
  • Will and Jaden Smith surprising the audience with a performance with DJ Jazzy Jeff – during which they tried (and I mean tried) to teach Graham to dance
  • And Chris O’Dowd eating a fly. Just brilliant.

Also today: A repeat of Sherlock (BBC1, 8:30pm); someone else gets the boot from Big Brother (Channel 5, 9:00pm); Paul McCartney & Wings: Rockshow (BBC4, 9:00pm); Richard Curtis comedy Notting Hill (ITV, 10:35pm); and 8 Out of 10 Cats: Best Bits (Channel 4, 11:40pm).

Are you particularly looking forward to any of these shows or is there something else from the world of TV which you want to have your say about? Feel free to comment below or tweet me – @UKTVReviewer.

‘Dates’ (Channel 4) – Episode 7 Review

‘Stephen and Mia’ was an utterly misleading title for this episode of Dates, as Ben Chaplin returned as the shady Stephen but Oona Chaplin did not appear in person at all – she was merely heard on the phone for no longer than a minute.

The reason we heard Mia’s voice was because she called Stephen to tell him that she had ‘met someone’ and therefore wouldn’t be coming on a second date with him. So, feeling stood-up and humiliated, Stephen decided to mingle with a conference group and take advantage of the free champagne on offer. To do this, he posed as the apparently high-profile Matthew Binney and, after an initial tiff, managed to woo Heidi Greenholm (Sian Breckin), with whom he swiftly moved to a more dimly-lit and discreet part of the bar, complete with a pool.

After talking about themselves, “Matthew” and the married Heidi went from a swim – and I got the impression that trouble was brewing from the moment that they bombed in together.

Sadly, however, I was wrong as, after the pair kissed and cuddled, the episode ended on a whimper, with Heidi finding out that “Matthew” was in fact Stephen, miraculously managing to get dry, despite their appearing to be no towels to hand, and slapped him.

IT THREATENED BOREDOM’

I have reviewed every episode of Dates and, while I have favourites, I have said that they have all been to a brilliant standard and were thoroughly enjoyable to watch. In fact, last night I wrote of the sixth episode, ‘What else could I have been expecting but another brilliant episode of Dates.’ That was of course before I watched tonight’s instalment, which was such a slow-burner that it threatened boredom.

This episode simply didn’t hook and engage me like the others have, which is a shame as I was really looking forward to it, following the conclusion of last Wednesday’s episode (which saw Mia  and her first date, David, be passionately reunited). I was anxious to discover how Mia would break the news to Stephen – or whether she would just carry on dating him while also secretly sleeping with David. We got no drama, though, and we got no huge revelation. What we did get, on the other hand, was a meagre 38 second phone conversation (yes, I timed it) which seemed like an eleventh hour brainwave on the writer’s part to keep Mia out of the picture and introduce a new character.

Surely it would have been better to have had Mia meet Stephen and be totally unapologetic about her returning to David, therefore exposing her callousness (a trait of hers, the extent of which was intriguing to see) and perhaps showing a more vulnerable side to the normally hardheaded Stephen.

Furthermore, I know I would have preferred to have seen Stephen’s identity be revealed by the real Matthew Binney arriving. Granted, that’s a situation which has been written many times and is perhaps more at home in the land of sitcom but it would have been a damn sight better than what we were given.

THE PITFALLS OF WRITING

I don’t like writing critical reviews. That’s why I prefer to call myself ‘a reviewer’, rather than ‘a critic’, as I think the latter has negative connotations, as if the person it describes watches TV and sets out to only find faults, rather than celebrate its achievements. And that’s exactly what I’ve done with Dates so far: celebrate its achievements. I just can’t help expressing my disappointment with this episode, though.

I know that scriptwriting can be hard. I began a script over two weeks ago, have written around 14 minutes of material and am dreading going back to it as I’m not sure if it’s funny enough, dramatic enough, authentic enough, engaging enough… What is often underestimated is the difficulty of writing – you must constantly have the interests of your plots, subplots, characters and – perhaps most importantly – audience on your mind, and are therefore highly likely to churn out the odd dud episode every now and again. It can happen to even the best writers – I can name episodes of Father Ted, The Royle Family, One Foot in the Grave and even Only Fools and Horses which don’t quite meet the standard to which we as viewers have become accustomed. However, I can’t even use this as an excuse for my disappointment as each episode of Dates has had a different writer, so Bryan Elsley has only had to pen two of the seven episodes so far. I just couldn’t believe that he was responsible for this episode, as in Dates he has created an otherwise fantastic series.

I understood the purpose of the other episodes – they had great conclusions, be they cliffhangers or the beginning or end of a relationship. ‘Stephen and Mia’, though? It slightly baffled me and, for the first time, it crossed my mind to switch over to Big Brother.

I’m looking forward to seeing Sheridan Smith return as Jenny next week, though. Hopefully Nancy Harris’s script will get the series back on track.

Dates will be on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10:00pm on Channel 4

What did you think of Dates? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Feel free to comment below or tweet me – @UKTVReviewer.

You can also see my recommendations for the coming week’s TV on this blog, published every Saturday at midnight.

‘Dates’ (Channel 4) – Episode 6 Review

Fresh Meat co-stars Gemma Chan and Greg McHugh starred in this episode of Dates, which saw lesbian Erica being forced to go on a date with a very forthright Scotsman named Callum.

Of course, we last saw Erica on a date with Kate – which ended with the cliffhanger of Erica’s brother reacting quite badly to the revelation of her sexuality. In fact, he objected so much that we found out in this episode that he had set up a date for her with Callum, who was quite a complex character (more of which later).

Within five minutes of the date beginning, Erica had told Callum that she was gay and did not see the point of wasting any more of his time. However, Callum persuaded her to stay, eat her food and drink an abundance of alcohol – which they both clearly did as Part Two began with them both plainly inebriated.

A deep discussion about human sexuality began, in which Callum, who defined himself as ‘a one’ on the sexuality continuum (‘if one is as straight as you can be and ten is as gay as you can be’), claimed that Erica is in fact bisexual, and tried to convince her that they could have a relationship. This appeared to be the beginning of the end of the niceties as Erica took exception to Callum’s contradiction and began to point out his faults – including arrogance, a trait which he refused to believe he held, prompting him to shout at Erica and attack the restaurant waiter.

The date was salvaged, however, when Erica’s brother arrived and was told in no uncertain terms where he could stick his concern about his sister’s sexuality, and Erica and Callum strode off to ‘get drunk’ – again.

VERY ENTERTAINING’

What else could I have been expecting but another brilliant episode of Dates. It was difficult to know whether to laugh or to cry tonight but Jamie Brittain’s excellent script made Erica and Callum’s date very entertaining to observe.

The chemistry between Gemma Chan and Greg McHugh was palpable and made the episode that much more enjoyable as it meant they were able to show their characters’ complex relationship – which saw a lot of highs, but sadly just as many lows.

COMPLEX CALLUM

It was great to see Erica finally stand up to her brother tonight and gain the strength to defend her sexuality to him, especially after the climax to last week’s episode, in which we had seen her finally become comfortable with her emotions but then be plunged into doubt and guilt again by her sibling’s objections. Although it would have been nice to see her pop up in a future episode, it  doesn’t look like we will and I don’t think we really need to: her story has been told and she has triumphantly found the courage to stick two fingers up to her brother and his traditional Chinese views. And that was the reason for her being in the series.

Meanwhile, this was the first time that we had met Callum, and I found him very difficult to get the measure of. When I watched the episode, I wrote in my notes about him, ‘Very forthright’ and then immediately after, ‘Quite naive?’ I included the question mark because I wasn’t sure whether he would go on to show his naivety, but I sensed that there was a little lurking within him. Even now, having watched the whole episode and weighed up what I thought of him, I’m still not sure whether naive is the right word. I suppose that, like so many of the characters in Dates, he was desperate to find love and discovering that he had been set up on a date with a lesbian just proved another kick in the teeth (and was especially painful as he had apparently only ever been on a date with one woman before). Callum described himself as a ‘beautiful, flawed, multi-faceted, complex individual’ and he was certainly that – with particularly emphasis on the latter adjective.

Despite his tough, harsh and slightly scary exterior, there was undoubtedly a kindness inside of Callum which crept out at certain moments in the episode. When he confronted Erica’s brother on her behalf, for example, he may not have displayed particular kindness to him but it was all done as an act of compassion for Erica as he knew that it would ultimately benefit her and enable her to move on with her life and stop carrying so much ‘gay shame’ (as I recently read it adequately described).

I’m sure Callum would have been an interesting character to develop and perhaps put in other episodes, with other daters. I personally would have been very interested to see whether his extreme anger and mood swings were a result of his frustration about Erica’s sexuality or if they are just in his nature and, if so, would he have the capability to take them even further?

A ‘complex individual’ he certainly was.

I’m struggling to comprehend that, by next Wednesday, Dates will be over. However, I am determined to savour what remains of the series as one written, acted and directed with more precision, care and focus is difficult to come by.

Dates will be on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10:00pm on Channel 4

What did you think of Dates? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Feel free to comment below or tweet me – @UKTVReviewer.

You can also see my recommendations for the coming week’s TV on this blog, published every Saturday at midnight.

TV Highlights (22nd – 28th June)

Here I provide a comprehensive list of the best of the coming week’s TV – from tennis to testicles!

Saturday 22nd June

The Voice UK: The Final

BBC1, 7:15pm

I’m going to own up: I only watched the first two episodes of this series of The Voice UK. I just got a bit sick of it. However, this year’s Final is a big TV event so, tempted as I was to write about Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, I feel duty-bound to blag my way through the next few paragraphs and inform you of this show. So here we go…

I have watched the four Finalists’ Semi-Final performances on YouTube and I have to say that I 'The Voice UK' Finalist, Mike Ward enjoyed all of them – they each have quite individual voices. My favourite, though, is Mike Ward (pictured). If his Semi-Final performance is representative of those of his throughout the series, he deserves to be the winner! His voice is so distinctive and strong – and actually not dissimilar to Tom Jones’s, so I can see why he picked him to be his coach.

That’s not to say that the other contestants wouldn’t be worthy winners, too. I think they’re all very good but I personally hope that Sir Tom retains his The Voice UK crown. And I’m sure Mike will have more success in music than last year’s winner, Leanne Mitchell did.

Of course, it’s not just the contestants who will be performing tonight: Dizzee Rascal and Robbie Williams will be singing their single, ‘Goin’ Crazy’ and Michael Buble will be taking to the stage, too.

Well I hope I’ve appeared at least slightly knowledgeable about The Voice – else all that has been a waste of time and research.

Also today: Episodes’ Stephen Mangan and The X Factor’s Caroline Flack and Joe McElderry will be trying to win some money for charity, with the help of their relatives, in Celebrity Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Family Special (ITV, 7:15pm); The Many Faces of Dame Helen Mirren (BBC2, 8:00pm) charts the actress’ rise to fame – hopefully including her stage debut in my hometown of Sunderland; Rufus Hound narrates The Nation’s Favourite Dance Moment (ITV, 8:15pm); funny and moving film Calendar Girls, starring the aforementioned Dame Helen, is on BBC2 at 9:00pm; and The Big Dirty List Show: 50 Years of Sex and Music (Channel 4, 10:15pm) looks at 20 of the sexiest songs of the past five decades.

Sunday 23rd June

Andy Murray: The Man Behind the Racquet

BBC1, 10:25pm

For this one-off documentary, presented by Sue Barker, tennis ace Andy Murray has granted the BBC exclusive access to his life – both on and off the court.

As well as featuring interviews with his friends, family and sports rivals, Andy Murray: The Man Behind the Racquet will give viewers a rare insight into his life, with particular focus on his activities outside of tennis and his journey to become a national icon.

As per his Wimbledon performance, if the documentary’s good, he’ll be ‘British’, but if it’s bad, he’ll undoubtedly be relegated to just ‘Scottish’.

Also on this thoroughly tennis-themed day: 2004 film Wimbledon (Channel 5, 4:20pm); Zac Efron and Matthew Perry star as the same person (but at different ages) in 17 Again (Channel 4, 6:05pm); Tom Hanks and Megan Ryan are in classic film Sleepless in Seattle (Channel 5, 6:05pm); Venus and Serena tells the story of the Williams sisters’ lives, in a way not too dissimilar to the Andy Murray documentary (BBC2, 7:00pm); Ed Byrne, Amir Khan and Denise Welch (now there’s an eclectic mix!) compete on Tipping Point: Lucky Stars (ITV, 7:00pm); Kate Humble and Helen Czerski present The Secret Life of the Sun (BBC2, 8:00pm); and documentary film Glastonbury, about the music festival of the same name, is on BBC2 at 11:30pm.

Monday 24th June

Bodyshock: The Man With the 10-Stone Testicles

Channel 4, 9:00pm

Men, prepare to wince.

In 2008, Wesley Warren Jr., from Las Vegas, turned over in bed and knocked his testicles, causing a shooting pain and immediate swelling. This swelling still continues, to the point where his testicles  now weigh an incredible 10 stone.'Bodyshock: The Man With the 10-Stone Testicles' - Channel 4, 9:00pm

This condition, which the doctors have referred to as scrotal lymphedema, is debilitating and humiliating for Wesley. He cannot wear trousers, drive a car or have sex, and can only sit down with the help of a milk crate.

The only way for Wesley to have his testicles treated is to pay for the relevant operation, which is what this Bodyshock special shows. The doctors who are preparing to treat Wesley have never seen a case like this before. Will he be able to regain his dignity and revert back to his normal life, after five years of pain and embarrassment or will it be a balls-up?

Sorry.

Also today: Coach Trip’s Brendan Sheerin’s new series, Brendan’s Magical Mystery Tour begins (Channel 4, 5:00pm); one-off documentary Traveller Feuds is on Channel 5 at 9:00pm; Don’t Call Me Crazy shows the experiences of teenage patients at Manchester’s McGuinness Mental Health Unit (BBC3, 9:00pm); two men set off on a Thai martial arts adventure in documentary series Kung Foolery (Sky1, 9:00pm); this week’s What a Load of Buzzcocks focuses on 2005 (BBC2, 10:00pm); and Daisy Donovan’s superb series The Greatest Shows on Earth continues (Channel 4, 10:00pm).

Tuesday 25th June

Secrets From the Workhouse

ITV, 9:00pm

In Victorian society, the poor, homeless and unemployed were all sent to live in the workhouses –  otherwise they starved on the streets.

In these workhouses, the inhabitants were forced to work ten hour days, completing such menial tasks as breaking rocks or separating ropes. Again, this was their only option, other than starvation.

In this two-part series, stars such as Fern Britton, Brian Cox (the actor, not the professor), Kiera Chaplin and Barbara Taylor Bradford wade through history to discover what life was like for their own ancestors in such environments.

Also today: Alan Titchmarsh returns with Love Your Garden (ITV, 8:00pm); the conclusion of the very informative Something for Nothing (Channel 4, 8:00pm); we find out what has happened to Erica following her shock revelation to her brother in the superb Dates (Channel 4, 10:00pm); the series highlights of Sweat the Small Stuff (BBC3, 10:00pm); Mad Dogs: Behind the Madness goes behind the scenes of the third series of the drama about four mates abroad (Sky1, 10:00pm); Alan Yentob is back for another series of Imagine (BBC1, 10:35pm); and the final episode of Dawn O’Porter’s (suprisingly entertaining) documentary, How to Find Love Online (Channel 4, 10:35pm).

Wednesday 26th June

The Apprentice

BBC1, 9:00pm

Well there’s just no point in Lord Sugar continuing with his search for a business partner, now that he’s fired the brilliant Jason, is there? I was truly gutted when he abdicated last week and allowed 'Usurped' - last week's 'Apprentice' reject, Jason himself to be usurped by Luisa, who elbowed her way into becoming Project Manager. The Apprentice will not be the same without you, Mr Leech.

Anyway, back to this week. The ninth task that the candidates face is creating and branding their own ready meals, which means some of them are forced into the kitchen to whip up a tasty treat while the others are in charge of creating the brand itself. Then, the following day, the teams meet the heads of some of the UK’s biggest supermarket names, and pitch their new ready meals to them.

The question is: who will be left with a bitter taste in their mouth?

Also today: Sally Dynevor (Corrie’s Sally Webster), Splash! champ Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards and JB Gill (25% of JLS) and their partners test their knowledge of each other on All Star Mr & Mrs (ITV, 8:00pm).

Thursday 27th June

Eye Spy

Channel 4, 10:00pm

I struggled to understand this programme at first but am beginning to see how interesting it could be.

In this three-part series, members of the public will have their scruples tested to the max as they will 'Eye Spy' - Channel 4, 10:00pmbe secretly filmed facing dilemmas, stuck between what is morally right and what would be best for  themselves.

The first episode, for example, sees a bag stuffed with £30,000 in cash left in a public phone box – will anyone have the gall to take it? Also, a waiter in a restaurant faces a dilemma when he sees an interracial couple being harassed: will he fulfil his moral obligation and intervene or keep life simple for himself and turn a blind eye?

It should be very interesting to find out.

Also today: Four Weddings returns to Sky Living (8:00pm); Michael Scott examines the ancient Greeks in two-part documentary Who Were the Greeks? (BBC2, 9:00pm); and Radha Bedi presents India: A Dangerous Place to Be a Woman (BBC3, 9:00pm).

Friday 28th June

Glastonbury

Across BBC TV and radio this weekend

Glastonbury 2013 is here, and presenters from across the Beeb’s radio stations will be bringing you coverage the weekend. For information on exactly when radio coverage will be available, check theJust part of the BBC's Glastonbury presenting team Radio 1, Radio 2 and 6 Music schedules. On TV, hosts including Lauren Laverne, Chris Evans,  Gemma Cairney, Jo Whiley and Greg James (pictured, L-R) and many more will be switching between BBC2, BBC3 and BBC4 from tonight, beginning at 7:00pm on BBC3.

Right, well that’s the complicated scheduling info out of the way, now to the event itself. The line-up this year is incredible, with almost everyone who is important in music today taking to one of the six stages (including the BBC Introducing Stage, which has previously helped stars such as Jake Bugg, Florence and the Machine and Ed Sheeran shoot to fame).

The Rolling Stones are of course headlining on Saturday, and fans will be able to see an hour of their performance on the Pyramid Stage as the BBC reached an agreement with them just last week to dedicate that time to their set.

Plus, keeping with tradition, it’s going to rain for two of the three days! Yey!

Also today: Jimmy Carr, Griff Rhys Jones and Susanna Reid are on Would I Lie to You? (BBC1, 8:30pm); Emma Willis sends another housemate packing in the Big Brother: Live Eviction (Channel 5, 9:00pm); Samuel L Jackson, Sandra Bullock, Nick Frost and Jake Bugg all drop by for the last in the series of The Graham Norton Show (BBC1, 10:35pm); Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore star in 2007 romance Music & Lyrics (ITV, 10:35pm); and there’s a repeat of Alan Carr’s hilarious 2011 Spexy Beast tour (Channel 4, 11:40pm).

Are you particularly looking forward to any of these shows or is there something else from the world of TV which you want to have your say about? Feel free to comment below or tweet me about this or any other TV show – @UKTVReviewer.

‘Dates’ (Channel 4) – Episode 5 Review

We first met David (played by Will Mellor) last week, in the first episode – and he was back tonight and this time on a date with Ellie (Montanna Thompson).

It was immediately clear that Ellie was quite confident, leaping onto David and proceeding to chat endlessly. As it was his birthday, David got to decide the venue – that ending up being American restaurant, Hollywoodland.

The conversation flowed and it appeared that there was a spark between the pair, but then Ellie was recognised by a (seemingly troublesome) friend, who exposed the truth about Ellie’s age – that being that she is not 25, as she told David, but is in fact 19. Understandably, David felt incredibly let  down by Ellie’s omission of this information and did not wish to continue with the date. However, with some persuasion from her, he stayed and they both agreed that their relationship would not progress beyond friendship.

Knowing that there was no romance at risk, David opened up about his failed date with Mia, which is where we first saw him last week. With this in mind, Ellie took the opportunity when David went to the toilet to send an obscene text to Mia, apparently from David. Of course, it appeared that this would have crushed any hopes that David had of trying to form a relationship with Mia. However, the outcome of the night was jaw-droppingly the opposite of this.

I’m certainly looking forward to seeing Mia’s date with Stephen (her current boyfriend) next Wednesday.

EXCELLENT’

Again, another excellent episode of Dates. I was overjoyed to see David back as I really warmed to him when we first saw him, so was hopeful that he would finally find love this time. Which he did – sort of.

We definitely discovered more about David and Mia – both as a couple and individually – than we did on their first date. They appear to be more comfortable with themselves now and know what they are looking for, which is fantastic and I’m anxious to see how their pairing develops during the remainder of the series.

While not strictly about David and Mia, this episode did show that they are well suited as a couple. Now that’s something that I didn’t think I would have written about them. In fact, in my first review of Dates, I wrote:

“There was a fragility to David whereas Mia seldom seemed anything other than bitter and dismissive of others’ feelings, giving her an air of unpleasantness.”

My general opinion was that they were total opposites and, despite what Paula Abdul dictates, they were never going to attract. However, tonight I had to reason that they actually are compatible. Sadly, it seems that their compatibility has only come to the fore because David has reduced himself to Mia’s level by appearing callous and cold – whereas I would have preferred them to have proved themselves to be suited by Mia taking a leaf out of David’s book and being a bit more compassionate. Alas, she didn’t and so, although it saddens me to say it, I have lost some respect for David.

Whereas we’d already met David and got to know him a little, this was the first time Ellie had appeared in Dates. At the beginning of the date, as I said, she was very excitable and desperate to impress. By the end of the night, however, she was slightly more grounded, having dropped her pretence and shown a warmer side to herself.

Despite initially deceiving David, I did feel sorry for Ellie. There was a desperation to her as she seemed to want to appear mature beyond her years and break away from her college image. She sadly just didn’t realise that her natural demeanour was far more attractive and likeable than her fake one. At first, I had reservations about Ellie as I believed that she was going to do exactly what Mia did and let David down, making him think that he may never find love, but I ultimately respected her and would love to see more of her as a character.

 

In this episode, writer Laura Hunter created a very bittersweet date but one which, like all those from the series so far, provided us with engaging and slightly complex characters who prove that the search for love can often be more complicated than it first appears.

Dates will be on over the next few weeks at 10:00pm on Channel 4

What did you think of Dates? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Feel free to comment below or tweet me about this or any other TV show – @UKTVReviewer.

You can also see my recommendations for the coming week’s TV on this blog, published every Saturday at midnight.

‘Dates’ (Channel 4) – Episode 4 Review

In tonight’s Dates, Gemma Chan starred as Erica, a young woman who, struggling to confront her sexuality, meets up with Kate (Katie McGrath).

After engaging in small talk, Erica briefly mentioned that her ex-partner was a man – a fact that Kate was immediately irritated by. Having had her lifestyle choice rudely rubbished by her date, Erica decided to flit out of the club but was stopped by Kate, who convinced her to stay and get drunk.

A dance and a kiss later, the pair woke up in bed together, where Erica confessed that she is often economical with the truth and only dates and sleeps with men in order to prevent her family from discovering her sexuality. Once again, this angered Kate, who encouraged Erica to simply say ‘I’m gay’ – after all, ‘it’s just words’. Once Erica had said the words that Kate wanted to hear, they both agreed to get something to eat.

‘TOO GOOD’

Seems like a bit of an anti-climax, doesn’t it? Well, I deliberately haven’t included the ending in my overview just in case you happen to be reading this and haven’t seen this episode yet. The ending is so good that I simply wouldn’t want to spoil it for anyone.

The truth is that Dates is just too good for Channel 4 to toss around the schedules like this. We had three episodes last week, and just two this week and next. Bryan Elsley and co’s creations deserve a solid spot which will allow viewers to know exactly when Dates is on, and not have to continually check TV guides for the next instalment. Perhaps it’s down to the fact that each episode has been written by someone different but Dates has been consistently brilliant and even with ‘Erica & Kate’ (which wasn’t my favourite episode so far) I can’t help but enthuse.

Philippa Langdale’s direction on this episode was particularly notable as it truly fulfilled the triad of   attributes which Channel 4 have given to Dates, that being, ‘witty, sexy and emotional’. The episode buzzed with excitement, mirroring that of Erica as she embarks on only her third lesbian encounter, and had a particularly sexy feel to it. The style of filming really added to the tone of the story.

OPPOSITES ATTRACT?

As always, the characters were intriguing, too. Just like on many of the preceding episodes of Dates, we were first met with a couple with contrasting personalities and approaches to the date. From the moment Erica tentatively entered the club and was grabbed by Kate, it was clear that we were going to be watching one quite timid and one confident woman get to know each other.

From very early on, there seemed to be something of a power struggle within Erica and Kate’s relationship: Erica tried to be the strongest by attempting to walk out of the club and leave Kate on her own but it was in fact Kate who was ultimately the dominant force as she convinced her date to stay and have a few more drinks and even all but forced her to confront her true feelings.

Just like Mia, from earlier in the series, Kate had something of a jealous nature which gave her an air of self-importance and impatience. To be honest, I struggled to find the words to describe Kate as she seemed such a complex character – being quite forthright with her opinions by telling Erica in no uncertain terms that she disapproved of her flirtations with bisexuality, yet danced with another man in the hope of making her jealous. Just as I was about to concoct some sort of wordy, deep description of Kate, however, Erica provided me with the perfect phrase: ‘an angry lesbian with a dick complex’. I couldn’t have put it better myself.

 

To reiterate, ‘Erica & Kate’ wasn’t my favourite episode of Dates so far but I am certain that it had the best climax and, like Nick from Episode Two, I am intrigued to find out whether, on her next date, Erica will confront and be open about her sexuality.

Then again, she’ll be on a date with someone called Callum – so it doesn’t seem likely…

Dates will be on over the next few weeks at 10:00pm on Channel 4

What did you think of Dates? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Feel free to comment below or tweet me about this or any other TV show – @UKTVReviewer.

You can also see my recommendations for the coming week’s TV on this blog, published every Saturday at midnight.

‘The Greatest Shows on Earth’ (Channel 4) Review

Bringing to Brits’ attention some of the most mesmerizingly shocking and controversial examples of foreign television is writer and actress Daisy Donovan, in her new four-part documentary series, The Greatest Shows on Earth.

Daisy considers television to be ‘the window into the soul of a nation’. So, with this in mind, she has set off on a trip across the globe, with the aim of discovering what makes a nation tick, by watching some of their biggest TV programmes.

FANTASTIC’

I found The Greatest Shows on Earth fantastic. True, it featured neither the breathtaking camera shots nor the deep analysis of its findings which typically comprise an astounding documentary,  but  what this show did was explore the must-see TV in Brazil in a non-judgemental way: it simply allowed viewers to form their own opinions, based on how our telly tastes differ to those of our South American counterparts.

The success of The Greatest Shows on Earth was owing, in no small part, to its host. Daisy was Daisy Donovan: 'Perfect'perfect for this programme as she embodied typical British attitudes, and therefore acted as a voice for most of her audience. She immersed herself in Brazilian culture but never shied away from objecting to what she saw, even when in the presence of those involved (as with the stars of the somewhat disturbing Pânico Na Band and Na Mira – more on both of which later). Daisy just had a way of being clear with her unalterable opinions while also respecting the Brazilians’ justification of their television output and allowing them to have their say.

HARMLESS FUN’?

For me, one of the most interesting aspects of Greatest Shows was the exposure of Brazil’s treatment of women – which we would consider to be unacceptable and nothing short of objectification, yet Brazilians regard as simply harmless fun and a celebration of the female form.

The first show investigated by Daisy was Miss Bumbum, a ‘talent’ contest which makes Miss World look like Dancing on Ice. As the title suggests, a bunch of young women are invited to parade their backsides on a catwalk in the hope of surviving many heats to be crowned…you guessed it: Miss Bumbum. This is a show, one man told Daisy, that he and his wife would have no qualms about watching together and is top viewing in his country. Now it would be quite easy to make assumptions about the Miss Bumbum competitors and suggest that they are self-obsessedDaisy with 'Miss Bumbum' hopeful, Laura Keller wannabes. However, if the contestant whom Daisy spoke to is representative of the others, that presumption may carry truth. Laura Keller (pictured) typifies the common perception of models: she was unbelievably rude to Daisy, commenting on her weight and angrily saying, ‘British people don’t  know anything about the bum’. Of course, this was only when she did not know that she was being filmed. When the cameras were rolling she was as lovely as could be, making heart signs to the viewer and conversing calmly with Daisy. After all, she wouldn’t want something as silly as a bad attitude to get in the way of her bottom making her famous, would she?

In a similar vein we had Pânico Na Band, a comedy sketch series which Daisy described perfectly as ‘a degrading show that verges on sado masochistic.’ In Pânico (which regularly attracts 10 million viewers in its primetime Sunday night slot), bikini-clad women (dubbed ‘Pânicats) are expected to compete in a series of challenges for the amusement of its presenters and viewers – most of whom are inevitably men. At the end of the show, a ‘comedy forfeit’ is involved for the losers. The forfeit sees the women kneeling, still in their bikinis, and having what appears to be a pair of tights pulled over their head, stretching and manipulating their features to make them look not dissimilar to a pig. It’s truly testing TV.

When Daisy spoke to Aryane Steinkopf, a former Pânicat, I was actually saddened by her story of the humiliation which is inflicted upon the Pânico contestants, but how the guaranteed fame and wealth acts as a distraction and more than compensates for it. Of course, ‘Pânicats’ are not forced to partake in this spectacle but it’s tragic that they think they have to do so for exactly the same reason as the Miss Bumbum wannabes: notoriety.

Even in shows where women are not objectified as much as in others, the incredibly poor treatment of the fairer sex is still evident. On Domingo Legal (Brazil’s leading variety show), the audience is comprised exclusively of girls, as men are ‘trouble’. Then, when they are escorted into the studio for the recording, they are sorted into groups and sit accordingly: beauties at the front, uglies at the back.

And to think that we were up in arms about Arlene being kicked off Strictly!

Daisy attending the 'Miss Bumbum' Final in Brazil

Na Mira, which could be best described as the Brazilian version of Crimewatch, also featured in Greatest Shows and truly pushed the boundaries of not only television but common decency itself.

With the aim of cutting crime in Salvador, which sees at least forty murders a week, Na Mira broadcasts images of bloodied corpses on street corners – a sight which people in the area are sadly accustomed to. Perhaps even more shocking is that Na Mira is televised at lunchtime – immediately after children’s programmes. Imagine Crimewatch following In the Night Garden.

I’d read about Na Mira beforehand, so was ready for the gore and revelation about its scheduling, but I was not prepared for the host’s (Analice Salles) justification of it. She claims that Na Mira informs viewers of the insecure, criminal society in which they live. She went on to say that the disturbing images are shown in order to stop crime and violence in the city. Now I don’t know what you think about that argument, but I had to listen to it no fewer than four times to understand it. Actually, to be honest, I still don’t understand it and think it is nothing more than a poor vindication for producing sensationalist television. In this country, the aforementioned Crimewatch can often include distressing information and reconstructions – it has to in order to emphasise the seriousness of its cases – but knows its boundaries and does not need to broadcast images even half as revolting and inappropriate as those on Na Mira. And guess what: it still helps solve crime.

I know that it is very easy to form a largely inaccurate view on Brazilian television purely from the programmes which Daisy saw in Greatest Shows. I am well aware that not all of the country’s output humiliates women in the way that Pânico does and that not all of it so blatantly violates (surely the most basic of) broadcasting guidelines in the same way as Na Mira. In fact I wonder what the Brazilians would think if their own Daisy Donovan travelled to the UK and scrutinised our most popular programmes…

EastEnders and The Jeremy Kyle Show?

We like a bit of a row…

Big Brother and The X Factor?

We all want a bit of fame – at whatever cost.

Geordie Shore and The Valleys?

The education system needs to be re-evaluated.

And that wouldn’t be a fair representation of us at all, would it?

Would it?

The Greatest Shows on Earth is on Mondays at 10:00pm on Channel 4

What did you think of The Greatest Shows on Earth? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Feel free to comment below or tweet me about this or any other TV show – @UKTVReviewer.

You can also see my recommendations for the coming week’s TV on this blog, published every Saturday at midnight.

‘Jo Brand’s Great Wall of Comedy’ (GOLD) Review

After endless trails across the UKTV network, Jo Brand’s Great Wall of Comedy finally began on Sunday and appeared to be in a similar vain to Channel 4’s Comedy World Cup, just with fewer participants, questions and, dare I say it, laughs.

A FEW LAUGHS’

The panellists (who had swapped panels for sofas) did raise a few laughs but they were too sparse. I know that the team captains, Barry Cryer and Rebecca Front, are more than qualified to answer questions on comedy, which is basically what, as its title suggests, Great Wall of Comedy is all about. After all, Barry Cryer has written for a plethora of comedy legends: Frankie Howerd, Tommy Cooper, Kenny Everett, Morecambe & Wise, The Two Ronnies – the list goes on and on – while Rebecca is seldom absent from a sitcom nowadays, whether its Psychobitches, Grandma’s House, Nighty Night or, more notably, The Thick of It. What I’m saying is that both are definitely big names in British comedy. However, I’d like to have seen a more contemporary comedian accompanying them on the show. Rebecca often offered humorous witticisms but it was mainly left to the others – Hugh Dennis, (soon to be Sir) Tony Robinson, Barry and host Jo – to keep the jokes going, primarily through anecdotes from their time in sitcoms. Plus, it did make me cringe slightly when watching Tony and Barry, 66 and 78, respectively, crack jokes about popular culture and The Only Way is Essex. I’ll never get over hearing Barry Cryer utter the word’ vajazzle’!

GREAT ANECDOTES’

There were some laughs to be had in the show, however, and, as I said, most of those came from the great, and hitherto unheard, anecdotes from sitcom stars such as Lesley Joseph, Andrew Sachs and Shaun ‘Barry off EastEnders’ Williamson (whose dancing with Stephen Merchant in previously unseen footage from Extras was brilliant). For comedy fans like myself (and I’m sure every other viewer of GOLD) it was great to be privy to these behind-the-scenes stories – some we’d heard, and some he hadn’t.

The questions, while kept to a minimum, tested the knowledge of not just those on the show but the viewers, too. I’m ashamed that I got a question about Fawlty Towers wrong but can take solace in the fact that neither of the teams answered it correctly, either. In fact, neither did they when asked questions about Birds of a Feather and Extras.

MIRANDA NEED NOT WORRY…

Now in one of the rounds in Great Wall of Comedy, the panellists were asked to pitch ideas for sitcoms, so I decided to join in and create five myself – and if you think these are bad, I daren’t tell you what Rebecca, Hugh, Tony and Barry offered!

All Gas and Waiters

A sitcom about someone waiting for an npower representative to arrive at their house.

Father Teddy

A sitcom about the patriarch in Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

The Nicker of Dibley

A sitcom about a thief in a fictional Oxfordshire village.

Early Whores

A sitcom about prostitutes with bad timekeeping skills.

The Wright Way

A sitcom that shows that Ben Elton is no longer funny.

 

Great Wall of Comedy seems to be at home on GOLD. It doesn’t provide the huge belly laughs to warrant it being broadcast on a terrestrial channel (but then again, neither did the latter sitcom in my list!) but is ideal for comedy fans and can be quite interesting – although I’m sure there’s already a panel show which fits that description.

Jo Brand’s Great Wall of Comedy is on Sundays at 7:30pm on GOLD

What did you think of Jo Brand’s Great Wall of Comedy? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Feel free to comment below or tweet me about this or any other TV show – @UKTVReviewer.

You can also see my recommendations for the coming week’s TV on this blog, published every Saturday at midnight.

TV Highlights (15th – 21st June)

Here I provide a comprehensive list of the best of the coming week’s TV – with ITV waving goodbye to Granada and Channel 4 saying hello to new couples with their Mating Season.

Saturday 15th June

Goodbye Granadaland

ITV, 8:30pm

At first glance, it may appear this this programme is called Goodbye Granddad, and ITV are paying tribute to the late Clive Dunn. However, it is of course Goodbye Granadaland, in which Manchester comic Peter Kay (pictured, right) takes viewers on a journey through the life of the city’s famous Granada Studios, which he compares to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and which, after over half a century, will soon follow in the footsteps of Television Centre and close its doors for the final time.

Over the years, Granada has been the home of many iconic TV shows, from dramas such as Prime  Suspect, Cracker and, of course, Coronation Street to comedy like Red Dwarf and the ground-breaking Royle Family and also game shows – University Challenge and Countdown, to name just two.

Granada has also been at the forefront of landmark television: the Beatles made their television  debut there in 1962; Woody Allen arrived at the studios three years later to make his only-ever UK TV appearance; and in 2010, the first-ever televised political debate between Brown, Cameron and Clegg was produced there.

With the help of interviews and archive footage, it is the stories behind these productions and many more which Peter will tell over this ninety-minute, one-off show and celebrate the importance and legacy of yet another British television institution which has sadly been lost to Salford’s apparently far more preferable Media City.

Also today: Clare Balding and Huw Edwards present Trooping of the Colour: The Queen’s Birthday Parade (BBC1, 10:30am), highlights of which are on BBC2 at 6:30pm; animated favourites Happy Feet and Despicable Me (ITV, 4:05pm and 6:40pm, respectively); Micro Monsters with David Attenborough begins on Sky1 and Sky 3D at 8:00pm; and AJ Odudu presents Big Brother’s Bit on the Psych, in which psychologists analyse the housemates (Channel 5, 10:10pm) – they’re going to have their work cut out with Sallie and Wolfie, aren’t they..?

Sunday 16th June

Jo Brand’s Great Wall of Comedy

Gold, 7:30pm

I’m obsessed with comedy. If I’m watching a sitcom, panel show or stand-up performance with someone, I usually bore them with some sort of trivia regarding the performer, writer, producer, etc.

Therefore, Jo Brand’s Great Wall of Comedy is ideal for me! Digital channel Gold has developed this panel show, hosted by the award-winning comedienne, in which stars of some of our best-loved comedies will answer questions on the stories behind the laughs and get a chance to showcase their knowledge of all things funny.

The team captains are brilliant, too. Firstly there’s veteran comedy writer Barry Cryer, who penned material for legends such as Frankie Howerd, Tommy Cooper, The Two Ronnies and Morecambe & Wise – and that’s just a few of them! Of course, Cryer is also the man behind Kenny Everett’s infamous Cupid Stunt (whose spoonerism name I very nearly typed incorrectly there). Then there’s Rebecca Front, whom a sitcom is seldom without nowadays. Star of The Thick of It, Grandma’s House, Nighty Night and more recently Psychobitches and Jessica Hynes’s (recently recommissioned) Up the Women, Rebecca is one of our most successful comedy actresses. So I think they both have ample experience to bring to a show like this!

In this first episode, the beans are spilled about sitcoms such as the parodies that were ‘Allo ‘Allo and Ab Fab (the movie of which we’re still waiting for, Jennifer!) and loved-up shows like Gavin & Stacey and John Sullivan’s Just Good Friends.

Also today: Somewhat disappointing sequel St Trinian’s 2: The Legend of Fritton’s Gold (Channel 4, 6:00pm); Kym Lomas, Dennis Taylor and Rav Wilding are on Tipping Point: Lucky Stars (ITV, 7:00pm); Julia McKenzie is back in Marple (ITV, 8:00pm); fifteenth century-set drama The White Queen begins (BBC1, 9:00pm); and Ray Winstone stars alongside Tamzin Outwaite, John Simm and Charles Dance in Father’s Day (ITV4, 11:15pm), a one-off short drama in aid of ITV’s prostate cancer awareness campaign, Stand By Your Man.

Monday 17th June

The Greatest Shows on Earth

Channel 4, 10:00pm

In this documentary series, actress and writer Daisy Donovan will be travelling the globe and visiting various countries to watch their respective TV hits – no matter how shocking or controversial – to'The Greatest Shows on Earth' - Channel 4, 10:00pm gain an insight into what makes that nation tick.

The first country that Daisy visits is Brazil, where she goes behind the scenes of many shows which objectify women in a way which we may find disgusting but the Brazilians consider to be harmless. For example, she investigates Miss Bum Bum, a talent show which (as you may have guessed)  judges young women purely on their backsides. So, while we enjoy people making arses of themselves on our talent shows, BGT and X Factor, people in Brazil are enjoying actual arses in their own contests.

There’s also Na Mira, which could be best described as a version of Crimewatch – but much, much gorier. In Na Mira, dead bodies are shown on the streets and corpses are pulled up from the ground. Imagine the letters to Points of View if that was broadcast in the UK!

But then imagine the letters in Jeremy Vine’s postbag being doubled – as Na Mira is shown in Brazil at lunchtimes, after kids’ shows.

Also today: A trio of presenters go behind the scenes at Heathrow in Airport Live (BBC2, 8:00pm); Rick Stein’s India (BBC2, 9:00pm); Nicky Campbell and Davina McCall are back to reunite more relatives in Long Lost Family (ITV, 9:00pm); one-off documentary Scientologists at War (Channel 4, 9:00pm); and the tragic story of Tare, who had a life-threatening facial tumour, in Extraordinary People (Channel 5, 9:00pm).

Tuesday 18th June

How to Find Love Online

Channel 4, 10:35pm

Over the course of two episodes, journalist Dawn O’Porter investigates online dating as part of Channel 4’s Mating Season, which explores modern dating in the 21st century.'How to Find Love Online' - Channel 4, 10:35pm

How to Find Love Online follows 25 singletons as they experiment with the relatively fledgling form of internet dating. The series will show the ups and downs on their individual quests for love as well as celebrating the pros to dating websites, while also warning viewers of the perils, too.

Experts and previous online daters will also be available to share their wealth of knowledge.

Also today: Steve Leonard fronts Nature’s Newborns (ITV, 7:30pm); Harry Wallop tells viewers how they can live for free in Something for Nothing (Channel 4, 8:00pm); drama series Frankie draws to a close (BBC1, 9:00pm); documentary series The Route Masters: Running London’s Roads begins (BBC2, 9:00pm); Royal Windsor’s Big Week goes behind the scenes of the annual Royal Windsor Horse Show (ITV, 9:00pm); and Una Healy and Rick Edwards join the fun for the last in the series of Sweat the Small Stuff on BBC3 at 10:00pm – but fans need not worry as a second series has already been commissioned.

Wednesday 19th June

Dates

Channel 4, 10:00pm

Anyone who has read my reviews of Dates (which a lot have, so thank you!) will know that I am mad about this series. I analyse the plots and characters probably far more than is necessary and I always have strong feelings about the characters – whether that’s love or hate.

One of the characters who I loved is back tonight as Will Mellor reprises his role as David (last seen'Dates' - Channel 4, 10:00pm in episode one). This time, however, he has ditched that bitch Mia (see, I told you I feel strongly about it) and is now on a date with Ellie, played by Montana Thompson – who was that bitch Justine in The Story of Tracy Beaker. Why does David always choose the wrong ‘uns?

All of the people who we have met in this series has had some sort of secret hidden away – whether it’s Jenny’s theft, Nick’s homosexuality or Mia’s job as an escort. Ellie is no different as she appears to have lied about her age in order to get on a date with David (it’s Will Mellor: wouldn’t you?) and is more open and honest than he would like her to be.

Also today: Rhys Jones takes action against wildlife crime in Wildlife Patrol (BBC1, 7:30pm); it’s the last in the series of Watchdog on BBC1 at 8:00pm (so it’s the last chance to see Matt Allwright risk getting beaten up by some dodgy builder); Martyn Lawrence Bullard packs members of the public off to Los Angeles for a makeover in Hollywood Me (Channel 4, 8:00pm); perfectly timed to coincide with Channel 4’s Mating Season, the candidates must set up a dating website in The Apprentice (BBC1, 9:00pm); and semi-improvised sitcom Quick Cuts, set in a hair salon, begins on BBC4 at 10:00pm.

Thursday 20th June

First Dates

Channel 4, 9:00pm

Once again, another programme from Channel 4’s Mating Season strand.

First Dates is certainly a unique show. Every week, we will be watching couples going on a blind date to a re'First Dates' - Channel 4, 9:00pmstaurant which has been set-up with discreet cameras in. Every second of the date will be captured on film and some of it will be shown in the programme – whether it goes well or not so well.

However, there’s more. YOU could be dating one of the people you see on screen and may be on the show one week. To have a look at the available mix of singletons and see if anyone stands out, just go to the First Dates website and even you don’t see anyone for you, you can still apply to be on the show and take part in a blind date.

Also today: Cowboy Traders returns to Channel 5 (8:00pm); Dannii Minogue joins the search for Britain & Ireland’s Next Top Model (Sky Living, 8:00pm); Flights and Fights: Inside the Low Cost Airlines goes behind the scenes of Ryanair and easyJet (BBC2, 9:00pm); The Girl With 7 Mums tells the story of ten-year-old Ellie Sharp (Channel 5, 9:00pm); and three women confront their sexuality in Bi-Curious Me (Channel 4, 10:00pm).

Friday 21st June

Trojan Donkey

Channel 4, 11:05pm

Apparently, Trojan Donkey ‘takes all that’s good in ‘old style’ covert filming to show how funny life'Torjan Donkey' - Channel 4, 11:05pm can be when people think no one is watching’. Isn’t that just a convoluted way of saying that this is a hidden camera show?

After all, that’s all that this show really appears to be: a hidden camera vehicle. BBC3’s Impractical Jokers had a group of mates daring each other, Off Their Rockers used the more mature performer to play pranks and That Hidden Camera Family on Sky1, while having gone relatively unnoticed, did at least have the niche of a family to do all of its jokes on the public. Trojan Donkey just has three performers pranking people. So despite Channel 4’s somewhat lengthy description, it just looks like a run-of-the-mill hidden camera show.

Tonight, a plumber is called to identify a noise in a toilet and one of the actors goes to a tattoo shop in the hope of getting the whole of the Bible inked onto his body.

Also today: Olympian Greg Rutherford, Crimewatch presenter Kirsty Young and comedy performers Jo Scanlan and Henning Wehn are on Would I Lie To You? (BBC1, 8:30pm); Wild Shepherdess With Kate Humble (BBC2, 9:00pm) sees the Springwatch host help shepherds who work in harsh conditions; we find out who will be the first housemate to leave Britain’s most famous bungalow (apart from Dick & Dom’s, naturally) in Big Brother: Live Eviction (Channel 5, 9:00pm); classic film Ghost (More4, 9:00pm); new documentary series Forensic Firsts (Yesterday, 9:00pm) traces the origins of six key forensic investigative techniques; and Steve Carrell, Chris O’Dowd (husband of How to Find Love Online’s Dawn O’Porter) and Josh Groban are on The Graham Norton Show (BBC1, 10:35pm).

Are you particularly looking forward to any of these shows or is there something else from the world of TV which you want to have your say about? Feel free to comment below or tweet me about this or any other TV show – @UKTVReviewer.