Monthly Archives: July 2013

‘You Saw Them Here First’ (ITV) Review

Giving some of our favourite stars the unwelcome reminder of what they looked and sounded like when they made their TV debuts, You Saw Them Here First premiered last night, with names such as Pauline Quirke, Stephen Mulhern and Arlene Phillips entering the video booth and being put through the ordeal of watching their younger selves.

A GUESSING GAME

I was worried that this show would either race through the clips or spend far too long on them – making for either a wasted or tedious hour – but it’s actually very well paced. Just the right amount of time is dedicated to showing the celebrities covering their eyes and cringing – which is undoubtedly the best part.

Then again, I love the quiz element of the programme, too: although technically a clips show, it’s  almost impossible not to sit and try to guess who the fresh-faced star is. Some are easier to predict (Hugh Bonneville and Jennie McAlpine, for example) but others – like Suranne Jones and Mel Giedroyc – were much more difficult to spot. And bless little Jack Whitehall!

POP WANNABES

Some of the most enjoyable clips were in fact those featuring some of our best-loved chart-toppers – and Kym Lomas. I had no idea that The Saturdays’ Mollie King began on X Factor as part of Fallen Angelz (I bet she regrets not getting past boot camp, eh?) and, while I knew her bandmates Frankie Sandford and Rochelle Humes started off in S Club Juniors, I always thought they were older when they were singing about their Puppy Love. When I was 7, they seemed about 18 to me! Still, at least seeing 1/4 of them on You Saw Them Here First encouraged me to look them up on Wikipedia, giving me an excuse to reminisce. And did you know they reformed this year? Me neither!

Anyway, back to YSTHF. Seeing 3/5 of The Wanted just a few years ago was great, too – who knew Max auditioned in front of Louis, Sharon and dad-to-be Simon, with a broken arm? And that Nathan performed a self-penned track on Junior Eurovision? And that Siva was in Rock Rivals? Actually, am I the only one to remember Rock Rivals? Probably. And am I the only one to have bought the first – and only – series on DVD? Most definitely.

Next week there’ll be more chart-toppers in their debuts, as JLS’ Aston and former The Voice UK coach, Jessie J, will feature.

It’s a real shame that You Saw Them Here First is in just two parts – normally we’d only get to see this sort of stuff on a tribute show or after hours of searching YouTube. So seldom are we given the opportunity to see Eamonn Holmes with a mullet, Hugh Bonneville dying on a slippery surface, and Michelle Collins looking very much like Julie from 90s sitcom, The Brittas Empire (do some Googling: she actually did).

You Saw Them Here First is on Wednesdays at 8:00pm on ITV

What did you think of You Saw Them Here First? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Please 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.

This Week in TV – 27th July – 2nd August

Here I provide a comprehensive list of the best of the coming week’s TV.

Saturday 27th July

The National Lottery: Break the Safe

BBC1, 8:50pm

Yes, now that Dale Winton and his infamous Red Area have left our screens for a little while, Nick Knowles is here with Break the Safe, in which three pairs'Break the Safe' - BBC1, 8:50pm try to beat the clock – and each other – to win a £100,000 jackpot.

All three couples are put through a Q&A round, until they are whittled down to just one. That one remaining pair will then go forward to take on the safe, which contains a huge £100,000. However, the money they play for will depend entirely on their performance in the Q&A round, so they will have to be pretty knowledgeable to be in with a chance of grabbing that jackpot.

Also today: Gabby Logan presents Inspire: The Olympic Story (BBC1, 12:45pm), which will also look forward to next year’s Commonwealth Games in Scotland; Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (ITV, 3:05pm); Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (BBC1, 7:00pm); When Björk Met Attenborough (Channel 4, 7:00pm) (seriously); more chances to swoon over Matt Johnson (well that’s the main reason that I watch it anyway) on Your Face Sounds Familiar (ITV, 7:30pm); Nadia Sawalha and Emmerdale’s Jane Cox go head-to-head on All Star Family Fortunes (ITV, 8:45pm); and films X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Channel 4, 9:00pm), Con Air (BBC1, 10:30pm), The Invention of Lying (ITV, 10:50pm), and Khaled Hosseini’s tragic The Kite Runner (BBC2, 10:50pm).

Sunday 28th July

The Mill

Channel 4, 8:00pm

From Torchwood and Coronation Street writer John Fay comes this new fact-based drama, set in 1833 and showing how Britain was completely transformed by the industrial revolution.'The Mill' - Channel 4, 8:00pm

The Mill is Channel 4’s first factually-driven period piece and follows life at Quarry Bank Mill, which is owned by the moneyed Gregs and where children under ten work twelve-hour shifts. The apprentices who have recently been sold to the Gregs appear to be stuck: they are being exploited, their lives made miseries, but they are not permitted to leave the Cheshire mill until adulthood. That is soon to change, however, when a feisty apprentice called Esther leads something of a revolt and encourages her fellow workers to join her and fight for justice.

Daybreak’s Showbiz Editor, Richard Arnold, said that The Mill ‘makes The Village look like a Carry On caper’. And from what I’ve seen, I doubt he’s far wrong.

Also today: National treasure Clare Balding is on the presenting team for the Paralympics Anniversary Games (Channel 4, 3:00pm); Amanda Seyfried stars in romcom, Letters to Juliet (Channel 4, 6:00pm); Jennie McAlpine, Shaun Williamson (‘Barry off EastEnders’) and Pauline Quirke play Tipping Point: Lucky Stars (ITV, 7:00pm); Trudie Goodwin, Luke Campbell and Nina Wadia and their partners are on All Star Mr & Mrs (ITV, 8:00pm); The Golden Compass (E4, 8:00pm); Michael Scott presents The Mystery of Rome’s X Tombs (BBC2, 9:00pm); Rocky Balboa (Channel 5, 10:00pm); The Silence of the Lambs (ITV4, 10:00pm); The Final Destination (Channel 4, 10:10pm); and Alan Wicker: Journey’s End (ITV, 10:15pm) celebrates the life and career of the broadcaster, who sadly died earlier this month.

Monday 29th July

Caligula with Mary Beard

BBC2, 9:00pm

In this one-off documentary, classicist Mary Beard explores the life of Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus – better known as Caligula – the third Roman Emperor. 'Caligula With Mary Beard' - BBC2, 9:00pm

The many stories about him are some of the most extraordinary told about any Roman Emperor. It is said that he not only saw himself as a living God but also whimsically killed half the Roman elite and enjoyed scandalous orgies with his three sisters – all in the short four years that he was in power.

Professor Mary Beard sets out to discover to what extent these tales are true, and unearth more information on the man himself, looking beyond the monster history has painted him as.

Also today: Escape to the Country returns (BBC1, 3:50pm) – and not much else.

Tuesday 30th July

Extreme OCD Camp

BBC3, 9:00pm

This two-part documentary, made as part of BBC3’s It’s a Mad World season, follows six young people living with OCD as they travel to America for a life-changing course.

The group are thrown in at the deep end as, after meeting and bonding in the UK, they are soon packed off to America, where their exposure treatment begins almost immediately and they must'Extreme OCD Camp' - BBC3, 9:00pm adjust to life not only with each other but without their home comforts, facing their fears and trying to overcome their compulsions.

I really hope that lots of people watch Extreme OCD Camp. I don’t suffer from the disorder but it infuriates me whenever someone says, ‘Ooh I can’t stop washing my hands – I must have OCD.’ No you haven’t! You like to wash your hands – just like anyone who has regard for hygiene. God knows how frustrated someone with OCD must feel when they hear something like that! We may all have compulsions (I take around five minutes to lock the door, I often have to turn the tap on and off again several times until it feels ‘right’, etc.) but we don’t all have OCD. Let’s hope that this programme will show exactly that.

Also today: Nicholas Lyndhurst joins the old dogs in New Tricks (BBC1, 9:00pm); Kumbh Mela: The Greatest Show on Earth (BBC2, 9:00pm) looks at British people attending the Indian festival; documentary Churchill’s First World War (BBC4, 9:00pm); and Oscar-winning film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (BBC1, 11:50pm).

Wednesday 31st July

You Saw Them Here First

ITV, 8:00pm

This new show, which is unfortunately only in two parts, delves into the archives and pulls out clips of some of Britain’s favourite famous faces in their TV debuts.

Robert Webb narrates as a plethora of stars are seen watching themselves before they were famous and taking their first tentative steps onto the fame ladder.

Prepare to enjoy the debuts of big names such as Cheryl Cole, Daniel Craig and Dame Maggie Smith and watch Eamonn Holmes, Pauline Quirke and Michelle Collins squirm as they are made to sit and relive it all.

Also today: Katy Brand, Heidi Range and – God help them – Janet Street-Porter enter the kitchen for the news series of Celebrity MasterChef (BBC1, 8:00pm); documentary A Food Hospital Special: Extreme Diet Ward (Channel 4, 8:00pm); Nigel Havers studies his ancestry in Who Do You Think You Are? (BBC1, 9:00pm); Neighbourhood Force (ITV, 9:00pm) takes a look at the work of anti-social behaviour officers; topical comedy show The Last Leg returns to Channel 4 at 10:00pm (send your #IsItOk questions to @TheLastLeg) and one of the show’s regulars, comic Alex Brooker, investigates the topic of male body image in Alex Brooker: My Perfect Body (10:50pm); and BBC Wales documentary Swansea City: The Fall and Rise is on BBC1 at 11:05pm.

Thursday 1st August

Shoplife

BBC3, 9:00pm

If you don’t live in the north-east, it’s likely that you have never heard of the MetroCentre in Gateshead. However, let me tell you that up here, Christmas is not complete without a six hour 'Shoplife' - BBC3, 9:00pmtraipse around Europe’s largest shopping centre. Oh, and if you’ve never had to endure a performance from the Metrognomes, you haven’t lived. Just see what you’re missing out on here. That is what I had to watch while my mam and dad raided Toys ‘R’ Us every December!

So, if you’ve never experienced the delights of the MetroCentre, don’t worry: the BBC has shot a whole six-part fly-on-the-wall documentary about life there. It’s basically Geordie Shore with job prospects.

Over the course of the series, viewers will watch the workers at the MetroCentre – from fashionista Abbie to Krispy Kreme’s Jon – muddle through life in retail, avoiding warnings from bosses, dreaming of bigger things and trying to scrape together enough money for a night out on the toon.

By the way, I feel I should point out that my mam and dad didn’t actually ‘raid Toys ‘R’ Us’. They’re actually very non-disruptive people.

Also today: Urban Jungle (BBC1, 7:00pm) explores the urban wildlife lurking in unusual places; The Dealership (Channel 4, 8:00pm) follows staff and customers at a car showroom in Essex; documentary How to Get a Council House (Channel 4, 9:00pm); and Crash for Cash (Channel 4, 10:00pm) reveals the story of a multi-million pound road accident scam in County Durham. Well it would be the bloody north-east, wouldn’t it?

Friday 2nd August

That Music Show

Channel 4, 10:00pm

Radio 1’s Breakfast Show host Nick Grimshaw returns to his old stomping ground of Channel 4 for'That Music Show' - Channel 4, 10:00pm this one-off quiz, in which two teams, comprising of both musicians and comics, have their knowledge tested of the music of 1995 and 2005.

The show, recorded in front of a live audience at the Brixton Electric, also features performances from AlunaGeorge and Primal Scream.

Also today: Miles Jupp and Rhod Gilbert – who was seemingly uninterested in the game last week – are on 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown (Channel 4, 9:00pm); and there’s a repeat of Cats captain Sean Lock’s 2008 live show (Channel 4, 11:05pm).

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.

Image credits: Break the Safe – Thanks to BBC and Steve Peskett, ©Thames, part of FremantleMediaUK; The Mill – Thanks to Channel 4; Caligula With Mary Beard – Thanks to BBC and Caterina Turroni, ©Lion TV; Extreme OCD Camp – Thanks to BBC and Dustin Bath, ©Watershed TV Ltd; You Saw Them Here First – All images thanks to ITV, ©Shiver TV; Shoplife – Thanks to BBC and Dan Prince, ©BBC; That Music Show – Thanks to Channel 4.

This Week in TV – 20th – 26th July

Here I provide a comprehensive list of the best of the coming week’s TV – with lots of Julia Bradbury, Jon Richardson and Elizabeth Taylor. Now there’s the line-up for a Celebrity Come Dine With Me that I would watch!

Saturday 20th July

David Starkey’s Music and Monarchy

BBC2, 8:10pm

In this four part series, starting tonight, Dr David Starkey tells of how British music, through history, has been influenced by monarchs.

The first episode sees the historian study some of our musical sovereigns – such as Henrys V and'David Starkey's Music and Monarchy' - BBC2, 8:10pm VIII – and how the music produced during their respective reigns helped other countries form an opinion of English life, whether that be a positive or negative one.

The series also features performances from groups such as Canterbury Cathedral, Eton College and King’s College Cambridge, as well as pieces from sixteenth-century composers John Dowland, William Byrd and Thomas Tallis.

Also today: ITV shows the first in the Harry Potter franchise, The Philosopher’s Stone (3:10pm), while BBC1 has that of the Indiana Jones series, Raiders of the Lost Ark (6:30pm); Denise Van Outen pops in for some more fun in the Your Face Sounds Familiar studio (ITV, 7:30pm); Radio 1’s Greg James and former Dragon, Hilary Devey, pair up for The Million Pound Drop Live on Channel 4 at 8:20pm; it’s Broadchurch v EastEnders as Carolyn Pickles and Perry Fenwick battle it out in All Star Family Fortunes (ITV, 8:45pm); BBC3 gears us up for new Family Guy with Greatest Freakin’ Griffin (10:00pm); and John Travolta and Nicholas Cage star in action thriller Face/Off (BBC1, 10:50pm).

Sunday 21st July

The Secret Life of Uri Geller

BBC2, 9:00pm 'The Secret Life of Uri Geller' - BBC2, 9:00pm

Many don’t know that controversial spoon-bender Uri Geller (pictured) has been working as a secret psychic spy for the last thirty years. This one-off documentary tells the story of how that happened and how he managed to go unnoticed for so long.

Through interviews with Uri, his friends and colleagues, we will find out what his work involved and how it took him to three different continents in as many decades.

Also today: Romantic drama The Death and Life of Charlie St Cloud premieres on Channel 4 at 5:35pm; BBBOTS’ Rylan Clark, former Doctor Who actor, Colin Baker and the multi-talented Debra Stephenson all try to win that £20,000 prize in Tipping Point: Lucky Stars (ITV, 7:00pm); Sheree Murphy, Diarmuid Gavin and Johnny Ball, and their partners, have their relationships tested on All Star Mr & Mrs (ITV, 8:00pm); Arthur Williams pays tribute to De Havilland Mosquito, the World War II plane which he claims history forgot, in The Plane That Saved Britain (Channel 4, 8:00pm); Family Guy: Greatest Freakin’ Griffin concludes (BBC3, 9:00pm), before the eleventh season begins at 10:00pm; and Dumb and Dumber is on Channel 5 (10:00pm).

Monday 22nd July

Burton and Taylor

BBC4, 9:00pm

I love a good biopic!

This one-off drama, starring Dominic West and Helena Bonham Carter, tells of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor’s tempestuous relationship, with particular focus on the times that their paths  crossed after they had separated.

In the early eighties, Burton and Taylor starred in a revival of Noel Coward’s Private Lives. As soon as rehearsals'Burton and Taylor' - BBC4, 9:00pm began, it was quite obvious that things were not going to run smoothly: Taylor would often roll in late for rehearsals, having not bothered to learn her lines. Burton immediately put this down to her alcohol dependency and began re-evaluating his own relationship with drink.

Things seemed to be getting back on track: Taylor was now turning up on time and had begun to learn her lines, meaning the production could easily go ahead without a hitch. However, as the audiences flocked to see the show – and try to catch a glimpse of her backstage – she continued to be unpunctual and the critics responded negatively to the play. Audience members also began to pick up on the apparent parallels between the actors’ and their characters’ lives, something which did not sit well with Burton at all, so much so that he began considering cutting the play’s run short.

Burton and Taylor profiles this bittersweet time in their lives.

Also today: Secret Dealers returns to ITV (3:00pm); Julia Bradbury’s new gameshow, Take on the Twisters (ITV, 5:00pm) sees contestants face eight giant sandtimers (ITV’s attempt to go one better than Channel 4’s Five Minutes to a Fortune, maybe?); Julia Bradbury again, this time with Phil Tufnell and Phil Hammond, to raise awareness of Britain’s three ‘silent killers’ in Long Live Britain (THIS SHOW HAS BEEN POSTPONED); Botched Up Bodies is back on Channel 5 (9:00pm); 2008 is the focus for the last in the series of What a Load of Buzzcocks (BBC2, 10:00pm); Don’t Blame Facebook (Channel 4, 10:00pm) explores the dangers of social networking sites; and, to celebrate the birth of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s son, BBC1 will be showing Born to be King at 10:45pm .

Tuesday 23rd July

Why Don’t You Speak English?

Channel 4, 9:00pm

It’s a regularly heard question, isn’t it? It’s also one which many answer themselves with the narrow-minded response, ‘Well none of them can be bothered to, can they?’ This two-part documentary 'Why Don't You Speak English?' - Channel 4, 9:00pmlooks set to disprove that.

Why Don’t You Speak English? follows four first-generation immigrants as they learn to speak  English by living with a family who apply their own ways to educating them.

With the immigrants hailing from China, Colombia, Poland and the Democratic Republic of Congo, this crash-course offers something for both themselves and the families they will live with. For the immigrants, it represents job prospects, a fresh future, or simply an end to isolation. For the English families, however, this is their opportunity to gain a first-hand insight into the life of an immigrant, particularly to understand how easy or difficult it is to fit in with a completely new community of people, and what we can do to make that transition easier for them.

Also today: Location Location Location’s Kirstie Allsopp presents Kirstie’s Fill Your House for Free (Channel 4, 8:00pm); Hunting the Doorstep Conmen follows the work of trading standards officers in North Yorkshire and Oxfordshire as they attempt to stamp out con artists who prey on the vulnerable (ITV, 9:00pm); Frank Bruno’s youngest daughter explores the complexities of her father’s bipolar disorder in Rachel Bruno: My Dad & Me (BBC3, 9:00pm); Cleopatra: The Film That Changed Hollywood (BBC4, 9:00pm) tells the behind-the-scenes story of the 1963 epic; An Officer and a Gentleman is on More4 (9:00pm); Alex Zane is back for more Rude Tube (Channel 4, 10:00pm); and new sitcom Badults begins (BBC3, 10:00pm).

Wednesday 24th July

Love/Hate

Channel 5, 10:00pm

Okay, so technically this drama is Irish but I’m willing to just slightly ignore the name of this blog in order to write about it – because it sounds brilliant.

Love/Hate has run for three series on RTÉ One and, despite being met with mixed reviews when it'Love/Hate' - Channel 5, 10:00pm debuted, is now highly acclaimed, having been awarded an incredible 19 IFTAs – that’s every single one that it has been nominated for! The second series, when it aired in 2011, was even the most-watched show in Ireland.

Starring Misfits’ Robert Sheehan and Game of Thrones star Aidan Gillen, the series centres around Dublin’s criminal underworld and, in the first episode alone, drive by shootings, prison releases, adultery and unplanned pregnancies are all dealt with.

Downton Abbey this certainly is not.

Also today: SuperScrimpers: Deals on Wheels (Channel 4, 8:00pm); the new series of Who Do You Think You Are? (BBC1, 9:00pm) begins with a look at Una Stubbs’s ancestry; Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (BBC4, 10:00pm); the return of Sky comedy-drama, The Cafe (Sky 1, 9:00pm); and Notes from the Inside with James Rhodes (Channel 4, 10:00pm) sees the pianist perform specially chosen pieces to psychiatric patients. Seriously.

Thursday 25th July

Catching a Killer: Crocodile Tears

Channel 4, 10:00pm

This one-off documentary investigates the cases which shocked the nation: those which saw the perpetrators feign innocence and upset before they were convicted of their crimes.'Catching a Killer: Crocodile Tears' - Channel 4, 10:00pm

The programme features interviews with those involved with the case, whether from a journalistic point of view or as friends or family, as well as Simon Foy (former Head of Homicide and Serious Crime at Scotland Yard), who offers his own insight into ‘crocodile tears cases’.

The three main cases investigated in this programme are those of the Philpotts (pictured) (who, along with their close friend Paul Mosley, were convicted for the manslaughter of their six children in April 2012), Stuart Hazell (who was jailed in May this year for the murder of twelve-year-old Tia Sharp) and Iftikhar and Farzana Ahmed (who were last year found guilty of the murder of their daughter, Shafilea, in 2003).

Also today: RHS Flower Show Tatton Park (BBC2, 7:30pm); a new series of Dara O Briain’s Science Club begins (BBC2, 8:00pm); Crimewatch (BBC1, 9:00pm); First Dates concludes (Channel 4, 9:00pm); and PhoneShop is back for a third series (E4, 10:00pm).

Friday 26th July

London Anniversary Games

BBC2, 7:30pm & BBC1, 8:30pm

Gabby Logan presents coverage of the London Anniversary Games, which will mark one year since the Olympic Games kicked off in the Capital, and made the country swell with pride.

Beginning today and continuing tomorrow, the Anniversary Games will see Usain Bolt and three of our Super Saturday stars – Mo Farah, Greg Rutherford and Jessica Ennis-Hill – all reunite to compete in London and help us remember a monumental summer for British sporting accomplishments.

Celebrations of the Anniversary Games aren’t just confined to BBC TV, though: there will also be coverage on BBC Radio 5 Live and your local BBC radio stations, where you can find out what the Games meant to your area.

Also today: Springwatch Guide to Butterflies (BBC2, 9:00pm); Jason Manford and Rhod Gilbert join Sean, Jon and Jimmy for some (unexpectedly successful and entertaining) 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown (Channel 4, 9:00pm); another chance to see the first series of The Trip (BBC2, 10:00pm), while Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are busy filming the second; the TV premiere of 8 Out of 10 Cats star Jon Richardson’s 2012 show, Funny Magnet (Channel 4, 10:00pm); and horror film Paranormal Activity (ITV, 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 –@UKTVReviewer.

‘Family Tree’ (BBC2) Review

From Jim Piddock and This is Spinal Tap creator, Christopher Guest, comes Anglo-American comedy Family Tree, starring Chris O’Dowd, Nina Conti, Michael McKean and the writers themselves.

The series focuses on Tom Chadwick. Jobless, single and at a loose end, he is bequeathed a chest of family treasures from an aunt who he has no recollection of ever meeting. The items inside the chest spur him on to investigate his lineage, with the help of family, friends and complete strangers.

 

I was looking forward to Family Tree: the cast list was impressive and its plot seemed original. Granted, the trailers hadn’t appeared particularly funny but I just told myself that they were saving the gems for the actual programme.

As the credits rolled on the first episode, however, I realised that they hadn’t. What had been in the trailers had been ‘the gems’.

Now first episodes tend to either pack in loads of laughs, leaving plot and characters ignored, or develop the story really well, but all but abandon the jokes. Family Tree falls into the latter camp as by the end of the episode, although I was now familiar with the storyline and characters, I simply didn’t feel like I’d been watching a comedy – it was like Chris O’Dowd had been in a very slow episode of Who Do You Think You Are?. It did manage to make me smile – or rather the brilliant Nina Conti did – but it was generally unimpressive and laugh-free.

Perhaps Guest and Piddock fell into the trap of thinking that the naturalism of a mockumentary would take care of the comedy side of things, meaning they didn’t really need to write any jokes? At first glance it may indeed seem that the gags in shows such as The Office and The Royle Family (although not a mockumentary) stemmed from their naturalism but that’s wrong: it was the everyday, mundane things which Brent and the Royles said and did which made those sitcoms so funny, and it’s just that the everyday, mundane situations that they were in enhanced how funny their lines were. The writers of Family Tree seem to have got confused somewhere along the line: they created the banal situation okay, but they forgot to weave in the dialogue and actions to create the comedy .

 

All Family Tree seemed to show was that Chris O’Dowd and Nina Conti are great performers even with an average script – because, even if they did seem somewhat shoe-horned in, it was Nina and her trusty Monk who provided the best moments in this episode.

Let’s hope it will grow into a funnier, more memorable series.

Images courtesy of BBC and Ray Burmiston.  ©NBCUniversal

Family Tree is on Tuesdays at 10:00pm on BBC2

What did you think of Family Tree? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Please 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.

‘Seann Walsh World’ (Comedy Central) Review

Featuring the weirdest and most wonderful clips from cyberspace, Seann Walsh World is another addition to Comedy Central’s raft of new, home-grown shows, which include Threesome, The Alternative Comedy Experience and Big Bad World, which is due to begin later this year and also stars Seann.

 

To be honest, this show needs little explanation: it’s a showcase of online clips, interspersed with some stand-up and sketches to accompany them. In effect, it’s Russell Howard’s Good News without the topical element, and a bit of Rude Tube thrown in for good measure. It doesn’t have a fancy set or graphics – the sketches even seem to be have been shot on a low budget – but it is a very funny and entertaining show.

Of course, with shows like this, a lot of the comedy derives from the clips – the rest comes from the presenter adding some witticism or observation to enhance it. Thankfully, both Seann and the clips in this show are brilliant, ranging from the cute to the painful and the generally odd. Granted, we may have seen some of them before (the squirrel leaping out of a window and the forklift driver crashing into a shelf, with disastrous consequences, were all familiar) but Seann’s interjections give a fresh feel to them.

 

Despite the host’s greatness, however, the real star of the series looks set to be Sam Sadler: the self-titled ‘Pussy Maaaaan’ who films YouTube videos for his ‘sexy pussy magnets and tiger tamers and shaggable muffin monsters’ whilst drinking possibly the most miniscule can of Pepsi Max that I have ever seen.

Seann introduces Sam at the end of the first episode as his ‘sixteen-year-old advice guru for the important things in life’ and goes on to mock the vlogger’s cringeworthy relationship advice by putting it into practice with a member of the audience. The results are excellent but he just about steers clear of seeming in any way malicious towards Sam. In fact, I know that there’s no malice involved as Sam will appear in person later in the series – and will sing. Now I’ve heard his rendition of The Script’s ‘Hall of Fame’, so I’m expecting something musically unimpressive but comically fantastic.

I haven’t really worked out yet whether Sam honestly thinks he is dispensing vital advice or is just having a bit of a laugh. I assume it’s the latter. I hope it’s the latter.

 

In a way, it’s a shame that Seann Walsh World is tucked away on Comedy Central, as either people won’t have cable or satellite TV or those who do will stupidly think that it mustn’t be worth a watch because it hasn’t been made by a terrestrial channel. Let me tell you that it is worth watching – for the sight of Seann Walsh doing ‘the toilet roll walk’, if nothing else!

Seann Walsh World is on Tuesdays at 10:00pm on Comedy Central

What did you think of Seann Walsh World? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Please 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.

‘Run’ (Channel 4) Review

From fledgling writers Daniel Fajemisin-Duncan and Marlon Smith comes Run: a gritty new drama series which over four nights this week will present as many seemingly unrelated stories, cleverly interwoven with each other and featuring a raft of treasured and emerging acting talent.

In tonight’s opening episode we saw Olivia Colman as Carol – a single mother who only just gets by on the money from her dead-end job (and a bit of theft besides) and continually strives to keep her family united and out of trouble. However, those attempts soon prove fruitless when her sons commit an act of random violence against a stranger, leaving her with the tough decision of whether to stand by them or turn them in to the police.

SUPERBLY GRIPPING’

Channel 4 has excelled itself recently with a host of excellent shows encompassing many genres: dramas like Dates, hidden-camera shows such as Eye Spy and documentaries, including How to Find Love Online and Daisy Donovan’s fantastic The Greatest Shows on Earth. Run can now be added to this quartet of brilliance.

Everything about it was superbly gripping, featuring characters which we got to know instantly – whether they were sympathetic like Carol or downright despicable like her ex, Kieran (Neil Maskell). Smith and Fajemisin-Duncan also paced their script very well: it didn’t crawl along and feel laboriously dragged out, nor did it race through. Carol’s story was told at a speed which mirrored her hectic life but also gave the audience a chance to get to know her and the people and places surrounding her. Within minutes we could tell that Carol was a single mother, living on the breadline and desperately trying to keep her family united and safe against the gritty backdrop of a council estate.

The interweaving of each story became apparent even at this early stage as this episode also introduced an intriguing plot involving a destitute Chinese girl, about whom we will find out more in tomorrow night’s episode.

COMPELLING AND TRAGIC’

All of the cast were excellent tonight but the real star of the show was of course Olivia Colman who, since being catapulted into the nation’s hearts after her portrayal of DS Ellie Miller in Broadchurch, can do very little wrong. Her performance as Carol, a working class mum of two, in Run was a huge departure from the roles for which she is best known – not only in Broadchurch but Peep Show and Rev. – and therefore proved what a fantastically talented and versatile actress she is.

Throughout the episode I really felt for Carol and her situation – being stuck in such a harsh, unforgiving environment with her attempts at creating happiness and normality being quashed by those around her. The writers’ writing, Charles Martin’s direction and Olivia Colman’s acting meant that Carol’s journey, from the discovery of her sons’ crime to the final, beautifully shot scene, was compelling and tragic in equal measure.

What with her BAFTA-winning turns in sitcoms (Twenty Twelve) and dramas (Accused), surely it is only a matter of time until Olivia Colman is given National Treasure status?

Run was nothing short of brilliant. Everyone involved contributed to creating an enjoyable, engrossing and sadly all too believable story, of which I am sure we will see a lot more as the series continues.

Run is on all this week at 10:00pm on Channel 4

What did you think of Run? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Please 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.

This Week in TV – 13th July – 19th July

Here I provide a comprehensive list of the best of the coming week’s TV – from Her Majesty The Queen to His Majesty (or so he likes to think) The Sugar.

Saturday 13th July

The Queen’s Coronation Festival Gala

BBC, 7:00pm

Gareth Malone and Sophie Raworth present highlights of this grand event from the gardens of Buckingham Palace, all to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation.

A host of stars will take to the stage, representing talent from across the UK and the Commonwealth, taking attendees and viewers on a whistle-stop tour through the past six decades of entertainment. Katherine Jenkins, Russell Watson, The Feeling, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and Britain’s Got Talent finalists, Only Boys Aloud are just some of the acts who will be providing the music. The English National Ballet will also perform a routine.

Also today: Peter Andre is this week’s guest judge on Your Face Sounds Familiar (ITV, 7:30pm); Natural World Special follows a team of scientists as they aim to be the first to find and film a giant squid (BBC2, 7:40pm); Hollyoaks’ Danny Mac and Steps star Claire Richards go head-to-head in All Star Family Fortunes (ITV, 8:45pm); New Zealand-set thriller Top of the Lake begins (BBC2, 9:10pm); and, ahead of the release of their new film, The World’s End, Pegg and Frost’s second film, Hot Fuzz is on ITV at 10:50pm.

Sunday 14th July

Law & Order: UK

ITV, 9:00pm

Bradley Walsh and co. return with the seventh series of the British version of American smash Law & Order.

The series opens with a two-part story about a suicidal man who has driven his car onto a railway track, killing fifteen train passengers in the process – but not himself. Crown Prosecutor Jake Thorne is straight on the case and is determined to catch the culprit, whose defence barrister, Kate Barker (played by new cast member Georgia Taylor) is out to prove his vulnerability and innocence. Then, just as the case finishes, and Jake thinks that it’s all over, CPS Director Henry Sharpe has a surprise for him…

As well as Georgia Taylor, Paterson Joseph (Peep Show, Green Wing) also joins the cast this series as DI Wes Leyton – an old friend of DS Brooks (Bradley Walsh). Guests stars who we can look forward to seeing in this series include Just Good Friends star Jan Francis, Holby City’s Amanda Mealing and EastEnders actress Glynis Barber.

Also today: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is on Channel 5 – again (12:55pm); 2009 musical remake Fame (Channel 4, 2:00pm); family favourite Marley & Me (Channel 4, 5:05pm); one-off documentary A Race Against Time: Hilary Lister’s Round Britain Dream tells of the quadriplegic sailor’s solo voyage around Britain (BBC2, 6:30pm); a camper show – apart from Fame – is difficult to find on the box today as Rosemary Shrager, Jane McDonald and Louie Spence all take part in Tipping Point: Lucky Stars (not easy for Louie to say!) on ITV at 7:00pm; documentary series Wild Cameramen at Work (BBC2, 7:30pm); The Saturdays star Una Healy, rugby union player Ben Foden and Most Haunted’s Yvette Fielding are on All Star Mr & Mrs (ITV, 8:00pm); and Hunt vs Lauda: F1’s Greatest Racing Rivals (BBC2, 9:00pm), featuring archive footage and interviews to tell the story of the battle between the UK’s James Hunt and Austria’s Niki Lauda in 1976.

Monday 15th July

Run

Channel 4, 10:00pm

Over four nights this week, Run (written by newcomers Marlon Smith and Daniel Fajemisin-Duncan) will tell the story of four seemingly unconnected people, as they are faced with life-defining decisions.

We begin the series with Carol. Played by Olivia Colman (Broadchurch), she is a hardened single  mother who is trying to keep her family together. However, that aim is to become even tougher when her 'Run' - Channel 4, 10:00pmson commits and act of random violence against a stranger – which results in their death. Carol is now faced with the hard decision of whether to protect her son or turn him in.

Showing from tonight until Thursday, Run will see Smith and Fajemisin-Duncan cleverly weave together their four gripping stories, which will also star Jaime Winston, Neil Maskell (last seen in Dates) and Benedict Wong, plus a raft of new acting talent.

Also today: Eamonn and Ruth kick off This Morning Summer (ITV, 10:30am) with a man who believes he is Jesus; as The One Show takes a week off, Gregg Wallace and Chris Bavin present one-off documentary Eat Well for Less (BBC1, 7:00pm); Jeremy Paxman returns with more University Challenge (BBC2, 8:00pm); new sitcom Count Arthur Strong continues (BBC2, 8:30pm); Jessie Pavelka helps ten people to shed the pounds in Fat: The Fight of My Life (Sky1, 9:00pm); Harley Street follows the staff and clients at a London cosmetic clinic (Sky1, 10:00pm); and My £9.50 Holiday explores the growing trend for cheap getaways (BBC1, 10:35pm).

Tuesday 16th July

Family Tree

BBC2, 10:00pm

This new semi-improvised comedy stars Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids, The IT Crowd) as Tom Chadwick, who has recently lost both his job and his girlfriend. Left with little sense of who he is, Tom is bequeathed a mysterious box by a great aunt, whom he never met. When he begins  searching in the box, his curiosity about his heritage grows, leading him to trace his family tree – a quest which takes him from England to California.

Just like Episodes, a third series of which is currently in 'Family Tree' - BBC2, 10:00pmproduction, Family Tree is an Anglo-American comedy (having previously been shown on US network, HBO), although this series is also filmed in the style of a documentary.

As well as Chris O’Dowd, the series also stars ventriloquist Nina Conti (she’s even brought Monk along!) as Tom’s sister, Bea – although Nina says, ‘Monk can’t pronounce the letter B so he hardly ever says my name’. PhoneShop star Tom Bennett also features as Pete, Tom’s best mate who tries to get his love life back on track. However, judging by the person whom Pete picks for Tom in the first episode, he isn’t terribly good at match-making. You’ll have to wait and see what I mean.

Also today: Gok Live: Stripping for Summer (Channel 4, 8:00pm) and Robson Green: How the North Was Built (ITV, 9:00pm) conclude; Princess Diana’s Dresses: The Auction investigates the tales behind the Princess of Wales’s dresses (Channel 4, 9:00pm); comedian Seann Walsh’s new series about the weird and wonderful world of the internet begins (Comedy Central, 10:00pm); and there’s another chance to see Donny Osmond’s grilling on Piers Morgan’s Life Stories (ITV, 10:35pm).

Wednesday 17th July

The Apprentice: The Final

BBC1, 9:00pm

After 11 weeks, 14 firings and one historic abdication, the Final of this year’s Apprentice has finally arrived – but will it be Luisa or Leah who is named Lord Sugar’s business partner?

The final task that the two candidates face is simply to, with the help of fired candidates, bring their business plans to fruition andLeah Totton create brands and launch campaigns, to be unveiled at a huge event, attended by business giants, and Lord Sugar himself.

So, will Luisa’s cupcake venture crumble or will Leah’s cosmetic surgery plan be left in need of an enhancement?

I really hope that Leah wins the £250,000 investment from Lord Sugar. I think she has been a great candidate throughout the series, never taking over or putting others down. She may not have a business background but she is a doctor, so therefore knows an awful lot about the market which she proposes Lord Sugar invests in. Luisa, on the other hand, is far tooLuisa Zissman forward in my opinion. I  believe her to be bossy and full of self-importance – just look at the way she bullied poor Jason into stepping down as Project Manager in the Dating task and pushed Francesca into being the chef on that of the ready meals. She slyly shied away from entering the kitchen herself – despite having run a bakery business for several years, and Francesca having very little experience with cooking. No, I absolutely want Leah to be this series’ victor, and I believe she has the ability to do so. Let’s just hope Lord Sugar is brave enough to take a punt on a business idea which he would be new to.

For the second half of this two-hour episode, Dara O’Briain welcomes back all of this series’ hopefuls and gets the first chat with Lord Sugar and the winning candidate in The Apprentice: Your Hired!.

Also today: SuperScrimpers: Summer Savings (Channel 4, 8:00pm); the first episode of new three-part documentary Myra Hindley: The Untold Story (Channel 5, 8:00pm); Philippa Gregory presents The Real White Queen and Her Rivals (BBC2, 9:00pm), tying in with the BBC1 adaptation of her book, The White Queen; Ray Mears’ Close Encounters (ITV, 9:00pm) sees the presenter study Australian animals; Diaries of a Broken Mind (BBC3, 9:00pm), as part of the channel’s It’s a Mad World season, follows 25 young people living with mental health issues; and Wheelers, Dealers and Del Boys (BBC1, 10:35pm) shows the daily life in a south London auction house.

Thursday 18th July

Britain’s Favourite Supermarket Foods

BBC1, 8:00pm

Day after day we are told that the foods we love are bad for us.

Well not any more. Cherry Healey is here with Britain’s Favourite Supermarket Foods – a series 'Britain's Favourite Supermarket Foods' - BBC1, 8:00pm which shines a light on the good things about the stuff we eat. So, whether its how milk can benefit the muscles or how tea – brewed in a particular way – can advantage your health, Cherry will tell us the truth about food, and for once we might actually want to hear it.

However, one thing we may not want to hear is whether or not it is possible to become addicted to chocolate – which is revealed in the programme. A lot of people’s excuse for their all-too-regular Dairy Milk binges may soon be unravelled.

Also today: The conclusion of Nick and Margaret: We All Pay Your Benefits (BBC1, 9:00pm); documentary series The Briefs (ITV, 9:00pm) and The Hotel Inspector (Channel 5, 9:00pm) return; and one-off documentary Meet the Landlords is on BBC1 at 10:35pm.

Friday 19th July

Pramface

BBC1, 11:05pm

The Friday drought on new shows continues. However, the second series of sitcom Pramface is being premiered on BBC1, having previously been shown on BBC3.

If you’re unfamiliar with the premise of Pramface, it follows teens Laura and Jamie as their one night stand results in them becoming parents. While the baby means that academic Laura has to put her career plans on hold, Jamie just has to carry on trying to avoid maturity with his best mate, Mike. The couples also come from different families: Laura’s is middle and Jamie’s is working class, causing further disagreements among the grandparents.

This hour-long opener to the second series sees the reluctant couple prepare for their baby’s christening – but without even a name for her, they aren’t exactly ready for the event.

Also today: Roman epic Gladiator (ITV, 10:35pm); and highlights of last weekend’s T in the Park (BBC2, 11:05pm).

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.

Is Shane Allen Doing the Wright Thing For BBC Comedy?

New Controller of Comedy Commissioning at the BBC, Shane Allen, yesterday announced which of the corporation’s sitcoms, new and established, are to be axed, and which are to be returning. However, has he made the right choices about the recommissioning and cancelation of certain shows?

HEADING OFF

One of the casualties of the former Channel 4 Comedy chief’s shake-up is Sue Perkins’s Heading Out, in which she played vet Sara who, at the age of forty, had still not told her parents that she was gay. Over six episodes, we followed Sara as her friends had booked her sessions with a rather eccentric life coach (played by Joanna Scanlan), who helped build her confidence and find the courage to come out to her parents.

When I read that Heading Out had been given the chop, I have to say that I wasn’t particularly surprised. Whereas I wrote in my review of the first episode that the series ‘showed promise’ and it looked that there were ‘good things to come’, it failed to bloom into the brilliant show which many expected it to be, and it turns out that even Perkins’s common writer’s trick of ending the show with something of a cliffhanger, in the hope that commissioners and audiences alike will demand more, failed to work.

Don’t get me wrong, Heading Out wasn’t all that bad: it did manage to raise a few titters and I did find myself rooting for Sara. I even admired its rather unorthodox representation of gay people, which allowed them to be shown not as horrendous stereotypes but just…people, I suppose. It was an approach which is sadly rare in the world of sitcom.

GOING THE WRIGHT WAY – TO THE BIN

Next, there’s a sitcom which dealt with sexuality in a way more suited to the playground than the BBC, and one which should have been binned from the moment the writer penned his first draft: The Wright Way.

God, even writing it threatens the tears of despair which rolled down my cheeks during the transmission of Episode One. This almost universally disliked series, from hitherto reputable writer Ben Elton, focused on a local council’s Health and Safety department, headed by the series’ busybody protagonist, Gerald Wright – hence the title, The Wright Way! Oh my aching sides, Mr Elton.

The title, the jokes (or lack thereof), the title sequence, the delusion that Elton can still pen a successful sitcom, all of it was just so terribly tragic and led to the inevitability that this series would not again see the light of day. It’s not so much the inflicted boredom which influences my condemnation of The Wright Way: it’s the temerity of the BBC to commission it. During its last submissions round earlier this year, BBC Writersroom received over 2800 scripts – covering numerous genres – from budding scribes. I know, because mine was one of them. Now, I’ll bet that there were hundreds in that pile of scripts which the Writersroom team sifted through and were funnier or, if not a comedy, more worthy of the investment of licence fee payers’ money than Elton’s drivel. It’s almost as if he had a fast track ticket to a six-part series commission because he created The Young Ones and rescued Blackadder. Of course, I’m not for one moment suggesting that that is what happened, though.

Unbelievably, Shane Allen said, ‘[The Wright Way] isn’t what you’d call a flop’. And I agree – it’s not what I’d call ‘a flop’: it’s what everyone would call ‘a flop’. Ben Elton is apparently in talks about new pilots, however. Haven’t this show and Blessed (2005) taught the Beeb their lesson?

A SURPRISE

The third victim of Allen’s comedy shake-up is Getting On – which I was both saddened and surprised to read would not be returning.

Written by and starring Jo Brand, Joanna Scanlan and Vicki Pepperdine, Getting On showed life in an NHS hospital, and totally lacked the glamour which medical sitcoms are usually brimming with. The trio created and played their characters brilliantly, making them rounded, relatable people whose day-to-day trials and tribulations, and reactions to them, were great to watch.

Unlike Heading Out and The Wright Way, Getting On had a true fan base – albeit a small one, given its modest three series run on BBC4. It received an RTS Award and Scanlan and Brand were each nominated for the BAFTA for Best Female Performance in a Comedy Role in 2010, which the latter actually won. The series is also heading for America, as US network HBO commissioned six episodes in March. So, with such acclaim from viewers and critics, it seems a mystery as to why Getting On is getting the axe.

Perhaps the reason is that three series was deemed enough. After all, just think of other comedies which have stopped after three successful runs: Father Ted? Gimme Gimme Gimme? Gavin & Stacey? The Inbetweeners? Like these shows, I’m sure Getting On will still be fondly remembered. Plus, we aren’t going to be without Joanna Scanlan and Vicki Pepperdine’s brilliance for too long, as the BBC has just announced that their new sitcom, Puppy Love, is to be filmed later this year.

SHOWS WHICH ARE GOING STRONG

Thankfully, it’s not all bad news for fans of Auntie’s comedy output: Count Arthur Strong has been given a second series, despite only one episode having aired – and even that was met with a mixed reception from its audience of just 971,000 viewers.

Shane Allen also enthused about Jennifer Saunders and her BAFTA- and Emmy Award-winning sitcom, Absolutely Fabulous, saying, ‘The door’s wide open [for it to return]’. I would definitely welcome a comeback for Ab Fab – despite many claiming that the 20th anniversary specials in 2011 and 2012 weren’t up to the standard of the original series (which ran from 1992-96, and then 2001-04) but I thought they showed the cast – comprising of ‘The Five Js’ – to be on top form, and Saunders to still possess the sharp wit and ability to pull of the satirical style which made the series such a hit in the first place. Even if Ab Fab doesn’t return, we may be seeing more from Jennifer on the BBC as Allen also said, ‘[Jennifer] is brilliant. I’d do anything she wants.’

I wouldn’t advise a West End musical though, Shane.

Also preparing for a return is The Royle Family, although it has been made clear that there are no further plans for Christmas episodes. Well if 2012’s effort is anything to go by, I’m not surprised. It was abysmal! Since the ‘Queen of Sheba’ episode in 2006, The Royle Family has moved away from its real-time routes and now jumps time settings and has even left the familiar surroundings of the Royles’ house on quite a few occasions. That took some getting used to for fans, but I think we’ve all come to just enjoy spending time with Jim and co., regardless of where it is. Last year’s Christmas special, however, ‘Barbara’s Old Ring’, was little more than an hour of far-fetched, yawn-inducing nonsense, which the BBC saw fit to broadcast at primetime on Christmas Day. I just don’t know how the writers thought that fans would be entertained by the rubbish that they handed in to the BBC – probably at the eleventh hour, something which Aherne and Cash are infamous for doing and which resulted in them not meeting the deadline to create a special for 2011. It was an inferior follow-up to the brilliant 2010 episode, which saw new character Saskia (Downton Abbey’s Joanne Froggatt) go into labour a mere few seconds before the closing credits rolled. Skip forward two years and there’s not one mention of Saskia – who Antony had proposed to in the same episode – or her baby. It’s not what fans deserved, and I for one won’t be crying out for another special if the quality does not return to what we had become accustomed to with previous episodes.

So, in answer to the original question, I think Allen has made some ‘Wright’ decisions for BBC Comedy – axing Elton’s effort being the best of them all. However, I also believe that he has made some wrong ones – Getting On didn’t deserve the axe and maybe (just maybe) Heading Out should have been given a second chance (as Allen himself stated, ‘Only Fools and Horses took two series before it bedded in’). I also hope that he only gives the green light to specials of The Royle Family if they are up to scratch, unlike the last one, and that he has done the right thing in recommissioning Graham Linehan’s latest venture, Count Arthur Strong, so early on. After all, previous successes don’t guarantee that a show will work.

Ben Elton has learned that.

What did you think of Shane Allen’s decisions? Do you agree or disagree with me? Please 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.

‘Count Arthur Strong’ (BBC2) Review

Steve Delaney’s much-loved comic creation, Count Arthur Strong, made his sitcom debut on Monday as the series of the same name, co-written by Graham Linehan and Delaney himself, began.

DISAPPOINTED’

I wrote an article about Count Arthur Strong last week and included information on the characters, as well as the ‘sit’ within the ‘com’. I watched trailers, clips of Steve Delaney’s previous Edinburgh shows and read interviews with Delaney and Linehan, in which it was mentioned that Arthur can boast fans such as Billy Connolly and Sir Paul McCartney. And yet, for some infuriating reason, I  just couldn’t get excited about the show.

In hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t overhype it in my head, as I would have been even more disappointed than I actually was after watching it. Don’t get me wrong, Count Arthur Strong wasn’t terrible (we haven’t got another The Wright Way on our hands here) but I didn’t find it as funny as I was led to believe I would.

Linehan and Delaney seemed to rely on viewers already being familiar with the character of Arthur. I’m sure that a lot of people will have come to the show having already seen one of his hugely successful Edinburgh shows or listened to the award-winning Count Arthur Strong’s Radio Show! on Radio 4 but some, like myself, will not have seen much of Arthur – if any at all. As a result of the writers’ assumption that we all know and love Arthur, the character was left quite under-developed. Where was the delusional character who I had read about – the one who believes that he had once been, and continues to be, highly famous and extremely well-regarded in showbiz circles? In fact, only Michael Baker (played wonderfully by Rory Kinnear) was developed well: the other characters – Katya, Eggy and Sinem, for example – seemed to have been simply dropped into the episode and, while I understood their roles, their individual personalities weren’t given a chance to shine through.

KEEPING WITH TRADITION

Of course, Count Arthur Strong is just one of many throwbacks to the ‘traditional’ laughter-laden family sitcom. Some do it well (Mrs Brown’s Boys and Miranda are the examples which immediately spring to mind) while some don’t – the aforementioned The Wright Way is always my scapegoat for traditional trash. Like many, I think that back-to-basics sitcoms are fantastic! O’Carroll and Hart’s creations are, in my opinion, two of the best examples of sitcom in recent years. I must admit that,  despite giving it a poor review, I even enjoyed the final episode of ITV’s Vicious, and warmed to its unashamedly traditional characters and situations. The problem is, I’m just not sure Count Arthur Strong suits such a sitcom. I’m not suggesting he be used in a real-time series or ‘mockumentary’, but there’s something that doesn’t quite work for me, I’m afraid.

Then again, is it Linehan who is unsuitable for such a show – not Arthur? His sitcoms have always brilliantly blended the traditional with the contemporary. Father Ted, Black Books and The IT Crowd – his three most notable creations – were all traditional in that they all had laughter tracks and featured stock characters. Take Ted, for example: you had the eponymous leader of, and voice of reason within, the Craggy Island clan; you had Dougal, the idiotic one; Jack, the rude, cantankerous one; and Mrs Doyle, the annoying one who means well. To reiterate, though, they all felt contemporary – especially The IT Crowd, the subject matter of which simply would have been neither relevant nor relatable a mere decade before. It is these types of shows which Linehan is best known and loved for. Count Arthur Strong, on the other hand, feels very safe in comparison – and I don’t just mean that it’s less profane. It just has nothing ‘new’ about it and appears to be trying to emulate its traditional contemporaries. It’s like slipping on a comfortable, once fashionable pair of shoes, only to discover that everyone else is now wearing them and yours are slightly scuffed.

 

I really hope that I am proved wrong about Count Arthur Strong and that it grows on me and becomes a hit. Actually, it looks like it’s already half way there – if this is one of the rare occasions that the reaction from the Twittersphere can be trusted. One user wrote, ‘#countarthurstrong Absolutely BRILLIANT. Laughed til [sic] tears rolled down my cheeks! Thank you @BBC2. Haven’t laughed like that for years!’ and another dubbed it ‘Classic British comedy in the making’. Then again, some people sided with me by calling it ‘a bit broad’ and speculating that the usually reliable Linehan’s involvement went only as far as ‘spell checking the script’.

I suppose you can’t please everyone, can you?

Images courtesy of BBC. © Fremantle Productions

Count Arthur Strong is on Mondays at 8:30pm on BBC2

What did you think of Count Arthur Strong? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Please 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.

This Week in TV – 6th – 12th July

Here I provide a comprehensive list of the best of the coming week’s TV – which has taken me longer to produce than usual because I’ve admittedly also had one eye on the men’s Semis at Wimbledon…

Yes, welcome to Carry On Reviewing!

Saturday 6th July

Your Face Sounds Familiar

ITV, 7:30pm

It’s low-brow, loud and everything about it says ‘car crash’. Let’s face it, though: Your Face Sounds Familiar is entertaining.

In my review of last week’s opening episode, I told of how I really want to dislike this show, but can’t help enjoying it. The celebrities, audience and presenters are having fun (even if Julian Clary clearly is not) and aren’t taking the competition too seriously (even if last week’s guest judge Donny Osmond clearly was).

As we found out last week, the Randomiser (or ‘Ramdoniser’, as Paddy accidentally called it) decided that last week’s winner, Cheryl Fergison will perform as Anastacia, Alexander Armstrong will be Johnny Rotten and Bobby Davro will be showing that he has the moves like Jagger as he takes to the stage as the Stones frontman. Meanwhile, Emmerdale’s Natalie Anderson will be Britney Spears, Denise Lewis will be doing her best to impersonate Lenny Kravitz and – best of all – This Morning’s Matt Johnson is to be Taylor Swift. And how lovely he looks as her, too.

If you didn’t watch last week and have been put off doing so by the terrible reviews (The Guardian questioned whether it was ‘the worst Saturday night show ever’), I would urge you to just give it a go. I’m not saying that you’ll definitely love it, and nor am I saying that it’s up there with the best examples of TV talent shows. There are a lorra lorra laughs to be have, though.

That was a reference to Cilla Black being this week’s guest judge, by the way.

Also today: Dance film Step Up (ITV, 4:05pm); David Haye and Georgia May Foote (Corrie’s Katy) are joined by their families for another All Star Family Fortunes (ITV, 8:45pm); a repeat of The Late Great Eric Sykes (BBC2, 9:45pm); comedy film Scott Pilgrim vs the World (Channel 4, 10:00pm); The Thick of It spin-off In the Loop (BBC2, 10:45pm); and thriller Wanted (ITV, 10:50pm).

Sunday 7th July

Burma, My Father and the Forgotten Army

BBC2, 9:00pm

In this one-off documentary, comedian and broadcaster Griff Rhys Jones travels to the jungles of Burma to discover more about his father’s time at war, and to meet some of the veterans who formed what is now regarded as the Forgotten Army.

Griff’s father, Elwyn, seldom spoke about his time at war, despite having travelled 15,000 miles from'Burma, My Father and the Forgotten Army' - BBC2, 9:00pm Wales to Ghana, where he acted as a medical officer to a West African division.

Accompanied by Joshua, a ninety-year-old veteran, Griff uncovers the story of how the forgotten war transformed the West Africans forever.

I initially wasn’t too fussed about this documentary – I’ve never been a huge history fan. However, after seeing a clip of Griff meeting some veterans who recognise and share their stories of his father, I am convinced that it really is one to watch. If I was moved by a clip of eighty seconds, I know I will love the whole programme.

Also today: COME ON ANDY! Coverage of Wimbledon begins on BBC1 at 12:50pm; spoof thriller Johnny English (ITV, 5:05pm); family favourites Alvin and the Chipmunks (Channel 4, 5:45pm) and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Channel 5, 6:00pm); find out in which unlikely way Sandi Toksvig acquired a scar on her hand in Jo Brand’s Great Wall of Comedy (GOLD, 7:30pm); Simon Gregson, John Thomson and Ricky Tomlinson face the machine in Tipping Point: Lucky Stars (ITV, 7:00pm); Sally Lindsay, Gary Rhodes and Ruth Madoc have their knowledge of their partners tested in All Star Mr & Mrs (ITV, 8:00pm); and hit film Mamma Mia! (ITV, 9:00pm).

Monday 8th July

Drama Channel

Freeview Channel 20

This brand new channel, exclusive to Freeview, is the newest addition to the UKTV network.

Beginning from 8:00am this morning, Drama will broadcast favourites such as The Bill, Monarch of the Glen and Born and Bred – plus so much more. It’s not just drama, however: at 9:30am (and 7:40pm tonight) you can see the first-ever episodes of the soon to be revived Birds of a Feather. A chance to remind ourselves what Pauline Quirke and Linda Robson (or Laura Robson, as The Guardian’s Vanessa Thorpe mistakenly called her last week) looked like over two decades ago. Last of the Summer Wine will also appear.

Every night at 9:00pm this week, Drama will be showing one of its top imports, beginning with Inspector George Gently tonight and then continuing all week with Taggart, Call the Midwife, New Tricks and Jonathan Creek.

Viewers can also look forward to Pride & Prejudice, The Crimson Petal and the White, Cranford, Silk and comedy-drama Eric & Ernie in the coming weeks.

Also today: Documentary A Very British Ramadan (Channel 4, 8:00pm); Rachel de Thame and Joe Swift present Hampton Court Palace Flower Show (BBC2, 8:00pm); new comedy series Count Arthur Strong (BBC2, 8:30pm); we discover more about Luisa, Leah, Francesca, Neil and Jordan in The Apprentice: The Final Five (BBC1, 9:00pm); we take a trip back to 2007 for another What a Load of Buzzcocks (BBC2, 10:00pm); sadly the last in the series of the simply brilliant The Greatest Shows on Earth (Channel 4, 10:00pm); and Getting On stars Jo Scanlan and Ricky Grover are in this week’s Coming Up (Channel 4, 11:05pm).

Tuesday 9th July

The Murder Trial

Channel 4, 9:00pm

Three years to set-up, just six weeks to film. This feature-length, landmark documentary shows the murder trial of Scottish businessman Nat Fraser, who is accused of killing his wife. However, there is no weapon, no crime scene – but there is a watertight alibi from Fraser himself.'The Murder Trial' - Channel 4, 9:00pm

Using remotely-operated cameras, this two hour-long documentary will show exactly what goes on during a murder trial. This is particularly fascinating as the family of Fraser’s wife, Arlene, have been waiting fourteen years to have her killer brought to justice. Also, this is not the first time that Fraser has been tried for the murder of his wife: he was found guilty in 2003 but challenged the verdict, claiming that the trial had been a miscarriage of justice. In 2011, he succeeded and the verdict was quashed. In April 2012, however, he was tried tried once again.

The Murder Trial will tell whether the new jury find him guilty or not.

Also today: Raymond Blanc: How to Cook Well (BBC2, 8:00pm); new documentary series The Cruise: A Life at Sea follows life aboard the ship Balmoral – which I assume is a Jane McDonald-free zone… (BBC2, 8:30pm); Piper Alpha: Fire in the Night uses eyewitness reports and reconstructions to recount the events of 6th July 1988, when 167 men died on a North Sea oil platform (BBC2, 9:00pm); Robson Green: How the North Was Built (ITV, 9:00pm); Clarke Carlisle looks into depression in sportsmen in Football’s Suicide Secret (BBC3, 9:00pm); Rod Stewart is the focus of this week’s Imagine (BBC1, 10:35pm), followed by his appearance on a 1976 episode of The Old Grey Whistle Test (BBC1, midnight); and Dennis Waterman discusses his tumultuous relationship with Rula Lenska in a repeat of Piers Morgan’s Life Stories (ITV, 10:35pm).

Wednesday 10th July

Some Vicars With Jokes

BBC4, 10:00pm

Do I really need to explain this programme?

From All Gas and Gaiters in the sixties to Rev in the noughties, with a few stops in Dibley and on Craggy Island along the way, Christianity – and religion in general – has always been a big part of comedy. This series solidifies that and shows that clergymen and women do have a sense of humour. Who knew?

Now, I’ve seen a clip of Some Vicars With Jokes and it is more likely to elicit groans than belly laughs, but some of the gags are quite good. Look out particularly for Rev. Geoff Davis’s joke about the price of lager.

Also today: Restoration Home (BBC2, 8:00pm) and The Zoo (ITV, 8:00pm) are back; Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, as well as having a typically blunt Channel 5 title, follows Australian Joe Cross as he seeks a healthy diet in America (8:00pm); Lindsay Lohan stars in chick-flick Just My Luck (E4, 8:00pm); it’s the much-anticipated Interviews episode of The Apprentice – and three will be sent packing (BBC1, 9:00pm); and Love and Marriage comes to and end (ITV, 9:00pm).

Thursday 11th July

Brady and Hindley: Possession

ITV, 9:00pm

Paul McGann narrates this aptly-timed documentary, coinciding as it does with not only Brady’s recent hearing but also the fiftieth anniversary of their heinous crimes.

It is certainly a brave move for ITV and Wild Pictures (the production company behind the documentary) to create this programme. Over the sixty minutes, we will see images which Brady and Hindley took themselves, and also hear the latter speaking in her cell about the killing which resulted in their capture.

The documentary aims to raise new questions about the pair’s crimes, and also discover where the bodies are buried. It is believed that pictures exist which hold clues to where their victims have been buried, as they depict Brady and Hindley each standing by the graves.

We will also hear from people who knew Brady and Hindley, including one man who managed to escape the pair as a child, neighbour Carol Waterhouse and also journalists and detectives who recall working on the case at the time.

2006 drama See No Evil: The Moors Murders, starring Maxine Peake and Sean Harris, is repeated at 10:00pm on ITV3 tonight, and concludes tomorrow at the same time.

Let’s return to some ‘lighter’ stuff, shall we? Also today: James Martin, Richard Corrigan and Angela Hartnett meet a family who have just £1.66 per day to feed themselves in Great British Budget Menu (BBC1 8:00pm); documentary Married to the Job begins, following Hertfordshire’s female police detectives (ITV, 8:30pm); The Apprentice’s Nick Hewer and Margaret Mountford investigate unemployment in Nick and Margaret: We All Pay Your Benefits (BBC1, 9:00pm); BBC Scotland’s Hebrides: Islands on the Edge is on BBC2 at 9:00pm; and, ahead of next week’s final, Lord Sugar takes a look back at this series of The Apprentice in Why I Fired Them (BBC1, 10:35pm).

Friday 12th July

World’s Busiest Train Station

Channel 5, 8:00pm

You have no idea how tempting it was to write about The Proms or a repeat of John Bishop’s 2011 tour.

Yes, my highlight for today is this: a new four-part documentary which goes behind the scenes of – you guessed it! – some of the world’s busiest train stations.

The series begins by looking at Shinjuku railway terminus in Tokyo, which sees three million people pass through every day.

Also today, I’ve already mentioned them really: BBC Proms (BBC2, 8:00pm) and John Bishop: The Sunshine Tour (BBC1, 10:35pm) which, depending on how the BBC have edited the show, may or may not include a joke about Sunderland – which he told quite differently when I saw him in Newcastle on the same tour…

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.