‘Stephen Fry’s Key to the City’ (ITV) Review

He may be QI‘s resident brainbox but when Stephen Fry was awarded Freedom of the City, he had to admit that he wasn’t sure what it meant. However, in one-off documentary, Key to the City, Stephen made full use of the privilege to explore London and uncover its hidden treasures.

Despite living just a few miles away from the City of London, Stephen claimed that it felt like an alien place to him. Over the course of the programme, though, the actor gained access to the places that most of the City’s 8,000 residents could only dream of visiting – from the heart of the Bank of England to the depths of the Old Bailey.


Like many people, I adore and am in awe of Stephen Fry – so was very much looking forward to Key to the City. And I did quite enjoy it. It was informative, it was quirky…well it was a bit like QI in a  way. It was clear that Stephen felt incredibly fortunate and humbled to have been given this ‘access-all-areas’ pass to the City of London, and he introduced us to some breathtaking sights – none more so than the vault which he visited at the Bank of England. In this vault, he wandered and spoke lengthily – but exquisitely, naturally – while drinking in his surroundings: those being around £20billion in cash. It certainly wasn’t an everyday sight, so for not only Stephen to have experienced it but for us at home to have, too, was brilliant.

Aside from the excellent, rare locations which we saw, however, I did have a problem with Key to the City: it felt very clunky. There was no smooth transition between each person or place that Stephen visited – we were just moved very swiftly on to the next stop on his tour, without much conclusion to the previous. I mean, in the fourth part of the programme, Stephen was one minute having a conversation with a beekeeper atop the Lord Mayor’s residence, the next he was speaking with former Lord Mayor, Lord Levene about finance! There appeared to be a complete lack of cohesion between the visits, we just lurched into the next as suddenly as one had finished. It did spoil the programme more than a little.


So, I liked Stephen Fry’s Key to the City – I just would have done so more if we’d spent longer on certain parts of the presenter’s trip (his visit to lovely octogenarian and fellow Freedom of the City holder, Doris, for example) and there’d been an easier transition from one to another. Overall, however, it was a quite interesting documentary which not only increased my love of Stephen but also proved that even a ‘mega-mind’ like himself doesn’t know everything.

What did you think of Stephen Fry’s Key to the City? 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.


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