Monthly Archives: August 2014

‘Tumble’ (BBC1) Review

Question: What happens when you toss Strictly and Splash! together and, with some fanfare, stick the end result on primetime BBC1?

The answer is Tumble: a new talent show which requires celebrities to learn gymnastics, of both the floor and aerial varieties. They’re coached by a gymnast, partnered by a gymnast, commentated on by a gymnast, and then judged by a panel of gymnasts; it’s very much a gymnastics-orientated  vehicle. This week, all of the celebrities performed for the  first time and were guaranteed a place in next week’s show – but at the end of the second episode, the two contestants w ho receive the fewest votes will have to take on the Vault, and whoever is deemed to be the poorest will be eliminated. Sad times.

Other than the gymnastics element, there is nothing to set Tumble apart from any other celebrity talent show: the forced drama, mixed bag of routines and tedious judges have all been seen on shows previously. Even the celebrities aren’t new to 'Tumble' contestantsreality TV fans: Andrea McLean competed on the first series of Dancing on Ice; Ian ‘H’ Watkins (the ‘H’ is very important nowadays) has been a Celebrity Big Brother housemate; Emma Samms, as well as being one of the less recognisable faces from Dynasty, was a contestant on Celebrity Scissorhands; and Peter Duncan has been on The Games and Let’s Dance for Sport Relief – as has Carl Froch. That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with the celebrities – they seem a perfectly amiable bunch – but they’re largely typical reality TV fodder, and are therefore often as disengaging as the training videos in which they feature and routines they perform.

In fact, even the judging panel is quite unappealing, comprising of Louis Smith and three others who, I think it’s safe to say, most viewers of this programme have never heard of, nor have any interest in.'Tumble' judges - (L-R) Sebastien Stella, Louis Smith, Nadia Comăneci and Craig Heap They’re all gymnasts and all are disengaging. I mean, say what you like about Jo Brand’s right to be on the Splash! panel but at least she cracks a few gags and brightens up the mood after her fellow judges have commented on a ten-second belly flop with far more scrutiny than is necessary, or even appropriate, for a Saturday night celebrity competition. Tumble doesn’t even have a Jo Brand figure, though, meaning that the only person who rises above the tedium of his peers is Craig Heap, whose desperate emulation of Strictly’s Craig Revel Horwood is painfully obvious and threatened only by mild conceit.

My main qualm with Tumble, however, was that it didn’t live up to its title – we saw very few 'Tumble' host, Alex Jonestumbles. There’s a reason why the public love shows like You’ve Been Framed and It’ll Be Alright on the Night, and in the past have voted week after week for Todd Carty and Joe Pasquale to stay in Dancing on Ice, and Ann Widdecombe and John Sergeant to endure on Strictly: rightly or wrongly, we love to see failure and accidents on TV. It entertains us as a nation! So, when a show like this comes along, which doesn’t involve something that viewers have at least a smidgen of knowledge and can pass judgement on, like singing or dancing, we long for the accidents – the eponymous ‘tumbles’ – and when they fail to come, it makes for quite a boring show, as Tumble proved to me to be.

I appreciate that the celebrities have put a lot of time and effort into their routines, and Alex Jones did a quite admirable job as host, but the result was something bordering on car crash TV. I imagine that during these summer months, it will prove popular with families, and a few years ago could even  have been lumped into the ‘Bearably Bad’ category – but now that that is occupied by shows like Splash! and Your Face Sounds Familiar, Tumble just seems like a bit of a damp squib.

I’m just preparing myself to pity the BBC when it goes up against The X Factor in a few weeks’ time…

 

Tumble is on Saturdays at 6:30pm on BBC1

What did you think of Tumble? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Please comment below or tweet me – @UKTVReviewer

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‘Siblings’ (BBC3) Review

From the – no doubt currently jubilant – production company behind The Inbetweeners comes this new sitcom about ‘the world’s worst brother and sister’: Hannah (Charlotte Ritchie, Fresh Meat) and Dan (Tom Stourton, Common Ground).

Over the course of the six episodes that make up this first series, we will see Hannah and Dan expose, often unwillingly, their selfishness, idiocy and general ineptitude as they muddle through life with seldom much effort at all. The first instalment served up pretty predictable sitcom fodder, with   Hannah trying to impress her new boss (but, unlike in most sitcoms, actually managing it pretty well for a while) and involving her brother, who agrees to pretend to be disabled in order to portray his sister as a caring person with a difficult home life.

As I said, this is typical sitcom fodder – and even the seemingly novel plot of a character posing as someone in a wheelchair, leading to a very awkward social situation or two, will be familiar to fans of shows like Not Going Out, The IT Crowd and Seinfeld. This barely matters, however, as what writers Keith Akushie and Daran Johnson lacked in originality, they made up for in gags. Admittedly, Siblings only really hit its stride, joke-wise, about half way through the first episode, but once it did it was quite a joy, and Dan and Hannah were instantly likeable; he’s incompetent, and she’s only mildly competent, with an abundance of incompetence always threatening to burst out – and sometimes doing so. Their incompetence, laziness and slight depravity make them nothing particularly new on the sitcom scene but they do are potentially hilarious characters, and although this potential was only partially realised in tonight’s opening episode, I have no doubt that the more time we spend with Hannah and Dan, the more we’ll love them and the funnier we’ll find them.

So, Siblings may not have thrown up anything excitingly original but it did provide a good thirty minutes of the sort of enjoyable, cringe-worthy and often bawdy comedy that leaves the audience in no doubt that it’s the work of Bwark Productions. I’d say it’s been a pretty good week for them, wouldn’t you?

Image thanks to: BBC; Bwark; and Ed Miller – ©Bwark

Siblings is on Thursdays at 10:30pm on BBC3

What did you think of Siblings? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Please comment below or tweet me – @UKTVReviewer

‘The Inbetweeners 2’ Review

After a three year hiatus, much anticipation and more publicity than Channel 4 could shake Will’s soiled exam pants at, today The Inbetweeners 2 was released nationwide in cinemas – and if the reactions of everyone who joined me in one of the first, packed screenings is anything to go by, has done what was hitherto deemed undoable, and surpassed its 2011 predecessor.

Beyond the worlds of soaps and Mrs Brown’s Boys, you would be hard-pushed to find a TV show with a legion of fans as die-hard and expectant as that of The Inbetweeners. With every new episode on TV and film in cinemas, audiences demand more and more in every sense – but, as we know, for many writers, this is seldom easy to deliver, resulting in very few sequels exceeding, or even meeting, expectations. One can only imagine, therefore, the pressure that The Inbetweeners scribes, Iain Morris and Damon Beesley, were under to create ninety minutes of film that would fulfil every little wish of their loyal fans. We wanted original, ingenious jokes, with the odd nod to old favourites thrown in; we wanted some character development, but no so much that Will, Simon, Jay and Neil had ceased having the traits and nuances for which we love them so much; and, most importantly as this is reportedly the last-ever outing for the lads, we wanted a fitting send-off. Thank God, then, that Morris and Beesley delivered exactly that in abundance.

As would be expected, the lads are no different to how they were when we last left them in 2011: Jay (James Buckley) and Neil (Blake Harrison) are still ‘calling “shotgun”’ and branding others ‘wankers’ (‘briefcase-‘, ‘bus-‘ or otherwise), and Simon’s (Joe Thomas) love life is as beautifully complicated as Will himself (Simon Bird). It’s very difficult to give the film a full review and convey how funny it is while also resisting the urge to reveal some of its best gags – verbal, visual and situational. However, the writers, to reiterate, absolutely deliver the goods by throwing up, as always, a surprise or two – whether that’s the unexpected return of characters, stinging one-liners or a bit of deus ex machina (look it up). Unlike in the original E4 series and first film, however, I felt that the pathos in The Inbetweeners 2 worked only intermittently, being perhaps laid on quite heavy in the latter half of the film. It did, though, show us the gentler side to the characters – particularly Jay – that we seldom get to see. In fact, we learn a lot about Jay in this film – most of all, that his crudeness, brashness and general social ineptitude may be genetic.

I’m sure I need not say it but any fan of The Inbetweeners will not be disappointed by this sequel; while perhaps all but one of the scenes stand-out as much as Neil’s dancing or the loss of Will’s glasses, Morris and Beesley have succeeded in writing ninety minutes of the expletive-laden, sex-fuelled, typically immature, but no less finely crafted, comedy that fans of the show crave and deserve. The companies behind a lot of films pack the best bits into the trailer – but all that you see in that for The Inbetweeners 2 is just the tip of the smutty iceberg.

The Inbetweeners 2 is in cinemas nationwide from today

What did you think of The Inbetweeners 2? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Please comment below or tweet me – @UKTVReviewer

‘The Singer Takes It All’ (Channel 4) Review

Described as ‘really groundbreaking’ by its host, Alan Carr, new interactive talent competition-cum-gameshow The Singer Takes It All began on Channel 4 tonight and saw an indifferent celebrity panel of two, some technical problems and a mixed reaction from the Twittersphere.

Despite my faith in Channel 4’s golden boy, Alan Carr, and inference from the much-shown trailer that The Singer Takes It All would be one of the few talent shows that was just out to entertain and wouldn’t take itself too seriously, I was worried. It just seemed to smack of failure straight away – a show that would be much-hyped in the days and weeks leading up to its debut, get a few column inches afterwards thanks to TV critics, and whimper out in six weeks’ time with only a fraction of its original audience, and perhaps someone expecting to see 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown, tuning in.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether or not my prophecy about its fate will come to fruition but I have to say that I enjoyed the first episode. Obviously there are a few teething problems: I’m not quite sure about Lips (the commentator and score deliverer, voiced by 2005 X Factor semi-finalist, Brenda Edwards) and think that the interactive app – which determines whether or not a singer stays or goes, and is arguably the epicentre of the show – should have been tested more thoroughly beforehand. Oh, and I have a hunch that the conveyor belt gimmick will wear thin ten minutes into next Friday’s episode.

The format itself, however (a singer taking to the stage and, depending on whether the majority of the public deems them to be a ‘Hit’ or ‘Miss’, sailing through to the Gold Zone or being put in reverse, and disappearing through a cloud of smoke) is a pleasing one – but it’s not being used to its full potential! I, like many other viewers, found it quite amusing when CCJ and Tara Newton-Wordsworth (no relation, to my knowledge) were put in reverse and vanished through the smoke and agape doors. They weren’t bad singers – they perhaps just failed to live up to people’s expectations or hit a bit of a bum note. It seems that this format was made for bad singers, though: so where were they? The problem appears to be that because all of the contestants are on the show because they uploaded an audition clip to the The Singer Takes It All app and were voted for by its users, we only tend to see good singers, who, more often than not, sail through to the Gold Zone. We, the viewing public, must start to make a few maverick moves and press ‘Hit’ on the app for singers who aren’t as vocally talented (and know they aren’t; I’m not advocating any X Factor-style false hope here) so that we get extra laughs by more people disappearing through the doors, and the format can be used to its full potential!

Thankfully, to the more casual viewer, many of the holes in the show might not have been all that noticeable, thanks to the perfect selection of Alan Carr as host. He injects his trademark cheeky humour at every opportunity – which very few other hosts, even comedians, could have managed, I’m sure. His unwavering enthusiasm kept the fledgling show afloat – just – and he dealt with the all-too-frequent technological failures involving the app (to reiterate, very much the focus of the show) extremely well.

The Singer Takes It All may have received a mixed-reaction on social media as the TV snobs came out in force and condemned it for being too frivolous and ‘stupid’, just because it had the gumption to buck the talent show trend and not have a panel of judges, or promise of a recording contract for its winners, or wish to do anything other than entertain, but a lot of people seem to be having fun with the app – so perhaps the programme has legs. Or the app does, at least. People just need to approach The Singer Takes It All sensibly: if you’re looking for a serious singing competition, get yourself onto YouTube and watch clips of The Voice, but if a typical Friday night of rowdy fun and interaction is what you’re after, you’re in luck.

'The Singer Takes It All' host, Alan Carr

The Singer Takes It All is on Fridays at 9pm on Channel 4

What did you think of The Singer Takes It All? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Please comment below or tweet me – @UKTVReviewer