Category Archives: ‘Big School’

‘Big School’ (BBC1) Review

Showing the eventful day-to-day lives of the staff at Greybridge School, David Walliams’s eagerly-anticipated sitcom, Big School began tonight, and made a comfortable start.

‘STELLAR CAST’

Boasting appearances from Catherine Tate, Frances de la Tour, Phillip Glenister, David himself and many more, it is no overstatement to say that Big School contains a stellar cast, with a host of established comedy performers popping up in Greybridge’s staff room. However, as we saw with ITV’s Vicious and Sue Perkins’s axed sitcom, Heading Out, an impressive cast list isn’t always a guarantee of audience appreciation. It tends to be a start, though.

And that’s pretty much how I would describe the opening episode of Big School: ‘a start’. It didn’t exactly live up to its hype (it’s not quite the ‘comedy masterclass’ that the Daily Mail dubbed it), but it certainly was a very strong opener, and made much more of an impression, and produced far more laughs, than a lot of contemporary sitcoms do in a whole series.

GOOD EFFORT’

It has to be said that David Walliams and the Dawson Bros. have made a good effort with Big School: the characters are rounded, the plots have been well set-up and there were some excellent one-liners within the 30 minutes. Granted, it would be nice to find out a little more about certain  characters – particularly those of Joanna Scanlan and Daniel Rigby (pictured, right), both of whom are brilliant performers – but they were still given enough time for us to warm to them in this episode. I genuinely  hope they will be given a chance to shine even more as the series progresses, though.

The characters that were focused on in this episode were brilliant. Once again, Catherine Tate excels and more than proves her credentials as a comedy actress, playing new French teacher, and love interest for Messrs Church and Gunn, Miss Postern – who incidentally also seems to be the most developed character, having not only a somewhat ditzy, eager-to-please aspect to her, but a very defensive side too.

It can also come as no surprise that Walliams has created his character to be a camp heterosexual – art imitating life, eh? He does play his character brilliantly – the Timothy Lumsden-esque wet blanket that is Deputy Head of Chemistry, Mr Church. It makes a welcome change to see David play just one character in a series, as we’re used to seeing him in just one-offs, like Frankie Howerd biopic, Rather You Than Me or his very own Mr Stink, or playing a multitude of people in shows such as Little Britain and Come Fly With Me. It’s also nice to see that he’s not too cut-up about the news of ‘His Simon’s’ fatherhood to stop making us laugh…

 

So, despite a mixed reaction from the Twittersphere (but then what could be expected?), Big School seems to have hit the ground running. In a week when GCSE and A-Level results are big news (tell me about it!) I’d probably give Big School B for Attainment, but definitely an A for Effort.

 Images courtesy of BBC and Des Willie – ©BBC.

Big School is on Fridays at 9:00pm on BBC1

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

You can also see what’s coming up on TV in the coming week on this blog, published every Saturday at midnight.

Advertisements

This Week in TV – 10th – 16th August

Here I provide a comprehensive list of the best of the coming week’s TV – as the Dragons return, David Walliams re-enters the classroom and puppets invade Saturday night.

Saturday 10th August

That Puppet Game Show

BBC1, 6:45pm

From the company behind The Muppets, Bear in the Big Blue House and Fraggle Rock comes the latest addition to BBC1’s (struggling) Saturday night line-up: That Puppet Game Show.

Over seven weeks, we will watch celebrities go up against each other in a series of madcap'That Puppet Game Show' - BBC1, 6:45pm challenges, overseen by That Puppet Game Show host, Dougie Colon (pronounced ‘Cologne’). Each game which the celebrities – including Gary Lineker, Claudia Winkleman and Jack Dee – partake in  will be looked after by a different expert. Jemima Taptackle is in charge of Sports, Science is with Dr Strabismus, Mental Agility is tested by The Amazing Ian, Nature is in the hands of Jake Hamilton-Jones, Music will be judged by Eddie Watts, and finally Amber O’Neill has Showbiz covered. In addition to the studio games, we will also see what goes on behind-the-scenes at That Puppet Game Show and become acquainted with the show’s producer, Mancie O’Neill and the big boss himself, Udders McGhee.

The celebrity who completes all of the challenges with the most points will win £10,000 for charity. The stars battling it out this week are Jonathan Ross and Katherine Jenkins.

I’ve only seen little clips of That Puppet Game Show and am eager to see how it’s received. Everything tells me that it will be a car crash – Time Out gave it a one-star review last week – but I hope I’m proved wrong. I suppose that after Don’t Scare the Hare (which was axed in 2011, just 2/3 through its run) we have come to assume that anything frivolous and involving non-human presenters is destined for failure. As I said, I hope I’m wrong.

Also today: We’re now half-way through, it’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (ITV, 7:00pm); the highly entertaining (well, in my unpopular opinion, anyway) I Love My Country (BBC1, 7:30pm); Michela Chiappa presents Made in Italy: Top 10 Classic Dishes (More4, 8:00pm); Radio 1Xtra’s Charlie Sloth and Sarah-Jane Crawford host The Urban Prom (BBC3, 9:00pm); and Oscar-winning epic, Braveheart is on Channel 4 at 10:50pm.

Sunday 11th August

Dragon’s Den

BBC2, 8:00pm

Minus the stationery-loving Theo Paphitis and logistic queen, Hilary ‘You Make My Foot Itch’ Devey, Dragons’ Den is once again open for business!

Of course, with two Dragons having left the show, we need two to replace them. So, joining Deborah,(L-R): Kelly Hoppen, Duncan Bannatyne, Deborah Meaden, Peter Jones and Piers Linney Duncan and Peter this series is interior designer and former WAG, Kelly Hoppen – who, since starting her business at the age of 16, has worked for the rich and famous, ‘jazzing up’ their yachts, jets and homes – and solicitor-turned-technology entrepreneur, Piers Linney, who began his business aged 13 (!) and has gone on to be one of those responsible for the rise of the Cloud.

Looking for investment in the Den – which has now been fitted with a lift – tonight are a former male stripper who tries to impress with his culinary skills and two Aussies with a tanning business. Collectively, they want over £800,000, but will any of the Dragons part with their cash?

Also today: Corrie’s Sue Cleaver, Olympian, Anna Watkins and This Morning’s Matt Johnson compete on Tipping Point: Lucky Stars (ITV, 7:00pm); Michaela Strachan, Colin Baker and Jane Danson are on the last in the series of All Star Mr & Mrs (ITV, 8:00pm); The Hairy Bikers’ Restoration Road Trip and Heston’s Italian Revolutionaries begin on BBC2 and More4, respectively (9:00pm); and there’s a repeat of Numb: Simon Amstell Live at the BBC (BBC2, 10:30pm), recorded at the recently-closed Television Centre.

Monday 12th August

Benefits Britain 1949

Channel 4, 9:00pm

In this three-part series, current benefit claimants agree to live life as it was in 1949, the year that the system was introduced.

The first episode takes a look at how the system supports the disabled, elderly and long-term sick,'Benefits Britain 1949' - Channel 4, 9:00pm and whether it needs revising. To do this, Craig (24), Melvyn (71) and Karen (54) all take part. Craig (pictured) was born with spina bifida, and therefore would not have been entitled to benefits in 1949 – but of course is now. He has applied for hundreds of jobs in the past few years, but with no success – but will his experience at a 40s call centre put an end to this? Meanwhile, Melvyn sacrifices his pension and is given his 1940s entitlement of just £38.48 – but, on such little money, he struggles and must sell a family heirloom in order to survive. Finally, Karen has worked all her life and opines that she should receive more help from the state. Whether she would have received it in the 40s, however, is a different matter.

Also today: Discover how the public contribute to the reduction of crime in Fightback Britain (BBC1, 8:30pm); Stacey Dooley travels to Peru for Cocaine Capital of the World (BBC3, 9:00pm); some of the most adventurous design plans which never came to fruition are revealed in Dreaming the Impossible: Unbuilt Britain (BBC4, 9:00pm); chef Gordon helps American guest houses in Ramsay’s Hotel Hell (Channel 4, 10:00pm); and the aptly-timed documentary, My Cyberstalking Hell: Liz McClarnon is on Channel 5 at 10:00pm.

Tuesday 13th August

On the Run

ITV, 9:00pm

Mark Williams-Thomas and Natasha Kaplinsky present this one-off documentary which follows the search for three wanted criminals as the police aim to bring them to justice.

The force’s methods for catching these criminals are revealed in the programme: the undercover stings and subterfuge, all to capture a burglar, violent escapee and sex offender.

Watch as the presenters reveal the operations behind catching some of our most wanted fugitives.

Also today: The first in the new series of Born to Kill? (Channel 5, 8:00pm) focuses on thief and murderer, Donald Neilson; Anita Rani presents India’s Supersize Kids (BBC2, 9:00pm), looking at the country’s obesity epidemic; Football, Madness & Me (BBC3, 9:00pm) follows a football team made up of players with mental health problems; and, on a thankfully far lighter note, Kirstie Allsopp: House Proud begins on More4 at 9:00pm.

Wednesday 14th August

I’m Spazticus

Channel 4, 10:50pm

Well if there’s one show I certainly didn’t expect to see back this year – with the possible exception of Gates or Kookyville (don’t remember them? Lucky you!) – it’s I’m Spazticus, a hidden-camera show which sees disabled actors play pranks on members of the public.

When the first series aired last year, after a largely'I'm Spazticus' - Channel 4, 10:50pm unremembered pilot from 2005, I was very critical  of it in my reviews. I disliked almost all of the first episode but began to warm to it towards the end and understand that, as it starred disabled actors, it wasn’t mocking conditions such as cerebral palsy and dwarfism – it was shining a torch on our perceptions of and attitudes towards the disabled. As I was told by one of the show’s stars, Simon Stevens, last year, though, I’m Spazticus isn’t out to change perceptions: just make people laugh. And I’m sure it’ll do the same this time.

I’m still not entirely comfortable with the title, though…

Also today: Brian Capron, Miranda Krestovnikoff, Shappi Khorsandi and Shane Lynch enter the kitchen for Celebrity MasterChef (BBC1, 8:00pm); Starlings star Lesley Sharp traces her family tree in Who Do You Think You Are? (BBC1, 9:00pm); Emma Willis presents a new series of Girlfri3nds (ITV2, 9:00pm); Dan Cruickshank investigates Robert Warpole’s collection of art in Britain’s Lost Treasures Returned (BBC4, 9:00pm); and constructed-reality comedy series Boom Town begins (BBC3, 10:00pm). Funnily enough, the aforementioned Kookyville was a ‘constructed-reality comedy series’ – and I hated it…

Thursday 15th August

Paul O’Grady’s Working Class Britain

BBC1, 9:00pm

As anyone who has read just one of Paul O’Grady’s wonderful autobiographies will know, the comic  not only comes from a family of eccentric matriarchs but grew up at a time when the class system was very much still in place, and'Paul O'Grady's Working Class Britain' - BBC1, 9:00pm people who were working class were proud. However, that is no longer so: in recent years, the lines appear to have been blurred between classes, and status means less than it previously did.

In this documentary, Paul sets out to find some fellow working-class, hard grafters like himself, and prove that they are not simply a forgotten tribe. To do this, the actor and presenter looks back at his roots, growing up on the terraced streets of Birkenhead when people were working-class and proud, and looks at the decline of the mines and factories, and how that impacted on the workers. He also gets stuck in with a decent hard day’s graft in an attempt to rediscover that sense of community and pride which has for so long been lacking.

Also today: My Dwarf Family (ITV, 9:00pm) follows three families with achondroplasia; film Bridget Jones’s Diary (ITV2, 9:00pm); and Crazy About One Direction (Channel 4, 10:00pm) meets lots of teenagers who are…well…crazy about One Direction.

Friday 16th August

Big School

BBC1, 9:00pm

Written by and starring David Walliams, new sitcom Big School centres around the staff at Greybridge comprehensive.

When French teacher Mrs Kent dies, the flame-haired Miss Postern (Catherine Tate) replaces her –'Big School' - BBC1, 9:00pm and catches the eye of Chemistry teacher, Mr Church (Walliams) and PE instructor, Mr Gunn (Phillip Glensiter). She, however, does not gain much approval from no-nonsense headmistress, Ms Baron (Frances de la Tour), who dislikes Miss Postern’s unorthodox teaching style – which includes translating will.i.am’s name to will.je.suis.

Other familiar faces popping up during the series include: Stella star, Steve Speirs as Geography teacher, Mr Barber; Getting On and The Thick of It’s Joanna Scanlan as lesbian Drama tutor, Mrs Klebb; and floppy-haired BT ads star, Daniel Rigby as incompetent Music teacher, Mr Martin.

As we join the staff at Greybridge in the first episode, Mr Church is handing in his resignation, after his students and colleagues have finally worn him down. However, on seeing Miss Postern, he withdraws his resignation and decides to stay. It soon becomes clear that Mr Gunn also have eyes for the new arrival, though, so Mr Church takes advice from one of his students, Manyou, to woo her. Let’s just say that Manyou’s advice would more likely be carried out by someone like Ashley Cole…

Catherine Tate looks set to be the stand-out star of Big School – from what I’ve already seen, she plays Miss Postern perfectly and I’m sure hers and Mr Church’s ‘will-they-won’t-they’ relationship, intertwined with the love triangle involving themselves and Mr Gunn, will be a treat to watch.

Also today: Chris Packham presents The Burrowers (BBC2, 9:00pm), looking at animals living underground; north-eastern comics Sarah Millican and Chris Ramsey, and circuit favourite, Abandoman, join the regulars for the last in the series of 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown (Channel 4, 9:00pm); films Troy (ITV2), Sense and Sensibility (More4) and He’s Just Not That Into You (E4) are on at 9:00pm; and, as he prepares to hit road again next year, there’s a repeat of Lee Mack Live (Channel 4, 10:00pm).

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: That Puppet Game Show – Thanks to BBC and Guy Levy, ©BBC; Dragons’ Den – Thanks to BBC and Andrew Farrington, ©BBC; Benefits Britain 1949 – Thanks to Channel 4; I’m Spazticus – Thanks to Channel 4 and Zeitgeist Television; Paul O’Grady’s Working Britain – Thanks to BBC and Johann Perry, ©Johann Perry; Big School – Thanks to BBC and Des Willie, ©BBC.