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
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 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
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, 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, 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
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
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 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
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 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
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 – 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.