Category Archives: ‘Stephen Fry: Out There’

‘Stephen Fry: Out There’ (BBC2) Review

Almost three years in the making and much-anticipated, Stephen Fry: Out There – the actor and presenter’s documentary about sexuality and homophobia across the world – aired in two parts this week, with the final instalment broadcast last night.

As someone who is gay and has an interest in LGBT rights across the world, I was looking forward to these films hugely. I hoped that they would shine a light on the narrow-minded individuals who are somehow given a platform far too often on which to spout their detestable, absolutely sickening anti-gay propaganda, and show them for the fools that they really are.

And that is exactly what it did.


Across the two programmes, Stephen met people who have either been an advocate and victim of the, sadly many, homophobic laws and traditions which still exist in this world. Before I get into the advocates (about which I have a lot to say, I can assure you), let me first focus on those inspirations who have been ostracised, had their lives threatened and rights removed simply because of their sexuality.

One such person was Farshad: a man who is seeking refuge in the UK, having had to flee his home country of Iran, because he was ‘outed’ and accused of raping his boyfriend, when all he had in fact done was partaken in consensual sex. He said that he would seriously consider suicide if he was made to return to his home country – an outcome which unfortunately seems quite likely as the UKStephen with Stosh, a Ugandan lesbian who was the victim of 'corrective rape' when she was just 14 years old authorities are reluctant to believe that he is gay.

There were many other people and groups that Stephen met during his travels: Stosh (pictured), a victim of the so-called ‘corrective rape’ in Uganda; Ice Breakers, an African LGBT support group; Renata Peron, a Brazilian drag queen who, despite having been severely attacked, continues to go out and be proud of who she is; and Coming Out, a Russian support service for gay teens. They are just some of those who Stephen visited, and whose determination and defiance was nothing short of inspirational and deserving of unending admiration. But then there was the other side. The homophobes.

There was Pastor Male in Uganda, who claimed that homosexuality is a self-inflicted ‘addiction’ and, as Stephen quite rightly pointed out, had a very strange obsession with anuses, penises and vaginas. In the documentary, he seemed more obsessed with gay sex than even gays are. In fact, he spoke almost as if he were a member of the, to quote Sir Gerald Howarth, ‘aggressive homosexual community’ himself.

Also in Uganda, Stephen met a vile…creature (although I can think of another rather apt C-word with which to describe him…) named Simon Lokodo, who – in not so many words – claimed that child rape is more acceptable than sodomy, because at least it is the ‘natural way of desiring sex’. Now I’m sure that even the most active member of the, to alter Sir Gerald Howarth’s quote slightly, ‘aggressive homophobic community’ would take umbrage with Lokodo’s opinion that paedophilia is not only better than gay sex but ‘natural’ too. His far-right views came so far from left field that they were quite difficult to comprehend. Is this man so idiotic, the possessor of such a clouded mind, that he actually, truly believes the tripe that he espouses? If so, I am sorry but I cannot feel angerStephen meeting Bob Corff, who trains actors to tone down their campness towards him: only pity. Huge pity. And the same goes for Rio congressman, Jair Bolsonaro and Russian politician, Vitaly Milinov, both of whom also waxed lyrical about how discussion of homosexuality – and sexuality in general – leads to primary school children being sucked into a life of buggery and immorality. All I could think when I watched these people speaking to a rather stunned Stephen Fry was, What an injustice. What an injustice it is that narrow-minded idiots like Bolsonaro, Milinov and the thousands like them will likely never have felt the isolation, the confusion and the sheer terror that grips a young person’s body when they realise, at whatever age, that they are gay. How sad that they may never have felt the anguish, the pain and the dread that often mars someone’s teenage years, simply because they have realised that they love people of the same gender or they were born the wrong sex. Then again, thank God that they will never feel the elation, happiness and overwhelming love that engulfs someone when they come out and are finally honest and frank. Thank God too that they will never experience the self-satisfaction that comes with accepting and loving others.


Of course, two hours of primetime television could not have been given to these bigots, most of whom are of the opinion that homosexuals should be executed, without there being a counter-argument, someone defending what is good and what is moral in the world today – and I cannot think of anyone better to do this than Stephen Fry. He made the perfect host and managed to produce a documentary which was not only better than his Key to the City programme for ITV (although that wasn’t exactly a tough feat) but really emphasised how lucky LGBT people in Britain are, as we live in a (largely) accepting society, where we can be who we want to be, and many don’t even bat an eyelid, while others in other countries like Uganda and Russia are having to fight authorities – the people who have ironically been put in power to protect them – and stand up for themselves, trying to prove that they can’t change the way that they were born.

For that is how they were born.

These films would not have been anywhere near as entertaining and informative if the presenter had not been Stephen Fry: a man so articulate, frank and utterly compelling. At no point did he shy  away from pointing out to pastors and ministers that what they were claiming was not right, was not moral, and should not be accepted by anyone. Although, to be honest, how anyone of sound mind can just take these people’s views as read in the first place is nothing short of baffling.


So, I hope that Out There fulfilled its mission to inform and educate people. To be honest, if you didn’t take at least something away from this – whether it be increased awareness of the importance of gay rights or simply empowerment about your own sexuality – I don’t think you were watching properly. I also hope that it showed that us gays aren’t all mincing personifications of camp, and that Pride isn’t just a ‘big gay party’ (as I’ve heard people call it in the past). The history of it is so much deeper and more serious than that, and it’s hopefully something which, in a few year’s time, will be celebrated across the world – sticking two fingers up to the homophobes and reminding them that they will not eradicate homosexuality.

No matter how hard they try.

Stephen with the Hijras, a transgender community in India

Image credits: Thanks to BBC and Maverick, ©Maverick

Stephen Fry: Out There is still available for a limited time on BBC iPlayer, via this link

What did you think of Stephen Fry: Out There? 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.


This Week in TV – 12th – 18th October

Here I provide a comprehensive list of the best of the coming week’s TV – including a rant or two about Downton and homophobes. It’s all in context, I assure you…

Saturday 12th October

The Jonathan Ross Show

ITV, 10:15pm

Yes, far gone are the days of Friday Night With Jonathan Ross and the legendary (well, to a certain section of society, anyway) Four Poofs and a Piano – it is three years now since Wossy jumped  the good ship'The Jonathan Ross Show' - ITV, 10:15pm Auntie, and a year later began on ITV with The Jonathan Ross Show.

Of course, his ‘new’ show is pretty much the same (but sans Four Poofs), and is beginning its fifth series tonight, which will take it up to just before Christmas. Many – and by ‘many’ I mean the Mirror’s Ian Hyland – have commented on how the calibre of guests has deteriorated since the host’s move to ITV, but that doesn’t seem to be the case for tonight’s opening episode, as he welcomes Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock and Cilla Black, who will be discussing her five decades in showbusiness and one-off show, The One and Only Cilla Black (see Wednesday).

James Arthur will also be performing his song ‘You’re Nobody Til Somebody Loves You’, which proves that, no matter how catchy a song’s tune is, it can’t mask the fact that its singer is perpetually miserable and monotonous.

Also today: If fans can bear to tear themselves away from the recently-discovered lost episodes, Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited begins (Watch, 2:00pm); stars of sitcoms past and present compete in Pointless Celebrities (BBC1, 5:40pm); love is in the air on Strictly Come Dancing (BBC1, 6:30pm); Anton Du Beke, Matt Le Tissier, Diane Abbott and Denise Van Outen play The Chase: Celebrity Special (ITV, 7:00pm); The X Factor live shows kick off (ITV, 8:00pm); and The Rolling Stones Return to Hyde Park: Sweet Summer Sun is on BBC1 at 10:35pm.

Sunday 13th October

Downton Abbey

ITV, 9:00pm

Naughty Downton, eh?

Last week’s episode caused a bit of a stir when it showed a scene involving new arrival Mr Green (played by Nigel Harman) raping long-term favourite Anna (Joanne Froggatt, pictured). Even if you don’t watch Downton, you can’t have failed to have sensed the universal shock and almost-universal anger – or so the press would like us to believe – surrounding this plot. Now, I have to say that I don’t have too much of a problem with it. Granted, the shot in a corridor, filled not with people but with the screams of Anna being assaulted in one of the servants’ rooms, was quite harrowing, and at odds with the gentle, nostalgic stuff that fans are accustomed to, but, in my opinion at least, viewers are simply upset because it has happened to a character so treasured as Anna. But then all of the characters are loved – I’m sure people would have reacted the same if it was Daisy or Ivy or Edna.

We just can’t pretend that things like this didn’t happen, and I for one think it was a good idea on the writer, Julian Fellowes’s, part to give a storyline of such weight and importance to a character who is usually so strong-minded and in control: if this is how it affects someone like Anna, how did it affect others, we should ask ourselves. Plus, it’s not like Downton hasn’t dealt with difficult issues before: there wasn’t a flood of complaints when William died during the Battle of the Somme, Sybil from flu or Matthew in a car accident. Neither was there when Cora miscarried in the first series. All of these  were very sad events – I actually found the loss of Lord and Lady Grantham’s child more difficult to'Downton Abbey' - ITV, 9:00pm watch than Sunday’s episode – but did not attract over 250 complaints (and that’s just at the time of writing).

So, now that that’s off my chest, let’s find out what’s coming up this week. Well, the fourth episode of this series will see the introduction of Downton Abbey’s first black character, in the form of Gary Carr, who will play jazz singer Jack Ross, to whom Lady Rose takes a bit of a fancy during a risky trip to London, which could throw the Crawleys into disrepute.

Also today: Find out who will be following Tony Jacklin out of the door in Strictly Come Dancing: The Results (BBC1, 7:20pm); and Ed Byrne and Gabby Logan are this week’s guests on the very funny Was It Something I Said? (Channel 4, 10:00pm).

Monday 14th October

Stephen Fry: Out There

BBC2, 9:00pm

In this two-part documentary (concluding on Wednesday), openly gay broadcaster Stephen Fry travels to America, Russia, Brazil and India to find out what it means to be gay in various countries across the world, and try to decipher what exactly is at the root of homophobia.

Stephen claims that he is fascinated by homophobes and says of them, ‘It’s as if you met somebody who all of their life tried to get rid of red telephones,’ and that is exactly right. Their hatred really is that ludicrous. But what he wants to do in these two films is find out why some people are so irrational, so afraid of people who pose absolutely no threat to them but have that hatred inflicted upon them simply because they were born LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender).

While on his travels, Stephen visits Uganda – a country which is infamous for its pushing of anti-gay legislation, which is possibly soon to include the death penalty. This'Stephen Fry: Out There' - BBC2, 9:00pm is a country which Stephen has previously claimed is one of his ‘favourite places in the world’, a statement which I was shocked by when I heard it, having seen Scott Mills’s excellent 2011 documentary, The World’s Worst Place to be Gay, which showed the extent of Uganda’s horrific homophobia. Just like Scott, Stephen will meet Stosh (pictured, right), a young Ugandan lesbian who was the victim of ‘corrective rape’. I’m sure you can imagine what that involves. When Stosh was subjected to this by some of the local boys, who she had previously enjoyed games of football with, she became pregnant, was forced to undergo an abortion, only to then discover that she had contracted HIV – which could only have been a result of the rape. It truly is horrifying.

Along the way, Stephen will speak to not only many homophobes but many gay people too – including Sir Elton John and David Furnish – who share their own experiences, good and bad, of being gay in their country.

Now, as you may have guessed if you’re a regular reader of this blog, I myself am gay. Next Thursday (24th October) will mark one year since I came out to my parents. Part of the reason that I came out in the first place was the same as Stephen’s for making this documentary: because I realised just how lucky I am to live in a country where the large majority of people are understanding, accepting and not prejudiced. We really are so lucky. It’s difficult growing up, let alone as LGBT, but – and I know this is a cliché but it is incredibly apt – it does get better. I’ve only realised that in the past few months as I’ve begun to tell my friends, none of whom have had a single problem with it (not even the ones which I thought would!) but the important thing is I have realised it. Yes, some members of my family took a while to adjust (I think my mam thought that her world was ending when I told her) but they’re alright now. They realise that I’m not going to change and I’m happy – and that makes them happy.

I know I’ve gone a little off-topic here, but I did write a #ProudtoLove article for LGBT Pride Month in June, which explains more about…well about everything. Click here to read it. And if you’re reading this and struggling, you can always send me a message on here or Twitter (@UKTVReviewer) – or contact Stonewall. Or you could just buy a copy of Attitude magazine that worked for me!

Also today: Britain’s Empty Homes is back (BBC1, 11:45am); Dogs: Their Secret Lives is on Channel 4 at 8:00pm; The Gadget Show returns (Channel 5, 8:00pm); Kirsty Young presents another edition of Crimewatch (BBC1, 9:00pm), with a new appeal for Madeleine McCann; infuriating documentary On Benefits & Proud is on Channel 5 at 9:00pm; Dallas Campbell presents Impact! A Horizon Guide to Plane Crashes (BBC4, 9:00pm); and Diary of a Teenage Virgin provides an insight into the lives of Britain’s sexually inexperienced teens (Channel 4, 10:00pm).

Tuesday 15th October

Sweat the Small Stuff

BBC3, 10:00pm

The forever chirpy Nick Grimshaw returns for a second series of his – quite average – panel show,'Sweat the Small Stuff' - BBC3, 10:00pm Sweat the Small Stuff.

There seems to be very little change this series, apart from the fact that Rochelle Humes – a regular during the first series earlier this year – has now replaced Rickie Haywood Williams as team captain, alongside Melvin Odoom.

The guests for this first episode are The Xtra Factor’s Matt Richardson, comedian Seann Walsh, singer Conor Maynard and EastEnders actress Jacqueline Jossa.

Also today: Dr Christian Jessen and some of the Game of Thrones cast are on The Sarah Millican Television Programme (BBC2, 9:30pm). And that’s it – the football on ITV will of course be the main focus.

Wednesday 16th October

The One and Only Cilla Black

ITV, 9:00pm

She may be best known for setting up blind dates and springing ‘surprise, surprises’ on members of the public but Cilla Black has had a long and illustrious career, which is celebrated in this'The One and Only Cilla Black' - ITV, 9:00pm programme.

Hosted by one of Cilla’s closest friends, Paul O’Grady (alongside whom she is soon to star in a new sitcom pilot from Marks & Gran – read more here), this one-off special will take Cilla, and viewers, on a trip down memory lane as she marks fifty years in showbiz.

Also contributing will be a variety of big names from the world of music and television, all wishing to convey their love of Cilla and her career. There may also be a one-off revival of Blind Date, too…

Also today: Oscar-winning epic Chariots of Fire (Channel 4, 12:45pm); Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall presents River Cottage to the Core (Channel 4, 8:00pm); fly-on-the-wall series Freshers begins (ITV2, 8:00pm); one-off documentary When Gastric Bands Go Wrong is on Channel 5 (where else?) at 9:00pm; Stephen Merchant’s sitcom Hello Ladies crosses the pond to arrive on UK screens (Sky Atlantic, 10:00pm); and documentary Night of the Fight: Hatton’s Last Stand is on ITV4 at 10:00pm.

Thursday 17th October

Up All Night

Channel 4, 10:00pm

This brand-new four-part series uses mini-rig fixed cameras to show what goes on after dark in the UK, and celebrate some of the unsung heroes of this country as they work during the night.'Up All Night' - Channel 4, 10:00pm

Each episode will show a different part of Britain’s nightlife, from karaoke contests to mini-cab officers and out-of-hours locksmiths. The first instalment, however, shows exactly what goes on in the toilets of a West Sussex nightclub. Over the course of an hour, we witness the laughs, the cries and the make-up application which are common in not only this club, but many more across the country.

Ever wondered what goes on in the washrooms of the opposite sex? Now’s your chance to find out…

Also today: Location, Location, Location concludes (Channel 4, 8:00pm); Michael Buerk and Bettany Hughes present Britain’s Secret Treasures (ITV, 8:30pm); and medical drama Breathless continues (ITV, 9:00pm).

Friday 18th October

Man Down

Channel 4, 9:30pm

This new sitcom, from Inbetweeners star and comedian Greg Davies, centres around Dan: someone who is essentially a child at heart but is forced to lead the life of a full adult – with responsibilities and everything!

Dan is, just as the man who plays him once was, a teacher and, for some reason, loved by his pupils (well,'Man Down' - Channel 4, 9:30pm except one). It’s just a shame that the headmistress of the school, Emma Lipsey, doesn’t feel quite the same way about him. Emma regards Dan only ever with a mixture of pity and despair, owing to his increasingly disastrous life. He has oddball friends – the heavily moustachioed Brian (Mike Wozniak) and unlucky-in-love Jo (played by the wonderful Roisin Conaty) – an interfering, humiliating father (in the form of Rik Mayall) and a girlfriend who has just left him, citing his inability to navigate his way around life as one of her main reasons.

So that’s the world of Dan!

I haven’t been able to watch Man Down yet, but I know that many critics are raving about it, claiming that it has broken the mould by being a sitcom which has been written by a comedian, but is actually funny! Channel 4 also clearly have high hopes for it, too, as they’ve already ordered a Christmas special for this year. Let’s hope they haven’t counted their chickens by doing that – much like ITV did with Vicious.

Also today: Criminals: Caught on Camera begins (Channel 5, 8:00pm); Stephen Merchant hosts Have I Got News For You – not to plug his new sitcom, of course – with panellists including Hal Cruttenden – not to plug his new DVD, of course (BBC1, 9:00pm); Julian Clary is the subject of this week’s Piers Morgan’s Life Stories (ITV, 9:00pm); Graham Linehan pops his QI cherry on an episode simply entitled ‘Knowledge’ (BBC2, 10:00pm); Britney Spears, Jake Bugg and Mo Farah are on Alan Carr: Chatty Man (Channel 4, 10:00pm); Natalie Portman, James Corden, Katy Perry and Sir Paul McCartney (!) pull up a pew for The Graham Norton Show (BBC1, 10:35pm); and BBC3’s run of comedy pilots continues with sitcom C-Bomb (11:45pm).

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: The Jonathan Ross Show – Thanks to ITV Studios, Hot Sauce and Nicky Johnston, ©ITV; Downton Abbey – ©ITV; Stephen Fry: Out There – Thanks to BBC, Maverick and Sprout Pictures, ©Maverick; Sweat the Small Stuff – Thanks to BBC, Fremantle Media UK and Joel Anderson, ©Fremantle Media UK; The One and Only Cilla Black – Thanks to ITV Studios and Kieron McCarron, ©ITV; Up All Night – Thanks to Jude Edington and Channel 4; Man Down – Thanks to Shamil Tanna and Channel 4