Category Archives: ‘The Greatest Shows on Earth’

‘The Greatest Shows on Earth’ (Channel 4) Review

Bringing to Brits’ attention some of the most mesmerizingly shocking and controversial examples of foreign television is writer and actress Daisy Donovan, in her new four-part documentary series, The Greatest Shows on Earth.

Daisy considers television to be ‘the window into the soul of a nation’. So, with this in mind, she has set off on a trip across the globe, with the aim of discovering what makes a nation tick, by watching some of their biggest TV programmes.

FANTASTIC’

I found The Greatest Shows on Earth fantastic. True, it featured neither the breathtaking camera shots nor the deep analysis of its findings which typically comprise an astounding documentary,  but  what this show did was explore the must-see TV in Brazil in a non-judgemental way: it simply allowed viewers to form their own opinions, based on how our telly tastes differ to those of our South American counterparts.

The success of The Greatest Shows on Earth was owing, in no small part, to its host. Daisy was Daisy Donovan: 'Perfect'perfect for this programme as she embodied typical British attitudes, and therefore acted as a voice for most of her audience. She immersed herself in Brazilian culture but never shied away from objecting to what she saw, even when in the presence of those involved (as with the stars of the somewhat disturbing Pânico Na Band and Na Mira – more on both of which later). Daisy just had a way of being clear with her unalterable opinions while also respecting the Brazilians’ justification of their television output and allowing them to have their say.

HARMLESS FUN’?

For me, one of the most interesting aspects of Greatest Shows was the exposure of Brazil’s treatment of women – which we would consider to be unacceptable and nothing short of objectification, yet Brazilians regard as simply harmless fun and a celebration of the female form.

The first show investigated by Daisy was Miss Bumbum, a ‘talent’ contest which makes Miss World look like Dancing on Ice. As the title suggests, a bunch of young women are invited to parade their backsides on a catwalk in the hope of surviving many heats to be crowned…you guessed it: Miss Bumbum. This is a show, one man told Daisy, that he and his wife would have no qualms about watching together and is top viewing in his country. Now it would be quite easy to make assumptions about the Miss Bumbum competitors and suggest that they are self-obsessedDaisy with 'Miss Bumbum' hopeful, Laura Keller wannabes. However, if the contestant whom Daisy spoke to is representative of the others, that presumption may carry truth. Laura Keller (pictured) typifies the common perception of models: she was unbelievably rude to Daisy, commenting on her weight and angrily saying, ‘British people don’t  know anything about the bum’. Of course, this was only when she did not know that she was being filmed. When the cameras were rolling she was as lovely as could be, making heart signs to the viewer and conversing calmly with Daisy. After all, she wouldn’t want something as silly as a bad attitude to get in the way of her bottom making her famous, would she?

In a similar vein we had Pânico Na Band, a comedy sketch series which Daisy described perfectly as ‘a degrading show that verges on sado masochistic.’ In Pânico (which regularly attracts 10 million viewers in its primetime Sunday night slot), bikini-clad women (dubbed ‘Pânicats) are expected to compete in a series of challenges for the amusement of its presenters and viewers – most of whom are inevitably men. At the end of the show, a ‘comedy forfeit’ is involved for the losers. The forfeit sees the women kneeling, still in their bikinis, and having what appears to be a pair of tights pulled over their head, stretching and manipulating their features to make them look not dissimilar to a pig. It’s truly testing TV.

When Daisy spoke to Aryane Steinkopf, a former Pânicat, I was actually saddened by her story of the humiliation which is inflicted upon the Pânico contestants, but how the guaranteed fame and wealth acts as a distraction and more than compensates for it. Of course, ‘Pânicats’ are not forced to partake in this spectacle but it’s tragic that they think they have to do so for exactly the same reason as the Miss Bumbum wannabes: notoriety.

Even in shows where women are not objectified as much as in others, the incredibly poor treatment of the fairer sex is still evident. On Domingo Legal (Brazil’s leading variety show), the audience is comprised exclusively of girls, as men are ‘trouble’. Then, when they are escorted into the studio for the recording, they are sorted into groups and sit accordingly: beauties at the front, uglies at the back.

And to think that we were up in arms about Arlene being kicked off Strictly!

Daisy attending the 'Miss Bumbum' Final in Brazil

Na Mira, which could be best described as the Brazilian version of Crimewatch, also featured in Greatest Shows and truly pushed the boundaries of not only television but common decency itself.

With the aim of cutting crime in Salvador, which sees at least forty murders a week, Na Mira broadcasts images of bloodied corpses on street corners – a sight which people in the area are sadly accustomed to. Perhaps even more shocking is that Na Mira is televised at lunchtime – immediately after children’s programmes. Imagine Crimewatch following In the Night Garden.

I’d read about Na Mira beforehand, so was ready for the gore and revelation about its scheduling, but I was not prepared for the host’s (Analice Salles) justification of it. She claims that Na Mira informs viewers of the insecure, criminal society in which they live. She went on to say that the disturbing images are shown in order to stop crime and violence in the city. Now I don’t know what you think about that argument, but I had to listen to it no fewer than four times to understand it. Actually, to be honest, I still don’t understand it and think it is nothing more than a poor vindication for producing sensationalist television. In this country, the aforementioned Crimewatch can often include distressing information and reconstructions – it has to in order to emphasise the seriousness of its cases – but knows its boundaries and does not need to broadcast images even half as revolting and inappropriate as those on Na Mira. And guess what: it still helps solve crime.

I know that it is very easy to form a largely inaccurate view on Brazilian television purely from the programmes which Daisy saw in Greatest Shows. I am well aware that not all of the country’s output humiliates women in the way that Pânico does and that not all of it so blatantly violates (surely the most basic of) broadcasting guidelines in the same way as Na Mira. In fact I wonder what the Brazilians would think if their own Daisy Donovan travelled to the UK and scrutinised our most popular programmes…

EastEnders and The Jeremy Kyle Show?

We like a bit of a row…

Big Brother and The X Factor?

We all want a bit of fame – at whatever cost.

Geordie Shore and The Valleys?

The education system needs to be re-evaluated.

And that wouldn’t be a fair representation of us at all, would it?

Would it?

The Greatest Shows on Earth is on Mondays at 10:00pm on Channel 4

What did you think of The Greatest Shows on Earth? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Feel free to comment below or tweet me about this or any other TV show – @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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TV Highlights (15th – 21st June)

Here I provide a comprehensive list of the best of the coming week’s TV – with ITV waving goodbye to Granada and Channel 4 saying hello to new couples with their Mating Season.

Saturday 15th June

Goodbye Granadaland

ITV, 8:30pm

At first glance, it may appear this this programme is called Goodbye Granddad, and ITV are paying tribute to the late Clive Dunn. However, it is of course Goodbye Granadaland, in which Manchester comic Peter Kay (pictured, right) takes viewers on a journey through the life of the city’s famous Granada Studios, which he compares to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and which, after over half a century, will soon follow in the footsteps of Television Centre and close its doors for the final time.

Over the years, Granada has been the home of many iconic TV shows, from dramas such as Prime  Suspect, Cracker and, of course, Coronation Street to comedy like Red Dwarf and the ground-breaking Royle Family and also game shows – University Challenge and Countdown, to name just two.

Granada has also been at the forefront of landmark television: the Beatles made their television  debut there in 1962; Woody Allen arrived at the studios three years later to make his only-ever UK TV appearance; and in 2010, the first-ever televised political debate between Brown, Cameron and Clegg was produced there.

With the help of interviews and archive footage, it is the stories behind these productions and many more which Peter will tell over this ninety-minute, one-off show and celebrate the importance and legacy of yet another British television institution which has sadly been lost to Salford’s apparently far more preferable Media City.

Also today: Clare Balding and Huw Edwards present Trooping of the Colour: The Queen’s Birthday Parade (BBC1, 10:30am), highlights of which are on BBC2 at 6:30pm; animated favourites Happy Feet and Despicable Me (ITV, 4:05pm and 6:40pm, respectively); Micro Monsters with David Attenborough begins on Sky1 and Sky 3D at 8:00pm; and AJ Odudu presents Big Brother’s Bit on the Psych, in which psychologists analyse the housemates (Channel 5, 10:10pm) – they’re going to have their work cut out with Sallie and Wolfie, aren’t they..?

Sunday 16th June

Jo Brand’s Great Wall of Comedy

Gold, 7:30pm

I’m obsessed with comedy. If I’m watching a sitcom, panel show or stand-up performance with someone, I usually bore them with some sort of trivia regarding the performer, writer, producer, etc.

Therefore, Jo Brand’s Great Wall of Comedy is ideal for me! Digital channel Gold has developed this panel show, hosted by the award-winning comedienne, in which stars of some of our best-loved comedies will answer questions on the stories behind the laughs and get a chance to showcase their knowledge of all things funny.

The team captains are brilliant, too. Firstly there’s veteran comedy writer Barry Cryer, who penned material for legends such as Frankie Howerd, Tommy Cooper, The Two Ronnies and Morecambe & Wise – and that’s just a few of them! Of course, Cryer is also the man behind Kenny Everett’s infamous Cupid Stunt (whose spoonerism name I very nearly typed incorrectly there). Then there’s Rebecca Front, whom a sitcom is seldom without nowadays. Star of The Thick of It, Grandma’s House, Nighty Night and more recently Psychobitches and Jessica Hynes’s (recently recommissioned) Up the Women, Rebecca is one of our most successful comedy actresses. So I think they both have ample experience to bring to a show like this!

In this first episode, the beans are spilled about sitcoms such as the parodies that were ‘Allo ‘Allo and Ab Fab (the movie of which we’re still waiting for, Jennifer!) and loved-up shows like Gavin & Stacey and John Sullivan’s Just Good Friends.

Also today: Somewhat disappointing sequel St Trinian’s 2: The Legend of Fritton’s Gold (Channel 4, 6:00pm); Kym Lomas, Dennis Taylor and Rav Wilding are on Tipping Point: Lucky Stars (ITV, 7:00pm); Julia McKenzie is back in Marple (ITV, 8:00pm); fifteenth century-set drama The White Queen begins (BBC1, 9:00pm); and Ray Winstone stars alongside Tamzin Outwaite, John Simm and Charles Dance in Father’s Day (ITV4, 11:15pm), a one-off short drama in aid of ITV’s prostate cancer awareness campaign, Stand By Your Man.

Monday 17th June

The Greatest Shows on Earth

Channel 4, 10:00pm

In this documentary series, actress and writer Daisy Donovan will be travelling the globe and visiting various countries to watch their respective TV hits – no matter how shocking or controversial – to'The Greatest Shows on Earth' - Channel 4, 10:00pm gain an insight into what makes that nation tick.

The first country that Daisy visits is Brazil, where she goes behind the scenes of many shows which objectify women in a way which we may find disgusting but the Brazilians consider to be harmless. For example, she investigates Miss Bum Bum, a talent show which (as you may have guessed)  judges young women purely on their backsides. So, while we enjoy people making arses of themselves on our talent shows, BGT and X Factor, people in Brazil are enjoying actual arses in their own contests.

There’s also Na Mira, which could be best described as a version of Crimewatch – but much, much gorier. In Na Mira, dead bodies are shown on the streets and corpses are pulled up from the ground. Imagine the letters to Points of View if that was broadcast in the UK!

But then imagine the letters in Jeremy Vine’s postbag being doubled – as Na Mira is shown in Brazil at lunchtimes, after kids’ shows.

Also today: A trio of presenters go behind the scenes at Heathrow in Airport Live (BBC2, 8:00pm); Rick Stein’s India (BBC2, 9:00pm); Nicky Campbell and Davina McCall are back to reunite more relatives in Long Lost Family (ITV, 9:00pm); one-off documentary Scientologists at War (Channel 4, 9:00pm); and the tragic story of Tare, who had a life-threatening facial tumour, in Extraordinary People (Channel 5, 9:00pm).

Tuesday 18th June

How to Find Love Online

Channel 4, 10:35pm

Over the course of two episodes, journalist Dawn O’Porter investigates online dating as part of Channel 4’s Mating Season, which explores modern dating in the 21st century.'How to Find Love Online' - Channel 4, 10:35pm

How to Find Love Online follows 25 singletons as they experiment with the relatively fledgling form of internet dating. The series will show the ups and downs on their individual quests for love as well as celebrating the pros to dating websites, while also warning viewers of the perils, too.

Experts and previous online daters will also be available to share their wealth of knowledge.

Also today: Steve Leonard fronts Nature’s Newborns (ITV, 7:30pm); Harry Wallop tells viewers how they can live for free in Something for Nothing (Channel 4, 8:00pm); drama series Frankie draws to a close (BBC1, 9:00pm); documentary series The Route Masters: Running London’s Roads begins (BBC2, 9:00pm); Royal Windsor’s Big Week goes behind the scenes of the annual Royal Windsor Horse Show (ITV, 9:00pm); and Una Healy and Rick Edwards join the fun for the last in the series of Sweat the Small Stuff on BBC3 at 10:00pm – but fans need not worry as a second series has already been commissioned.

Wednesday 19th June

Dates

Channel 4, 10:00pm

Anyone who has read my reviews of Dates (which a lot have, so thank you!) will know that I am mad about this series. I analyse the plots and characters probably far more than is necessary and I always have strong feelings about the characters – whether that’s love or hate.

One of the characters who I loved is back tonight as Will Mellor reprises his role as David (last seen'Dates' - Channel 4, 10:00pm in episode one). This time, however, he has ditched that bitch Mia (see, I told you I feel strongly about it) and is now on a date with Ellie, played by Montana Thompson – who was that bitch Justine in The Story of Tracy Beaker. Why does David always choose the wrong ‘uns?

All of the people who we have met in this series has had some sort of secret hidden away – whether it’s Jenny’s theft, Nick’s homosexuality or Mia’s job as an escort. Ellie is no different as she appears to have lied about her age in order to get on a date with David (it’s Will Mellor: wouldn’t you?) and is more open and honest than he would like her to be.

Also today: Rhys Jones takes action against wildlife crime in Wildlife Patrol (BBC1, 7:30pm); it’s the last in the series of Watchdog on BBC1 at 8:00pm (so it’s the last chance to see Matt Allwright risk getting beaten up by some dodgy builder); Martyn Lawrence Bullard packs members of the public off to Los Angeles for a makeover in Hollywood Me (Channel 4, 8:00pm); perfectly timed to coincide with Channel 4’s Mating Season, the candidates must set up a dating website in The Apprentice (BBC1, 9:00pm); and semi-improvised sitcom Quick Cuts, set in a hair salon, begins on BBC4 at 10:00pm.

Thursday 20th June

First Dates

Channel 4, 9:00pm

Once again, another programme from Channel 4’s Mating Season strand.

First Dates is certainly a unique show. Every week, we will be watching couples going on a blind date to a re'First Dates' - Channel 4, 9:00pmstaurant which has been set-up with discreet cameras in. Every second of the date will be captured on film and some of it will be shown in the programme – whether it goes well or not so well.

However, there’s more. YOU could be dating one of the people you see on screen and may be on the show one week. To have a look at the available mix of singletons and see if anyone stands out, just go to the First Dates website and even you don’t see anyone for you, you can still apply to be on the show and take part in a blind date.

Also today: Cowboy Traders returns to Channel 5 (8:00pm); Dannii Minogue joins the search for Britain & Ireland’s Next Top Model (Sky Living, 8:00pm); Flights and Fights: Inside the Low Cost Airlines goes behind the scenes of Ryanair and easyJet (BBC2, 9:00pm); The Girl With 7 Mums tells the story of ten-year-old Ellie Sharp (Channel 5, 9:00pm); and three women confront their sexuality in Bi-Curious Me (Channel 4, 10:00pm).

Friday 21st June

Trojan Donkey

Channel 4, 11:05pm

Apparently, Trojan Donkey ‘takes all that’s good in ‘old style’ covert filming to show how funny life'Torjan Donkey' - Channel 4, 11:05pm can be when people think no one is watching’. Isn’t that just a convoluted way of saying that this is a hidden camera show?

After all, that’s all that this show really appears to be: a hidden camera vehicle. BBC3’s Impractical Jokers had a group of mates daring each other, Off Their Rockers used the more mature performer to play pranks and That Hidden Camera Family on Sky1, while having gone relatively unnoticed, did at least have the niche of a family to do all of its jokes on the public. Trojan Donkey just has three performers pranking people. So despite Channel 4’s somewhat lengthy description, it just looks like a run-of-the-mill hidden camera show.

Tonight, a plumber is called to identify a noise in a toilet and one of the actors goes to a tattoo shop in the hope of getting the whole of the Bible inked onto his body.

Also today: Olympian Greg Rutherford, Crimewatch presenter Kirsty Young and comedy performers Jo Scanlan and Henning Wehn are on Would I Lie To You? (BBC1, 8:30pm); Wild Shepherdess With Kate Humble (BBC2, 9:00pm) sees the Springwatch host help shepherds who work in harsh conditions; we find out who will be the first housemate to leave Britain’s most famous bungalow (apart from Dick & Dom’s, naturally) in Big Brother: Live Eviction (Channel 5, 9:00pm); classic film Ghost (More4, 9:00pm); new documentary series Forensic Firsts (Yesterday, 9:00pm) traces the origins of six key forensic investigative techniques; and Steve Carrell, Chris O’Dowd (husband of How to Find Love Online’s Dawn O’Porter) and Josh Groban are on The Graham Norton Show (BBC1, 10:35pm).

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 about this or any other TV show – @UKTVReviewer.