‘The Circle’ – Channel 4

The Circle is a new social media reality show, launched in the week that Channel 5 has finally confirmed what viewers have known for years. Big Brother, once the undisputed king of reality shows, is dead as a dodo. It’s strange times indeed in telly land. The Circle was trailed heavily on Channel 4 for weeks, with each advert being a full instruction manual for the show, not really helping the initial audience reaction that it was overly complicated. Then before and after every ad break the presenters Alice Levine (My Dad Wrote a Porno podcast, coming to HBO in 2019) and Maya Jama (dunno, off some youth radio show at a guess) took the opportunity to again explain the rules in painful detail. We get it  – you’re expecting the audience to be on the thicker end of the education spectrum.

So this is the start of three weeks of Alice and Maya talking about a bunch of people talking to themselves in their pokey little flats, sorry apartments, with an all-knowing Alexa console for company unless they’ve had the foresight to bring their own baby or  turtle for company. The twist on the classic Big Brother format is that they don’t ever meet face-to-face. All contact is conducted via a specially-designed social media platform – the eponymous Circle. The total number of contestants vying for the £50,000 prize is eight which is surely more than enough. But apparently people who get evicted get replaced! Dear God –  is this Black Mirror? Is three weeks actually eternity? Will it ever end?

Circle+hero
Alice and Maya explain the rules again, and again, and again – we’re none the wiser

So down to the fundamentals – how do you get people to like you? Are you true to yourself, as every Insta bio assure us is the way, the truth and the light, or are you more controlling of the image you portray to the world. Do you edit out your bad bits and concentrate on your good bits, both in your personality and your physicality or is it slightly repulsive to be so obviously manipulative? Is all this false advertising even ethical? Some of these contestants have said fuck ethics and they’re halfway to scamming retirees out of their pension as a sketchy African prince.

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‘Unforgotten’ Series 3 – ITV

SPOILER warning: this post deals with the final episode of Unforgotten Series 3. Do not read on unless you are up to date with both series 2 and 3. Catch up with all the box sets on ITV Hub now.

Unforgotten bowed out after a tremendous third series at the weekend. No one disagreed that it was an acting masterclass from start to finish, led by stalwarts Nicola Walker as DCI Cassie Stewart and Sanjeeve Bhaskar as DI Sunny Khan.  Since inception this show has attracted top quality British actors. This series was dominated by awesome performances particularly from Alex Jennings, James Fleet and Neil Morrissey (getting better and better in each drama part,although here he certainly need more screen time). But I wasn’t expecting such a split opinion on the ending, especially as this has become a truly beloved British drama. I wasn’t immediately on board back at their humble beginnings, and I admit I snarked at the first episode back in 2015. I was very happy to be proven wrong; the atmosphere wasn’t lacking in comparison to Scandi drama – it was just different.

Online, people seemed annoyed that there was no twist in the tale and that the final episode ran out of steam. Although, thinking about it, do any of the series so far provide a neat and satisfying ending? In series 2 because of the nature of the crime, the number of perpetrators and the time passed the police decide there was no value in pursing and prosecuting anyone. Was this what the audience wanted? Do we demand everything tied up neatly in a bow? Or do we realise if you strive for realism on TV in style and storyline that endings will inevitably be messy, just like in real life?

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‘Trust Me’

Oh the BBC is so very proud of being able to bang on about Jodie Whittaker in the role of a doctor. Haha! Ho Ho! What japes! But not that Doctor, not yet. Hold your horses folks. First we see her in Trust Me, a new 4 part drama as a “doctor” – quotation marks very much intended.

As the first curtains swished open and the first bed sheets were turned down, I realised this is the first hospital drama I’ve watched since leaving hospital (10 days in May, nice people, nice room, but extremely painful procedure and that will let them down on the overall TripAdvisor score) and I’m actually watching it ill, so it’s all very relevant. The nurses who looked after me were absolutely fantastic, but literally did get the shit jobs, and the piss jobs, and the puke jobs and so on. It’s no wonder people aspire to more.

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‘Harry Hill’s Alien Fun Capsule’

Harry Hill is back! And this time it’s worth watching.

The be-spectacled comedic ex-doctor has arrived just in time to save the human race from alien invasion! He’s showing our new alien overlords that we are useful to have around, if only to laugh at. I’m not even kidding. This is the basic premise for a strange and excitable comedy panel show, interweaved with funny clips of old tv shows, very much in the style of the awesome TV Burp, which, shockingly, finished five years ago.

Last year’s Harry Hill’s Tea Time on Sky 1 was way off point, managing to parcel up the Harry Hill brand without ever once stumbling towards what we enjoyed about him. All specs and grins and huge white collars and no fun. It was too gimmicky and far too dependent on one celebrity providing the fun and games in a very awkward, embarrassing situation. (If you want to see how that’s done with style and aplomb see BBC’s Murder in Successville.)

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‘Versailles’ – On the Box

BBC 2’s newest lavish period drama is a British-Franco-Canadian collaboration about the building of the fabulous Palace of Versailles. A second season was already ordered ahead of the premiere. I guess that’s the thing with history – there’s a whole lot of story to tell.  It’s part produced by Canal+ but in English with no phony French accents, which is great. There’s nothing more jarring in a drama than hearing accented English that sounds like Vicki Michelle in Allo ‘Allo.

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‘House of Hypochondriacs’- On the Box

Important note: this blog post was written after watching the show and I’ve left it exactly as written at the time, but please see the comment from Shaun (a participant on the show) below. He’s not happy with how his comments were edited by Channel 4, and I’m very thankful for him contacting me to set the record straight.

I am not well.

It’s a virus, or a weird skin thing, or very possibly both. I need to leave it alone and it’ll get better and I need to hurry to Clinical Photography and get pictures taken to aid diagnosis. I need to continue life as normal and I need to stop using soap, cut myself off from all contact with humans and animals and never even look at another kiwi fruit for the rest of my life.

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