With this new series of The Great British Bake Off Channel 4 is spoiling us. Can you remember way back to last year when we watched the first series after Love Productions split from the BBC through our fingers as the nation waited to be able to say “I told you it would be rubbish!”. Can you remember our collective confusion, bewilderment and joy because it was still good, maybe even better than before? It was very much the London 2012 Olympics of food-based competitive TV shows. What a glorious time to be alive (and able to properly digest gluten)!
And with Sandi, Noel, Prue and Paul making a glorious return to the tent on Tuesday nights there’s a new generous helping of sister show An Extra Slice on Fridays. Fortunately Jo Brand, the consummate professional that she is, was fine with the move from the Beeb to Channel 4 and nothing much changed at all. But now the show is settled the programme makers can confidently make some long-overdue changes. Extra Slice suffered because it always felt very rushed in the half hour format that Channel 4 inherited from Auntie Beeb, and of course the adverts we were all loath to accept ate into that time, so it was 23 minutes of telly at best. Speaking of adverts in Bake Off, who would have ever guessed we’d miss Dr Oetker and his choir of irritating singing cakes. Amazon spent £5 million on the prestigious slot to advertise the Echo and all they can come up with is forgettable line drawings? “Alexa show me an advert worthy of 6.1 million viewers”.
Forgive me for not knowing until now who the Chicken Connoisseur is. I am in my 30s and I still haven’t got my head around the many millions of creative ways people use YouTube and how they have an immediate connection with their audience that the old dinosaurs of terrestrial TV can only dream of. Superstars are born, made fantastically wealthy, and crash and burn overnight. This much I know is true. I also know I’m playing catch-up. I swear I was standing in a Blockbuster choosing which video to watch just last week, but of course that was at least a decade ago.
So kudos to Channel 4 for giving Elijah Quashie his own TV series. This is a guy from Tottenham who made his name in 2016 reviewing chicken shops in The Pengest Munch. Important work, steering the nation away from disappointing fast food. He’s a critic who knows what he likes and he’s happy to give his opinion delivered in his own authentic style. There’s a lot of working class black slang going on here, but it all makes sense. Although again, I did have to look up peng which means handsome or fit as in “This is the pengest penguin in the world” which I’d pay good money to hear David Attenborough say on Blue Planet.
This week, with the UK under deep snowdrifts we bid goodbye to the always summery Detectorists. As the watchful magpie reminds us, our heroes should be looking up not down. Their metal detectors are pretty useless in this case, and it’s in the branches of the lovely old tree, beneath which we’ve seen them shelter for so many years, where the trickster magpies have hidden their ancient hoard.
The tiny heartbreaks of this series have done their job and we are rewarded with stronger happier relationships. Lance with his daughter Kate and his girlfriend Toni, who are not at odds with each other for his affection, and who seem like they could be excellent friends. TV writers take note; women can be friends, not just bitchy rivals. It was a shock to see Lance’s horrible ex-wife Maggie return (played with relish and skill by Lucy Benjamin). She had a useful but very short storyline. Her evil plans were scuppered easily. Maybe she was a little underused?
Series 4 of 999 What’s Your Emergency started this week following emergency call handlers, police and the ambulance service in Wiltshire. This is a quality Channel 4 documentary full of revealing interviews and profound fly on the wall moments. The people on camera are witty and funny, sometimes fairly unintentionally. While yelling at someone dishing out racist abuse one restaurant owner shouts “You’ve got more chance of getting a kebab off the Queen than me!” Guys, never be rude to someone in charge of you food.
Channel 4 have earned something of a name for themselves with stylishdocumentaries that really get to the heart of the action and put a human face on the righteous, the pathetic and the despicable. We meet extremely memorable characters, even if they only have a few minutes screen time.
A call to the police (I hope it wasn’t to 999 because it’s hardly an emergency) sees PC Dan Lane dispatched to follow up on a report of man masturbating in his back garden. This is a crime apparently, which I had not realised, so apologies to the people who live at numbers 28 and 30 in my street. I can’t believe the voice-over guy kept a straight face when saying PC Lane was off “to look more closely at the matter in hand”. Turns out there had been zero al fresco wanking going on, but there was serious tension between one house in the street and their new foreign neighbours.
The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting colder, and suddenly there’s a bunch of new comedy series on tv. Here’s your guide to great things returning this week, and one show that we can really do without…
Yonderland (Sky 1) Sunday 16th October 6pm
Written by and starring the cast of Horrible Histories, this show now returning for Series 3 is unrestrained by facts or learning and transplanted to a fantasy land on Sky1. Nice and normal Brummie housewife Debbie Maddox (Martha Howe-Douglas) is the saviour of this strange and silly land. She tries to impose some order on the chaos (fighting inept demons, going on mystical quests, dealing with the totally insane ruling council) while keeping her unbelievable double life secret from her husband Pete (Dan Renton-Skinner – brilliant in everything). If you’ve not seen the first two series, treat yourself because they’re all on Sky Catch Up right now. It’s the kind of show you need to watch recorded as Series 1 especially would make you laugh so loud and hard that you’d miss the next punchline and have to rewind it.
As part of BBC sitcom season, last weekend the BBC’s flagship science show Horizon covered the topic of laughter and comedy with familiar telly star and hard-working stand-up comic Jimmy Carr in the host’s chair.
It began as an awkward panel show with documentary sections and a little stand-up twirl on a tiny mini-stage that Jimmy seems to favour on tv. It was a consciously crappy set littered with generic science props, like they’d rifled through the dumpster from 1990’s-era Room 101. Jimmy should have been good at working in a strange hybrid situation (8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown is usually spot on) but this wasn’t good, despite his best attempts… so more like 10 o’Clock Live then.The studio audience were nervous, and nervously laughed at how nervous they were.
Once the science started it was pretty interesting, if no less awkward. Sticking three Professors on a little sofa is not going to make the evening any less ungainly. Fortunately Jimmy asked incisive questions of the academics and showed his own comedy intelligence. No surprise here as he has co-written quite a scholarly work on the subject of comedy with Lucy Greeves called The Naked Jape – I got a second-hand copy off the internet last year and was thoroughly entertained and learned a lot. If you can get hold of a copy I heartily recommend it, whether you’re a stand-up comedian or just a lover of comedy.
Andrew has hit the nail on the head with this reivew of the abysmally poor Muppets reboot. I was excited they were coming back and it was being picked up by Sky in the UK. But when they trailed the fact that Kermit and Piggy were breaking up it was a red flag. Worse still when it turned out Kermit’s new girlfriend Denise was younger, thinner and less outrageous than his old flame. And also a pig. A pig! He can’t help himself can he? That frog has some serious issues.
I am and always have been Team Piggy. I would like very much to be her when I grow up. Mr H would probably say I’m exactly like her right now and don’t need to change at all. I want to perfect the hair-tossing flounce – Harumph!
The viewing public were not happy with this break-up. Fictional and felt they may be, but these characters are very imporant to people the world over. The fans watched, and continued to watch hoping that something would work. But it didn’t. The Muppets have always been about rebellion, and sticking their middle finger (paw?) up at to man. They’re always putting on one last charity show to save the Muppet Theatre from fat-cat developers for the love of it, but now they’re working in late night tv (Up Late With Miss Piggy) that love has gone.
And we don’t love it anymore, and that’s a real shame.
As Andrew says, I hope the team behind this flop get the message. We still love The Muppets and their crazy mad-cap joie de vivre but this was not the format for them. Try again please, and do it better!
I’m a little behind with what is on my DVR so I’m watching the Disneyland 60 special that was on the other week. Kermit the Frog came on and did his song The Rainbow Connection that I absolutely adore. He did it with some girl that has an amazing voice and I don’t remember her name (Tori Kelly perhaps?). Anyway, no offense to her, but shes not important to what I’m getting at. As I was watching this I was smiling like an idiot because The Muppets mean so much to me. I love the movies, the shows, and the songs. When I heard about the new TV show that ABC was putting out I was beyond excited. That was until I started to hear more and more about it.
The show was going to be filmed in the same style that The Office was. I didn’t like the office…