Welcome back friends for another instalment of your favourite weekly TV round-up
We start with two offerings from BBC4′s Electric Dreams season kicking off with the main show in the season called ummm… Electric Dreams. This saw a family go back to 1970 and live with only the gadgets that would be readily available to an average family at the time. Each day would be a new year and would see a new gadget be delivered from a team of technicians (well there were three of them) which would either improve or hinder their development. The family picked were the Sullivan-Barnes, an odd family as mother Georgie and dad Adam only share one child – toddler Jude. Georgie’s children Ellie and Hamish live with her and Adam, while Adam’s daughter Steffi splits her time between her mother and father, but her very loving mother seems to have let her spend a whole 30 days with her father presumably so she can say – that’s my daughter on TV. I would say they were quite an upper-middle class family who have enough money so the children are comfortable enough to have plenty of media in their own room (both Hamish and the girls have their own rooms with Sky TV and various consoles as well as a P.C.) this means that Georgie and Adam have their own private ‘adult room’ to watch what they want to on the TV. But this was taken away and the family were forced to spend time together in the 1970s, with a TV that only had three channels and nothing else they were forced to talk to each other. Mid-1970s Adam received a record and tape player enabling him to make a mix tape assisted bizarrely by ubiquitous music journalist David Quantick. As the 1980s arrived, the family had to cook an entire Sunday roast in a microwave and Hamish became obsessed with the BBC computer and with computer processing in particular.
As the 1990s arrived, I felt a bit old as it seems now that the nineties are becoming retro, I mean I remember a time without mobile phones but the Sullivan-Barnes children don’t and by the late nineties the children got their own mobiles, something I didn’t get and I was older then than they are now. As more and more electric gadgets came along all the children reverted into their own rooms while Adam and his friends played on the now ancient PS-one downstairs. But did the family learn anything? Well they seemed to enjoy each other’s company something which I don’t think they knew before. I very much enjoyed this programme, the Sullivan-Barnes were warm and a very ordinary family. However their situation meant that I sometimes found arguments between Adam and Hamish awkward as they are not father and son. Adam in particular was a source of entertainment mainly because a lot of his quotes are in the vein of Alan Partridge, and generally Adam did come across quite Partridge. The warehouse bound tech-team who had to research the gadgets were also very entertaining and completely nerdy especially computer journalist Gia who got a bit carried away when she went to visit Berners-Lee in Switzerland to talk about the World Wide Web before letting the family getting it. It would take ages for me to talk about how much I loved this show but I think it perfectly showed how technology has advanced and to an extent how much we rely on all the media we have now. But then without all the media that is available to us none of you would be able to read my awesome blog, and how poor would your life be without that?
Also part of the Electric Dreams Season was a one-off programme hosted by BBC4′s resident misery guts and video game enthusiast Charlie Brooker entitled Gameswipe. Brooker had just under an hour to explain the various formats of video game (platform, first person shooter, multiple storyline etc.) each given a hilarious commentary by the man himself. He also got to review some of his favourite video games and go back to the early days of gaming. The best part of the show though was when Brooker got to have a look at the influence video games have on us and the obvious links between video games and violence and in particular the incident with Manhunt. But as Brooker said if you’re not completely stupid you can easily differentiate between one and the other to demonstrate this he showed what someone would be doing if they were influence by Super Mario Bros. (a bizarre scene in which a man was banging his head against a brick wall while stamping on some mushrooms). He also looked fondly on the relationship between TV and Video Games this was mainly nostalgia TV as we got to see clips of the legendary GamesMaster. Finally he showed us the way video games have evolved with the introduction of WII’s Beatles Rock Band and how you can now simulate yourself into a member of The Beatles. Always informative and hilarious and with added fun from Dara O’Brian bemoaning the fact that he can’t get to the songs he wants to on Guitar Hero without playing some garbage first, Brooker’s Gameswipe was hopefully a one-off but whatever Brooker does always turns to gold.
Five now seem to be making an effort to produce more home grown output even though if it’s as dire as Ian Wright goes Mental (known as Live from Studio Five) at least they’re not peppering their schedule with US imports and extraordinary (very weird) people documentaries. First up Ross Noble’s Australian Road Trip in which the Geordie comic travels around Australia meeting weird and wonderful people. Now it would be alright if it was someone experiencing the culture for the first time (like Paul Merton’s Five series from India and China) but Noble actually lives in the country with his Aussie wife. Saying that Noble is still an entertaining guide meeting the bemused bible-basher who didn’t realise he was about to converse with a sarcastic comic or the bikers who drove him round in the hearse. Best of all was the radio-shaped radio station. Noble’s trip is interspersed with clips from his Australian stand-up tour just showing us that there is a point to his trip and the clips actually relate to what we’ve seen happen to him, if that makes any sense. At the end of the day this is mildly amusing and having seen him twice live I can tell you that Noble is an adapt stand-up however sometimes that doesn’t translate to being a great presenter and he does struggle with some of the voice-over links. Given this is put on directly after Five’s biggest draw (the US import FlashForward) Noble has to impress a lot of viewers who can’t find the remote and can’t sky plus. I would say this would be for fans of Noble only if you’ve seen him on panel shows and don’t like him, steer clear.
Next up a new sketch show featuring young and upcoming comics, E4′s School of Comedy gets in there early as the performers are exclusively juvenile either tweens or teens. The only familiar face is Will Poulter better known as ‘That Kid from Son of Rambow’. The fact that all the performers are young seems a little gimmicky as all the sketches could’ve been given to older performers but at the same time the delivery is given some gusto by these easy to prove themselves youngsters. The material itself, like most sketch shows, is a little patchy but Poulter gives some character to the sketches he is given in particular the South African Security Guards and the incredibly rude teacher. There is also some surreal aspects added to the proceedings especially the estate agent showing houses where the rooms lead to 1930s black and white footage or into the middle of nowhere. Although not great, School of Comedy is an okayish project and a good idea. And it is especially funny if you like to hear young children swearing a lot, and if you fall into that category forget what I said about watching The Thick of It, you don’t deserve it.
Finally the third and possibly the best series of Benidorm graced our screens over the past few weeks. Extended from a half hour ITV1 show to hour-longs this gave the writers more time to develop the characters and make (some of) them seem less like caricatures and more like real people. This mainly favoured Johnny Vegas’ Jeff who was on a look for love throughout the week’s long holiday and failed to find it through internet dating, instead ending up with Tim Healy in a wig in the end he almost finds love with the teen mum but gets arrested after making a false statement to the police about his bravado. Posh boy and usual Benidorm outcast Martin has split up with his wife and bought along Brandy (the brilliant Sheridan Smith) who blows hot and cold with him until she finally sleeps with him but it turns out she was a con woman and along with Robin Askwith made off with loads of possessions belonging to the holidaymakers. Even the gay characters got a bit of believability with Gavin the fat one finding out that Troy the gay one had a secret son. But always the stars of the show have been the Garvey family and in particular Sheila Reid’s horrible shop-mobility scooter bound grandma Madge who provided this season’s best moment after accidentally taking ecstasy she sung Up, Up and Away on karaoke and ended up jumping into the crowd. Not for people looking for satire or particularly entertaining laughs, Benidorm provides large chuckles and paints a broad picture of what Brits are like when they holiday abroad.
Next Time: Criminal Justice and Emma