A mixed bag this week with a lot of entertainment and a bit of factual programming mixed in.
We start with the umpteenth series of celebrity family tree programme Who Do You Think You Are? This series mainly focused on serious actor types like Rupert Everett, Alan Cuming, Rupert Penry-Jones and his wife Dervla Kirwin. However the first episode seemed different from all of the rest as it followed Bruce Forsyth trying to track down his great-grandfather’s double life both in the U.K. and in America. Unlike most of the Who Do You Think You Ares this first episode was prompted by a letter Brucie received from an American lady claiming that they were related. Bruce goes to visit his cousin, who has collected plenty of information on their family over the years, and looked a bit annoyed when Bruce swept in to collect all research and then uncover the family secret thanks to his pals at the BBC research team. After some research he finds out that Great-Granddad Joseph journeyed to New York and so Brucie ends up walking round Brooklyn complete with baseball cap. For an 80-something year old entertainer wandering round the rough streets of NY with a full camera crew must’ve filled the BBC with dread but luckily Bruce didn’t end up in a gang fight. Bruce found out that Joseph was indeed a bigamist and married a young girl called Frances while already having six children in England. Frances and Joseph moved to Atlanta but Joseph sailed back to England and supposedly died at sea but Bruce then found out that Joseph came back to New York and lived in a hotel until his death. The final scenes were fairly heartbreaking as Brucie discovered that Joseph lay in an unmarked grave and as we were told by narrator Mark Strong, Bruce had since paid for a gravestone to honour Joseph. Bruce’ s journey was one of discovery about finding out about a relative with a shady past but it wasn’t as entertaining as some of those we’ve seen in the past so I hope a couple more instalments in this run have a tad more excitement in them.
While Bruce heads off to New York ITV1 presents a double bill of ‘entertainment’ each Saturday night which kicks off with Odd One In a programme in which two teams of celebrities have to pick from a line-up who is telling the truth and who is telling porkies. It is refreshing to see a Saturday night game show giving new faces a chance to shine in a brand new format. However that hasn’t happened instead Bradley Walsh is hosting (what happened to his acting career?) and the two regular panellists are the rather shy Peter Andre and Jason Manford. Mandre, as I shall from here on refer to them, are the Home Team every week and have to take on an Away Team of equally camera-shy people including Eamon Holmes, Ruth Langsford, Katy Brand, Angela Griffin, Mark Durden-Smith and Lorraine Kelly. The aim of the game is to guess which out of a panel of five is the genuine article so for example the group might be presented with five men one of whom is Mexican and the others aren’t or find the real nun and the winning team is that with the most right guesses at the end of the night. But there is more as the audience are playing along every step of the way and the audience member with the most correct answers gets the chance to play for £5,000 by guessing the correct answer one more time, which they inevitably do. I wasn’t expecting much from Odd One In and I didn’t really get much back. There’s nothing particularly wrong with it and Jason Manford tries his level best but the format goes all the way back to Call My Bluff and the interactive element doesn’t really add anything. It’s a good attempt to create something new for the summer but I think this may get put on the scrapheap as many Bradley Walsh vehicles often do.
Continuing ITV1′s Saturday night line-up of shows that have been done before with a programme they hope will be a ratings-winner entitled Magic Numbers. It’s a show where celebrities come on and take part in challenges each of which helps to generate a number when all six numbers are put together anyone with at least three of the same numbers in their phone number can call up and compete for a cash prize. If this sounds familiar to anyone it’s because it’s been done before in the mid-1990s and it was called Talking Telephone Numbers. That time there was no messing around it was six numbers or nothing but there are much better odds but it doesn’t seem as worthwhile. Also the old show had the ultra-professional Philip Schofield, Magic Numbers has Stephen Mulhern who looks about 18 but is actually in his mid-30s. The numbers are generated in various ways including Paddy McGuiness guessing as many TV theme tunes as he can in a minute or a member of the public trying to decide who Louis Spence is meant to be when he puts on a load of wigs. Personally I’m still trying to decide who Louis Spence is. There is also the final number generator where one of the celebs hits one of those things you find at the fair with the hammer and the bell where the arrow shows you how much you’ve hit but in this case generates a number from 1-9. Emma Bunton and Alex Reid both had a go at this in seperate weeks and unfortunately Reid did better. But why is it called Magic Numbers? Well that’s because Mulhern is a Jack of All Trades and is also a magician so performs magic tricks with the help of celebrities during the time all the pensioners are wasting their money trying to win the grand prize. To be honest Magic Numbers is a bit dull, Mulhern isn’t a big presence and often the celebrity guests outshine him a little. Let’s just hope this never sees the light of day now that X-Factor is in full swing.
The final show in our entertainment showcase is Five’s attempt to cash in on the Glee phenomenon with their talent show Don’t Stop Belevin’. The competition involves show choirs from the U.K. singing against one another to win a ‘chance’ of an album deal and worldwide distribution. Each week six of these groups will perform against each other with one going through automatically and the other being a wildcard entry put through by the judges each week. And who comprises the dynamic judging panel? I hear you ask. Well it seems to be anyone who wasn’t doing anything and was cheap enough. So first up there’s Anastacia possibly the biggest name on the panel who sympathises with anyone with a sob story after her own painful ordeal with cancer. Then we’ve got Duncan ‘From Blue’ James who should stick to sitcoms or skating because he really doesn’t make an effect as a judge. James though has been picked because he’s currently starring on the West End as is Tasmin ‘Mel from Eastenders‘ Oulthwaite. I’m not quite sure what she’s doing here as she has got quite a successful acting career I don’t see she has the need to appear as a talent show judge. The only one with any opinion seems to be a diminutive American fella who apparently had something to do with choreographing High School Musical. Your host for the shindig is Emma Bunton who makes Gurn Cotton look like Michael Parkinson she’s completely ineffective and doesn’t really have the enthusiasm needed. The performances all seem a little bit creepy, tacky or sappy such as six kids dressed in different colours singing ‘True Colours’ or two dozen men leering at one woman while shouting their way through ‘Sex is on Fire’. The strangest section is ‘the super group’ which happens while the votes are being tallied up, each week five non-singers come and sing on the stage and each week five more join the group. None of them are famous, although one did turn down the chance to possibly be in Girls Aloud, instead they audition in a passport photo-esque booth which is placed in Shopping Centres around the country. Despite the creepy performances, and ineffectual judges and host the whole thing could have had a sprig of originality to it however this was already done by the BBC pre-Glee and it was called Last Choir Standing. Five really should stick to importing programmes rather than trying to copy The X-Factor et al.
To finish of this week we have the return of an old favourite with the new series of Undercover Boss. The series, from the team behind the Secret Millionaire, sees a boss of a large corporation go undercover to look at various aspects of their operation and discover what could be done to improve the quality of those areas. Channel 4 obviously want to distance themselves with comparisons made between Secret Millionaire and Undercover Boss so try and differ the shows by having the person we’re following pretend their undercover filming a documentary, visit several people who all do invaluable work and are ‘salt-of-the-Earth’ types and then at the end revealing their true identity to the shock of all the people they’ve met on their journey. Okay so they’re actually fairly similar formats but they still work like in the episode that followed Kevan Collins the man in charge of Tower Hamlets council who looked at various employees and schemes that he’d put into place. He did a day with a lovely meals-on-wheels lady who was nice to all the old folks but complained that not enough time was allotted to her visits to them, he spent a night on the beat with two law enforcement officials (not proper police) and spend some time with a pest controller who seemed to enjoy his job a little too much and was described as ‘a divorcee’ which made no difference to his character really. The two people he singled out where a young man who’d come over from Africa and worked in the re-housing office, Kevan loved his calm manner and the way he dealt with people who were going through hard times. The lad in question still was working on a temporary basis but Kevan told him that he was going to mentor him and try and get him the job permanently. Kevan’s final mission saw him accompany the guy in charge of running the market successfully, he wanted to rejuvenate the market and had formulated a plan to make the market a part of the 2012 Olympics. The final meeting between the market man and Kevan was amusing as Kevan had gone undercover and had taken his glasses off but the market man didn’t recognise Kevan with glasses on. Of course Kevan decided to promote him and also to let him handle all the work for the 2012 Olympics. Undercover Boss does feel very staged, the boss never visits anyone who isn’t really passionate about the job and only doing it because the money is quite good. Despite this, it is still very engaging and the reveal segment works fairly well as you try and figure out what reward each of the people the Undercover Boss met will get.
Next Week: Sherlock, Small Teen Big World and The Great Outdoors