Reviews

This Week in TV: Misfits, Top Boy, The Case, Attack of the Trip Advisors, Hot Like Us and Him and Her

Hope everyone’s well, let’s get underway.

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When some shows with interesting concepts get into their third year sometimes things can go a bit stale and the plots remain fairly the same thankfully this isn’t true of Misfits which began its third series this week on E4. The programme became the first series on a digital channel ever to win the Best Drama BAFTA and also notched up another award this year for Lauren Socha who plays Kelly. For those unfamiliar with the show its original premise saw five youths on community service develop powers after being caught in a freak storm. At the end of series two they finished their community service and also all sold their original powers to Matthew McNulty’s shadowy figure but all deciding to purchase new powers in the final scene. Apart from the shift in powers the other big change is that Nathan has left the series following Robert Sheehan’s breakout role in the underrated Killing Bono. Nathan has been replaced by Rudi played by Joseph Gilgun who, depending on how cool you are, either played Eli in Emmerdale or Woody in the This is England series. Like with Nathan, Rudi is a talkative nuisance but is also hiding insecurities like the character he replaced. Nathan’s worries were usually vocalised through Kelly’s ability to hear what people were thinking with Rudi it’s a lot more obvious as whenever he’s feeling emotional a less confident more honest version of him emerges from his chest. Originally the other Misfits’ powers fit in with their characters and over the past two series they have changed so much that their new abilities fit in with them. Once a selfish minx Alisha is now more aware of other people’s feelings which is reflected in her new power of being able to see through other’s eyes. Disgraced athlete Curtis had found a new respect for women after dating the teleporting Nikki, who died in the last series and hasn’t been talked of since, so his new power fits in with this as he is now able to change into a woman. Kelly who used to be able to hear what people thought about her has now realised that she is more intelligent than she thought and this has been magnified to the extent that she is now a rocket scientist and finally formerly shy and invisible Simon is able to see into the future.

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What I really like about Misfits is its ability to combine a sci-fi story with a lot of humour and dirty language. Unlike a lot of sci-fi programmes, and American versions of the genre especially, it never takes itself too seriously and even treats death with a flippant nature. The first episode does concentrate on introducing Rudi who is new to community to service alongside two girls which both sides of his personality take a shine to. However he angers the wrong girl who just happens to have the ability to freeze time whenever she gets angry which begs the question why didn’t she try and get herself out of the crime for which she was originally arrested? Through Rudi’s former relationship with Alicia, she took his virginity while they were both at college together, the other Misfits are dragged into this story and help Rudi out however this ends up with both the other girls dead with the new group bonding over burying both the bodies and Kelly telling Rudi, ‘you get over it and move on.’ To get the gang back to the original setting they all accompany Rudi in what, unbeknownst to them, is a stolen car ending their probation and landing them all back in the orange jumpsuits. There is a lot of human emotion mixed in with the humour – Simon’s insecurities in his new relationship with the much more-experience Alisha, Rudi’s split personality and the mystery of the series being what power is Matthew McNulty’s character wanting to purchase? All the cast are on top form and those who weren’t great actors when the show began have settled into their roles, Gilgun makes a fine addition to the cast and thankfully Craig Parkinson is still on top form as the sardonic man in charge of the community service workers. How the gang will use their powers throughout series three I have no idea but once again Misfits is on top form and I would highly recommend people getting into it if they haven’t already.

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Another recommendation from this week is Channel 4′s Top Boy a gritty urban drama stripped across four nights set in and around the Summerhouse council estate and the different characters that inhabit it. The programme has been written by Ronan Bennett and is a million miles different from his last show the BBC noirish thriller Hidden which was laden with star names and familiar faces. The only familiar face here is Ashley Walters, who appeared in one series of Hustle, as drug dealer Dushane someone who believes that he should have a higher position in the gang from the one he currently has and part of the plot is him fighting the boss for such a position. Dushane’s story involves the warfare between two rival gangs and the violence that takes place during the robbing of drugs and money and the terrorising of family members who are outside of the gang life. Running parallel to Dushane’s story is that of Ra’Nell a thirteen year old who is very distant due to lack of an authority figure. In the first episode Ra’Nell’s mother is sectioned due to a mental illness and because his father skipped out on the family he has to fend for himself being helped by an old friend of the family. Ra’Nell is tempted by life on the streets but instead forms a bond with Kierston Wareing’s pregnant Heather someone who wants out of the estate and dreams of a different life for her child and to get the money to do this she is growing cannabis in a greenhouse enlisting Ra’Nell to help her out. There also the story of Ra’Nell’s friend who is dragged into the drug life finding love in the process but something tells me it’s not going to work out for him. The thing I like about Top Boy is that it feels very real, the characters are allowed to speak the way they normally would and neither drug dealing or violence is glamourised here all being part of the overall plot. The acting is also incredibly good especially from Malcolm Kamulete as Ra’Nell who is able to portray the vulnerability of someone without a proper authority figure in their lives. For me Channel 4 have fallen down in the quality of their drama but I feel Top Boy is the kind of thing they should be producing on a regular basis it is very gritty, realistic and full of fine acting and I enjoyed it immenseley.

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Something that really should be gritty and realistic but occasionally falls into the laughable is BBC’s new daytime drama The Case. The programme is part of the BBC’s new effort to improve the quality of its daytime drama something I feel they achieved earlier with Robert Pugh’s Justice as well with the period piece The Indian Doctor. The Case centres around the tricky topic of assisted suicide and sees mechanic Tony, played by Ashes to Ashes’ Dean Andrews, charged with administering the lethal injection that ended his partner Saskia’s life so he could his hands on her money. The arrest comes after Sakia’s ex-husband believes he’s caught Tony in the act but has this accusation come out of jealousy and is manipulating he and Saskia’s two children in order to convince them that Tony murdered their mother? Gradually through flashbacks we see the relationship between Tony and Saskia grow and her husband’s reaction to this as well as the revelations about her illness. Running alongside this is the political infighting in the chambers where Tony’s defence barrister Sol works and who has enlisted the help of his junior Julie to assist him on this is his first murder trial. I feel its the relationship between the barristers which is the weaker element here and slows things down especially when the writer decides to include B storylines involving Ruthie Henshall’s bitchy Valerie and her trivial cases which include a man who has left money to a donkey sanctuary and a complaint about a fitness instructor who’s workout regime is two noisy for his neighbour. On top of this there are just some silly stories such as the unbelievable blossoming relationship between Julie and Sol and Tony’s brief relationship with his best friend’s girlfriend which obviously looks bad when he goes into court. David Allison previously wrote both Five Days and Collision also dramas that were stripped across the weeks both of which had their moments but were ultimately unsatisfying which I feel the conclusion of The Case will similarly be. I also have the feeling that the script has been on the shelf for a while as the vital piece of evidence that will prove Tony’s innocence is a video tape that Saskia made apologising to her family for her decision to take her own life. In this day and age she surely would’ve burned it to a couple of DVDs in order for the original copy not to go missing and see Tony going into court for her murder. There are elements of The Case that are enjoyable, in particular Andrews’ performance, but overall I feel it was a missed opportunity to deal with the issue of assisted suicide in a calm and realistic manner.

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Currently Channel 4 seems to be obsessed with hospitality related programmes firstly we had Three in a Bed in which B&B owner rated each other’s properties this then morphed into Four in a Bed bringing in another proprietor each week. Then we had The Hotel a behind-the-scenes look at a typical three star hotel and the staff that populate it. Now in a one-off special we look at the people who specialise in criticising and berating establishments in Attack of The Trip Advisers.The programme essentially looked at the effect that the website trip adviser had on hotels and B&Bs both in terms of the profits and the effect it had on their owners. The owners in question included Colin and his wife Sarah who run The Old Forge Lodge in Norfolk and who have quite a harsh review criticising Colin’s mannerisms and cooking. The couple welcome back their critic Caroline who enjoys her free meal but then is unable to take criticism from Sarah when it is heaped upon her to the extent that her husband walks away and the cameras are turned off. Essentially most of the trip advisers are portrayed as pedantic bores who have too much time on their hands and don’t have proper jobs instead they are mature students, church historians or in the case of Ricky a supermarket manager. Ricky is the most extreme case here stealing some of the teas and coffees to see if they are replenished and making a small mark on the bedsheets to see if they are changed. His grandmother, who accompanies him on his trip to Cleethorpes, tells us that he was bullied at school and he sees this as a way of getting back at the world and exerting his authority which I’m guessing he does at work as well where he gets to order about a lot of people in his role as manager. Meanwhile the hotel owners are either presented as Basil Fawlty-esque eccentrics or sincere family head such as Bev from The Hollies who rightly points out that everybody these days expecting a boutique hotel at B&B prices. As someone who is an amateur reviewer it is very hard for me to criticise other amateur reviewers even though they seemed to take their holiday as work rather than relaxation. Instead my criticism will be levelled at the makers of the programme who have obviously picked some of the extreme users of the website as a quick scour of Trip Advisor reveals that on the whole reviews are brief and positive with only the odd few offering petit horror stories. Although the focus was on oddball type characters I felt that the documentary failed to look at both sides of the story and those who use the website as a positive tool to encourage others to enjoy the time they spent at various establishments rather than just bashing the ones where they felt the service was below-par.

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For me BBC3 are a channel who can get it really right at times they have produced some corkers such as the recent The Fades, the great Our War and the cancelled two-soon Pulling. However they seem to then spoil things with inane programmes such as Hotter than My Mum and Snog, Marry, Avoid and new series Hot Like Us fits into the latter category. The programme is a combination of Britain’s Next Top Model, Mr and Mrs and Big Brother and sees eight modelling couples living together and competing for a major contract. I mention Big Brother as Stuart from the 2009 series is present here alongside girlfriend Helen and he is the first to cause a ruckus in the house basically claiming that he isn’t there to make friends instead seeing this as work, pure and simple. Other couples who mark themselves out as characters early on are Australian Born-Again Christians Vaughn and Alison who are like something out of Strictly Ballroom and don’t believe in Sex Before Marriage. Then there’s the most experienced couple Mun and Rana with him being such a pro that he has been voted the tenth most attractive Southern Asian Model but has also had extensive surgery such as three nosejobs and cut nipples. The sort of mentor of the groups is Jonathan Phang who BBC3 always wheels out for these sort of shows previously featuring on Britain’s Missing Top Model judging models with disabilities and Naked in which he helped normal couples get err… Naked. Here he reveals that they are to strip down to their undies and participate in a Posh and Becks type shoot posing with an prop of their choice and wow were there some weird picks from apples, to rugs, to boxing gloves but none of them in my opinion were particularly utilised. The trick for the eight couples is to prove that they are both excellent models and great couples both elements are being judged by people with experience in each respectively model agent Jodie Furlong and relationship expert Emma Kenny the latter of whom sets the task of getting each partner to by the underwear for their other half. After going over what happened in the task and the modelling shoot Jodie and Emma decide to send home perma-tanned ignorant pair Sam and Ben for talking back when they received their constructive criticism. As much as I like looking at women in their pants, modelling shows as a whole annoy me and this was no different at the end of the day I hate posers. At an hour this dragged on far too long and I even got bored of the underwear shoot eventually. I’m not saying that BBC3 shouldn’t be producing this sort of lowest common denominator show, I’m a big fan of both Young Dumb and Living Off Mum and Don’t Tell The Bride, but this here is poorly produced and those involved are on the whole horrendous human beings.

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However thankfully BBC3 have redeemed themselves with the second series of the sublime Him and Her the great sitcom starring Russell Tovey and Sarah Solemani as lazy couple Steve and Becky who constantly just lull about in Steve’s bedsit where all the action takes place. It’s fair to say that nothing has particularly changed between series one and two apart from Becky moving in but in typical Him and Her style she is yet to unpack her belongings. Episode One set up two main stories the first of which is that Steve’s ex-girlfriend Julie Taylor is back on the scene and seems intent on getting her claws back into him Meanwhile Becky’s domineering self-involved sister Laura is entrenched in wedding plans and her beloved Paul has enlisted Steve into being his new best man something that surprises him as they don’t get on. It turns out that Paul has picked Steve purely on the fact that Laura will believe any lies that he tells her and because of this his Stag Night can contain drugs, whores and violence. Him & Her is at its best in the everyday humour whether it is Steve waiting to have a wee or all the characters enjoying Steve’s apples. All of the ensemble cast work well together and special mention must go out to Joe Wilkinson as weird upstairs neighbour Dan and Camille Coduri as Becky’s dim single mum friend Shelley. Comparisons to The Royle Family are richly deserved in so much as there is one setting and events occur in real time it’s just a shame that not as many people will watch it as it’s BBC3 home prevents it from being the hit it rightly deserves to be.

Next Time on the Blog: The Jury, The Choir: Military Wives, Rev and Life’s Too Short

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