A mixed bag this week kicks off with Channel 4′s latest ‘social experiment’ programme that deals with integration and different cultures as eight people are bought together in Make Bradford British. The programme starts with different areas of the city all trying to complete the test that immigrants are asked to complete before entering the country and as suspected only a small minority passed in all of the different places even in the distinctly middle class town. From there two diversity and community experts, I’m not even sure that that’s a real job, put together eight different people from those who failed the test. There are two Muslims 22 year old Sabbiyah and former professional rugby player Rashid the latter of whom frustrates the group when he slips off to Mosque before their first dinner together. There are three other non-white people in the house including pub landlady Audrey and full time cleaner Desmond along with Mohammed a man who didn’t really seem that involved in the process. The two elder members of the group are retired magistrate Maura and former policeman Jens who creates controversy himself after using a few racist terms while reciting some anecdotes of his policing days. Completing the line-up was the stereotypical Damon a metal sheet worker who is separated from the mother of his child and likes to drink a lot essentially he’s the kind of guest Jeremy Kyle enjoys shouting at. Their days together are what you would expect from an ‘experiment’ show such as this such as arguing over the budget, controversy from racist terminology, trying to decide what it is to be British and eventual acceptance of each other but only to an extent as this is the first part of a two part episode. What I found interesting was the programme’s overall agenda in that it was essentially black faces vs white faces there was no middle ground for example there were no East Asian people or those from Eastern Europe who I’m sure make up a majority of those in Bradford also. I almost knew what was going to happen beforehand and indeed I thought things would get a bit more severe than they did but I’m guessing they’re saving that till next week with Sabbiyah getting abuse when she tries to serve beer in Audrey’s pub. I honestly think the programme-makers had good intentions when they came up with Make Bradford British but I think they could’ve gone about it differently than they did as the result is clichéd and ultimately a little bit boring.
If Channel 4 wanted to look at a programme that dealt with the complexities of racial integration then they should’ve watched the first series of daytime drama The Indian Doctor which returned for series two this week. Set in a 1960s Welsh mining town it followed the story of Sanjeev Bhaskar as Dr Prem Sharma who along with wife Kamini faced prejudice when they first came to the town in the opening few episodes. Now safely settled this week saw them welcome Kamini’s mother Pushpa into their home who is a little bit horrified about her daughter’s new surroundings including the fact that the Sharmas have taken in young Dan Griffiths because his hard-drinking father doesn’t always have time for him. The other new character here is local vicar Herbet Todd, played by Mark Heap in a rare dramatic role, who has just returned from Africa carrying a plethora of artefacts and has also bought his strumpet of a daughter Verity with him. When Dan becomes fascinated with the artefacts he starts to develop a strange fever and it really isn’t long before you figure out what is going on. Essentially this series is all about religion against science with Prem wanting to cure those who have caught this disease and Todd wanting to use prayer instead. I have to say that The Indian Doctor is one of the better BBC One daytime dramas and after tackling racial prejudice now looks at how religion prejudices against certain people this includes Prem’s receptionist who is an unmarried mother with a child who Todd won’t baptise because she isn’t with the baby’s father. Bhaskar is once again fairly reliable and Heap plays his role with vigour with the only real weak link of the cast being Naomi Battrick as Verity. The period setting and familiar music will attract the older people who are watching T.V. at that time while the storylines appeal to people like me who are able to catch this on iplayer. Overall a very good return for this programme which is almost wasted on daytime and would be better served with a Sunday evening slot where I’m sure it would attract a strong viewing audience.
Relationships between Brits and foreigners brings us nicely into our third programme entitled Our Man In. This programme follows various member of the British consulate throughout the Spanish region starting off with those who have to deal with the Brits abroad on drunken holidays. The title is fairly ironic seeing as that most of those featured in the consulate here are women including Judith Doakes who has to deal with various dilemmas the majority of which are drug-related. Take the case of Bradley Potter a young man who wakes up in a medical centre with no idea of who he is and without any of his possessions. Eventually his memory returns but the culprit at the centre of this is a mystery pink pill with a question mark on it that has caused a lot of trouble and later we see a lot of Brits being arrested for their involvement in dealing this. Aside from drugs the other danger is a lot more self-inflicted and knowingly dangerous that being the recent trend of people jumping off hotel balconies into swimming pools down below. The final story is of a young lad Seth on his first holiday without his parents who has been unfairly tasered by the local police and is encouraged by Judith to take things further. We don’t find out how Seth’s story pans out but we do see that occasionally that the consulate get to do good things such as when a British woman gives birth and has to get help arranging her young so with a British passport. While this wasn’t as in depth as something like Coppers or Educating Essex I enjoyed Our Man In mainly because it shone a light on what the consulate actually does. A group of people who deal with everything from a man who’s passport has been lost in a washing machine to a convicted murder obviously lead interesting lives and I feel that this touches the surface. So maybe this was just scratching the surface of what the consulate has to do but as a one-off portrait of the institution it was very well made.
I’m not sure how to Segway between Ibiza and Ann Widdecombe so I’ll just go on to say that the next programme on the blog is Cleverdicks. The programme is an hour long quiz programme hosted by the former conservative MP and recent star of the dancefloor. The bizarre thing about Cleverdicks is that is being aired on Sky Atlantic once exclusively the home of US drama is now airing stuff like this and Come Dine with Me carbon copy The Devil’s Dinner Party. Talking of the devil back to Ann Widdecombe who has had to slightly soften her hard public image in order to play the quiz show host. I think in a way she is trying to sort of do the same think Anne Robinson did on The Weakest Link although the script calls for her to do a lot of banter which she seems completely uncomfortable with. The main gist of the show seems to resemble one of the rounds in Going for Gold where the contestants get more points depending on how few clues they need to get a specific answer. Though generally this is a lot harder than the Henry Kelly classic with questions about TS Elliot and chemical elements which went straight over my head and at times the questions strayed into University Challenge territory hardly want you want for a teatime quiz. Cleverdicks was a bit weird it didn’t suit somebody like Widdecombe who would be better placed doing something like Uni Challenge where she wouldn’t have to talk to anyone and just ask the questions. By far the strangest thing on show here was when somebody got a correct answer from the first clue ‘Widdecombe’ shouts out Cleverdick like she’s Madam Whiplash and it was some sort of specialist request from a client. Personally to improve this I would make the questions more accessible, cut the banter and make the whole thing into a slim 30 minutes but then again Widdecombe probably wants as much T.V. time as possible but unfortunately none of us really want to see her all that much.
A musical double bill to end things this week as we were treated to I’m in a Boyband by BBC2. This show follows on from 2010′s I’m in a Rock n Roll Band which saw viewers try and put together their ultimate rock band by picking their favourite guitarist, drummer etc. Thankfully we weren’t treated to weeks of boyband members but instead this is the start of three documentaries looking at different areas of pop music. Though we’re not putting together our ultimate boyband we did indeed learn the different members of a boyband there was the head boy which is sort of a Gary Barlow type who sings lead or writes the songs, the big brother is the one who looks after the other lads who apparently in JLS is Marlon if you’re interested, the cute one is obviously self-explanatory and then there’s the quiet one which was exemplified here from a long diatribe from Terry out of East 17 saying that he wasn’t quiet but rather he was never given a chance to speak. There was nothing particularly new to say in I’m in a Boyband we were told that these groups were created to sell sex to teenage girls and that the rules of the group are that you’re not allowed to be gay or have a girlfriend. This however was at least a well-made piece with a wide range of talking heads ranging from Herman’s Hermits, The Osmonds and The Bay City Rollers to JLS and One Direction. In fact I’m surprised that Simon Cowell allowed One Direction were allowed to take part in this but I’m guessing he vetoed the question and their answers before the show began and indeed there anecdotes were the least interesting. On the other hand one of the Bay City Rollers told the tale of how a fan collapsed at their gigs and had to be revived by a Womble while Terry from East 17 recited the story of a German fan who stowed herself away in Brian Harvey’s bunk while on tour. The most harrowing story was given by Scott from 5ive about how his first child was born prematurely and was an incubator when he was asked to go on a TV show and I think through this one piece of information you learn how hard life can be sometimes for these guys. In a week that saw the sad passing of Davy Jones a member of the original boyband The Monkees its fitting that we see the legacy of his group’s work and why the concept of the all-male group still works today.
Finally it’s party time as BBC4 celebrates its 10th anniversary but not with a marathon of Danish dramas or of its brilliant comedy series Getting On but instead with a programme all about disco. Yes as those who watch it on a regular basis Friday night is music documentary night on BBC4 and what better way to have a party than by listening to tunes by The Bee Gees and The Village People. But this being the thinking person’s channel this wasn’t obviously just a collection of tunes, or that did follow on, instead this looked at the period between 1969 and 1979 which is considered to be the period where the music really dominated. It took us back to the time where the music was specialised and spoke to the gay community but was dominated by the black music producers who were interested in finding a new sound in a post-Mowtown world. The music also ushered in the sexual liberation of women with Donna Summer and LaBelle giving us songs about women’s sexuality. Through that we then got the mainstream disco craze which happened when the Bee Gees agreed to let some of their songs be used for a John Travolta film the soundtrack of which became the best-selling of all time. From there we met The Village People and Boney M and how then everything had to have a disco theme from Sesame Street to Ethel Merman and even Larry Grayson was dancing to it on The Generation Game. Obviously things came full circle as the homophobic and racist members of society started the disco sucks rally which saw the genre banished but thankfully it would bring on the new generation of house music. Once again like with all their music documentaries BBC4 has presented a fully-rounded look at disco’s music foundations and how it reached its peak. Some great talking heads from both groups and disco fans made this music come alive as did all the music that was played throughout. It wasn’t a perfect film, a section about Northern soul felt a little out of place almost as if it were filler, but there was enough here to keep my interest throughout. So happy birthday to BBC4 and please keep bringing us greats like The Killing, Getting On, Borgen, Twenty Twelve and the great range of biopics as well as documentaries about clouds and sand.
Next Week: White Heat, Dirk Gently and The Secret Policeman’s Ball