Just a quick one this week as the summer is still offering very little in the way of TV highlights.
We kick off with the return of the BBC’s celebrity genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are? which is now in its twelfth series. The opening episode of the new series played to an overnight audience of over four million who were eager to see Great British Bake-Off judge Paul Hollywood discover his roots. As somebody who’s watched Who Do You Think You Are? sporadically I always feel that the best episodes are the one in which the famous faces are eager to solve a mystery of some kind. However, Hollywood spent the majority of the episode tracing his grandfather’s participation in World War II and was particularly interested in what his role was in both Italy and Tunisia. Although these discoveries may have been interesting to Hollywood I personally felt that I was watching yet another war documentary. Even though it was quite touching to see the steely Bake-Off judge get emotional over learning of his grandfather’s plight, I wasn’t particularly interested in any of the tactical missions he was involved with during the war. I personally felt the episode got more interesting in its latter section as Hollywood went back a lot further in his family tree as he explored his Scottish roots. He travelled to Glasgow where he learned that one of his ancestors was a policeman albeit one who was laid off from the force for excessive drinking. However it was his journey to the Scottish highlands that provided the episode’s sole highlight as he learned of an ancestor who had to embark on a sixty mile round trip in his job as the area’s post runner. It’s these more eccentric pieces of family history that I find more interesting than hearing about the plight of countless relatives during World War II. But, despite the episode’s uneven nature, I still found Hollywood quite an interesting subject and with several other big names in this series I think I’ll be dipping in and out of this latest series of the family tree saga.
One programme that I’m done with after the first episode is newish sitcom Mountain Goats which made its debut this week. Mountain Goats started life as a pilot episode entitled Miller’s Mountain and after sampling that solo instalment I didn’t feel it would see the light of day again. BBC One don’t appear to have that much faith in the show as they’ve put it in the 10:35pm death slot in which most subpar sitcoms usually find themselves. Despite Mountain Goats not being as offensive as previous comedies that have occupied that slot, such as The Wright Way or Father Figure, there was still little merit to the show. The programme focus on a ragtag group of mountain rescue operatives led by the feckless Jimmy Miller (Jimmy Chisholm) who appears to have little authority over his fellow volunteers. Among the group is the young mummy’s boy Conor (Kevin Mains), the rather slow Bill (David Ireland) and the cheerful Bernie (Kathryn Howden). The main problem I have with Mountain Goats is that the majority of the characters are so one-dimensional that it’s hard to either care or believe in them. Although Jimmy is cut with the same cloth as a Captain Mainwaring or a Basil Fawlty at least those two characters had at least one quality you could sympathise with. Not so Jimmy who spends the entire episode being rude to everyone he meets and bizarrely alienating his new landlady by singing a Wham! song out loud. I have to hold my hands up and say that there were about two or three jokes during the half hour that at least raised a smile but that’s about it. Meanwhile the cast struggle with their poorly written roles which is particularly evident when the brilliant Sharon Rooney has little to do as feisty landlady Jules. In fact the only member of the cast who seemed to be making the best of a bad situation was Doon Mackichan as Conor’s mother. It still annoys me that BBC One still can’t produce a decent sitcom these days as the channel was once the play to go to for a good laugh. Instead I sat them almost embarrassed by what I saw up on the screen which amounted to a very old-fashioned sitcom whose jokes were about as dated as its situation.
However somehow Mountain Goats was not the most awful show of the week instead that honour went to E4′s new dating show Young, Free and Single. The concept of the show saw six singletons move in together and get set up on a series of dates with different strangers. The group would then watch their dates back on live TV alongside host Steve Jones and a studio audience. To give the show that all important interactive twist, the public tweets along in the hope of advices the sexed-up sextet if they should ditch or date their latest potential mate. Judging from the responses on the first episode, the audience tweeting into the show are bitter cynics as they felt that all of the singletons shouldn’t go on a second date with who they were meeting. I’d actually agree with them for the most part as the series focuses on a gang of youngsters who weren’t even charismatic enough to grab a spot on Love Island. In fact I would’ve preferred to have a seen a show based around the people who the gang went on dates with as they appeared to have a lot more about them than the group who we are meant to care about. Young, Free and Single is a show that doesn’t really know what it wants to be with the segments involving the dates coming across as scenes from a Made in Chelsea type show whilst the live segments with Steve Jones are a lot cruder and lack any sense of class. There were several awkward moments in the first episode such as Tom’s odd trick of biting the lip when it came to smooching his date. Meanwhile AJ had the most cringe-worthy time when his date basically got the impression she thought he was cheap and launched into a massive diatribe in front of several other diners. I do feel that Young, Free and Single would’ve worked had the individuals involved been people who you cared about such as the singletons on Married at First Sight. But as it is I spent an hour watching a gang of preening wannabe models turning down perfectly decent people and unfortunately that’s an hour of my life that I’ll never get back.
We end on somewhat of a high by celebrating the end of BBC Three’s excellent Defying the Label season with another thought-provoking documentary. In Find a Home for My Brother, Amal Fashanu looks at the options available to her half-brother Amir who was born with a rare form of epilepsy known as LKS. With a lot of the extended Fashanu family based in Africa, namely the Ivory Coast, Amal wanted to discover what life was like there for disabled youngsters before turning her attention to the UK. The one issue I had with Find a Home for My Brother is that it didn’t really cover any new ground that the rest of the Defying the Label season has already dealt with. In fact the only unique quality about the show was when Amal was basing her journey around Amir’s plight and what best could be done for him. There was a scene early on in the programme in which Amal learnt that if Amir had had an operation early on in his life then he may be no different than a normal eighteen-year-old and this rather upset her. She was even more upset when she learnt that former footballing father John decided against this operation as he and Amir’s mother felt that there was too much risk involved. The rest of the documentary saw Amal shocked at the fact that disabled people enjoy a drink and that some people with disabilities in Africa are shunned by society. The documentary was redeemed slightly in its final moments where Amal finally learnt that Amir was going to stay with his mother’s family in Africa. The rather personal conversation that Amal had with John over the computer actually felt quite real as she chastised her father for putting his son in a country in which he may not be treated well. Overall I felt that this was a rather damp end to what has been a fantastic series of programmes with the Boy Who Wants his Leg Cut Off and Don’t Tell my Baby being the two big highlights for me. Although I feel like I’m flogging a dead horse I will say once again that these programmes prove why BBC Three has a place on TV as it is able to give youngsters from all situation a chance to demonstrate what life is like for them.
Next time: The Scandalous Lady W, Abz on the Farm and Top Coppers