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Sunday, 14 April 2013

Matt on the Box: This Week's TV Highlights: 24 Hours in A&E, Victoria Wood's Nice Cup of Tea, Scott and Bailey and The Security Men

Welcome back to another look back at the seven days in TV and, unlike last week, there hasn't been a lot on.

First up this week we have the return of Channel 4's superior documentary series 24 Hours in A&E. The programme is one of many fly-on-the-wall shows in which Channel 4 showcases the work done by people in high-pressure jobs. This show focuses on the staff of King's College Hospital and every episode chronicles events that happen in one 24 hour period. Initially this series introduces us to Des who enters the resus ward for a marathon shift. Des and his team soon have a critical case when a woman is randomly attacked on the street in a mugging gone wrong. The woman, later identified as Czech Republic native Suzanne, has hit her head and now has life-threatening swelling around her head. Suzanne's attack really gets to the staff of King's as they realise it was an incident that could happen to anyone. As Suzanne is taken up to neurosurgery, there is another trauma case when a 12 year old boy is flown in to King's by the air ambulance. This boy is soon revealed to be Tom, who ran out in the road and ended up being hit by a car. Tom's mother is soon by his side as she gets into bed with him and so is glad when she is told all of his vital signs are good. Finally we had the smaller story involving 90 year old former circus performer Frank. Frank had been admitted to King's after he fell down in his bathroom, however when arriving in hospital he is more interested in finding out his wife Miriam is.  Throughout the show, we heard fascinating stories from Frank's life including how he first met Miriam when she was an acrobat at the circus. Sadly it was revealed that Miriam died only a few months after Frank was release from King's. Thankfully there was better news for Suzanne and Tom who both made a full recovery. In her speech that ended the episode, Suzanne thanked Andrew who initially called 999 and essentially saved her life. 

The great thing about 24 Hours in A&E is that it is a programme that we can all relate to. The vast majority of us have been in hospital as either a patient or a relative which adds to the connection that this programme has. One of my favourite aspects of this documentary is how it balances life and death situations with mundane conversations. A brilliant example of this is when Des first arrives on the ward and is accused of eating 'old man mints'. Later, in a rather hilarious scene, we saw a man passive-aggressively turning the pages of his newspaper as he waited for his wife to be seen by a doctor. It is in these smaller moments that 24 Hours in A&E and I feel that a lesser programme would only focus on the main trauma cases. To be fair Suzanne's story was fairly gripping especially seeing as we were able to see the CCTV footage of her attack. From hearing Andrew's account of events to seeing Suzanne's sister arriving at King's, this was a brilliant example of how a documentary series can build tension. Meanwhile Frank's story was full of charm and character and I personally found it the most emotional of the three central cases. In fact the only criticism I have is that Tom's accident wasn't given enough time when compared to the other two cases. While it told a good story about a mother's love for her son it still felt like it had been added to the episode at the last minute. But overall this series of 24 Hours in A&E had everything that made it great as it contained laughter, tears and genuine tension. I have so much respect for what all of the Staff at King's do and am glad to have this series back once again.


Also back this week was Victoria Wood but sadly she wasn't bringing us a new comedy. Instead we had Victoria Wood's Nice Cup of Tea, in which the comedy legend went around the world chronicling the history of our nation's favourite drink. The documentary was split over two nights, with the first instalment focusing on how we the Brits first discovered tea. This meant that Wood had to travel to both China and India to tell this story properly and not just to get a free holiday. To be fair, Wood's journey was full of facts and saw her even indulge in a bit of tea-plant picking herself. However I felt Wood excelled more during episode two in which she discovered why us Brits drink tea. To do this she obviously had to speak to some celebrities including Matt Smith who looked rather nervous during an afternoon tea session. Meanwhile Wood also met Graham Norton as he discussed the social aspects of tea and later watched some adverts with Victoria. The best part of the entire show though was Victoria's interview with downbeat tea-lover Morrissey who was horrified by the sight of Wood's gift of a homemade tea cosy. The two-parter sort of ended on a low, as Victoria explored why we're not drinking as much tea as we used to. This was blamed mainly on the fact that most of us Brits are now in a rush and would rather have our drinks on the go. We saw Victoria later sit in on an advertising meeting to see how those awful new Tetley's commercials were produced. Despite Nice Cup of Tea seeming like yet another celebrity travelogue, Wood's humour made the subject matter appear interesting. Wood added her own quirky style to the voiceover and often knew what we the audience would be thinking. The programme put me in mind of the documentaries Jo Brand fronted for BBC4 as both had similar comic styles but were well-researched. At almost two hours, I felt the subject matter was stretched to breaking point but in a way I didn't care as Wood is a captivating presence. Wood is one of those people who would still be funny reciting the phone-book and I think fronting a documentary about tea is a step above that. Now all I need is Julie Walter's History of Cocoa and my life will be complete.



The third series of Scott and Bailey continued this week with an episode which was mostly told via flashback. The start of this instalment saw Rachel (Suranne Jones) reveal to Janet (Lesley Sharp) that she'd had a one night stand. She later added that she felt she'd married Sean (Sean Maguire) for all the wrong reasons. The events of the episode then went back a year in the past to explore just what those reasons were. So we basically saw the story of how Rachel was charged with conspiracy to murder after her brother Dom said he was following instructions laid down by his sister. As the investigation into Rachel continues, she agrees to marry Sean as she fears she may have to go to prison. Eventually all of the charges are dropped and Rachel must commit to a man she doesn't really love. Though she voices her doubts to her sister Alison (Sally Lindsay) and later to Janet, Rachel's feelings are just brushed off as being cold feet. Rachel also has to deal with the first meeting in years between herself and her mother Sharon (Tracie Bennett). When they initially meet, Sharon appears to regret abandoning Rachel and her siblings however at Rachel's wedding we see a different side to Sharon. This is because Sharon likes a drink so embarrasses her daughters by hogging the karaoke machine before later having a liaison in the car park with Pete. While all this is going on, Janet and her husband Ade (Tony Pitts) decide to separate as they realise they marriage isn't working. To me Scott and Bailey works best when it primarily focuses on a police investigation however here we concentrated more on the personal lives of our two detectives. Not that I minded too much as these are two characters who I really care about and this week Jones really shone as the emotionally damaged Rachel. That's not to say Lesley Sharp didn't have her moments with one of my favourite moments in this episode being the very quiet end of Janet's marraige to Ade. The other great scene involved Amelia Bullmore's Gill giving a heartfelt speech about Rachel's police work that was incredibly believable. My hope is that, now all the plot holes have been filled in, we can get back to Scott and Bailey solving crimes in the present day rather than dwelling on their pasts.


Finally this week a new one-off comedy on ITV entitled The Security Men. The show is co-written by Caroline Aherne, who reteams with Jeff Pope after the two worked on The Fattest Man in Britain together. The Security Men contains a lot of elements that Aherne is known for primarily Northern humour, believable characters and a setting that is just as important as the plot. The setting in question is a Shopping Centre in which Kenneth (Peter Wight), Ray (Dean Andrews), Jimmy (Brendan O'Carroll) and Duckers (Bobby Ball) all work as security guards. Kenneth is presented as the archetypal jobsworth of the four as he takes his duties awfully seriously while the other three just want to slack off. It is this slacking that gets them in trouble though as they go off to watch a boxing match in the electrical store not realising that a robbery is taking place at the jewellers. As they realise they may lose their jobs, the quartet decide to reset the CCTV cameras and restage the robbery to make themselves look like heroes. However there may be trouble when the police who investigate the crime aren't as easily fooled as one may think. While watching The Security Men I was wondering whether this was just a one-off or the pilot for a full series. If it was a one-off then it was a witty enough set-piece with some well-drawn characters. However if it were to become a full series then I'd make some changes to this set-up. Firstly I wouldn't create any plots as big as the robbery saga and instead focus on these four disparate characters forced to work together in a confined space. Peter Wight's Kenneth could definitely become an iconic character as he is someone who takes his job way too seriously and thinks he's a lot more important than he is. He is supported by some genuinely funny turns most notably from Bobby Ball who delights in playing the mischievous Duckers. The Security Men wasn't perfect but it's definitely something I'd like to see return as a full series and it does prove that ITV can actually create a fairly amusing comedy programme.

Remember to follow me on Twitter @mattstvbites and I'll see you next week. 

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