The Law of The Playground, Channel 4

by | Jul 21, 2006 | All, Reviews

Did we like it?

As frustrating and mentally exhausting as hacking your way from the back page of a newspaper through the grossly overblown, waterlogged coverage of the Open to find some proper sport.

What was good about it?

• Iain Lee’s description of a super-wedgie, where the aim of the assailants was to hoist the unfortunate child’s underpants above shoulder height.

• Jayne Middlemiss’s school photo – with her 80s perm she looked like Glenn Hoddle.

• Vic Reeves made a few wry comments.

What was bad about it?

• Justin Lee Collins seemed to have been employed as the Red Adair when the producers realised how flimsy and lame the other contributions were, but he just made things worse with his forced, banal observations. He claimed that on the first day of school each pupil regards the others and wonders “who will be the tough kid, who will be the funny kid and who will be the weirdo.” This is completely wrong. In primary school, and indeed to a lesser extent at secondary school, children don’t have the experience to be able to appraise their peers in such a way. It’s only after a few months that such roles become starkly apparent. And by the time you get to secondary school, you already have a pretty good idea of what your classmates are like.

• And JLC’s very final exasperated observation that seemed to have been included as a punchline to the episode was: “Why was the chair put on the table (at hometime)?” JLC seemed smug that he was pointing out something that had evaded the minds of schoolkids throughout the ages, when, in fact, every other pupil apart from himself knew through common sense was that chairs were put on tables in order to make it easier to clean the classrooms.

• The appearance of Kylie Minogue and Jason Donavan’s 80s dirge Especially For You; and while we’re at it, Alan Carr, we can’t remember seeing any boys wearing waistcoats to emulate Jason Donovan.

• Even the usually brilliant David Mitchell wasn’t funny.

• One of the problems was that most of the observations were culled from that pool of the Channel 4 entertainment militia between about the ages of 25-35 which meant there was little flavour of different eras but instead a mundane, barely palatable menu of lumpy mashed potatoes and that horrid fish in yellow sauce that you could have sworn the vindictive dinner lady leaked her excess bile on to just before the pupils were herded into the dinner hall.

• Many of the antics described that seemed hilarious at the time are no longer funny due to the fact that the viewers were either adults who have shed their infantile sense of humour or children who view the school days of old people with a derisive sneer.

• Some of the phrases didn’t translate. “Spam” was slapping a classmate’s exposed forehead; we called that “slaphead”, but they also missed out “red-hand gang”, “Capri-sun” and countless other parochialisms. Meanwhile, Tom Price (no, we don’t know him either) rambled on about something called “jinx” when two people said the same thing at the same time and the physically weaker of the pair was taken to a remote island off the coast of Scotland to be experimented on by a mad scientist. OK, the last part of that was made up but we lost interest in his babbling and so had to compensate somehow.

• The vagueness and meandering nature of many of the reminiscences was perhaps exacerbated because each of the contributors couldn’t simply refresh their memories by watching a TV recording of them five minutes before appearing on camera as in so many of the other “wasn’t our youth great?” retro shows.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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