The summer is great isn’t it. Sunshine, ice cream and barbecues with the neighbours! What’s it is not so good for is TV, hence things have been less than hot on the reviewing front for me of late. Now (prepare the trumpets) I’m back and so are Ant and Dec!
The Brits are coming! America has seen a huge influx of British folk take over their screens mainly thanks to high trouser god Simon Cowell. Since his huge success with American Idol, Cat Deeley, Fearne Cotton, Eamonn Holmes, Anne Robinson and Gordon Ramsay have all tried and, in some cases succeeded, in making names of themselves on the other side of the pond. So really it was quite surprise that it has taken so long for the jewels in ITV’s crown Ant & Dec to appear on US TV. Their first vehicle for the ABC network isn’t exactly revolutionary; in fact it’s a rather cheaply made and poorly executed game show called Wanna Bet.
The show sees a panel of celebrities bet fictitious money on whether contestants can do the weird and wonderful things they claim to be able to perform. For example, the panel bets on whether a 10-year-old could identify the make and model of a vacuum cleaner just by the noise it made or whether a karate expert could kick out 100 lights in less than 60 seconds. Oddly the boy correctly and confidently identified the Hoovers but the kicker failed to switch off all the lights. The problem with the show is that isn’t entertaining enough to keep the viewer or indeed the celebrity panel interested. The panel often looked so bemused and uninterested by the “talent” I felt their pain.
Ant & Dec do their best to add some life to the programme but I can’t help but think they know they’re on to a dud here too. They seem to be told to keep their humour and questions simple so as to be understood by the contestants and this helps to ensure the show never really gets going. It’s a real shame; with the right vehicle I know Ant & Dec could become sensations in the US but not with this below par attempt at a game show I’m afraid.
On the other hand, ABC’s other new game show is absolute joy to watch. Its called Wipeout and it’s the American take on a popular and completely mad Japanese series. It’s a been a real hit and deservingly so. The series sees contestants compete against each other in a series of ridiculous and hilarious physical challenges to win a cash prize. It’s a simple enough idea and works brilliantly. Some of the obstacles seem completely impossible but watching them being attempted is a joy. The highlight has to be watching people tackling The Big Balls (not least because the name makes me giggle like a schoolgirl) because you just know they’ll bounce off and head straight for the murky brown water below.
The series is an easy and simply enjoyable watch and has no age limit. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and never seems to get boring. Summer TV isn’t known for its highlights but this really shone. The BBC has commissioned a British take on this lovably awful programme.
Comedy has been a bit thin on the ground of late. Maybe BBC2’s new mockumentary The Cup would change things and prove to be a new must-see. Unfortunately there was disappointment from the get go. The mock documentary aspect didn’t add anything and, in fact, spoilt things. Unlike The Office which worked brilliantly filmed this way, The Cup didn’t feel believable enough and quickly fell apart.
The characters weren’t likeable enough. I do feel for Steve Edge who was really the only good and comedic thing about the series. With this and last year’s The Visit, he really needs to find the right vehicle for his talents. The Cup is not it.
Lord Robert Winston’s new three-part medical investigation series Super Doctors was a wonderfully insightful and nailbiting hour of television. Winston has always produced easy to watch educational TV and Child of Our Time is still a favourite of mine.
Super Doctors is proper grown-up television with no dumbing down. The first episode focused on surgery done by robots and was both amazing and uncomfortable to watch. Winston’s series are always done with such sincerity and his arguments against using a robot versus a skilled surgeon’s hand were compelling. The operations provided interesting viewing (for all those not squeamish about their insides), adding to the success of this smart, heartwarming and informative programme.
In contrast, Martin Clunes was drafted in for ITV on Sunday. Marin Clunes: A Man and His Dogs wasn’t in the same category as Super Doctors but, for a documentary about man’s best friend, it was pleasant enough for a relaxing Sunday evening by the fire. But unlike Super Doctors, there’s no need for next week’s second part.
Clunes is obviously a big dog lover and watching him interact with the pooches is fun and anything with a singing dingo will always be good TV but the programme really didn’t have a purpose and I didn’t learn anything. The Idea appeared to be: Doc Martin’s hugely popular, let’s put its star in documentary and work out the rest from there. Just like The Cup, this was something I’ve been quietly looking forward to but it failed to spark interest when push came to shove.
Now the dead boring TV summer is coming to a close and those deluded X Factor contestants are back stinking up the screen, the autumn of great TV should hopefully be around the corner. The first of the new CRUMBLETASTIC medals has to go the brilliant Super Doctors and bizarrely Wipeout (if only for the big balls!) but The Cup is a real BLACK PUDDING!