Matt on the Box: New Tricks, Who Do You Think You Are, Mountain Goats and Young Free and Single

by | Aug 16, 2015 | All, Reviews

As we are now in the thick of summer the TV highlights are few and far between however BBC One have chosen this time to bring back two of their most popular shows which are both returning for their twelfth series.

But in the case of the channel’s veteran crime drama New Tricks it’s the end of the road as the show is going off into the sun after the once mammoth viewing figures have trickled down in recent years. Part of the reason for the audience’s decline might have something to do with the fact that the majority of the original cast members departed the show several years ago with Dennis Waterman being the last actor standing from the initial quartet. However it appears that not even Waterman could see things out to the bitter end as his character Gerry Standing left the show in the concluding part of this series’ opening double bill. The supposedly wittily title ‘Last Man Standing’ was almost an origins story as both episodes contain numerous flashbacks to 1983. This was due to the fact that the gang were investigating the murder of Gerry’s old boss Martin Ackroyd whose remains were discovered during a house renovation. The suspicion fell on corrupt coppers turned protection racketeers Warren McCabe and Don Bryant who had been in the back pocket of the notorious Chapman family for many years. However it was clear that Gerry was holding back information from the rest of the team and by the end of the first episode he’d been arrested as a suspect. Obviously this wasn’t go to last and the second episode filled in the blanks as the audience learned exactly why Gerry had been acting so strangely. Gerry’s concluding episode ended with a twist of sorts however anybody who’s seen more than a couple of episodes of a TV drama would be able to work out exactly what the character’s ultimate fate was. Additionally the episode also introduced us to the character of Ted Case (Larry Lamb) who will be replacing Gerry as the newest member of the UCOS team.

As somebody who only got into New Tricks late in the game I always saw it as a show that relied on the strength of the central story. In the case of the opening two episodes I felt Gerry’s tale was more compelling as it went on and climaxed in a rather realistic way. However I did have a problem with the occasional use of slapstick humour which reared its head in the first episode when Gerry left the rest of his colleagues to look after his grandson. Luckily the concluding chapter more than compensated for these early sins with the combination of general peril for the central characters combined with a couple of light-hearted quips that didn’t detract from the overall plot. I’ve always viewed Waterman as the weakest member of the central cast although these last two episodes allowed him to play to his strengths. I especially enjoyed the chemistry between him and Nicholas Lyndhurst’s Danny with the pair attempting to avoid the gaze of the Chapman family whilst clearing Gerry’s name. The drama’s longest-serving star Anthony Calf also impressed me as he helped to mastermind the events that closed the episode in a way that made them easier to believe. I’m personally looking forward to seeing what Larry Lamb can do in the next few episodes as he impressed me in his small cameo in the most recent episode. Lamb is definitely a better actor than Waterman and hopefully he’ll be able to slot in nicely alongside Lyndhurst, Denis Lawson and Tamzin Outhwaite. With all of the original cast members now gone I do think this is the right time for New Tricks to end and I’m glad that Waterman’s exit came at the start of the series so it was given time to breath. However, despite relative new cast members taking centre stage, I do still hope that a long-running show like New Tricks does get the chance to go out with a bang rather than a small whimper.

Though New Tricks will shortly be leaving our screens for good, one programme that doesn’t look like it will be going anywhere for the foreseeable future is the BBC’s celebrity genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are?  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.

That’s your lot from me for now remember you can get more of my thoughts on TV by following me on Twitter @mattstvbites and I’ll see you next time.

Matt Donnelly

Matt Donnelly


Made in Staffordshire, Matt is the co-editor of the site and co-host of The Custard TV Podcast. Matt has been writing about TV for over fifteen years and has written for the site for almost a decade. He's just realised this makes him a lot older than he thought he was.


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