Smarter Than Your Kids?, ITV1

by | Sep 7, 2005 | All, Reviews

What to say if you liked it

That’ll Teach ‘Em round two. The parents now take GCSE exams in a bid to prove whether or not exams are getting easier.

What to say if you didn’t like it


What was good about it?

• The satisfying news that there was a decent result (two Cs a B and an E) 33-year-old Tammy Evans, who never sat her O Levels because she left school aged 15 when she became pregnant, and who said that having GCSEs would change her life. We also liked Tammy’s unintentionally funny comment: “I think I’m quite good at sciences thanks to the Discovery Channel.”

• The steely determination of single mum-of-four Marilyn Wells. She seemed constantly stressed out, but still put in the most effort. She couldn’t begin her course work and revision until she got the kids off to bed (which, by the look of things, was usually very late) and she once revised until 3am.

• It was also fun to see 40-year-old Marilyn do better than her 16-year-old son Nathan at PE. But she was also pleased that Nathan succeeded in most of his subjects. “A young black boy in this country – it’s like a ticket. You don’t really hear about the success stories, you only hear about the robbing”.

• The way the adults started making childish excuses for not doing their homework “I just find it so boring!” , “I’ve got better things to do on a Friday night!”.

• It was funny to see the tutors treating and talking about the adults taking the GCSEs as if they were kids, mostly because a lot of them acted like kids.

• We quite liked the Evans’ feeble attempts to play Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.

• By the end, none of the adults felt the exams they took were any easier than the ones they originally took, which was quite nice to hear for a change.

What was bad about it?

• This programme was more like a fly-on-the-wall documentary about adult education. For a lot of the parents, they considered taking these exams as a “second chance”. A lot of the time it was like a two- hour marathon of those “beat your gremlins” adverts without the gremlins. The enjoyment came from hoping these adults, who for various reasons missed out first time round, could better themselves.

• Frankly, the programme was very, very, very boring despite the narrator’s attempts to make it more interesting: “It almost ended in divorce”, “the pressure is on as they race towards the coursework deadlines etc

• Anna Walton’s tiresome drama queen antics and self pity. The 41-year-old’s worst moment came before she was to take her maths exam and she burst into tears going on about feeling “like a child again” and claiming she has a lot of negative feelings still tied to maths.

• Private school educated Brooke Sadler, who looked like she was grown in a test tube – she had perfect white teeth and was caked in make-up. Good for her for getting straight As and for starting revision months in advance, but she was too much of a Little Miss Perfect for us.

• Debbie, Brooke’s mother. She wasn’t a Little Miss Perfect, but she couldn’t be bothered revising for her English exams, preferring instead to bugger off on a skiing holiday, and then pulled out of doing the maths exam claiming she “didn’t have the time”.

• Dennis seemed to be a lovely bloke, but we had to agree with his daughter that he wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer. A tutor asked him which word to fill in , “It begins with ‘w’, ends in ‘o’ and has a ‘h’ in the middle. Dennis replied, “what”.

• Tammy’s tuneless cat screeching rendition of Faith Hill’s There You’ll Be.

• Sixteen-year-old Corinne Wells’ accent. Her father is American and mother is British and extremely posh, so she’s ended up sounding like a female Loyd Grossman.

• The generally awful soundtrack – the title music was horrendous, but worse were the songs by Katie Melua, Coldplay and Jamiroquai, and some muzak version of Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. And we’re so used to Goldfrapp’s Lovely Head being the theme of Clive Pringle The Liar from Monkey Dust it sounds out of place anywhere else.

• The teenagers in each family sat a surprise 1977 O Level paper and all passed it – but that was almost glossed over.

• The programme added nothing to the exam debate – we never had an accurate comparison of the old O Levels versus the current GCSEs. The only comparison we got was that Nicky Wells passed both with flying colours, but she was touted as the “class swot” from the beginning.

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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