What’s available on-demand on Freeview? Keep up-to-date with our weekly catch-up TV column, including reviews of shows on ITV Hub, new releases on All 4 and a guide to My5.
(For BBC TV reviews and round-ups, see our weekly Best of BBC iPlayer column. Or for reviews of the shows on All 4’s Walter Presents, click here.)
Breaking the Silence Live (All 4)
We live in the age of now. The era of live-streamed this and live-blogged that. Normally, that means you’re either watching someone play a computer game on Twitch or some celebrity eating bugs in a jungle on ITV. How great, then, to see a national broadcaster throw its weight behind a live TV event that instead places the focus on science. The BBC has been great at turning educational TV into event TV, from Stargazing to this month’s Arctic Live. Channel 4 reminds us that you don’t need to think big to make an impact, with Breaking the Silence capturing a single moment: the point when a deaf person’s cochlear implant turned on, making them able to hear.
It’s not a format without its flaws, as the medical routine means that doctors have to follow a certain script to check it’s installed and operating ok, which means we essentially watch the same conversation over and over. The contrast in conversation before and after the implant begins working isn’t always obvious either – we often join them with the doctor in mid-explanation, with no signer or translator necessarily evident. But the difference the turning on makes is immediately visible on our subjects’ faces, as they hear their loved ones for the first time in years, or, perhaps, for the first time ever.
There’s humour in the discovery that the implant usually makes people seem high-pitched to the listener, at first, as if they’re talking to a member of Alvin and the Chipmunks. The editing nicely balances all the science of how that works with the emotional impact it has; you’ll be intrigued and moved to tears at the same time, which is probably the first time someone has cried at chipmunks on screen for the right reasons.
Available until: 22nd December 2016
8 Out of 10 Cats (All 4)
Channel 4’s statistical comedy series returned earlier this month for its 19th run. That might not sound like a particularly noteworthy occasion, but the new season marks a change in the usual line-up with two new team captains: Rob Becket and Aisling Bea. Having settled in by the third episode, they’re joined by the usual bunch, from First Date’s Fred Siriex (mildly amusing) and This Is England’s Thomas Turgoose (an endearingly relatable everyman) to the UK’s Sara Pascoe and the USA’s Desiree Burch. Both of the latter recently appeared on Frankie Boyle’s American Autopsy on BBC iPlayer, which was a smarter and funnier affair than this rundown of vaguely topical polls, but they help to keep things fresher than Becket’s familiar brand of mundane observations. The real treat, though, is Aisling Bea, who is, unsurprisingly, an excellent captain, as comfortable stealing the spotlight for a bit as she is laughing at someone else’s joke. If you stopped watching 8 Out of 10 Cats years ago, this age-old format has just been given a dose of new life.
Available until: 22nd December 2016 (Episode 3)
Our Guy in China (All 4)
Guy Martin may the be most enthusiastic man on the planet. It doesn’t matter what he’s doing, whether it’s a wall of death, the Isle of Man’s TT race, or trying the world’s fastest toboggan, you know he’ll be enthusiastic about it. He probably even gets enthusiastic about Weetabix and Coldplay.
His latest series sees him go to China – and, yes, he’s extremely enthusiastic about that too, as he goes from the world’s biggest public toilet to Chongqing, the fastest-growing city on the planet. He also, naturally, stops off at an electric motorbike factory to build his own vehicle that he then rides around – a ride that takes him into contact with unsuspecting locals and welcoming workers alike. His pure geniality makes him a hugely likeable presenter for these kind of travelogues – think a hairy Michael Palin – and you can see it rub off on those who meet him, happy to chat even when neither of them understand what the other is saying. The result is a fun, flying tour of another culture. One moment even sees him return to his hotel room, under the impression that he’s being watched by the police. Of course, he’s quite cheerful about that too. Maybe they’re just trying to work out out the source of this seemingly limitless energy. Is it his sideburns that secretly hold the generators? That’s the subject for another series. You can bet Martin would be well up for it.
Available until: 3rd January 2017