Catch up TV review: Chewing Gum, Spies, Tina & Bobby, Lip Sync Battle UK
Ivan Radford | On 15, Jan 2017
Chewing Gum: Season 2 (All 4)
When it comes to young people, it feels rare to find TV shows with believable characters – it’s no wonder BBC Three’s Fleabag enjoyed such a strong response last year. But it’s even rarer to find young, black, British, working-class characters who are complex, serious and sympathetic. Oh, and hilarious to boot. Enter Michaela Coel, who picked up a BAFTA with the first season of Chewing Gum (all available on All 4), and now returns for a second run. The series reunites us with Tracey, a 20-something on a council estate, who’s been kicked out by her mother, and eventually gets turfed out by her best friend as well, for being too demanding and annoying. Her Season 1 boyfriend, Connor, meanwhile, has moved on to someone new. Cue lots of over-the-top shenanigans, as she tries to win him back and work out what she’s doing with her life. But what might feel staged in another performer’s hands is wonderfully relatable in Coel’s confident grasp; she manages to be loud, rude, self-centred and physically clumsy while still remaining charming and always amusing. It helps that the script is so sincere and cheerfully understanding, never cruelly laughing at her – the fact that she’s a virgin, for example, could make this a one-joke show, but Chewing Gum sinks its teeth into way more than that: it’s not a one-joke show; it’s a multi-joke show. And it reminds you of it every minute.
Tina & Bobby (ITV Hub)
If you watched Season 2 of Our Girl, or Season 1 of Ordinary Lies, you’ll be well aware of how easy it is to underrate Michelle Keegan. After leaving behind Weatherfield, the actress formerly known as “Tina off Corrie” has impressed time and time again with her blend of charisma and humour. She’s perfectly cast here as Tina in ITV’s three-part drama about the ordinary girl who got hitched to an ordinary footballer, only for him to grow into sporting superstar Bobby Moore (Lorne MacFadyen). The show will win viewers over with its nostalgic period details and colourful costumes, not to mention its look at what was expected of housewives in the 1960s, even if you were a WAG. But this biopic, based on its first episode, is a few balls short, which, you suspect, is mostly due to MacFadyen’s Moore, who hasn’t yet been given any real depth. If his marriage, then, may not prove engaging enough to keep you hooked over three hours, it’s worth tuning in for Keegan, who is just the right balance of bolshy and naive, as she struggles to adapt to her new domestic duties, torn between the fun of shopping on a big budget and the simmering regret of leaving old friends behind. There’s a reason her character’s name is first in the title – and she makes the most of it.
Lip Sync Battle UK (My5)
When the UK debuted its own version of Jimmy Fallon’s Lip Sync Battle show from the US, the reaction was lukewarm, as Britain’s Channel 5 seemed to struggle to find contestants to rival their American counterparts: Over there? Channing Tatum and Anne Hathaway. Here? Jason Manford. But Season 2 sees the programme’s producers on fine star-picking form, launching with Jimmy Carr doing Eminem and Lady Gaga and Alexander Armstrong doing Justin Hawkins. The result is still oddly entertaining, relying less on cross-dressing as a joke (most of the men seem to lip sync to female artists) and more on the shock at who turns out to be willing not to take themselves seriously. Armstrong is no stranger to acting goofy for the camera, but Carr shaking off his straight-faced persona gives the show the balance of stupidity and surprise it needs to work – and that’s only topped by Danny Dyer appearing in Episode 2, only too happy to undermine his royal bloodline by imitating Kasabian and Amy Winehouse. Katie Price in Episode 3 suggests that the show’s run is set to continue. This is far from smart or must-see viewing, but for a trashy watch on a Friday night, and an antidote to the earnest tone of most singing talent shows, the UK’s Lip Sync Battle is doing what it does as well as it can. You can’t ask for more than that.
Spies (All 4)
From the people who brought you SAS: Who Dares Wins, Spies promises to see whether ordinary members of the British public have what it takes to make it in the world of espionage. The result is string of challenges, from following people in markets to keeping their cover story in tact. It’s not markedly different from most reality TV shows, with people knocked off every week, while those hoping for gruelling physical tasks and James Bond-style action will be underwhelmed. But with the missions taking their cue from the Intelligence Officer New Entry Course (aka IONEC) used to train people in real life, what emerges is an intriguing look at the moral ambiguity that goes into being a spook, from asking people to decide whether to shoot an unknown threat and betray other people in the group while being mic-ed up. The result is a low-key companion piece to Hunted that lacks the latter’s gripping pace, but should come into its own when Homeland returns to Channel 4 this month.