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Channel 5 joins the true crime craze with this new documentary series, which takes us through a real life court case from charge to final verdict. Where shows such as Making a Murderer span many hours and often focus on a historical case, Channel 5’s approach is much smaller, following a defendant chronologically through the justice system and taking up a single episode. The production values are notably lower, without the gloss we’ve come to expect from Netflix or similar. But that intimate, lower-key pays off in dividends, as the programme makers gain astonishing access into every step of the charge of cruelty by a mother (“Kenzey”) against her child, after her seven-month-old daughter suffered a fractured skull. The usual questions of innocence and guilt swim around, making for a compelling hour’s viewing – and that’s reinforced by the sensitivity of the directors, who avoid sensationalising at all steps for an interesting insight into what a criminal case is like today. Discussions with lawyers about testimonies, preparation and honesty are all depicted sincerely and in an understated manner. By the time the verdicts arrive, the courtroom may be unseen and accompanied only by a still photo and caption, but they still carry a weighty impact.
A yellow path appears in this reinvention of the original Land of Oz stories by L. Frank Baum, but it’s not quite the one you know. We begin with Dorothy, a young nurse who finds herself blown far from Kansas by a tornado. Rather than have her house uprooted, it’s a police car she travels in, running over the Witch of the East (Florence Kasumba). Toto? He’s now a police dog. The scarecrow? He’s nowhere in sight. Instead, we get Lucas (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), a crucified man without a memory whose spends too much time looking hot to do any singing.
There’s intriguing promise in the idea of a series that tries to do new things with The Wizard of Oz universe, but this first episode sadly mostly recalls another universe entirely – the one belonging to George RR Martin. And so we meet the other witches (Glinda – Joely Richardson, and West – Ana Ularu), henchman Eamonn (Mido Hamada) ordered to find whoever came through the destructive tempest, tribal leader Ojo (Olafur Darri Olafsson) and a host of fantastical locations and warriors, all of which are meant to conjure up epic back-stories and political rivalries, but none of which feel all that interesting or relevant.
The appearance of Vincent D’Onofrio as The Wizard, both with and without wig, suggests some potential in his deceit-fuelled reign as the all-powerful Oz, while Tarsem Singh directs events with jaw-dropping scale and style, but despite the beautiful visuals, this venture to Oz is initially underwhelming. That’s partly due to Dorothy herself, who fails to live up to Judy Garland’s screen icon, with Adria Arjona’s likeable lead never seeming to be flustered by any of it. A neat scene with a gun reminds us that we’re a long way from Kansas, but Emerald City is still yet to find its own yellow brick road. (New episodes are broadcast every Friday on 5Star.)
There was a worry that Channel 4’s Fake News Week, announced shortly after the inauguration of Donald Trump as US President, would only validate the term that he has appropriated as a means to delegitimise legitimate criticism of him in the press. Thankfully, the broadcaster takes things appropriately seriously, looking at the rise of hoax news as a wider phenomenon, fuelled by destabilising, deceiving and manipulating forces, as well as finding the time to mock the propaganda emanating from the President’s administration – one round sees the panelists have to “Spicer up” a historical event in the style of the US Press Secretary’s alt-fact approach. The bad news is that all this happens as part of yet another comedy panel show. The good news is that it might actually prove quite a useful format in the coming year, should Channel 4 commission a regular fact-checking topical satire.
After their show of the same name was nominated for Best Show at the Edinburgh Fringe, comedy duo Max & Ivan (Max Olesker and Ivan Gonzalez) bring a TV version of the story of Tom and Brian, who return to their old school for a reunion. It’s not the most original of set-ups – an underlying will-the-good-guy-get-the-girl-he-once-fancied subplot feels very familiar – but Olesker and Gonzalez have snappy chemistry, sparking off each other and the rest of the eccentric cast with infectious pace. Condensed into three parts of under 10 minutes each, the result is one of All 4’s Comedy Blaps, shorts designed for watching on the go, and for finding new talent to commission for full series. On the strength of this, there’s every chance it’ll happen. You’d hope that the result would embrace the chance to branch into fresher narrative areas, but Max & Ivan certainly don’t have to worry about the laughter count, as events spiral into an increasingly cringe-inducing farce.
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