Catch up TV review: The Knowlege, Britain’s Got Talent, Take Me Out, The Prince Story
Ivan Radford | On 17, Apr 2017
The Knowledge: The World’s Toughest Taxi Test (All 4)
Memorising roadmaps. Reciting street names. These things are not the basis of exciting, thrilling TV – but for one glorious hour, they are, as Channel 4 takes us inside “The Knowledge”, the fiendish test that drivers have to pass, if they want to become a black cabbie. It’s got an astonishingly high drop-out rate and takes years to prepare for – which is no surprise, given that it involves learning your way around thousands of landmarks and even more roads between them. We follow a clutch of candidates, some of whom succeed, some of whom stall, but the documentary captures not just the allure of established profession in one of the world’s major cities, but the desire to achieve something worthwhile, often in the face of people not believing that they could. Their nerves are palpable, as they sweat, twitch and sigh through the exam, and their tears of happiness when getting the prized gold and green badge are genuinely moving.
Take Me Out (ITV Hub)
Comfortably one of the queasiest, low-brow offerings of modern TV, Take Me Out reduces everyone to their basest of urges and treats them appropriately: surface-level judgements are encouraged by people willing to be judged on their surface appearance, plus how well they can make a pun on the word “dance” or “sandwich”. But actually sit down and watch Take Me Out and… well, it doesn’t get any less deplorable, but it still sucks you in anyway: now in its ninth season, the format has become ruthlessly efficient, churning out football coaches, photocopiers and models to parade about in front of 30 almost-identical-looking woman, all of whom are racing to both approve or disapprove of the talent on show – and then have the same done back to them. It’s the little touches that make it entertaining, such as the way the women will support each other once their lights have been turned off; now they’re no longer arch enemies, fighting over the chance to be his bird, they encourage the elusive suitor to pick the one standing next to them. And, of course, there’s the joy of sneering at the slicked hair and hip threads of the guys full of themselves enough to go on the telly in the first place. On top of all that, there are the amusingly terrible attempts at forced banter – and the occasional hint that, sometimes, people will simply be attracted to others who have similar interests to them. Who said old-fashioned romance was dead? Even Paddy McGuinness has gotten better at presenting. No likey, but try Take Me Out and you might will keep your light on for 60 minutes.
Photo: Thames / Fremantle
Britain’s Got Talent (ITV Hub)
Simon Cowell, David Walliams, Amanda Holden and Alesha Dixon return for the millionth season of their endless search for talent in Britain. By now, you’d think they’d either concluded that there is no talent at all, or that any talent that was there has been found already, and just shut up shop, but no, they continue to get people to come on stage and perform for them, hoping that it might continue to bring in the ratings. It’s all quite tiresome and exploitative, but Britain’s Got Talent has one advantage over The equally interminable X-Factor: at least the people performing aren’t all singers. That means that our attention spans are far less worn down and that Ant & Dec, released from their ITV prison every Saturday at 7pm, get the chance to interact with a much wider variety of people than normal, especially during the opening audition stages, and the glimpses we get of them behind-the-scenes proves that they actually enjoy it. The judges, meanwhile, still joke around, as if it’s all about them – that is, until one small stand-up comedian (Ned Woodman) comes on and mocks them ruthlessly for five minutes. If only the whole show was just him.
The Prince Story: Icon, Genius… Slave (My5)
“A documentary about Prince? Who wouldn’t want to watch that?” you might say to yourself, after the pop legend’s tragic passing last year. But if the full title of this Channel 5 effort doesn’t ring alarm bells, the programme itself soon will, as the portrait of the artist (and, eventually, the artist formerly known as Prince) doesn’t so much celebrate his talent as rake up all the dirt it can around him to drum up some drama and scandal.
Clips of him performing are as good as you’d hope, while interviews with tour managers and producers provide some interesting insight into the battles he had with record labels and his urge to create on his own terms. But any potential for a worthy documentary are undone by dramatic recreations that are too cheesy to convince – they inevitably fail to do justice to the archive footage of the real deal – and a shameless narration that turns every event in his life into a tabloid headline. “Prince spent his adult life making music, but the music could not save him,” we’re told, then: “He had a mother who gave him pornography, when all he needed was love.” Unpleasant stuff.
Photo: Karrah Kobus / NPG Records / Getty Images