Catch up TV review: Unspun, The Last Leg, First Day at Big School
Ivan Radford | On 18, Sep 2016
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(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.)
Unspun with Matt Forde (UKTV Play)
Aside from crying desperately into a cuddly toy Ed Miliband, there are two ways to deal with the current state of politics: 1. Believe the theory proposed by CBS series Braindead that the entire world is being taken over by mind-burrowing alien slugs, or 2. Point and laugh at everything. We’ve lamented many times about the lack of topical satire in the UK – at present, the best commentary on current affairs can be found not on the telly, but on Radio 4’s The Now Show and News Quiz. It’s a treat, then, to see Matt Forde given a platform by Dave to have a go with Unspun. (Bravo to the channel for making the leap to commission this, especially when it’s lasted for so long on repeats of similar programmes.)
The Daily Show is the obvious touchstone, from the graphics to the cutaway interviews with roving correspondents. Forde is no Jon Stewart, though with the jokes proving mainly familiar (despite being recorded the day before it airs to make it as up-to-date as possible, there are no notable mentions of David Cameron’s resignation or Keith Vaz) and frequently feeling all-too-brief, before the next topic is lined up. A survey about sexual preferences takes up the majority of the lengthy 45-minute runtime – a shame, given that Forde clearly knows his subject.
He comes into his own when interviewing guests, getting Alan Johnson to talk about spanking with the kind of likeable, cheeky smile you’d find on a British schoolboy tricking his teacher into say something naughty. Brief contributions from Francesco De Carlo and Phil Wang, meanwhile, bring a welcome variety to the set-up – hopefully, they can bring the depth that’s lacking elsewhere (and some women too) – and the choice of in-house band made up of serving or former politicians (“MP4”) is a masterstroke. It’s early days, and as with any political comedy show, it’ll take time for it to get right, but there’s promise here, not least in the faintly tragic way MP4 play the show out with “It’s My Party and I’ll Cry If I Want To”. With a bit of luck, we’ll be doing more than just that in the coming weeks.
The Last Leg: Live from Rio (All 4)
As the Paralympics draw to a close, there’s no better way to see the sporting tournament off than with the final episodes of The Last Leg’s Rio stint, which has proven as entertaining – and, in one heartwarming speech from Alex Brooker that went viral this weekend, inspirational – as ever. The banter between hosts Adam Hills, Josh Widdicombe and Brooker has gotten better with age, and the barbs are even more personal with the shift of focus from athletes to Paralympic athletes, but it’s a testament to the show that those jokes are never negative or cruel. “Is it a visually impaired athlete who tried to do their own hair?” quips Alex, as he tries to identify the correct competitor with a blindfold on. Channel 4 may have come up with the new Never Mind the Buzzcocks.
First Day at Big School (My5)
Meet Oscar. He’s four years old. He likes winning. He dislikes not winning. That’s the kind of subject you can expect to find in Channel 5’s new reality TV series – and they make a wonderfully refreshing change from the Big Brother norm. Taking a leaf from Channel 4’s The Secret Life of 5 Year Olds, this new show gives us an intimate glimpse of children trying to make the leap from nursery to “big school”. It doesn’t quite have the insight of Channel 4’s in-depth programme, but the kids are adorable, with the editors managing to find just the right balance between teacher observations and cute footage of young people being young people. “Dinosaurs didn’t eat people. People weren’t there yet,” declares one during an intellectual discussion. “It was the 1980s.” We learn from school staff that they use distraction to help the kids forget their separation anxiety, as they tearfully bid farewell to their mum or dad. This delightful documentary will do much the same for parents.