For those who are sick of The Apprentice and its showboating, idiotic contestants, Channel 4’s new series is something of a God-send. The idea is straightforward: some people apple for some jobs and we watch them sit in the hot seat at the final hurdle of the employment race. You might expect interviewers to overplay their decision making, or be needlessly cruel. You might expect interviewees to start trying to build their brand presence on the small screen. But these are real people applying for real jobs, so the whole thing is less a spectator sport and more a cathartic reassurance that not everyone aces interviews. (For a job at Low Cost Vans, one person is asked to name any van. “A Ford,” they reply. “And?” They freeze.)
There are cringe-worthy moments galore, but whatever side of the interview table you’ve been on, the conversation is recognisable, so there’s always someone to sympathise with. Best of all is the heart-warming demonstration that employers won’t always discount you based on your appearance or CV alone – the fact that one mum hasn’t worked for eight years “doesn’t matter”, bluntly states one interviewer, while the other is keen to see an older man whose CV only consists of one job, because he values loyalty. After years of a terrible employment market, the result is encouraging, entertaining and a welcome reminder that you’re not the only one who’s ever ballsed up an interview.
“I’ve never had a case like this,” declares ITV’s Mark Williams-Thomas at the start of The Investigator. After helping to break the Jimmy Saville scandal, he’s apparently had people approach him with their own cases – conveniently, just as ITV hunts for a true crime series to imitate the success of Making a Murderer. With Netflix’s docuseries having garnered several Emmy nominations and caught the pueblo interest to a huge degree, ITV wastes no time attempting to be subtle and instead jumps straight into the attention-grabbing hyperbole.
Investigating the disappearance of Carole Packman – retracing her last known steps and catching up with her husband, Russell Causley, currently serving a life sentence behind bars for her murder – the ensuing revelations are certainly intriguing, but the mystery’s grip weakens with every over-the-top musical sting or voice-over narration. “I find twists at every turn,” Williams-Thomas tells us. “Murder! Sex! Fraud! Nothing is as it seems…” he adds, driving past Chesney’s fireplace and stoves shop in a mundane high street. With a trip to Canada and a body in the water on the cards for the coming weeks, there’s potential for a real humdinger of a story here, if only it could stop letting sensationalist style get in the way of substance. “This is what we were looking for 20 years ago!” someone boldly announces – in the trailer for Part 2.
Over a seemingly infinite number of series, Channel 4’s First Dates has miraculously never lost its ability to charm and entertain – so it’s inevitable that it should get the “Celebrity” prefix treatment to keep the format going. Our celebrities are of varying degrees of fame, from Big Brother contestant Preston (a former pop star in his own right) and rock chick Jo Wood to Britain’s Got Talent’s Ashleigh Butler and Scarlett Moffatt from Gogglebox. But what makes them fun to watch is their attitude towards their own fame – Would celebrities really be interested in going out with ‘normal’ people? Do they even bother with the whole dating game? Preston, hooked up with someone who didn’t even have a TV, seemed surprised that she hadn’t heard of him, while Butler’s dog-loving match proved a little too much of a fanboy (of the dog). Wood’s mature flirting with a guy who looked a little like her old husband was a pleasant pastime, but Scarlett proved the most entertaining of the bunch, as she finds herself sitting opposite a hunky, but ultimately boring boxer – who, by sheer coincidence, was already friends with her on Facebook. Whether famous or not, dates, we’re reminded, are never guaranteed to run smooth.
E4’s latest US import is yet another story of a deadly virus outbreak. This time, it’s Atlanta, Georgia, as people come down with a flu-like infection that swiftly leads to coughing up blood and having your face melt. Naturally, everyone’s implausibly good-looking, but the damage to the human race’s sexy gene pool is the only reason to care about any of the people in the quarantined zone. Even the potentially interesting choice of location has zero impact on events. The real contagion here is a severe case of Cardboat-Cutoutitis, as the script becomes overrun with cheesy cliches and shallow stereotypes – from the women who doesn’t want to move in with her fella, to the noble police officer who just wants to know what’s going on to help the local populace. By the time a schoolteacher arrives with a bus full of children, you’re cheering on the disease.
Since the EU referendum’s vote to leave, there’s been a worrying rise in the number of racial abuse incidents reported, both to the authorities and in the press. Seyi Rhodes investigates in the latest instalment of Channel 4’s always reliable Dispatches. The 30-minute exploration of the issue doesn’t find many answers, or offer many solutions, but as a window into the current state of society, at a time when there is significant disconnect between authorities and the public and different parts of the country, this is important and shocking viewing. Mobile phone and audio clips of physical and verbal attacks highlight just how widespread the matter has become – and prove that Brexit should not be used to justify or explain away such behaviour.
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