In February 2016, BBC Three became the UK’s first online TV channel. The channel continues to serve up fresh new stuff every day, both long-form drama, documentary and comedy and short-form content that ranges from animations and clips to interviews and blog posts. (See our guide to what’s coming soon to BBC Three.)
The channel also offers a range of old BBC Three shows to stream – you can see our guide to which box sets are available here.
But which of the new TV shows and online videos are worth catching up with? Every fortnight, we round up the latest BBC Three titles available online and review them.
Pick of the Week: In My Skin
The angst of high school is painfully wrought in this new comedy pilot by up-and-coming screenwriter Kayleigh Llewellyn. Gabrielle Creevy plays 16 year old Bethan, who, at first glance, seems to enjoy the norms of being a teenager – at school, she hopes to impress her teacher with her gritty yet inauthentic poetry, then gets yelled at by a scene-stealing PE teacher, before heading to the park with her best mates to drink cider and take pills.
But while, on the surface, she’s your typical carefree teenager, she’s covering up a home life in which she has much deeper worries. Her mum (Jo Hartley) is bipolar, and after one late-night incident, Bethan has to get her sectioned in a psychiatric unit.
The gulf between how Bethan presents at school compared to her weighty responsibilities and worries provides the main meat of the programme. While clearly her life is not particularly wired for comedy, the sensitive writing proves there is a dark humour to be had even in a psych ward.
This is an assured debut. The one misstep (a random and unnecessary voiceover, which kicks in about halfway through) seems borne from an unwarranted lack of confidence in the writing, which has a lightness of touch that belies the darkness of the subject matter. When coupled with accomplished performances, the pilot is a tender coming-of-age story – completely relatable, asking questions of the the traumas we keep hidden even from those closest to us.
This documentary follows Mim Sheikh – spoken word commentator, radio show host of 1Extra, and actor who can currently be seen in BBC One’s Informer – as he searches for a father whom he has not seen since he was a baby. Opening with him looking at newly-found photos of the man in question, his search takes him to Birmingham and then further afield as he investigates the circumstances that led to their estrangement.
Having been born in Birmingham, when he was six months old, his fragile mother left his dad to move to South London with his maternal grandmother, who ended up being the one to raise him, with the help of extended family and friends, as well as some time spent in foster care.
In an effort to ‘protect’ him, his family has been evasive about his parents’ short-lived relationship, and Mim has very little to go on when he decides to try and meet his dad. Yet a fortunate meeting with some elders in Dudley leads him on the right road. But will the answers he seeks make sense of his childhood fatherlessness?
Mim is a sensitive and inquisitive presenter, and he is eloquent yet unsentimental about the effects of growing up without a dad, and the impact it has had on his life. The documentary itself is reminiscent of Who Do You Think You Are, except it deals with something altogether more urgent – the desperate need to find out who you are and where you came from in the here and now, rather than the long-ago past.
In this moving HBO documentary, which premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds confronts his deeply-held faith’s attitude towards the LGBTQ community. Raised a Mormon and serving time as a missionary before beginning his musical career, he was able to compartmentalise the church’s hardline on gay relationships until the suicide rate of young people in Utah started skyrocketing.
Last year, he teamed up with Tyler Glenn of the band Neon Trees – who was also raised in the faith before coming out in his late 20s – to organise an LGBTQ-inclusive festival in the heart of Mormon country. This documentary covers the lead-up to LoveLoud, but it also delves deep into the deeply damaging stance of the church and the effect it has on its young congregation.
Reynolds speaks to psychologist excommunicated after doing an LGBTQ supportive Ted Talk, to young gay Mormons, and to the parents of a teenager who committed suicide after coming out to his Mormon community. While Dan hopes he can change the church, he’s also set for the long road. It’s an emotional journey but LoveLoud – and this film – seems like a first step in showing love and acceptance for young people who have been long encouraged to repress parts of themselves in order to be accepted into their religion.
“You’re brilliant. Just don’t tell them everything, or you’ll sound like a nutter.” That’s the advice given to Eve (Sandra Oh) early on in Killing Eve, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s twistedly brilliant and brilliantly twisted new series. Part serial killer thriller and part buddy comedy, it’s one of the best shows of the year.
Based on the ebooks and later novella by British author Luke Jennnings, the series introduces us to Villanelle (Jodie Comer), an assassin with a penchant for disguise, silk drapes and watching the last vestiges of life seep from her victims’ eyes. As her body count begins to rise around the world, though, it catches the eye of Eve, an MI5 operative with a penchant for serial killers. When her theory about Villanelle begins to border on the fanatic, and the interviewing of a possible witness goes awry, she’s fired from her job – but fortunately, an off-the-books branch of the secret service is keen to make use of her particular taste in homicides. Dark, violent, and endlessly witty, the result is a funny, female-led treat. Words: Ivan Radford
The vast majority if viewers did indeed seem to Pls Like the first season of BBC Three’s short-form comedy, so Liam Williams is back for second helpings. This time round, though, things are slightly darker, mirroring the world of vlogging the series so successfully satirises. Agent James, having been disgraced by the end of Season 1, is back after a short retreat to a treatment centre in Panama, and trying to rebuild his company’s reputation – and the reputation of vloggers more generally. This is made increasingly difficult as the vloggers have got much, much worse. Now, instead of handling failing fauxmances, he’s trying to firefight for new client ‘Dump Ghost’, who physically resembles Logan Paul and who has been ‘cancelled’ by viewers after an anti-Muslim ‘joke’, which he then doubles down on by wearing a Nazi uniform and being increasingly racist.
While being rounded upon by left wing vlogger Dina Discourse, Dump Ghost has an ally in Padlock Planet – a free speech advocate who critiques feminism and shills brain pills on his channel, and a clear spoof of Paul Joseph Watson, aka. Prison Planet. The ‘Likeys’ awards bookend the season – the first episode covers the nominations announcement, while the awards ceremony itself is the highlight of the last episode. They’re also backgrounded by Liam Williams, who explores each category for each episode – a way in which he can skewer ‘clean eating’ vloggers, ASMR, the pre-teen market, and an anti-violence campaign that rails against toxic masculinity called “Let’s Punch Violence in the Head and Break its Jaw”.
In amongst this, little ‘facts’ appear onscreen – “Algorithms are named after Al Gore, who invented them in a bid to halt climate change. It didn’t work.” – mimicking the kind of ‘information’ peddled on YouTube. This is a rich area for satire and while there are some strands that work less well than others, it’s the on-the-nail look at the culture wars and the real life inspirations that make this such an effective and cleverly topical programme.
On April 27th last year, Harriet Shelley was knocked over in a freak traffic accident and later succumbed to her injuries. She was 21. In this documentary, her brother George – member of The X Factor band Union J – opens up about the effect the loss has had on his family, and his personal journey through the grief process. He speaks to others who have gone through bereavement, including Beth, who founded letstalkaboutloss.co.uk after her mother died and noticed that there wasn’t much help for young adults grieving a loved one. He also goes to a therapy group for people who have lost siblings and bonds with them over their shared experience. He visits the grave of his sister with his mum and gran, and speaks to his father – who himself found his life turned upside down after a motorcycle accident left him with partial paralysis and brain damage. It’s a long and meandering documentary with no clear resolution – much like grief itself. It’s heart’s in the right place, though, and although obviously an emotional topic, it is handled with an admirable restraint. While not an easy watch, one hopes it’s helpful to other people in the same situation to know that they are not the only one going through such a bitter experience.
For the blessed few who haven’t yet heard of Jonathan Pie, he’s a fictional news reporter, an allegedly comedic creation portrayed by Tom Walker. He’s appeared on the Russian news channel RT and at the Edinburgh Festival, but most people know of him through his Internet presence. Now, his stand up – filmed at the Hammersmith Apollo – is being screened on BBC Three, and it’s not difficult to see why he’s (slightly) more palatable in short clips. Watching his show is an experience akin to being ranted at by an pub bore for an hour and 15 minutes. Describing himself (repeatedly) as a “classic liberal”, Pie is angry at many things, yet much of his ire seems to be directed to those to the left of him. For ‘balance’, presumably, he starts off his set shouting furiously about the Tories, but less than 10 minutes into the show, he’s going on about the ‘snowflake generation’. Raging about Trump’s tweets (extremely easy targets he insults without the slightest hint of wit or originality), he’s soon going on about people ‘taking offence’, the importance of free speech (he’s a big fan of Orwell, specifically 1984), and talking about identifying as a woman twice a week to get access to the female toilets. His ‘woke-a-lator’ is a mechanism to allow him to go off on the topics of ‘mansplaining’, diversity, and cultural appropriation, amongst other things, before ending the show blasting the notion of white male privilege, which – for some reason – he seems to take extremely personally.
One of the most baffling things about all this is that there’s an actual paying audience clapping along with him, even as he tells them how stupid they all are. It’s anathema even he points out, in pretty much the only interesting minute of the show. Still, if you can’t wait until Christmas to be shouted at by your racist great uncle, all your impotent rage needs are met here.
Stacey Dooley must be the hardest working person in television. It seems that every time you check out the iPlayer, she’s made at least one new documentary, and now, she’s appearing on Strictly Come Dancing too. One might, at this stage, fear a Dooley overload, but she will doubtless garner yet more fans with her foxtrots and cha cha chas. Her most recent film for BBC Three couldn’t be farther removed from the sequins and glitter of the dancing competition. In Face to Face with Armageddon, she travels to remote parts of the USA to talk to ‘preppers’ – people who are taking drastic measures to prepare for the end of the world as we know it.
In the Rocky Mountains, she meets Rodney and his extended family, who live in a vast yet secluded compound where they stockpile pickled reeds and jars of freshly-shot rabbits. Then it’s off to Austin, Texas, where one enterprising New Yorker is making a decent living selling hazmat suits, gas masks, and canine medical kits to folk who are concerned that the end of the world is nigh. She ends the programme at an ex-military weapons facility in South Dakota, where people are queuing up to buy one of the secure concrete bunkers to flee to should the worst come to the worst. The programme’s a bit like Grand Designs for bunker fanatics, yet Stacey also asks important questions about the personal rather than nuclear fallout for the people involved – what living with this level of constant fear does to families, and how it speaks to the kind of world we now live in.
Coinciding with a new intake of university students, this series of short films takes a look at the various issues young freshers might have to face. In Life as a Campus Drug Dealer, Harry (not his real name) shows us his drawer full of knives and knuckledusters, all the better for defending himself against rival drug gangs and territorial wars. Having started dealing to fund his own cocaine habit, he’s escalated and is now under pressure by his suppliers to continue. Though he wants to get out the game by the time he’s finished Uni – so he can get a ‘proper job’ – this serves as something of a warning to people who can find themselves in over their heads.
The second film features ‘Jane’, who found her life turned upside down after a sexual assault, and she calls for more education on consent, while the third looks at “essay mills” – where students can buy ‘advisory essays’, if they submit their requirements. Speaking to someone who writes the last-minute essays, we also meet a user of the site, who tells how he was blackmailed and eventually investigated by his university for plagiarism. It’s quite fascinating and serves as something of a cautionary tale.
If new students weren’t apprehensive enough at the prospect of moving to new cities to start independent lives, they might be by the end of this series. But it effectively highlights the pitfalls of 21st century university life.
Sex Map of Britain: Season 2
The Sex Map of Britain is back for a second season, the first episode of which looks at polyamory. While it starts out a little on the voyeuristic side, what actually develops is an intimate portrait of one such relationship, and the insecurities and jealousies that can arise. It’s an effective way of looking at the subject, one which forefronts emotions rather than the sexual aspect of it.
While Rae (who has seven partners currently and is interviewed with two of them, James and Hannah, who were a long-term monogamous couple before introducing others into their relationship) is very happy with her current set-up, she recognises the pitfalls and where things can go wrong. Total honesty, apparently, is key to successful polyamory.
Which is something that Joss and her two partners Mike and Jaz, are discovering. Much of the programme looks at their threesome, which, in polyamorous terms, is called a ‘V’, meaning there are two unconnected partners who are brought together by a third, the ‘pivot’. As Joss (the pivot) refuses to allow Mike and Jaz to develop their relationship, preferring to keep them separate, problems arise. The fallout, when they go against her wishes and start texting and communicating without her, becomes the heart of the programme. Feelings are hurt, and people start to question whether polyamory is in fact for them after all. The programme becomes an in-depth look at a specific time in its subjects lives, and is richer for it.
Pick of the Week: Killer in Our Classroom: Never Again
On Valentine’s Day this year, 19 year old Nikolas Cruz entered his former school carrying a semi automatic rifle and killed 14 students and 3 members of staff, injuring 17 more. Marjory Douglas Stoneman High, in the affluent area of Parkland, Florida, now holds the dubious honour of being the site of the deadliest high school shooting in US history.
In the immediate aftermath, surviving students, having just witnessed their classmates die in front of them, took to the media in a coordinated and concerted effort to change gun laws. This documentary follows them as they attempt to create something meaningful from such a random act of violence. Narrated by Lewis, a 17 year old senior at the school, the film shows various young activists as they talk to the media and arrange a nationwide school walkout as well as the huge March for Our Lives, which took place a mere five weeks after the shooting. It also looks at some of the vicious backlash that they experienced from members of the NRA and some of the more extreme elements of US culture. In the background, too, is the ever-present trauma the kids are dealing with, and the ways in which it can manifest. But the main takeaway is the courage of the young people and their indomitable hope that they can create a better world.
The Luke McQueen Pilots – Britain’s Hidden Vampire Crisis
Comedian Luke McQueen is known for his somewhat anarchic stand-up shows, and this short series – in which he films 3 faux ‘pilots’ for the BBC – is an attempt to bring some of that verve to the TV. Here, he’s spoofing the TV making process by creating a character who wants to make a successful show – in the first episode, he’s aiming to replicate the interview styles of Reggie Yates and Stacey Dooley, yet he’s investigating a clearly absurd ‘vampire crisis’. He interviews a vampire expert, sets up stunts in front of the Houses of Parliament to bring awareness to the issues, goes undercover at a goth concert, which he assumes are full of thirsty blood-drinkers, and he launches a petition to lower the age of sexual consent in order to make virgins – a favourite of vampires – less available.
It’s an interesting concept, a mish-mash of various comedy tropes – the ‘chats’ with his producer at the production meetings are reminiscent of a David Brent-style docu-comedy, while Ali G is invoked in the interviewing of unsuspecting officials. Sadly, it comes across as baggy, loose and unfocussed. And it’s just not very funny. After this unsatisfactory debut, McQueen’s next ‘pilots’ will be a rip-off of Love Island and a travelogue trip to Amsterdam with his dad.
When Nye Newman died after sustaining a catastrophic head injury on the Paris Metro on NYE 2016, many were quick to link it to his well-documented love of free-running. Having created a parkour team ‘Brewman’ with his partner Rikke Brewer, he was known for his terrifying stunts and viral videos, including one which saw members of their team ‘train surf’ in Paris just weeks before his death.
Though it turned out that Newman was not free-running at the time of his accident, it remains an abiding and pervasive narrative. This film speaks to Brewman members, who travelled around the world together filming their escapades, which they made into a way of life.
Combining old footage of Nye and Rikke – who, for much of the documentary, remained an elusive figure – with clips from some of their videos, as well as new interviews, the film takes us through their adventures, and the impact Newman’s death had upon their friendships and lives. It cannot seem to help but glamorise the more dangerous aspects of this type of illegal parkour – the voiceover tells us at the start that “risking death makes them feel alive” – yet at its heart its about how the young men, who felt themselves to be misfits, found a connection and a future with each other and within the sport they loved.
In this 40-minute documentary, journalist Andrew Gold goes to Buenos Aires to meet Padre Manuel, who has gained international fame by performing extreme and violent ‘exorcisms’ on troubled – and extremely vulnerable – people. Since one such exorcism went viral, he’s a regular guest on TV gossip shows, where he chats with celebrities and promotes his school for wannabe exorcists.
Opening with the exorcism of a woman named Natalia, Gold then meets 17-year-old Candela, an anorexic and bulimic with a history of self harm, who has recently attempted suicide. While psychiatrists want to keep her in a clinic, her increasingly desperate family go to the Padre for help.
Gold speaks to doctors, journalists, and the Padre’s assistants, before witnessing the ‘exorcism’ of Candela. The financial aspect of the whole affair is touched upon, as is the Padre’s relationships with the people who work, unpaid, for him. It all ends rather explosively, as the Padre, seemingly suspecting that Gold is not a believer, becomes first evasive and then confrontational.
Gold is a documentary maker in the style of Louis Theroux – he has a deadpan, skeptical style, and a relaxed way of interviewing. While it’s clear he feels uncomfortable from the outset, he allows the subjects to speak for – and in some cases, betray – themselves.
Part of The Big British Asian Summer, a strand bringing programmes centred around British Asians to BBC Two, Three and Four, this short, three-part box set introduces us to brothers Kash and Shabs, who run a ‘supercar garage’ in Essex. Having started fixing up cars while in their teens, the brothers grew the business and now have a super-rich clientele. 37 year old Kash describes himself as “the real life Vin Diesel”, while 35 year old Shabs thinks the programme will show “what people can have too if they work hard at it”.
But the working part of their lives is just a small part of the programme – much of it, in fact, revolves around their personal life and their extended family. Business success has not yet seen either brother get out of their family home, where they live with their parents and sister, Mari. Shella, Kash’s wife, is keen on them getting their own place, but Kash seems more interested in splashing out on cars. Single Shabs is thinking about getting married to a woman he was introduced to by his family. Mari, meanwhile, has been picked up by a small modelling agency, and we follow her to her first photoshoot.
This is really a show about a British Asian family set against a backdrop of car shows and races. As Shabs gets cold feet about his upcoming nuptials and Kash starts a new phase in his life, it’s hard not to get sucked into this Essex family’s dynamics.
This series of 5-minute programmes – part of The Big Asian Summer – sees three generations of various Asian families get together to discuss topics ranging from dating outside your race to cultural stereotypes, prompted by various pop cultural references. While the title of the strand suggests something more confrontational, the discussions arising from the film and TV clips they are shown are nuanced and good-natured. It’s agreed that Apu from The Simpsons isn’t a fair representation of Asians, although it’s also agreed that he’s pretty funny. A joke in Man Like Mobeen about a suicide vest doesn’t go down well – as one panellist says, Asian people are generally portrayed as either shopkeepers or terrorists. The evolution of Asian comedy is explored, and while it seems things are getting a bit better, it still has a long way to go. The concept of traditions – when they should be challenged and when they should be upheld – is prompted by a clip of The Big Sick, while the expectations of family, and the generational and gender divide in relationships, is provoked by The Boy with the Topknot.
It’s quite difficult to find the episodes – they’re buried in Facebook and YouTube posts – but they’re well worth seeking out. It’s a bit like an Asian version of Gogglebox, but with more thoughtful analysis.
Live from the BBC
A new series of this now-classic format showcasing stand-up comics begins its third run. Scottish comedian Fern Brady kicks off with observations on marriage, being in love with a short man, and stripping to pay her way through university. She ends with an epic tale of her most embarrassing moment, after being dumped by her posh boyfriend, existing on a diet of boiled eggs and marijuana, and having to attend a party which he and his new girlfriend will be at. Next up, Australian Rhys Nicholson talks us through touring in Australia, going on a ghost tour, and his worst Tinder date. Having been with his fiancé for 7 years, he also gives us some acerbic tips on the secret to a long lasting relationship. In the third instalment, Suzi Ruffell (who, having been on the comedy circuit for the past decade, was last year nominated for Chortle’s Best Breakthrough Act) riffs on being a working class gay woman breaking into the ‘luvvie’ entertainment industry, Brexit, and her close-knit family. The upcoming programme will feature Desiree Burch, winner of the 2015 Funny Women award, and promises to look at body image, social change, race and relationships. It’s a good, diverse line-up, the half-hour sets never outstay their welcome, offering some welcome light relief from some of the channel’s rather more serious programming.
One Hot Summer
This new series follows a group of young people, brought together by the BBC, as they travel through Spain for a month. There are two wannabe superstar DJs, three young women who do musical theatre together, a yoga instructor, a couple of entrepreneurs, and a young farmer, among others. We can, apparently, follow them on Twitter and hear about their exploits in real time, but thus far, the social media aspect has failed to really take off.
We start in Barcelona, where everyone reveals their relationship statuses before starting to drink. Episode 2 features Megan trekking round the city in an effort to find the phone she lost on an all-night bender, before the group all head off to Benicassim for dancing, camping, and more drinking. Next up is Sitges, then Marbella. Along the way, the group find out they have more in common than they first realised, as they share their stories in a kind of Breakfast Club ‘family circle’ bonding experience. But by Episode 3, the cracks are starting to show, as people partner up and sexual jealousies come to the fore.
It’s kind of a mix of the Real World-on-tour and Love Island. Yet it’s not particularly high concept, and without producers manufacturing any kind of story arc or drama, it’s looking like it might just be one giant damp squib. You can watch it all unfold in short episodes, which are uploaded onto social media every few days, and there are compilation episodes every Sunday.
This new 10 minute sketch compilation is part of BBC Three’s ongoing ‘Comedy Quickies’ series, which has been uploading new sketches on the channel’s Facebook page for the past six months. It’s something of a showcase for new writers and performers and has been clocking up a decent amount of views, likes and comments, with short content ranging from returning characters to pranks and parodies to stand-up comedians (including the controversial Jonathan Pie).
This particular compilation is themed around work-related sketches. An office worker borrows a colleague’s laptop for an important presentation, unaware that the computer has a raft of porn on it. Working women look back longingly to the 1950s, when they could stay at home in the kitchen all day. People turn up in the office while suffering from what looks like a bad case of the Plague, while others are rewarded professionally for having top bants on social media rather than being any good at their job. Women start wearing strap-ons to the office to earn more respect, and there’s an extended sketch about workplace farting.
It’s not exactly groundbreaking stuff – on the contrary, at times, it feels fairly throwback. As with all compilations, it has its hits amongst the misses, but for the most part, it feels like it’s doing more of a service for the up-and-coming comedians than it is for the audience.
EastEnders: The Real Stories
This series of short films were made in collaboration with Eastenders, as part of their knife crime narrative. Viewers of the soap saw one of its characters, Shakil Kazemi, stabbed and killed by a gang in May, a storyline which itself was written to mark the 10 year anniversary of the death of actress Brooke Kinsella’s brother, who was stabbed 11 times while on a night out. In an effort handle the issue as sensitively as possible, researchers reached out to people who had lost loved ones to knife crime. The series that emerges highlights just a few of the many deaths that occur every year, and the massive hole they leave in the lives of those left behind.
The stories are horribly similar. Young men, on the cusp of promising lives, leave the house on a day like any other. Parents (and it’s mainly mothers interviewed here) remember a knock on the door, the sudden realisation that nothing will be the same again. They race to the hospital, or to police cordons. They are told unimaginable news. They describe their grief eloquently, they describe their sons with tenderness and love. Each one of those interviewed has thrown themselves into some form of active memorial, be it knife crime initiatives or community projects, in order to honour their sons and make their deaths worth something. It’s a very moving series which highlights the absolute pointlessness and lack of meaning of knife crime and the devastation it leaves in its wake.
In this 20 minute documentary, Ben Zand covers the various demonstrations held during Trump’s first visit to the UK since he was elected as president. During his four-day sojourn earlier this month, he was greeted by large protests in cities around the country, but Zand covers, too, the events welcoming him. He kicks off at a pub in London which has renamed itself The Trump Arms in honour of the president. Selling MAGA hats and decking it out in stars and stripes, the stunt isn’t welcomed by all residents. He then joins the people behind the famous Trump balloon, which got coverage around the world, before heading to the main march itself. Much of it is good natured, and we see many of the different protest groups come together in a party atmosphere. The pro-Trump rally which congregates around the American Embassy, wearing ‘make Britain Great Again’ baseball caps, is tiny and rather pathetic in comparison.
But it’s the next day, as Trump leaves London to head to Scotland for a round of golf, when things get interesting in London – and in the documentary itself. As Free Tommy supporters gather to support the jailed far right figure, anti-fascist groups congregate to protest. Police form a line between the two groups. As Zand describes as a “mainly peaceful” Free Tommy rally, he faces anger on the anti-fascist side. With Zand’s commentary – that they “look a bit scary” and “do have a history of violence”, and that he can’t imagine that “this is the best way to engage with people” – it’s difficult not to come to the conclusion that Zand and the BBC are, as the anti-fascists assert, “part of the problem”. Zand goes further, stating that the Tommy supporters “feel like Britain is against them… and this just amplifies their idea of being attacked”. It’s a microcosm of an ongoing debate about the media’s role in political discourse, and whether far-right sympathisers should be ‘debated’.
This bleak but important drama tells the true story of Jerome Rogers, who killed himself at the age of 20, after receiving two parking tickets he was unable to pay, which then spiralled into a debt of over £1,000.
Beginning with Jerome (played beautifully by Chance Perdomo) being accosted by Craig Parkinson’s bailiff, the drama then takes us back to one year earlier, as Jerome leaves the house for his first day of work as a medical courier, waved off by a proud family. His manager goes through the terms and conditions of his employment – Jerome will have to pay for his petrol, his uniform, his insurance, and any other expenses.
As his moped breaks down, his mother’s boyfriend gets him a new one, which Jerome must pay back in installments. The costs mount up, and when the parking tickets come in, Jerome feels unable to talk to his family about it, becoming more and more closed off in his feelings, and relying on Internet chatrooms to read about people in similar circumstances. The uncaring bureaucracy is shown via unhelpful call centres, and machines churning out bills and fines from data banks, until the debt collectors are called in.
It makes for a horribly tense and depressing hour of television, made worse by the fact that we know how it will end. Jerome’s final anguished sobs as he stands in his childhood den, after strapping a length of rope to its beams are unbearable, but the real gut punch arrives in the last, devastating couple of minutes, with real footage of Jerome being accosted by the bailiff outside his house, and a recorded phone call his mum made to the debt collection company after Jerome killed himself.
Made with the help of the Rogers family, who are still struggling to deal with their loss, they – and the programme makers – are hoping it will open a discussion about zero-hour contracts, the behaviour of debt companies, and the kind of society we want to live in. You can’t help but hope that it will encourage other people who may be struggling to open up and talk about it, and that Jerome’s death will somehow not be in vain.
One of two comedy runs returning to BBC Three this month, Romesh Ranganathan moves from the pub of his first series and the caff of the second to talk to his fellow comics over some pie and mash. First up is Rob Beckett, who goes way back with Romesh, having done some gigs in his late father’s pub. Rob ribs him about not having had him on earlier, only to be told he didn’t tick any of the diversity boxes. Rachel Parris is next up, and brings with her a toilet roll due to her cold. In between the coughing and sneezing, she talks about her curtailed Tinder experience and getting a period in the middle of a performance. Mo Gilligan reminisces about his high school experiences – having previously taught maths, Romesh has some independent observations about detentions and PE teachers. Tom Allen talks about his accent and his experience of teenage house parties, while Lolly Adefope has observations about pizza, activity weekends, and being in her first ever relationship. Sally Phillips is open about parenting a special needs child (more funny than it sounds), her first TV appearances on Alias Smith and Jones, and the difference between touring in Britain and the US. If that all sounds like a lot to pack into half an hour, it’s because it is. We find out more over the course of the programme about Romesh than about his pie-sharers (and there is not nearly enough pie), but that’s not to its detriment. He’s an easy and comfortable interviewer, and these are like intimate yet humorous chats among friends.
Can’t Cope Won’t Cope: Season 2
Stefanie Preissner’s creation is back for a second series, and we find out intrepid Cork heroines struggling as things, although outwardly very different, are simultaneously just the same. After the final bust-up in the last season, Aisling’s (Seána Kerslake) flatmate, Danielle (Nika McGuigan), has moved to Vancouver, seeking to put an ocean between them. Aisling is back in her home town, climbing the walls of her mother’s house and ‘looking after’ her baby brother. But, of course, you can’t keep a good woman down and within the first five minutes, she’s up to her old tricks, leaving her brother with an unsuitable babysitter as she quits her job and hotfoots it back to Dublin. Before long, she’s scamming grannies in an old folks’ home, stealing from one-night stands, and just generally causing chaos. Danielle, meanwhile, finds life in Canada has its own challenges, and, while refusing Aisling’s increasingly desperate attempts to contact her, can’t seem to shake off the loneliness she feels away from her other half. While the first season got dark fairly quickly, here things are bittersweet from the start. Don’t go in expecting too many laughs – a sadness and desperation permeates so thoroughly that a smirk and a raised eyebrow are more likely. But despite some tonal issues, it’s good to see the Irish dram-com back, perhaps a little older and wiser, certainly more battle-bruised. Available until: 8th December 2018 (Episode 1)
Eye To Eye With a Stranger
These 5-minute YouTube shorts are billed by the BBC as a “social experiment”, and are reminiscent of Marina Abramović’s installation The Artist Is Present, in which she invited strangers to sit opposite her and maintain eye contact for as long as they wanted in New York’s Museum of Modern Art. This series takes place in the rather more prosaic location of Birmingham’s New Street Station, and asks commuters to have five minutes of uninterrupted silent face-to-face time, after which they can ask each other one question. Some of the questions are surprising and provoke answers which are a lot deeper than expected, a certain silent bonding having taken place over the course of the eye contact. Likewise, some of the assumptions made about the people by just looking at them turn out to be exactly that – assumptions. So, for example, when an older lady sits opposite a young black man, she feels he may have been trying to ‘intimidate’ her merely by looking into her eyes for five minutes, but this feeling is overturned as soon as he starts talking. Classism, gender identity and childhood sexual abuse are also discussed, with an honesty and self-reflection that is seemingly encouraged by the fact that the people have taken the time to just sit and look at the other person – the kind of human affinity that is rare with strangers in real life these days, despite the amount we share when online. It’s an interesting short series, which raises questions of intimacy and honesty in an increasingly busy, unquiet world.
Face the Consequences
This new web series asks people with some worrying habits to talk about them – in some cases, boast about them – before being introduced to people whose lives have been irrevocably altered by the same behaviours. In the first episode, people who binge drink to the point of blackouts meet Dan, who fell off a bridge on the way home from the pub, broke his back, and now cannot walk. Tanning addicts have a surprise visit from Gemma, who has stage three melanoma, which she blames directly on her sun bed habit. YouTubers who take risks to use as content for their channels – from drinking whole bottles of vinegar to Sellotaping their entire faces – meet a grieving mother who lost her son after he attempted the ‘pass out challenge’. Plastic surgery fans meet someone whose surgery went horribly wrong, and, finally, people who talk up their reckless and drunk driving meet Greg, who is paralysed from the neck down, after getting into a car with a friend who had been drinking and having a catastrophic crash, which also left two men dead.
The programme is something of an intervention for the subjects who are so enthralled by their chosen ‘hobbies’ they either fail to see any negative repercussions, or they somehow put them out of their minds. Whether this will have any long-lasting change in their personal behaviour is remains to be seen – although some of the YouTubers have since taken down some of their content – but it does ensure that they, and any viewers watching who partake in similar behaviours, will stop for a moment and think about what they’re doing.
Love and Drugs on the Street: Season 3
The third season of BBC Three’s ongoing documentary about the lives of young homeless women catches us up with Ocean, Kelly, and Charlotte and her long term partner, Lance. Kelly’s back in her home town of Hastings, having left Brighton, after her boyfriend got a jail sentence. Although she feels she has more support there, she’s worried about the temptations, as locating drugs is much easier. Meanwhile, she’s navigating a bureaucratic nightmare, as she attempts to replace her lost ID in order to open up a bank account and apply for Universal Credit. Charlotte is in something of the same boat, with no ID papers, and she has the added complication of an unplanned pregnancy. Ocean, last seen heading for a job in France, is back in Eastbourne and, although she has accommodation and is preparing to apply for a military prep college, is feeling isolated. Getting all her food from a food bank, she spends time looking after some of her friends, who are sleeping rough by going out at night to get them hot meals. The chaotic series mirrors the chaotic lives of its subjects, but as the viewer gets to know these young women, we become increasingly invested in their lives and wellbeing. Available until: 11th June 2019 (Episode 1)
Ugly Me: My Life with Body Dysmorphia
This documentary is an eye-opening look into living with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), which affects about one in 50 people in the UK. Following 29 year old Liane over the course of a year, it’s an in-depth examination of the way in which the mental health disorder can get a grip on your life and poison every aspect of it. Intercut with some talking heads of other sufferers, this is truly Liane’s story, as she decides to seek treatment when life becomes unmanageable. Every night out is a nightmare, a glance in the mirror can take hours off her day, her relationship with her boyfriend is at breaking point and her family are grieving for the young girl she once was, as they can only look from the sidelines, unable to help.
We have access to her therapy sessions at the Maudsley hospital, as well as interviews with her doctor, who helps her develop new ways of thinking, advising her via cognitive behavioural therapy to try to shift her focus from the internal to the external. It’s an unpitying depiction of the way in which mental health can affect your behaviour and your relationships, demonstrating the downward spiral, which, unless help is received, is very difficult to break out of – and of how easy it is, when in the grips of it, to alienate those who want most to support you. Available until: 3rd December 2018
Britain’s Forgotten Men: Season 2
The first series of filmmaker Dan Murdoch’s Britain’s Forgotten Men screened in August 2017, and focussed on the plight of young men living on Manchester’s council estates, dealing with homelessness, unemployment, and lack of opportunity. This series goes back to the same areas to catch up with those men, but we also meet new subjects, who feel equally powerless and increasingly angry.
Lisa is trying to raise six sons as a single parent in an overcrowded house. Each has their own set of challenges, but they share the problem of a lack of jobs and money. There’s an HGV driver who enjoys the Manchester football derby but whose partner insists is a different, sweeter man when he’s not out with the ‘lads’ and seemingly intent on causing trouble. We go back to find out how boxer Jimmy Kelly is doing, as well as revisiting some of the squatters who were evicted from the Corner House cinema in the first series. Then there’s the footage of young boys smoking, covering their faces as they brandish massive knives, talking about how they went from robbery to gun violence.
There is, too, the usual rhetoric about immigrants coming to take our houses, being bought big TVs and pandered to by the government. The bubbles of resentment are just under the surface, ready to break out at any moment. It’s a scattershot documentary which doesn’t spend enough time with each subject, leaving the viewer slightly confused but with the overall impression of hopelessness and anger. The pessimism of the experience is highlighted by the facts and figures about the UK’s literacy, its projected employment and poverty. But it’s less a purely factual documentary than it is a mirror held up to society – what is reflected back at us is stark in its bleakness. Available until: 29th May 2019
The Fight for Women’s Bodies
On the 25th of May, the eighth amendment was repealed in the Republic of Ireland. Giving unborn foetuses the same rights as the women carrying them, the amendment basically criminalised abortion, and its repeal was won after a long, hard, and, in many cases, deeply personal struggle. In this documentary, Ellie Flynn travels to Dublin to report on the campaign battle in the weeks leading up to the vote to speak to activists on both sides.
Joining a pro-choice rally, Flynn hears the stories that women chose to share in order to bring the pain that lay at the heart of the Eighth into the light. She talks to Rita, who risks a prison sentence by helping young women get access to abortion pills, and Jennifer, whose unborn baby suffered health problems unsurvivable at birth. On the anti-choice side, too, she finds stories of people who say they would have been aborted had it not been for the laws restricting abortion, and who sought to keep the amendment in place. In a country where religion plays a massive part in both personal and political life, she also speaks to representatives of the church, before visiting an abortion clinic in Liverpool – where many Irish women and girls get the ferry to in order to get the medical treatment they need. Behind closed doors, she speaks to the women forced to travel for the procedure, and hears some heartbreaking cases from one of the clinic workers.
Flynn is there, too, for the vote count, and speaks to those celebrating and those who are disappointed at the result. It’s a ‘balanced’ documentary, cut with the benefit of hindsight, and screened in the month after the vote. As a snapshot of what happened in Ireland it’s a competent summary, but it also looks to the future, asking questions about the effect the result will have on Northern Ireland’s abortion laws. Available until: 9th April 2019
R Kelly: The Sex Scandal Continues
This half-hour follow-up to Ben Zand’s R Kelly: Sex, Girls and Videotape sees the presenter meet with Faith Rogers, who is taking legal action against the singer after he passed on – knowingly, it is alleged – an incurable STD during their time together. Describing a controlling and manipulative sexual predator, the 20 year old explains in graphic detail his predilections, which have been fairly commonly regarded as true for 20 years but for which the singer has never been convicted.
Zand also spends time with the parents of Joycelyn Savage, who have not seen their daughter for a year and a half, since she became involved with R Kelly. Listening in on phone calls as they try to negotiate time with her by someone purporting to be Kelly’s manager, Zand is also with them as police attempt to aid Joycelyn after one of Kelly’s other ‘girlfriends’, Dominique, escapes the hotel room in LA where they’ve been holed up.
It’s a frustrating watch, as you share the family’s feelings of helplessness. As an addendum to the original documentary, it shows both how things have developed in the past month – with Kelly being dropped by Spotify and with lawyers hopeful they can get certain charges to stick – and the stagnancy of the situation, and the network of people the singer seems to have protecting him still.
This series of sketches is brought to you by the makers of the award-winning BBC Radio 4 show The Pin. Comedy double act Alex Owen and Ben Ashenden here put voices to paintings. Thus, Jesus and his apostles in The Last Supper argue about how best to split the bill after a curry. While some just want to divide it by 12, others grumble about the fact they only had a light meal and no booze. One apostle has an app to figure it out, but Jesus is intent on getting everyone to pay for exactly what they had, though this becomes an arduous task. In How High is Too High, meanwhile, some stoners are confused by the fact that one of their number has turned into a monkey, wondering if it is perhaps time to stop smoking.
At around two minutes long, this is funny, throwaway comedy, with a charming lightness of touch that will likely leave viewers hoping for more.
The Voices in My Head
At the start of this hour-long documentary, we are told that one in 10 of us hear voices that others don’t. Here, we follow three people – Kyle, Chaz and Emmalina – as they describe their experience and their coping methods.
Encouraged to write down the kind of things their voices say to them, they then pick a voice artist who most resembles what they hear, and the programme makers cut together an audio track, so that the viewer can experience what the subjects do. Suffice to say, it is an unpleasant experience, as much of what they hear is horribly negative and abusive.
Chaz now spends much of her time in a wheelchair after her voice – which she calls ‘Victor’ – encouraged her to jump off a bridge, leaving her with horrific injuries. Kyle struggled in silence for months when he started hearing voices, before cutting himself on the side of the head with a stanley knife and – with his voices encouraging him – telling people he’d killed someone. Emmalina, meanwhile, has a host of voices, yet her main one, ‘Katie’, spends her time insulting and controlling her, and causing her to self harm.
As Kyle says, hearing such malevolent voices is like living with someone who’s abusing you, and this documentary really takes us to that place. Fortunately, for most of the viewers, the experience will end as the programme does, yet for some, it’s a constant battle. This film effectively gives us a glimpse into what living with voices is like – and it’s a pretty harrowing affair.
Manchester Bomb – Our Story
It was just under a year ago, on 22nd May 2017, when a suicide bomber targeted an Ariana Grande concert, killing 22 people and injuring more than 250. This documentary charts the months after the attack, as the young survivors and the bereaved try to cope with the fallout.
Beginning with interviews of young women who attended the concert, as they sit on their beds and describe how their excitement turned to horror, it soon narrows its focus to three families. Erin was just 11 years old, and attending the concert accompanied by her older sister with tickets their mother had bought them as a Christmas present. She witnessed the immediate aftermath of the bomb, and her muteness over what she saw is a coping mechanism. She describes how the images can come back to her, uninivited, at any moment, and how she tries to suppress them. Her mother and sister try to help, but the mother is dealing with her own guilt at giving them the concert tickets in the first place.
17 year old Amelia was standing about six feet from the bomber when the bomb went off. The shrapnel scars in her face are a daily reminder of the injuries she suffered. Her mother, meanwhile, is finding it hard to let her out of the house, as she deals with her own PTSD.
Then, there’s Louise, whose brother, Martyn Hett, died in the attack. She recalls being told with other families that their relatives were missing, presumed dead, describes her grief process, and also the way in which her own life has been derailed as she struggles to cope with his death.
It’s a sensitive documentary, and a reminder that the attack didn’t begin and end that night, but leaves hundreds of traumatised young people, just on the brink of adulthood, their innocence permanently snatched away in a matter of seconds.
The Hunt – Battle in the Countryside
Although fox hunting has been illegal for over a decade, the hunt still goes out regularly, using artificial scent as a trail instead of a live animal. Many are unconvinced that foxes are unharmed, and even huntspeople admit that during the course of the hunt, foxes can be found, chased and killed by the hounds. This documentary joins hunt saboteurs (sabs) as they attempt to obstruct the hunts.
At the start, we are told that although many people who support the hunt were eager to speak to the programme makers, they were advised against it by the national organisation who represent them. One would expect, then, something of a one-sided story. And yet, strangely, the documentary seems more slanted towards the people who hunt. Perhaps because of the filmmakers’ efforts to create ‘balance’, they interview people on the street, and most of the interviewees they choose to include seem pro-hunting, and see the sabs as troublemakers.
The documentary includes graphic footage of dead animals, as well as high-octane encounters between those on opposing sides, each filming each other. It’s an emotive topic, and one which is probably not well served by vox pops, clips of previous news investigations, and an overarching sensationalism, as the filmmakers portray their own subjects as thuggish weekenders from the city hellbent on harassment.
Romper Stomper (The TV Series)
The 1992 movie Romper Stomper, starring Russell Crowe, was controversial at the time and no less so now – the homepage of Charleston mass murderer Dylan Roof’s ‘manifesto’ features an image from the film. This new six-part series, created by the director of the original, looks at the same theme – a neo-Nazi group deciding to ‘clean up’ the Melbourne streets, although their target is now the Muslim community rather than the Vietnamese.
Lachy Hulme stars as Blake, the “Christian” leader of a white nationalist group who spouts violent rhetoric under the guise of ‘free speech’. The series begins as he targets a Halal food festival, leading to a mass confrontation with an anti fascist group, as innocent bystanders are caught in the crossfire. All is witnessed by Kane (Toby Wallace), who is soon happily embroiled with Blake’s neo-Nazis, and it’s not long before he’s heading up a violent night patrol. Laila (Nicole Chamoun), meanwhile, becomes a spokesperson for the Muslim community, getting stitched up on a televised debate with Blake and coming onto the radar of the antifascist group, who want to recruit her.
There are a number of subplots involving family members and affairs, but the meat and bones of the series pits white supremacists against anti-fascists, and the real-life effect the violence has on a community under siege. Depressingly, the subject matter is even more relevant today than it was 25 years ago.
MisFITS Like Us
This delightful three part series has a fairly simple premise. A person who is struggling with a life-changing condition – in this case, Tourettes, vitiligo and scarring from burns – is introduced to a group of people who have the same condition. They spend a few days together, form bonds, and help each other talk through the effect their condition has had on their lives. But from the simple premise, a transformational change begins.
Part one introduces us to 25 year old Terrina, whose Tourettes was triggered by a mini-stroke at the age of 21. Having pulled away from her friends and locked herself in her house for the past four years, she barely has the confidence to walk down the high street on her own. At first, as she welcomes the four other Tourettes sufferers into her house, it’s mayhem, as they bring out each others’ tics, but pretty soon, they’re not only taking trips to the local shops, but also to an art gallery and a bowling alley, and Terrina’s confidence takes a leap.
In the second episode, Aisha tells us she hasn’t been out the house without wearing heavy make-up to cover her vitiligo in years. But as she spends time with her group of fellow sufferers, she finds her mind opened and liberated, able to take on people who shout at her in the street, have conversations about the condition with people in the pub, and ultimately live her life without covering up.
As a viewer, it’s a delight to witness the blossoming of confidence which occurs in the subjects, whose growing acceptance of themselves as they speak to people in the same boat materially changes their world. It’s life-affirming and emotional programming which we could all learn a thing or two from. Available until: 22nd October 2018 (Episode 1)
Following last year’s run of Life Lessons, which included comedians such as Luisa Omielan on the topic of ‘Why hasn’t he texted me back?’ and Grainne Maguire’s An Irish Immigrant’s Guide to Britain, the two-minute, irony-filled TV advice column is back. First up, Fern Brady is here to tell us ‘Why Sexual Harassment is your fault’ in her usual deadpan manner. From how to deal with that moment when ‘give us a smile’ turns into being called a ‘slag’ when you refuse to comply, to the ‘helpful’ advice people proffer when you complain about being catcalled – everything from ‘you should take it as a compliment’ to ‘maybe you should toughen up’ – it packs quite a lot into its short running time. Brennan Reece is up next, looking at the real north of England as opposed to the stereotypes. A Warburtons advert-style voiceover, romanticising the north of England, is undercut by Reece’s spoken word performance as he tells us of the realities of the north of England. More comedians are due to give their advice on a variety of topics, but going by the first two, it’s clever, witty, and packs a quite a punch into an economic little series.
Too Fat for Love
Emma Tamsin Hill presents this short documentary which looks at issues surrounding body confidence, romance and sex among the plus-sized. Although the title and much of the publicity surrounding the programme suggests this will purely be about fat people having sex, it’s actually a fairly nuanced – if slightly rushed – examination of how society sees those deemed overweight. First off, Emma looks at why there’s so much stigma surrounding fat people. She meets an expert in fat-shaming at Leeds University and gets some students involved in a discussion, before examining the ‘comedy’ portrayal in TV and film, from Fat Monica in Friends to Austin Powers’ Fat Bastard. Watching a Monty Python sketch which involves a man grossly pushing everything into his mouth before exploding at the dinner table reduces her to tears.
She attends a sex workshop, led by Athena Mae, where the audience are given tips on how to make things more pleasurable in the bedroom, and goes to a football league for fat men, to get their opinions on body positivity. Finally, she gets (almost) naked to pose for a life drawing class, and ends with a night out at Club Indulge, a plus-sized club night.
It’s an interesting overview of life as a fat person in what can be a very damaging and judgemental society, but it tries to pack a lot into its running time, leaving many of the valuable messages somewhat truncated.
The Naked Truth – Obesity
This short film interviews five people who have been categorised as ‘obese’. Filmed naked, they open up about the effect their weight has on their lives, how they feel about themselves, and how they feel about the way other people view them. Forming their food habits for a variety of reasons – from childhood name calling, teenage pregnancy, glandular fever when still at school to being socially awkward and shy at university – which led them to seeking comfort in food, they describe a vicious cycle of feeling bad, eating to stop feeling bad, and then feeling bad about their eating.
Despite being active, working, and keeping fit, they are called lazy, stared at on public transport, and deemed ‘morbidly obese’. But the interviews reveal a distinct lack of self-pity and a clear-eyed appraisal of their situations. Describing their favourite foods, and talking about how attempts to restrict your diet will only make you feel worse, which will inevitably end with putting on more weight, they consider questions of whether they would be different people if they had a different body shape. For now, they are concentrating on their careers – as a comedian, doing pageants and plus-sized modelling, and creating fashion brands which cater for the plus sized market. It’s a reminder that everyone inhabits the bodies we do, and a call to stop judging people for any reason – but especially for what you look like on the outside.
Love and Drugs on the Street: Season 2
Love and Drugs on the Street returns for its second season, with a new set of subjects who each have their own specific set of circumstances that led to them becoming homeless. The first episode introduces us to Kelly, Charlotte and Lance, and Diana and Greg, among others. Kelly went into care at the age of six, after being picked up by social services from school and taken to a new home without even being able to say goodbye to her mother. She’s now 18 and has been homeless since leaving the system a year and a half ago. Greg and Diana are from Latvia, have lived in the UK for 13 years, and are now camping out in the woods with their cat, Rudolph, after being evicted because of arrears. Charlotte and Lance were made homeless after the council took back the place they were staying in from the dodgy landlord they were renting from.
We get some back story for each of them as the three-part series progresses. Other people are introduced – Steph and Ernie, who are living in some sort of disused pub; Ocean, who is attempting to get a passport to start an apprenticeship in France; Zoe, a vulnerable woman made homeless after a relationship breakdown; and Caroline, who is temporarily holed up in a disused pier-front building.
Mirroring the lives of its subjects, it’s a rather chaotic and meandering programme, following the day to day lives of people struggling under precarious circumstances. But it does serve to humanise the people many of us walk past every day without a second thought, contextualising their fraught and dangerous existences. Available until: 6th February 2019
Unsolved: The Man with no Alibi
This second season of BBC Three’s true crime mini-series, following Unsolved: The Boy Who Disappeared, sees its presenter Bronagh Munro go to the seaside resort town of Bournemouth (and, later, to Italy) to investigate the death of Jong Ok Shin in 2002, and the subsequent imprisonment of Omar Benguit for her murder.
Omar’s sister has, apparently, approached Munro to try to prove his innocence, saying that she has evidence pointing to the real murderer and intimating that the police framed her brother. Munro initially acts as though she is circumspect about these allegations, looking at Omar’s previous convictions and accusing his sister of not being entirely honest. Yet, as the series progresses, these objections seem less like an objective journalist seeking the truth and more a cynical way to amp up tension.
It transpires – as anyone with access to Google could find out – that far from the kind of real-life investigating that made Making a Murderer and the Serial podcast so successful, this is a case that has been gone over in forensic detail before. Books have been written about the circumstances surrounding the murder, with killer Danilo Restivo being linked, convincingly, to the crime. As the series continues, the disingenuousness of Munro purporting to be discovering things for the first time becomes more and more infuriating, as she glides by on the coattails of people who have already done the work – without crediting any of it. The format becomes like a gimmick, a cheap ploy to forefront the presenter, and the viewer feels increasingly duped.
In the final episode, Omar’s brother points out that ‘at the end of the day a woman was murdered, let’s not forget about that’. It only serves to underline the way in which the victim has been used as a tool in this sensationalised series. Available until: 20th March 2019
Just Boys IRL
In the first few minutes of this short series, it’s unclear whether it’s real or parody (“I want to go to the Eiffel Tower. We’d get so much pussy if we went to the Eiffel Tower” is the opening gambit). But fairly quickly, it becomes apparent that this documentary – which follows a group of teenage males on a 15 day inter-rail trip – is, in fact, serious.
Owen, Jack, Stan, Sam and Cam met virtually via gaming and forged a bond because of their difficulties – depression, anxiety, and, in one case, a psychotic episode induced by smoking weed. Despite having never met in real life, they decide to spend 24 hours a day with each other on trains and in hostels across Europe.
Inevitably, things don’t do entirely smoothly. There are missed trains, text break-ups, and the inevitable running out of money. It concludes with an epic night out in Budapest, when arguments break out, everyone becomes separated, and Owen gets lost, eventually returning to the place they are staying covered in blood and with blisters so bad he can barely walk.
Sadly, much of the action is not captured on video, leaving it to the boys to relate (confusedly) what happened. The night is something of a microcosm of this chaotic trip – and series – in which much is undocumented, and not many life lessons are learned. All 6 episodes are available on BBC Three’s YouTube channel.
This six-episode series, created by, written and starring Eline Van der Velden, is a kind of take-off of Ladette to Lady, with some cultural misunderstandings added to the mix. Van der Velden’s character, Miss Holland, has come to the UK “to find out what makes Britain so great, learn to be British and find a husband” – so, of course, her first stop is a beauticians with Chloe from Love Island. As Chloe looks on and sadly opines “This is a bad case of vaginal hair”, Miss Holland gets most of her body waxed. Then, it’s the spray tan and dating tips (you like their photos, then slide into their DMs), and a reassurance that men should pay for the date, because, after all, the women have to pay for the spray tans, the depilation and the false eyelashes. With a lot less body hair, in Episode 2 Miss Holland meets William and Kate’s former royal butler. They shares tea and scones as he schools her on etiquette – and on the British class system. The third episode promises to include a British citizen test, as “my plan is to stay here forever, but will the Brekshit let me?” Van der Velden is likeable enough, but there aren’t many laughs to be had and it all feels somewhat throwback and derivative. Episode available weekly on BBC Three’s YouTube channel.
Truth or Mare?
You may not have heard of Antonella Brollini, aka Antonella the Uncensored Reviewer. Until last year, she was a doctor’s receptionist, when she uploaded a review of Charlotte Crosby’s exercise video to YouTube. It got her a total of 90 million views and now, a little spot on BBC Three’s channel. Truth or Mare celebrates her “common sense opinion” on all manner of things, from whether goats make yoga more fun to whether pole fitness should become and Olympic sport.
She taste does a blind taste test (served by a topless waiter, for no discernible reason) to give a verdict on whether ‘fake meat’ tastes as good as ‘real meat’, and she spiralises courgettes and butternut squash in an effort to find out if they can conceivably replace spaghetti. She washes her hair with porridge to see if ‘no poo shampoo’ is as effective as the real thing, and, in one expletive-heavy episode, she comes face to face with rats in a bid to find out whether virtual reality exposure therapy can treat phobias.
There’s a lot of moaning and negativity, and a somewhat reactionary feel to it all, dressed up as “plain speaking”. Whether you warm to this will probably depend on whether you warm to Antonella – if you don’t, the series will be rather more mare than truth. Episode available weekly on BBC Three’s YouTube channel.
Britain’s Most Offended
While ‘Britain’s Most Offended’ sounds like something a right wing pundit would say to sneeringly dismiss the very panelists on this show as ‘special snowflakes’ and ‘social justice warriors’, the provocative title belies the content.
BBC Three’s web series is something of an antidote to news panels that involve middle-aged men sitting around discussing what they perceive to be the issues of the day. Gathering a more youthful and diverse line-up, including Shon Faye, Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff, Adam Elliot Cooper, Jeremiah Emmanuel and Chardine Stone (among others), we watch as they talk about the #metoo movement, race, veganism, the Daily Mail’s impact on marginalised groups, and white terrorism in relation to the Florida school shooting.
At some stages it’s almost like a twitter beef gone 3D – which is not a criticism. As usual with these small BBC Three discussion segments, it’s cut fast and not left to dwell on issues for very long, so a lot of nuance is lost. It’s also accompanied by annoyingly upbeat music. But the minutes fly by, great points are raised, and it’s a lot more interesting that your generic chat show. Available on BBC Three’s YouTube channel.
This Country: Season 1 and 2
DAisy May and Charlie Cooper are gently side-splitting in this low-key mockumentary, which explores the lives of young people in modern rural Britain. Read our full review.Words: Ivan Radford
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