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: The Rap Game UK
The US version of this show has been running for five seasons, fronted by Jermaine Dupri and Queen Latifah. BBC Three’s incarnation is an altogether more low-key affair. It houses seven unsigned artists from up and down the country (even Aberdeen and Scunthorpe are represented) in a horrible penthouse apartment in Birmingham, where they will compete for a record contract. Presented by Krept, Konan and BBC Extra’s new talent spotter DJ Target, the competing artists take part in various tasks over the course of the six-episode run. They have to freestyle in front of surprise guests and take part in rap battles to impress future mentors, all the while telling their own stories and injecting their personalities into their lyrics.
While this is no The X Factor – it lacks the ritual humiliation, which seems de rigueur for more mainstream talent competitions – it’s already getting quite competitive. The MCs are ranked from one to seven at the end of each instalment, and resentments are building. Drama seems inevitable. This will be required viewing for fans, but even if rap’s not your thing, this delivers entertainment value.
Emmy Burbidge runs her own beauty salon in Frome, Somerset, where an increasing number of her clients are asking not only whether the make-up she uses is cruelty free, but also what it’s made of. When she finds out that palm oil is used in 70 per cent of cosmetics, she heads off to Papua, New Guinea, to investigate palm oil production.
She witnesses deforestation, child labour, exploitation, and large companies reneging on deals. But she also meets people making palm oil in a sustainable and responsible way, while treating workers fairly. The problem is that it’s difficult for the consumer to clarify whether their palm oil is coming from a responsible source or not.
It’s a really interesting and informative documentary, which, while unable to cover everything in its 20-minute running time, is an excellent taster into the issues surrounding palm oil production. It also offers practical suggestions for the type of pressure we can all exert on their favourite cosmetics brands to make production less exploitative and more environmentally friendly.
This five-parter takes five different women who have made some very different life choices and gets them to spend time immersed in each other’s worlds. While it comes off as cheap TV, it actually throws up some really interesting conversations about the life of the modern-day woman. First up is Ellen, who is funding her education by pole dancing. Then, Amina, a Muslim scouser who is also a poet. She bangs heads with shaven-headed feminist Jo. The fourth episode focusses on stay-at home mum Beth, and finally we visit single mum and poverty activist Chian.
All kinds of discussions emerge, covering everything from divorce to tantric sex, religion to botox. Amina and Jo’s mutual distrust of each other – Amina thinks Jo is judging her choices, while Jo think Amina isn’t being as open as she should be – is a tension that makes things interesting, and throws up some questions about white feminism. But the main takeaway is that women’s choices, no matter what they are, are always judged. While perhaps the production crew wanted to pit the women against each other, what emerges is their overall willingness to accept and respect each other’s lifestyle.
We don’t think it’s overly cynical to see this as an attempt to cash in on the popularity of Love Island. While it bills itself as somehow being for the greater good, Heartbreak Holiday has all the ingredients of the ITV show but without the slick production values, or, indeed, any kind of point. The ten people taking part are all meant to be suffering from some kind of heartbreak, although their issues are too diverse to make any cohesive sense. Deano has never been in a relationship, is tired of being ‘friendzoned’, and is very much out on the pull. Luke has a girlfriend at home but has trouble committing (as we will witness during the course of their Greek island-hoppping). Melissa has problems getting on with friends, while Erin got ghosted. Lauren, meanwhile, has an on-again/off-again boyfriend she has trouble letting go of. Archie is from a traditional Nigerian family he recently came out to. And so on and so forth. They’re all put together in various villas, where they drink, go out clubbing, get visits from friends a relatives, and fall out with each other.
There’s one touching moment when one of the participants, Maxine, tells the others that she’s actually trans, and talks about her specific difficulties of dating, but otherwise, this is a big old unfocussed mess.
In this 50-minute documentary, Ellie Flynn goes to America to look at sexual assaults committed by law enforcement officers. She starts out by interviewing Anna Chambers, who describes in detail what happened to her when she was pulled over by two cops in 2017 (warning: it is graphic and awful). After reporting it, Chambers was soon on the receiving end of ‘slut shaming’ via social media as supporters of the accused tried to tarnish her credibility – even within the documentary, Flynn describes Chambers’ social media posts as “promiscuous” – while the officers involved argued consent. It’s an all-too-familiar story for those who go public with their stories, but, as one expert points out, many don’t report it at all – and, according to their research, the average age of the victims in such cases is 14.
Flynn also speaks to Jasmine Abuslin, the underage girl at the centre of the Oakland police scandal. But halfway through the documentary, she spends an inordinate amount of time on a false allegation of sexual abuse against a police officer. It seems completely out of place within the film, which is otherwise fairly clear about the scale of the problem, and the myriad methods the police use to get away with their crimes – and the viewer is left wondering about the motivations behind its inclusion.
Curiously scheduled to coincide with the end of the summer holidays, this series of short films presents us with four case studies of people who have faced life-or-death situations while travelling. The first looks at 25-year-old Ross, who was riding a moped to a party in Thailand when he crashed, resulting in his leg being amputated. Jack, meanwhile, fell off a balcony in Magaluf after a day of drinking. Fortunately for Ross, he was with another person who was able to get help, and Jack was found fairly quickly – things might have looked quite different had either of them been left undiscovered. In both cases, the advice is quite similar – don’t move the person to avoid spinal and neck injuries, open the airways without tilting the neck, and call emergency services immediately.
Rhianna, meanwhile, was stuck in an avalanche after skiing off-piste, and, again, was lucky that she was found relatively swiftly. The last film follows 17-year-old Evan, who got caught in a rip tide while swimming in Northumberland with a group of friends. This final instalment works best as far as useful advice goes – under no circumstances should you attempt to swim out to help someone in such a situation; never try to swim against the tide; if you can, swim sideways, and if not, float on your back – not least because it is so easy to imagine yourself in that situation.
Overall, the boxset is probably unlikely to save many lives, but they do succeed as cautionary tales should the worst happen. Happy holidays, everyone!
Available on BBC Three’s YouTube channel
Can you Beat the Bookies
Lloyd Griffith, comedian and football presenter – and one of the stars of a controversial ad for Ladbrokes – sets himself up with a budget of £7.5k and a timescale of 4 weeks, during which he hopes to double his money by playing the bookies at their own game. He meets gambling addicts, professional gamblers, data analysts and a man with a foolproof method of betting on tennis matches in his quest. In doing so, he quickly amasses a network of contacts who phone him up with tips – be it on dog racing, horse racing, or football results – and becomes more and more immersed in the gambling culture. At one point, he’s raking in the thousands by sitting in front of two computers, being fed tennis results by a ‘courtsider’ and placing bets before the umpire has a chance to record the scores to the bookies, while also keeping up with a football match he’s had some intel on.
We won’t spoil the result of the documentary for you, but it’s always advisable not to put a bet on someone outwitting the bookmakers. Suffice to say, any winnings made here were the result of some hot tips and a lot of help. But it’s easy to get sucked into this documentary, which is addictive in its own way – even as you know the game is ultimately rigged.
Stacey Dooley Meets the IS Brides / Face to Face with the Bounty Hunters / Nigeria’s Female Suicide Bombers
A new slew of Stacey Dooley documentaries have arrived on BBC Three. Her controversial look at IS Brides, which was also screened on Panorama, hit the headlines mainly because she erroneously described a Muslim prayer gesture as an “IS salute”, sparking a discussion about Muslim representation on the BBC. The rest of the programme has a striking lack of Stacey’s usual empathy, as she takes to task women who have travelled to Syria to join Islamic State.
Nigeria’s Female Suicide Bombers, which looks at young women who have either been kidnapped or enlisted by Boko Haram in Nigeria, has a similar dearth of nuance, with Dooley seemingly determined to pinpoint her subjects as either heroes or villains. It does, though, look at the ways in which growing up with war as a content backdrop affects young people and the ways in which local organisations are combatting generational disaffection. The third film of this triptych is, randomly, a look at bounty hunters in the United States – the people who track down those who have skipped bail. Dooley accompanies them as they apprehend people while they’re working in McDonald’s, or as they strong-arm families into giving up the location of their loved ones.
Dooley’s prominence on TV – and her recent big-money deal with the BBC – means, presumably, that we’ll be seeing even more of her. To avoid further controversies, it might be wise for her to pick her projects carefully.
This tender two-part documentary, directed by Lyttanya Shannon, looks at the realities of life for young people living in North London, an area which has been thrust into the spotlight recently as a result of youth violence. As the programme demonstrates, though, it’s also a vibrant community in which all sorts of people rub up against each other – from street preachers to PhD students, young football managers to housing activists.
The first episode begins as our guide to Tottenham, King, discovers police taping off an area near where he lives, after a body was found with gunshot wounds. King wants to show us that Tottenham is not all knives and guns, and talks us through his life while introducing us to some of his friends and other local characters. The second episode centres around 21-year-old Amira, who is trying to make a name for herself as a music manager. Her brother is in prison, and her cousin’s just been murdered – she’s going to her third funeral this year. It follows her as she tries to break a new artist in the UK, while also struggling with her losses.
The programme touches on all manner of issues affecting people in the area – police profiling, gentrification, a housing market which prices out local people, the Tottenham riots, and flats being torn down to make way for the new £850m stadium. It’s beautifully filmed and it’s engrossing, with an evident fondness for the area and the people who live there.
Earlier this year, Markus Meechan, aka. Count Dankula, was dropped from BBC Scotland’s The Collective after a public outcry. Having become a lightning rod for the ‘free speech’ culture war following his ‘Nazi pug’ court case, he went on to stand for UKIP in the European elections. His media appearances thus far have included appearances on Tommy Robinson’s channel and Alex Jones’s InfoWars.
It’s quite strange, then, to find this documentary on BBC Three. Directed by Dan Murdoch, whose previous work for the channel includes KKK: The Fight for White Supremacy and Britain’s Forgotten Men, it purports to look into the issues surrounding acceptable material for comedy. Murdoch follows Meechan in the lead-up to his first ever stand-up gig at a night co-founded by Andrew Doyle, who explains the ethos of Comedy Unleashed in a clip of his own set: “I just wanted a forum where without judgement I could go onstage & just be really racist. Properly vile white nationalist shit. And I wanted to do it under the guise of humour.”
Murdoch interviews Quantum Leopard’s James Ross, who organises a comedy night in which he has a policy of no racism, homophobia, antisemitism, misogyny or transphobia, and he also sets up a meeting with Steve McClean, one of the only comedians willing to ‘debate’ Meechan. While Murdoch himself does challenge Meechan a few times – “you’re profiteering off your criminal acts” he says at one point – it’s hard to see that there’s much of a point to this documentary. “I’m either going to make everyone laugh or make everyone really angry. Either way it’s a win for me,” says Meechan of his upcoming gig, and it points to the problem of the programme. For people like Meechan, all publicity is good publicity, and this documentary only succeeds in boosting his profile.
This three-part box set takes us to the South Wales Valleys, where, apparently, there is what is often termed as an ‘obesity epidemic’, a place where it’s easier – and cheaper – to get takeaways than it is to buy fresh ingredients. The programme follows various people as they talk about issues surrounding their weight.
22-year-old Nathaniel is an aspiring rapper who feels he’s trapped in a damaging cycle of booze benders followed by late-night McDonald’s. 17-year-old Trinity is in a loving relationship, but when she goes for a pregnancy test, it reveals she has liver problems, meaning she has to give up her beloved energy drinks. Mia talks about the pressures of social media and the way in which body positivity has helped her, while her best friend Rhian has arthritis, which makes exercise a challenge. Rachel, meanwhile, is a radiant dancer and performer, who refuses to let her weight get in the way of her active and fulfilling life.
The documentary wanders from one person to another without much in the way of a thread to pull them all together. It’s a meandering programme, not particularly though-provoking, and one wonders what exactly it seeks to achieve.
While BBC Three has showcased some great comedy with the British-Muslim experience at the forefront, general representation on TV still has a long way to go. This 15-minute pilot, created by and starring Ali Shahalom and Aatif Nawaz, is a sketch show that hopes to go some way to redress the balance.
The programme opens with two holidaymakers being interviewed by airport security before they are allowed to travel – they are so used to this turn of events that they have their own PDFs available to download to answer all the questions they know are coming. In another skit, a children’s author is on a chat show to promote his new book, Diary of a Friendly Squirrel, and is baffled to be fending off questions about 9/11 and whether he’s sympathetic to grooming gangs. There’s an ongoing sketch about two people working in the same place vying for the position of the whitest brown man, and a casting agent who books Russell Kane to play Mo Salah rather than any of the more appropriate people auditioning. Mabz, a barber at ‘Halal Cuts’, meanwhile, gets into all sorts of sitcom-style mishaps.
There’s no doubt there is a problem with underrepresentation. The problem with this pilot, though, is that – while bits of it are clever – it isn’t very funny or innovative. Muzlamic is a welcome pilot desperately seeking a better script.
It’s been five years since Elliot Rodger killed six people and injured 14 more in Santa Barbara as ‘revenge’ for his sexual and social rejection. In that time, he’s become something of a hero to the ‘incel’ (involuntary celibate) community, who bond online over their lack of sex and hatred for women. This documentary manages to get three ‘incels’ to talk to them about what motivates them.
‘Catfishman’ remains masked up throughout his interviews, in which he boasts about faking personas on dating sites to meet up with women, who he then verbally abuses while taking videos of the encounters to share online. Matt, in New York, insists you can be an incel without being a women-hater, but admits it’s a small step to finding viciously misogynistic online content. James, in Northern Ireland, claims to have repented his incel ways and now has a successful YouTube channel where he talks about mental health – although, as it has to be pointed out to him that lyrics he wrote celebrating Elliot Rodger might be hurtful to the bereaved families, one has to wonder at the value of his expertise.
Dr Kaitlyn Regehr, a researcher of online misogyny at the university of Kent, who is credited as development consultant for the documentary, points out that this is the age of the hate crime, with hatred bubbling over in many online communities, helping normalise real life violence. It’s always a sobering experience to be reminded of how much men can hate women, and although the documentary is something of a sickening watch, it does its job in reflecting what’s happening in the darker corners of the web, and in warning of the ways in which it can spill out into offline behaviour.
Extinction Rebellion: Last Chance to Save the World?
In his new documentary, Ben Zand meets some of the people behind Extinction Rebellion, the protest group who are seeking to highlight the dangers of climate change through civil disobedience. He charts the four months leading up to their mass protest in April, where they managed to cause disruption to central London for eleven days.
Zand first meets up with them in January, as they’re planning the actions, including a nationwide school strike. After interviewing co-founder Roger Hallam, he speaks to some of the young activists. 16-year-old Dani is extremely committed to the movement, but her mum worries that she’ll neglect her education for it, while 22-year old Sam faces a stint in jail after gluing his hands to the door of an oil company. Hallam accepts that the group is less about providing solutions and more about raising awareness, so when Sam gets to speak to MP Claire Perry at the end of the documentary, the whole things seems rather fruitless, as no actual action will be taken.
The documentary itself is quite light on detail. There are no questions about funding, for example, or about the ‘whitewashing’ controversy surrounding the movement. Zand does question whether the long-term consequences of having a criminal record have been thought through by the participants, but the focus is on the impressive clear-sightedness of the young people involved, who are trying to do what they can for their own future and that of the planet.
This three-part box set, filmed over seven months, introduces us to some of the North East’s constabulary and the community they police. It focuses on the old ‘pit villages’ of Horden (a “crime hotspot”, apparently), Peterlee and Seaham, as the Durham cops do their neighbourhood rounds.
The programme has an oddly upbeat tone, with a jaunty voiceover and charismatic petty criminals. One of the cops seems to think he’s in Michael Mann’s Heat – “Us cops and robbers have more in common than we like to think” – and much of the first couple of episodes centre on one or two repeat offenders, who are taken to the station while their premises are searched, generally turning up nothing. If it’s a game of cat and mouse, it’s more Tom and Jerry than Manhunter.
In between all the banter at the station, though, there are some more serious crimes being committed – a masked robbery of a bookies (a young, vulnerable worker is threatened with a hammer) and a serious assault at a pub. In the third episode, which looks at addiction-based crime, things get really dark, as the officers have to deal with a fatal overdose.
In among all this are chats about the history of the area at the local tattoo parlour, discussions about deprivation, mental health issues and recidivism. It’s something of a never-ending cycle for many of the people involved in the documentary, with very little hope for a better life. But it’s presented as cheery slice-of-life stuff which never quite gets to the heart of any issue it looks at.
This one-off drama, by the team behind BAFTA-winners Murdered by My Father and Killed by My Debt, charts the rise of right wing radicalisation. Sion Daniel Young plays Gethin, who lives in his sister’s shed and barely gets by on a zero hours contract at a chicken shop. Just as his family are about to be made homeless, a Muslim family moves in to the council house next door Gethin had his eye on. Despite forming a friendship with one of the new neighbours, Yasmin (Amy-Leigh Hickman), Gethin finds himself being sucked into increasing Islamophobic rhetoric spouted at housing meetings and among his group of friends. None of this ends well.
There are a number of problems with the programme. Although the makers conferred with organisations specialising in the rise of the far right and extremism, Gethin’s journey from a gentle young family man to hate crime perpetrator seems like a leap. The focus is not on the victim – unless you count Gethin as the victim, which seems problematic. Indeed, the person who is killed in the drama is given very little screen time and next to no lines. The peripheral roles seem like mouthpieces for racism and xenophobia rather than fully rounded characters. Although the actors do what they can, they are ultimately let down by a script that jettisons character development in favour of plot-points, and the whole things lacks emotional punch.
This brilliant strand of Storyville documentaries has been curated especially for the BBC Three audience. It includes three new films: Kate Nash: Underestimate the Girl is an intimate look at the singer’s life as she attempts to resurrect her career in LA, sues her manager for stealing her money, auditions for GLOW, and crowdfunds her new album, all accompanied by her beloved dog, Stella. A High School Rape Goes Viral: Roll Red Roll takes a look at how the Steubenville rape scandal broke, via a determined blogger’s investigation of social media posts. The flagship documentary, Oscar-nominated Minding the Gap, is an incredibly moving piece of filmmaking, following the lives of childhood skater buddies in Rockford, Illinois, as they navigate their way into adulthood, directed by one of the gang, Bing Lai. These new films are joined by the recently-screened Avicii documentary, and Believer, in which Imagine Dragons’ frontman looks at the Mormon Church’s attitude to the LGBTQ community. Lauren Greenfield’s award-winning 2012 film The Queen of Versailles completes the roster, charting a doomed project to recreate the Palace of Versailles in Orlando, Florida. It’s a line-up of important, engaging, accessible films which will hopefully inspire a new generation of documentary fans.
This six-part box set follows journalist Mobeen Azhar as he returns to his home town of Birkby, Huddersfield, to investigate the death of Mohammed Yassar Yaqub, who was shot by police in his car in 2017, provoking a ‘Justice 4 Yassar’ campaign. Starting off as a trip down memory lane as Mobeen visits the place he grew up in – and bumps into the people he went to school with – he finds that people are unwilling to talk openly about the circumstances surrounding Yassar’s death.
He soon discovers that things have changed quite dramatically in the 20-odd years since he’s been there. Weapons now proliferate and young men are turning to drug dealing. There’s a potted history here of first generation immigrants, and a look at how life has shifted, as Mobeen speaks to people whose lives have been impacted by drugs and violence. There is also a look at the impact of Islamophobia and bigotry, and the ways in which it can silence a community.
This is an occasionally uncomfortable watch – at times, it feels like victim blaming, as Yassar’s involvement in the drugs trade is investigated and Yassar’s dad quickly stops speaking to Mobeen. But it’s also an honest look at a subject that is difficult to broach, and feels it can only – or best – be done by someone like Mobeen, who grew up in the community and can bring a clarity that might otherwise be obfuscated.
A new series fronted by Hayley Pearce, in which she investigates everything from body building to veganism by immersing herself in each culture. First off, she’s decided to go sober for for weeks. After having one last blow-out, so that the viewer can see drunk Hayley in her full glory, she ditches the booze she’s been binge-drinking on since she was 14.
Discovering that a third of people under 25 don’t drink at all, she’s initially suspicious that she can have a non-boring life, as she feels she needs to drink in order to have confidence. But as she meets with a sober blogger, goes to a hypnotherapist to confront her relationship with drink, heads out with street pastors, and meets a woman who had to spend five months in hospital at death’s door, thanks to a period in her life when she was drinking three bottles of wine a day, Hayley’s eyes are opened to the danger of drink. As she gets her liver checked, the extent of the damage she could do to her body is spelled out to her – and to the viewer. She finally goes to a sober rave, where she finds out you can have just as much – if not more – fun without alcohol.
The other programmes in this six part series follow a similar format, as Hayley investigates growing old, tattoo culture, getting offline, and pregnancy. It’s not likely to reveal much you don’t already know about each subject – it’s more of a taster into different lifestyles, presented with verve and panache.
In this hour-long documentary, Tiffany Sweeney takes a look behind the scenes of the websites set up to introduce “sugar daddies” to prospective “sugar babies” – which is to say, affluent, middle-aged people to younger folk looking for some cash and gifts in return for what is euphemistically termed “companionship”.
Although the websites deny that money is changing hands – and include such a condition in their terms of service – most first dates described in the programme are on a “pay-per-meet” basis. This can lead to a more regular arrangement, which involves a monthly allowance and expensive gifts. Most of the “daddies” are over 40, and we’re told that the average “sugar baby” can make 3 grand per month – tempting for young people with student debts, struggling to keep their heads above water. Sweeney hears the stories directly from the young men and women who sign up to the websites, some who are happy with their arrangements and others who feel they were scammed, or tricked into sex work. Then, she’s off to Las Vegas to meet the founder of one such enterprise, ensconced in his multi-million pound home with his very own sugar baby. The documentary ends as Sweeney poses on one of the websites as an 18-year-old student and eventually goes to see – with a hidden camera – a ‘date’ who wants to meet her directly in a hotel room, even though she has no idea what he looks like.
It’s an interesting programme, filled with first-hand testimonial, although it may make you despair of a society which is so able and willing to exploit the increasingly precarious situation of young people today.
Comedy duo Natasia Demetriou (previously seen in What we do in the Shadows and Stath Lets Flats – written by and starring her younger brother, Jamie) and Ellie White (The Windsors, Timewasters and Murder in Successville) have been uploading their joint work to YouTube for a while – a parody of a pop reunion programme was a highlight – while also performing in live shows. Here, they pilot their sketches on BBC Three for the first time.
The programme opens with joggers kitted out in the jogging gear who can’t run for the bus successfully – other skits include middle aged vloggers calling themselves “Mum’s the Word”, who demonstrate quite obscenely how to stuff a chicken, while keeping up a stream of banal chat about “girls’ nights” and their “hubbies”. Trustafarians who can’t pass a busker or wait at traffic lights without busting out some moves also get their treatment, as do over-enthusiastic camera-hungry daytime TV presenters, who are investigating ‘Britain’s Smelliest Smell’. There’s a riff on a lo-fi video ad for Eastern European beauticians, and the heavily-trailed creepy pop-up shop proprietors, who whisper riddles in an ASMR style. There’s also a frankly pretty disturbing homage to Ariana Grande.
As with most sketch shows, this is hit and miss, but where they excel most is in parodying specific formats. And while there’s nothing too original here, you can expect to be seeing a lot more of the pair in the future.
This documentary very much does what it says on the tin, as we’re invited to have a look inside a Luton hostel for young mums. The hostel’s longest-running resident Talamika, a 22-year-old mother of a two-year-old, narrates, introduces us to some of her housemates, and tells us her own story in the process. With about 10 rooms in the building, she finds herself being housed with people she doesn’t know, but the documentary demonstrates the support networks that build among the residents.
The young women tell their stories of how they ended up in the hostel – becoming pregnant at a young age, with little or no support from their family or the fathers of their babies. Lives are hard and tiring – one mum, Katie, is a 19-year-old juggling 3-year-old twins with trying to get a childcare qualification. It’s a never-ending grind, and she finds herself falling asleep in class due to sheer exhaustion. Talamika has been there for three years, and has to pay off some debt she owes before being able to move out, so finds herself watching on as the young women she shares with are given housing. The documentary shows how difficult it is to survive – and hope for a better future – with so many cards stacked against you, but it also shows how necessary such hostels are in helping young homeless mums get on their feet and able to live an independent life, and will hopefully play a small part in busting the stigma surrounding hostel-dwellers.
An Antiques Roadshow for millennials, this programme targets a new generation of bargain hunters. Collectors and car boot sale aficionados show their best bargains to presenters Fiona and Youth, explaining how they came to own their prized possessions, with the option of putting them up for auction at the end. Pop culture memorabilia featured includes first edition Pokemon cards, film posters, an original White Album by The Beatles and a signed Harry Potter book. For the fashionistas, meanwhile, there’s vintage Moschino and a charity shop Vivienne Westwood bag, a pristine collection of limited edition trainers, and a very special dress bought at a market in rural France, which may or may not belong to Supremes legend Mary Wilson.
In among all this are tips for car boot sales, how to get handbags authenticated, and sustainable fashion advice. If you think you’ve got something tucked away at the back of your wardrobe which might be worth a few quid, or just want some tips on how to spot a bargain at a car boot sale, you could do worse than give the programme a go.
The pilot for this new dating show was aired during BBC3’s Housing Week, and was a bit of welcome light relief amidst a plethora of programmes highlighting the housing crisis. Thankfully, it’s lost none of its verve and energy now that it’s been extended to a full series box set. Hosted by Yung Filly, who brings an approachable manic energy to the proceedings, the concept could be described as Blind Date meets How Clean is Your House. Filly meets up with hopeful singles in different British cities and helps them whittle down potential suitors, basically by rifling through their rooms and judging them based on their clothes and belongings. The person doing the picking is then introduced to the friends of two of their would-be dates, before making their final decision.
As with the pilot, what’s really amazing is the state of some of the rooms, and the fact the people allowed a camera crew in without even tidying up. All sorts of things are uncovered during the course of the show, from dusty dildos to mouldy dishes. Filly has fun trying on wigs, getting lessons in kink, and having poppers explained to him, and the rapport he builds with the people taking part provides plenty of giggles. On the whole, this is great fun and the format is a lot fresher than most of the musty drawers that the contestants are invited to ransack.
Just over a year ago, the horrific content of a Facebook group chat between male students at Warwick University first came to light. The men involved talked about the women on the campus in dehumanising terms, sharing rape fantasies and sexually violent messages. It led to a public scandal, an investigation, the eventual suspension and expulsion of the participants, and widespread criticism of the way the university handled the case.
In this half-hour documentary, “Anna” (not her real name) discusses being the one to find and report the messages, and the effect it, and the subsequent inquiry, had on her life. Also interviewed is one of the other young women being discussed in the Facebook chat, as well as a student representative, the editor of the university’s student newspaper, and an expert on violence against women.
While the messages themselves are deeply shocking, the film also shows university investigation and appeals process let the victims down time and time again, leading to angry campus protests and tutors and departments having to put their weight against their own employer in support of the women. Since the Warwick story broke, similar cases have been reported on other UK campuses, and this documentary, you feel, is a small piece of a wider, ongoing problem, the extent of which is just beginning to come to light.
In Wales, we’re told at the start of this box set, only about 25% of the million under 30s living in Wales hold any kind of religious faith. This series promises to look at the variety of religions those young people follow.
Sadly, it’s all a bit of a mish-mash, jumping from one person to another with no underlying sense of continuity. We go from a Muslim woman skydiving to a Hare Krishna describing his daily routine, via spirituality and meditation, with alarming speed. Some interesting strands – for example, examining the rise of religious intolerance and hate crime – are included, but not lingered on. One interviewee explains she got into activism after Boris Johnson compared women wearing the niqab to “letterboxes”, and, as the programme makers are interviewing her, a passer-by sees fit to abuse her on the street. It’s a startling demonstration of exactly the kind of toxic behaviour she’s explaining, yet we’re quickly back at the Hare Krishna’s house, as his parents explain that he’s always been a slightly obsessive boy. Likewise, we’re given a quick explanation of the Shabbat by the Jewish contributor who goes on to speak about rising anti semitism in British society, yet jump from that to straight edge ‘raves’ and celibacy before marriage. A segment on a Muslim fashion designer seems to be taken from another show altogether.
It’s a pot-luck of a programme, giving small tasters of the different religions making up not just Wales but the whole of the UK, but ultimately it leaves the viewer feeling rather undernourished.
This rather confused (and confusing) programme follows five female grime artists who are making a podcast together, which you can listen to independently of the programme, on BBC Sounds. Pre Wavy, C Cane, Laughta, Cassie Rytz and Madders Tiff allow cameras to follow them as they meet friends for coffee, go shopping and hang out at the snooker hall, talking about their personal lives, their families, their music – but mainly about the upcoming podcast.
The young women all have their own problems, be they difficult break-ups or strained family relationships, but the kind of structured reality framework deployed here is one we’re all familiar with and savvy to by now, and none of it feels in any way spontaneous. The first episode is very much an introductory episode for the five participants – one in which they are filmed separately, talking about their impressions of the others – so perhaps things will loosen up when they finally all get together. But at the moment the programme resembles an extended promotional shoot for the radio show – which doesn’t, thus far, make for great TV.
This documentary tells the story of three British Army soldiers who took their lives last year following lengthy battles with PTSD. Through video diaries and voice notes made while they were alive, they speak to us directly of their struggles.
Kevin Williams lost one of his best friends while he was on tour in Iraq, and turned to recreational drug use on his return. John Paul Finnegan had lifelong hearing problems after a bomb burst his eardrums while deployed, and instead of returning to the battlefield, he was tasked with chauffeuring bereaved army families around, after their loved ones lost their lives. Kevin Holt – who had been interviewed by BBC Three back in 2012 to talk about his experiences in the army – spent 7 months in Afghanistan before an IED killed five of his troop, leaving him to pick up their body parts. He was redeployed and later consumed with guilt, after he gave a young girl a bottle of water and she was hanged because she accepted it.
As they came back, the tales are of broken marriages, fits of inexplicable violence, depression, paranoia, and the inability to talk about their feelings, having been so immersed in such a ‘macho’ environment. Holt’s sister talks about her brother’s confusion – when he was over there, he felt he was a better person, because he wanted peace, yet when he came back, he only wanted to fight. She speaks of her numbness following his suicide, due in no small part to the feeling she had lost her brother long before. (”My brother didn’t come back from Iraq. He went, but he didn’t come back,” she says.)
It’s a quietly devastating documentary that talks of the lasting impact of the battlefield, the invisible wounds you return with and the lack of support in dealing with the trauma.
In August 2010, Gemma Hayter’s body was found on a disused railway track in Rugby, Warwickshire. Gemma was a 27 year old with learning disabilities, and had been tortured over a period of time before being murdered. With crimes against disabled people rising, this documentary speaks to her family and friends, looking at her life and the events leading up to her death in an effort to understand how she could have been so let down by the authorities who should have been able to support and protect her.
Her mother, sister, niece, and friends are interviewed, and paint the picture of a generous, trusting person who was looking for friendship and acceptance. Given no diagnosis throughout her school years, she was signed out of the system at 24, and was then put into council housing, where she met the people who would take advantage of her, before eventually killing her. Without any supported living, Gemma fell into the company of those who would use her generous nature against her, storing drugs in her flat, which they passed off as surprise ‘presents’ for people, and accompanying her to pick up her benefits, which they would get her to spend on them.
The series of failures in Gemma’s care, even as her family were crying out for someone to help her, is highlighted. Although she wanted to be independent, Gemma herself knew that she needed support, and two years before she died, she wrote a letter to social services asking for help. Had these requests been heeded, say her family, her murder could have been avoided. It’s a horrifying story of a person let down by society, which led almost inevitably to her fate.
It should surprise no one who finds their own personal workout slightly boring that watching other people exercising is even more so. This box set follows three personal trainers as they get to know their clients and help them get fit, eat well, and basically have confidence in themselves. Which is all very nice. It just doesn’t make for particularly great TV.
The trainers – Esmee, Kelechi, and Jay – all have their own specific personal histories that led them to become trainers. Struggles with physical and mental health means they are adept at understanding and motivating the people who come to them for help. Their first client, Lyndon, has an artificial leg – just like Jay – and, although Lyndon lacks the confidence that Jay has, they clearly bond over their situation. Charlotte, meanwhile, has had breast cancer and wants to get in shape for an upcoming operation – Esmee can relate, because she became paralysed as a teenager after an allergic reaction to anaesthesia, which led her, eventually, to her career in helping others through physical fitness.
Other specific problems are addressed, including Eli, a trans man who wants help in making his physique more masculine, and Sarah, who has Tourettes and finds it embarrassing to work out in a shared gym, because of her tics. There are the more general issues too, such as Lauren, who has just broken up with her partner and wants to show them what they’re missing, and Matt, whose uni life means he’s drinking too much. Lee’s unhealthy lifestyle is a reaction to a bereavement, while Cassie has had three kids and feels her body is no longer her own.
If you’re looking for inspiration to get fit, it’s doubtless here in abundance, and the trainers tailor the workouts to deal with each situation. But as a TV show, it’s probably not going to set the airwaves on fire.
This is a strange little programme. Bex is a 31 year old cam girl and she’s interested in what people think about her. To find out, she’s invited three men she knows through work, but who don’t know each other, to sit around a table and talk about the industry. They’re unaware it’s Bex who has asked them to be there, and they don’t know each other’s connection to her. Matt is a subscriber to her site, Olly is a manager who has known her for years, and Joseph is a cam site owner. Bex sets them questions and watches on in secret as they discuss all things cam girl.
Bex is clearly hoping to catch them in the act of some sort of hypocrisy. As it happens, Matt is placid and open about why he uses such services – he’s not in a relationship at the moment, and he finds interacting with an actual human more satisfying than with anonymous porn. Olly describes himself as a feminist, has a girlfriend, and clearly respects women. Joseph is on another level altogether – introducing himself with “I love two things in life – women and money”, he’s a fan of Margaret Thatcher – though that seems to be where his admiration for women ends. “Every women has a cash point between their legs”, he says, though he wouldn’t want a “fatty”.
Thankfully, Olly puts him in his place on numerous occasions and Joseph just shows himself up. By the time Bex makes her appearance, to ‘surprise’ the men who have been discussing her choice of work, it’s all pretty much over, and she has nothing to add except to say that she considers herself a “fatty” and yet Joseph still hosts her on his site. It’s all completely pointless, seeming to promise confrontation yet ending more with a fizzle than a bang.
Before Tim Bergling’s terrible and untimely death in 2018, director Levan Tsikurishvili spent four years documenting the highs and lows of the superstar DJ otherwise known as Avicii. This documentary – completed before Bergling’s suicide – charts his career just as it was taking off into the stratosphere, and the mixed emotions his phenomenal success elicited.
It paints the picture of a hard-working, passionate and conscientious musician, who, by his very nature, was not cut out for the pressures of constant touring. Having lived a quiet life up until the age of 19, within the same 5 blocks of his Stockholm neighbourhood, he initially embraced the success he garnered. But while the first half of the documentary shows Bergling flying high, including interviews with DJs such as Tiësto and David Guetta, who sing his praises, and footage of him working with Niles Rogers and Coldplay’s Chris Martin, we all know how this ends. His ambitious and street-smart manager, Ash, who was with him from the start, says in his office: “Tim is going to die. With all the interviews, radio tours and everything, he’ll drop dead.” Everything starts to fall apart with his failing health and his hospitalisations. Footage from his bedside show doctors enthusiastically prescribing him Percocet and other addictive painkillers, despite his protests, and there is footage of him as he leaves the hospital, dosed up to the eyeballs while being spirited away to his upcoming shows. He talks about his constant physical pain, but also about his anxiety surrounding touring, and the way he combats that with drinking before he goes on stage.
The film closes hopefully, with Bergling quitting touring and quietly making music on a beach in Madagascar, having shed the unhealthy parts of his life. It’s certainly how we’d like the story to end.
This high concept, almost anti-dating show, posits the question of whether you’d leave your partner after spending ‘just one night’ with the person of your dreams, almost as though the Ashley Madison dating website has come to life. Bonnie and Stevie have been together for four years, having met on Tinder. Bonnie wants them to move in together, but Stevie’s not so sure.
Helpfully, BBC Three set them both up with their ultimate ‘type’ (for Stevie, this means a blonde with big boobs). Shannon and Moses are selected to go on a date with the couple – separately, though in the same restaurant, metres from each other – to see if they can’t tempt them away from their partner.
Shannon’s a veritable honey-trap, pretty much throwing herself at Stevie, while Moses is just the tonic Bonnie seems to need, trying to big her up and give her some helpful advice about her own worth and what kind of behaviour she should or shouldn’t settle for. It feels pretty touch and go for our intrepid couple, although we won’t spoil the ending. It’s a strange programme and one which you can’t imagine will be beating off applicants to appear on it.
Sketch shows are a kind of ever-constant on British TV, although we haven’t seen a really successful one for a few years now. It’s odd, because the format seems perfect for the Twitter age, where short skits form the kind of content made to go viral. Step in Famalam, which is back for a second four-part season, after rave reviews for its first.
Producer Akemnji Ndifornyen (previously of the Javone Prince Show) and director Tom Marshall, whose work includes Michaela Coel’s Chewing Gum, are wise enough not to change a winning formula, bringing back many of the characters viewers have already taken to their hearts. The African Aunties continue their wars, competing over whose grandson is doing best, while Detective Moses Mountree returns with a new partner, straight out of Miami Vice – though can the home counties cope with “two diversities in one village”? There’s some very touching feedback from rival graffiti gangs, a mother makes an appeal for her son, who has become a policeman (“I just want my little boy back”), and a new character, Peter, who makes his family’s life hell with his addiction to Instagram.
Unlike many sketch shows, this one critiques the modern black experience with a sharpness of humour – featuring a Hunger Games competition to win the part of ‘token black friend’, while in the Nollywood Love Island, all the men are fighting over the lone white girl. The opening sketch is a good insight into what to expect, as slaves organise an uprising, only to be questioned on their chants of “slaves lives matter” (“Don’t all lives matter?”). There’s a chaotic energy about the whole enterprise, but its silliness belies a pointedness that skews the stereotypes of its traditional format.
This box set of three short films looks at the work a South London church does to combat gang crime. SPAC Nation’s following includes people hoping to get out of gangs, and its weekly services involves a weapons amnesty at the door, with a high security presence enforcing it, searching bags for knives and separating rival gang members on the floor.
We’re introduced in the first episode to Pastor Tobi Adegboyega. Apparently, Tobi made millions in property deals and thinks the answer to street gangs is to turn members into entrepreneurs. To this end, SPAC Nation has funded various businesses within the congregation and hopes capitalism can end the violence on the streets, by jettisoning one kind of income for another. With a weekly congregation of 2,000, they receive over £800,000 in donations from church members each year, according to official figures, so they’re not short of a bob or two.
Some of the people the church has helped are interviewed, including Kevin, who they funded to the tune of £30,000 for his chauffeuring business and Junior, who has been living in a hostel since he got out of jail, has a long rap sheet, and sees no future for himself as no one will give him a job, making him consider getting back into the gang life – a cycle that is repeated throughout the documentary.
What the people here have in common is their realisation that they’re on a hiding to nothing with their current lifestyles, and the need to change before they wind up dead or in prison. SPAC Nation offers them an alternative, should they be willing to grasp it. Having said that, the documentary never really gets past the bravado of any of the people taking part – those in the gangs or in the church. No really difficult questions are asked, not least of SPAC Nation itself. It’s a superficial documentary, which may whet your interest in the church, but you’ll have to do your own independent research to answer any lingering doubts.
Everyone’s favourite Small Heath posse is back for a second season – just as news has been announced that a third has been commissioned. The welcome return picks up from where it left off, as reformed gangster Mobeen (played by co-creator and writer Guz Khan) tries to balance his role as guardian of little sister Aks (Duaa Karim) with the everyday trials of his own life and that of his two friends, Eight (Tez Ilyas) and Nate (Tolu Ogunmefun), all struggling to navigate a world full of British Muslim stereotypes.
Opening with trip to get his beard trimmed, which leads to police involvement as barbershop rivalries spill out onto the street, it’s a high energy, genuinely witty programme that is unafraid of looking at big issues through a satirical – and extremely funny – lens. Its subject matter, on paper, is extremely dark – buying a prom dress for Aks results in a discussion about child labour, young men produce large knives at the school prom, there are jokes about the taliban and even some sideswipes about what white people will think about Asian men hanging around with schoolgirls. Episode 2 takes place in an A+E ward and provokes discussion about NHS funding, immigration and Brexit. Put like that, it all sounds rather worthy, but it’s a genuinely joyful experience, done with a lightness of touch that belies the ‘controversial’ topics. Some of the rough edges of the first season have been smoothed out – the writing has settled into its own pace and the characters bounce off each other effortlessly. But, most importantly, it’s properly, laugh out loud, funny. A genuine delight of a programme.
Fans of the bite-sized portions of ‘Eating with my Ex’ – which racked up almost 20 million views when screened last year in short episodes – will be delighted it has now been made into a more fulfilling half hour course. It’s an irresistible concept – more ‘Last Dates’ than First Dates – which sees two people who have broken up get together to discuss why their relationship went wrong, and to (possibly) give it another shot.
In the first episode, three couples are brought kicking and screaming back to each other. Steph and Scearcia had an intense – perhaps too intense – six-month affair, and Steph is reluctant to let go. Jodie and Jason were together for 18 months, and broke up after tensions arose surrounding her perceived poshness and his rapping alter-ego. Niall and Chloe were childhood sweethearts whose relationship ended for good, after Chloe slept with one of Niall’s friends.
The fact that, clearly, each couple doesn’t know why their ex is there (to apologise, to have an argument, to woo them back?) lends real tension to the proceedings. After a first few awkward moments of small-talk, they get stuck into the big questions, which each has an opportunity to set to the other. The extended format gives us a little more time with each couple as they talk through their feelings about their upcoming dates with friends and family. But the nitty-gritty is the same, and it’s a tense ride for both the participants and the viewer.
This short series of three 20-minute documentaries follows three young men in Nottinghamshire, who have been released from prison but ordered to wear ankle tags. The tags help police maintain curfews, ensuring people are effectively under house arrest overnight, until they either come back to court to face trial or their period of punishment is over.
Sam was approved for early release halfway through his sentence and is now staying with his mum and his sister in a place he’s never lived before. Trying to stay off drink and drugs – and thereby stay out of trouble – he finds the boredom and lack of a social life difficult. Reece and Christian, meanwhile, are staying at the same hostel – if Reece, a dad-to-be, gets kicked out, there are few options available to him other than going back to prison, yet he continues to flaunt the rules. Christian, who has already been in prison 17 times in his short life, is awaiting sentencing, having being accused of burglary. Popular at the hostel, he reignites a relationship with his ex-partner, but the stress of his upcoming judgement leads him to act out in other ways.
It’s a series that charts a small sliver of chaotic lives. The wider questions of what support repeat offenders are given as an alternative to incarceration is alluded to only at the very end, when there’s a nasty jolt, as we find out what has happened since filming ended.
This documentary looks at the relationship between a mother and daughter who are struggling to communicate effectively. 23-year-old Dammy suffers from anxiety, and her mum, keen to help and offer support, finds herself being shut out – while Dammy needs space, her mother wants more closeness. Because Dammy feels unable to express how she feels for fear of being babied and/or upsetting her mum, they seek help from a family therapist, Hannah Sherbersky. In doing so, they delve into the mother’s childhood and find the similarities – and differences – they have experienced go some way to explaining the impasse they’ve reached in their own relationship. It’s quite a basic premise, but ultimately, it’s reasonably heartwarming and affirmative. It’s helped by the fact that the mother is an extremely warm human being whose love for her daughter is clear from the outset, and just a few minor behavioural tweaks seem to improve their relationship immeasurably.
BBC Three seems obsessed with what’s on other peoples’ phones. First, the channel introduced ‘Family Phone Swap’ and ‘Co-Worker Phone Swap’, to test how much you know people around you by looking through their data, then ‘Couples Phone Swap’, which presumably saw the ending of a few relationships. Now, they’re giving us ‘First Dates Phone Swap’, where a couple of people get to meet three potential dates and have to choose which one they’ll go out with by looking through their phone.
Shaquille is the first to choose between three potential paramours. Talking each other through the content of their apps, his first date comes to a swift halt when she says she wants to be a Conservative MP. Another says she’s a vegan because she wants to be “ethnical”. It’s quite heartwarming that after having to sift through ‘shag lists’, Shaquille ends up bonding with his third date over their shared love of musical theatre. The second ‘eligible’ is Dani, who has to sit through quite a bit of negging, a ‘ratings system’, and a shopping list, before she finds her perfect phone match.
As a concept, it doesn’t quite reach the dizzying heights of BBC Three’s other recent dating show, where the woman looking for love was able to go to the houses of her suitors to rifle through their drawers and inspect their bedsheets before meeting them. And, at this stage, we’re just left to wonder how much more BBC content can be ripped from this already fairly tired concept.
Available on BBC Three’s YouTube channel.
The Naked Truth
Last year, BBC Three released a 10-minute documentary titled “The Naked Truth about Obesity”, in which five people were filmed talking about their relationship with their body, while naked. It was viewed a million times in its first week on Facebook, so the channel have commissioned this second season of four short films, based on the same format. In the first, a group of people who have lost weight talk about how they feel about their loose flesh, while naked. In the second, five men talk about male body image, while naked. In the third, titled ‘Bionic Men’, people talk about their prosthetic limbs, while naked. And finally, tattoo fans talk about their various tattoos, while naked. Towards the end of each programme, a couple of the people being interviewed get to have a conversation with each other, while naked.
You get used to the nakedness fairly quickly, and it’s the first episode that seems the most voyeuristic, as people hold up arms and cup their stomach to demonstrate which parts of their bodies they’re most unhappy with. But the issues discussed in the programmes feel like they’re not breaking any new ground, and have been gone over before – just not necessarily while naked.
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
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