Catch up TV review: 9/11: Life Under Attack, Grenfell: The Untold Story, Black to Front, Saturday Night Line Up
Ivan Radford | On 12, Sep 2021
9/11: Life Under Attack (ITV Hub)
This past month has been full of documentaries looking back at 9/11, attempting to find new lenses through which to reflect on, remember and commemorate the tragic attacks. This ITV documentary finds perhaps the most immediate lens possible: the cameras and smartphones of people who were in New York on that day. With no interviews or narration, the result is a vivid and immersive account of the day as it unfolded, with people’s shock audible as they pointed their phones in the direction of the Twin Towers. From first responders and private phone calls to public broadcasts, it’s a mosaic of chaos, fear and confusion, and the bravery and resilience of those trying to find order and help each others shines through.
Grenfell: The Untold Story (All 4)
“If only we had been respected.” Those are the words that stick with you after this sobering, moving documentary, which takes us back to the tragic disaster of Grenfell Tower. Not to the devastating fire itself, but to the years leading up to the blaze, as artist Constantine Gras embarked on a project to film inside the tower and capture its community on camera. What emerges is a shocking and anger-inducing chronicle of how the residents raises safety concerns repeatedly, as refurbishment works were carried out on the building – and included the cladding and materials that were horrifyingly flammable. The residents’ frustration to be heard, the harrowing footage of the tower’s interiors after the fire, the rage at the authorities who allowed this all to happen, it’s an overwhelming piece of filmmaking – but it’s the small snapshots of innocent, day-to-day life that really prove heart-wrenching, as we see a young boy join in Gras’ project of drawing a large mural on the side of one of the tower’s walls. He’s now longer with us.
Black to Front (All 4)
(Big Age, Highlife, Unapologetic, The Big Breakfast)
Channel 4’s Black to Front initiative is an interesting proposition: a day of shows with Black talent up front on screen and also given roles behind the camera. While it could be a performative gesture, it’s a genuinely exciting first step in a long journey towards actual change across the industry – and that’s backed up here by a string of new commissions alongside existing shows. Highlife, a new reality TV series, already has a series on the way, and follows the lives and loves of a group of young British West Africans. There’s the expected part-scripted-part-documentary choreography at play, but it’s a wonderfully fresh addition to the overly familiar genre, taking us away from privileged white people who don’t have jobs to an ensemble of young people who are all working to succeed and all have their own ideas of what success is and how to get it. Bolu Babalola’s pilot, Big Age, is a gloriously loud and proud comedy about a couple of young Black-British friends. We join Sade and Dela (Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo, Racheal Ofori) as they celebrate the former’s 25th birthday, and the ensuing mix of quarter-life crisis, self-confidence, insecurity and professional determination is a delightfully messy and realistic celebration of friendship, from speaking the truth about possible romantic interests to reminding your best friend that they deserve to treat themselves. Demand a full series immediately.
Rounding off the impressive list is the boldly frank Unapologetic, a late night talk show that actually lets people talk – a debating programme that confronts big questions such as racism in football and the controversy surrounding taking the knee. But it also allows for nuance and subtlety in the ensuing conversation, with hosts Yinka Bokinni and Zeze Millz skilfully managing to stoke heated, constructive arguments while also ensuring everyone gets a chance to speak. In an age of social media abuse and antagonism, it’s a talk show that treats its guests and audience with intelligence – in short, the kind of TV that modern media could with more of.
And, while the new shows are promising, perhaps the biggest success of the day is The Big Breakfast, a revamped version of the classic show that’s hosted by Mo Gilligan and AJ Odudu. They are bursting with energy and easygoing chemistry, while surrounding themselves with a quality team that includes the one and only Phil Gayle and the charismatic chef Big Zuu. Seeing them all knock about the familiar house with a blend of smooth choreography and hilarious chaos is just the thing your morning’s been missing.
Saturday Night Line Up (ITV Hub)
When is a game show not a game show? When it’s this bizarre concoction from ITV’s shiny floor department, which sees a group of celebrities attempting to work out what the public think of them. That, sadly, doesn’t take the form of reading out tweets or confronting members of the public face to face, but instead opts for something more old-fashioned: they all have to line up in the studio in ranking order based on a range of categories, from the best dressed to the worst to be married to. It’s a flimsy format that has no stakes or tension, while also not providing much in the way of structure or focus for what is essentially a string of anecdotes. The result has promise, but it’s dependant on the guests in question. This first episode has Jack Dee, Joanna Page, Rob Rinder and Mica Paris, and they gel together entertainingly enough – but really the best thing about this new show is that it’s an excuse to have Paul O’Grady back on our screens, and his quick-witted responses rank above everything else here.