Catch up TV review: Adult Material, Married at First Sight, Alison Hammond: Back to School, Agatha Christie: 100 Years
James R | On 11, Oct 2020
Adult Material (All 4)
Hayley Squires is superb in Channel 4’s provocative new series, which delves into the world of the adult film industry. While its marketing material has been deliberately playful, the end result is a serious exploration of the consequences of being involved in the industry – from actress Jolene (Squires), who is concerned with questions of consent and human rights but also pushes back against the judgement of others, to her daughter, who finds her experience of secondary school tainted by the associations of her mum. In a transactional society where there aren’t easy answers to problems and questions that influence more people than might realise, this is a thoughtful and unflinching drama that pierces through stereotypes and perceptions to find the humanity, and the human cost, behind work that often gets swept under the carpet.
Married at First Sight (All 4)
Channel 4’s dating series has always been one of the more bizarre reality TV offerings, pairing two strangers with each other who agree to marry before they’ve even met. To even find people willing to take that risk is a feat in itself, but this fifth season arrives amid the coronavirus pandemic, throwing the whole endeavour into even more mind-boggling territory. Experts Paul C Brunson and Gen Gresset are the ones pairing together primary school teacher Michelle and IT sales guy Owen, and their nervous enthusiasm can’t quite alleviate concerns of seeing them meet in the aisle, while hugging strangers with abandon. Fast forward to later in the series, and the question of how these couples will fare under the more extreme circumstances of lockdown makes this a surprisingly timely and fascinating exploration of a dilemma that, regardless of when they met, has been facing all couples this year.
Alison Hammond: Back to School (ITV Hub)
For Black History Month, broadcasters and streaming services are doing an excellent job of shining a spotlight on Black experiences to encourage empathy and understanding in a year when it’s needed more than ever. At the heart of that divide is, to some degree, pure and simple education, so it’s hats off to ITV for addressing that problem directly, by getting Alison Hammond to travel across the country to talk to school pupils. She’s not teaching, but learning herself at the same time, and it’s a stark reminder of just how limited our school curriculum is, with its focus on Romans, Tudors, Victorians and WWI and WWII, with barely a mention of Black figures who were part of each era. Introducing viewers to Tudor trumpeter John Blank, who demanded better pay from Henry VIII, to Crimean War nurse Mary Seacole, who has long been in the shadow of Florence Nightingale, the result is an accessible and informative programme that doesn’t talk down but does talk up overlooked and important stories with an enthusiasm and charisma that is frankly irresistible. Since her debut in Big Brother almost a decade ago, watching Hammond thrive on screen as a loveable presenter and genuine persona is a treat in itself. Gather the family around and open your ears.
Agatha Christie: 100 Years of Poirot & Miss Marple (My5)
This year marks 100 years since the publication of Agatha Christie’s first novel, which is the perfect excuse for TV pile-on to celebrate the author’s legacy. Channel 5 gamely steps up the mark to produce the kind of documentary the channel can do with its eyes closed, and the result is just what Christie fans would want – a welcome tour down memory lane, from Miss Marple’s history to the character arc of Hercule Poirot through his many appearances. But it’s the calibre of contributors that really works, with Amanda Abbington and Anthony Horowitz paying tribute, along with Hugh Fraser, aka. Captain Hastings himself, who brings some welcome insight into David Suchet’s iconic portrayal of Christie’s diminutive Belgian detective. There’s not much weight here, and perhaps not many surprises, but there’s trivia and anecdotes galore, which is just enough to remind you why you still want to go back and re-read – or rewatch – your favourite Christie stories.