Catch Up TV review: Cleaning Up, Flirty Dancing, Hunted S4, Charmed Reboot
James R | On 13, Jan 2019
Cleaning Up (ITV Hub)
We’ve all heard the news stories. Cleaner works in a Canary Wharf office, overhears some dramatic company news, trades stocks on the off-chance that they’ll get away with some insider dealing profits with plausible deniability. That’s the stuff that Cleaning Up, ITV’s new drama, is made of, and frankly, it sounds so obvious that you wonder why all cleaners don’t do this every day. But fictional it is, and that’s all the excuse the series needs to stack up our heroine, Sam, with every Sympathetic Protagonist cliche in the book. Kids, check. Dire financial circumstances, check. Gambling habit, check. Ballsy desperation and a willing friend, check. Sequence involving her putting up a bunk bed, so she can squeeze a lodger into her house for more money, check. You need someone like Sheridan Smith to sell all of those contrivances at once – fortunately, that’s exactly who Cleaning Up have got for their leading lady, and Smith knocks it out of the park, bringing enough working-class gumption to her put-upon mother to keep us not only rooting for her, but cheering her on to get away with what is, let’s not forget, a serious financial crime. Neil Maskell as a debt collector is wonderfully convincing, although perhaps a bit wasted, which suggests that there are more complex subplots to come – until then, this promising opener will have you biting your nails, as Smith’s Sam tries to sneak a microphone into an air vent above a trader’s desk. If you want something moderately daft but competently pulled off to fill your weeknights, this is worth a gamble.
Flirty Dancing (All 4)
Dancing. Dating. Both are TV gold right now, so putting them together seems like, well, a smart bit of matchmaking. And so Channel 4 have struck upon the ideal combination: a date in which two strangers meet through a dance routine that they’ve learned separately, care of choreographer Ashley Banjo. He’s enjoyably charming and enthusiastic, and entirely sincere when he talks of the added spark co-ordinated physical interaction (to music) can bring – and that earnest quality is enough to push aside the knowing opening credits (complete with a token reference to La La Land) and sweep you right off your heartstrings, as we see two couples (Hannah and James, Luke and Dan) embrace their inner Fred and Ginger to see if it’s love at first dance. By the time one of them has improvised a kiss on their partner’s hand halfway through a routine, the smiles on their faces (part nerves, part excitement) is genuinely infectious. Chuck in that frankly inspired pun as the programme’s title and you’ve got yourself a winner.
Hunted (All 4)
Hunted, a programme that sends members of the public on the run to be tracked down by a team of police-like pursuers, should, by any measure of logic, be a load of codswallop. That’s the view any sane person would have, if they’ve never watched the thing. But tune in just for five minutes and you’ll discover for yourself the ridiculous joy of this brilliantly ridiculous programme, which combines slick editing, fast pacing and overly tense music to make for a surprisingly gripping 60-minute ride. Four seasons in and that grip hasn’t eased up, which is testament to both how well constructed the format is, and how fun it is to watch members of the public be really, really bad at impersonating James Bond. This new season kicks off with a hugely entertaining array of contestants, from ex-con Nick and Paul, who pause to tell the camera how they’ve been through it all in a dog-eat-dog world, to Loren, who finds herself wearing brightly coloured clothing, trying to pick up her belongings in the middle of the road. There’s no guilt here – just pleasure.
Charmed (All 4)
The idea of rebooting Charmed only a handful of years after it ended was swiftly greeted as sacrilege by the long-running show’s legions of fans. Now, it finally arrives on our screens, courtesy of E4, and the result is well-meaning, nicely performed, and certainly ambitious. Gone are Prue, Piper, Phoebe and Paige, and in there place Macy, Mel and Maggie, who find themselves coming together unexpected after their mother dies – unlike the original series, Macy arrives on the scene after their bereavement, as the trio discover that they have a surprise sibling(s) at the same time as they realise that they are witches. It’s a nice way to refresh the format, which also introduces a rule that all three of them must unite in their acceptance of their gifts, or the whole thing will be wiped from their memories. That focus on unity, solidarity and support very much sets the tone for the reboot, which is determined to be as woke, progressive and diverse as possible. That means we get forward-thinking sorority parties, protests against college professors who have been accused of harassment and a younger age point for the three sisters to open up more relevant issues to The CW’s target teen audience. But if that sounds like a lot to cram into one episode, you’re right, and while Charmed’s opening hour nails the enjoyment of getting to grips with telekinesis, time-control and mind-reading, it also rushes their voyage of discovery somewhat, so we don’t get as much time as we’d like to get to know these new main characters. A lot of this is all achieved through the introduction of guardian angel Harry Greenwood, who is presumably a relation of Austin Powers’ Basil Exposition, as he apparates in to dump a lot of plot details, then vanishes, only to appear when conveniently needed. He’s played with a knowing sense of humour and sinister British accent, fitting in with our lead trio’s rapid-fire dialogue, but by the time the end credits roll, it all feels a little messy. Charmed’s heart is in the right place, but it needs to stop trying so hard to win everyone over straight away.