Catch up TV review: Genderquake, Bake Off: The Professionals, Riot Girls
Ivan Radford | On 13, May 2018
Genderquake (All 4)
Awareness of gender issues has taken seismic leaps forward in recent years, as outdated binary definitions of sex and heteronormative presumptions have been challenged by the fluid, complex and inclusive possibilities of identity in the modern world, from transgender men and woman to those who identity as non-binary. Language is a crucial part of that change, and tied to that is the portrayal of people in the media. Channel 4, then, deserves huge credit for not only wading into the discussion of gender issues, but also turning it into a piece of event television, under the title “Genderquake”. The centrepiece of that is a two-part reality show that puts 11 strangers of different gender identities and sexualities in a house and watches them try to live together. The resulting clash is interesting, challenging, entertaining and painful to watch, as we see people with old-fashioned views confronted with the nuanced realities of other people’s choices, while some choose to wear their gender on their sleeve and others are more secretive about their pasts. With bi, cis, trans and non-binary people all given equal presence on screen, the result is somewhat inspiring, as the two hours mostly avoid Big Brother-style drama and blowouts (there are some angry arguments, but they’re not sensationalised) and instead highlight the importance of people listening to each other and being willing to broaden their worldview.
What a shame, then, that the broadcaster undoes so much of that good with the following programme, “Genderquake: The Debate”, an in-studio session designed to mull over and pick apart the issues once and for all. Caitlyn Jenner, Munroe Bergdorf and more all bring interesting views, alongside columnist Sarah Ditum’s observation about the number of youngsters who go through with a gender transition, which sparks a thought-provoking discussion of at what age people are trusted to know who they are and how they identify. Chair Cathy Newman, though, has perhaps been briefed to spark some fireworks, giving far too much of a free rein to the audience around the participants, which leaves the participants heckled and abused by people in the crowd – an attempt at neutral broadcasting that instead ends up disrespectful towards its guests. Some members of the public, it seems, still aren’t willing to listen.
Bake Off: The Professionals (All 4)
Sometimes, you have to eat bran flakes to realise how much you like Pop Tarts. So it is with Bake Off: The Professionals, Channel 4’s side disk to The Great British Bake Off. Formerly known as Bake Off: Creme de la Creme, the series is designed to be different from the flagship kitchen contest, swapping amateurs for teams of professional chefs doing battle in a kitchen, rather than a tent. Here, a bunch of pastry chefs team up to make the best miniature versions of classics, such as frangipanis and Black Forest gateau. In theory, it’s an approach that should generate some added tension – Masterchef: The Professionals, for example, works better than its normal incarnation, due to the higher stakes – but Bake Off’s pro version ends up slightly too far from the relatable homegrown amateur skills of the normal programme. The presence of former GBBO quarter-finalist Liam (from 2017) is clearly designed to counter that, and he’s a warm, amusing presence, while comedian Tom Allen is just the right balance of British refinery and sarcasm. But without the madcappery of Sandi Tolksvig and Noel Fielding, and with judges that will leave you pining for Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith, there’s just not the same spark. The creations are impressively stunning, but the recipe’s missing the magic ingredient.
Riot Girls (All 4)
Even in 2018, comedy is a male-heavy world, so it’s a pleasure to see a new series commissioned from an all-female ensemble – even more so because it’s a sketch show, which is even rare in today’s TV landscape. Riot Girls doesn’t hold back in seizing the opportunity of these 30 minutes, as Sophie Duker, Jen Wakefield, Cam Spence and Grace Campbell use hidden camera pranks to sink their teeth into a range of topical issues. There are some that are a little heavy-handed, or perhaps a tad blunt – one sees them weeing in the streets because that’s what blokes do when they can’t find toilets – but others that are inspiredly spot-on, from selling male hygiene products in shopping centres with graphic descriptions to womanspreading either side of unsuspecting men on the Tube. Sketch comedy is always hit and miss, so to say a one-off special isn’t consistent is far from a fatal criticism. It doesn’t rank alongside BBC Three’s excellent Famalam, but with a scarce supply of sketch shows, particularly female-led sketch shows, on our screens, here’s hoping this quartet gets a chance to try fleshing out their premise further.