Catch up TV review: Harry Hill’s Alien Fun Capsule, The Keith and Paddy Picture Show, Class of Mum and Dad, Gotham Season 4, Plebs
James R | On 15, Apr 2018
Harry Hill’s Alien Fun Capsule (ITV Hub)
Harry Hill has been given a secret mission by the government to save Earth from alien invasion. How? By finding things each week that is fun, or funny, enough to place in a capsule and convince our new extra-terrestrial overlords that we’re worth not wiping out. “Yes, I was as surprised as you when I heard it was coming back,” says Harry, as he kicks off a second season. He’s only half-joking: this is a strange TV show that takes the idea of a panel show and throws it out the window.
Think Shooting Stars meets Room 101 and you have the general idea, as Hill invites celebrity guests on to help him find trivial, silly things to chuckle at. Some of that involves footage of animals on skateboards and dogs driving mini-cars, which brings to mind You’ve Been Framed. But Hill is let off the leash here, and when he moves away from more obvious targets, he’s hilariously weird – one segment involving a green puppet is wonderfully barmy, while a skit featuring a tiny hand and some pickles will have you laughing out loud for several minutes.
Chucked into the capsule in this opening episode are Coronation Street’s Sally Dynevor, comedian Micky Flanagan, TV economist Robert Peston and 90 presenting legend Anneka Rice. While there’s a nod to the gender pay gap, Have I Got News for You this ain’t: this is topical in the way that giraffes and hovercrafts are topical. While a normal panel show would focus on the week’s events, Hill instead rakes through their careers for embarrassing clips and mercilessly mocks them in front of a live audience. Add in an inspired use of a lookalike and you have something that’s perhaps closest to Harry Hill’s own TV Burp – which is another way of saying there’s currently nothing else on TV like it.
The Keith and Paddy Picture Show: Season 2 (ITV Hub)
The idea of Keith Lemon and Paddy McGuinness remaking popular films in 30 minutes sent shivers down cinephile spines last year, and the resulting half-hour swedes didn’t do much to warm them up, failing to find many laughs, even with supposed bloopers included. Season 2, though, sees the duo hit the right note, with their lampooning of Grease pitching the brainless, low-budget silliness with just enough wit and a confident sense of timing. Keith’s terrible singing is the main running joke, and it’s one that delivers time and time again, as they try to find new ways around it – and Paddy mugs to the camera in pretend horror. Throw in a cameo from Keith’s elderly mum as Rizzo (because nobody else was available) and some genuinely witty physical comedy throughout Grease Lightning and you have an enjoyable daft string of sketches that manages to mock the duo making them as much as the cheesy piece of cinema they’re recreating. Whether this season can find the same magic without a musical is yet to be seen, but this is a confident, fun start for a surprising new season.
Plebs: Season 4 (ITV Hub)
Take Blackadder, add in a splash of Monty Python and a sprinkling of The Inbetweeners and you get Plebs, ITV’s comedy about a bunch of, well, plebs, in Ancient Rome. It’s a formula that has now given the channel four seasons and it’s easy to see why: it’s a sitcom that manages to blend the old and the new. The old come in the form of the kind of historical stereotypes you expect from Rome – loincloths, togas and old-fashioned toilets – which is juxtaposed in an obvious but likeable fashion with such themes as gentrification and social housing (we rejoin the show as Robert Lindsay’s property developer is upscaling the neighbourhood to make a new luxury, gated community). The new, though, actually comes in the form of the cast, namely Joel Fry’s Stylax, Ryan Sampson’s Grumio and Tom Rosenthal’s Marcus, the commoners who make up our lead trio. They’re familiar losers, but played with enthusiasm and smart enough comic timing to make the puerile humour land – Rosenthal, who shone in BBC Three’s Flat TV, is a particular delight. Add in support from Murder in Successville’s Tom Davis, and a past list of guest stars that is genuinely impressive, and you have a show that might not be groundbreaking, but remains amiably watchable.
Gotham: Season 4 (All 4)
Also in its fourth season is Gotham, FOX’s Batman prequel that takes us back to the early days of Commissioner Gordon, as he works the beat in Gotham City, trying to keep rising criminal masterminds at bay. Ever since its first season, the idea of trying to cram in as many cameos as possible from familiar comic book faces has derailed the drama from being a classic of the genre, while also leaving the show struggling to balance the need for new bad guys with the fact that Bruce is still a young boy in this timeline. Four seasons in, though, and that balance has been refined, with Ben McKenzie returning as the gruff, good-hearted Gordon, and the improved production design has enough of a gritty vibe that the world carries a gloomy intrigue. The villains may still be too many to count, but the cast are well aware, and they allow McKenzie to ground events as they ham it up – led by Robin Lord Taylor, who devours scenery as the fledgling Penguin, hoping to franchise crime throughout the city. Shots of Bruce standing on buildings in the classic Batpose, meanwhile, suggests that some proper vigilante action is finally on the cards. If you’re looking for a point at which to jump in, this isn’t a bad a place to start.
Class of Mum and Dad (All 4)
Exams are a growing blight of our modern education system, but while the kids are facing growing pressures, it only seems fair that adults should have a taste of what they face every year. Enter Channel 4, whose new series, Class of Mum and Dad, does exactly what it says on the tin, recruiting a dozen parents to form Class 6M, who are put through the paces of the year 6 curriculum their kids are also studying. Headmaster Mr Dryburgh informing the kids that this will happen prompts smiles from some pupils at Blackrod Primary and death stares from others, but there’s humour, endearing encouragement and even a burst of sports day fun to counter the maths test on offer. There’s not much in the way of scrutinising the kind of tests that now define our education system, or the parents’ perspective of how children are treated in today’s cash-strapped schools, but with several episodes to go, there’s still a chance for this to make the grade. For now, it fits comfortably into Channel 4’s growing library of warm, likeable school documentaries.