Catch Up TV review: The Inbetweeners Fwends Reunited, New Year’s Bake Off, Breaking Dad, The Secret World of Emily Bronte
Ivan Radford | On 06, Jan 2019Reading time: 5 mins
The Inbetweeners: Fwends Reunited (All 4)
The Inbetweeners, whether you’re a fan or not, is an undoubted comedy institution. After all, there aren’t many shows that can hold a 10-year anniversary special – let alone one that involves words like “clunge”. Channel 4’s reunion for the school-based sitcom, though, emerged as less of a celebration of a landmark UK series and more of, well, an awkward school reunion. Simon Bird, Joe Thomas, Blake Harrison and James Buckley were all present and correct, but so, too, was Jimmy Carr, who proved the unlikely and seemingly uncomfortable host of the party – which was essentially a talk show. Carr repeatedly dropped immature and inappropriate jokes in between segments that felt a little out of place when not coming from the characters’ teenaged mouths, while the quartet themselves oddly didn’t get all that much to do, as they sat on chairs to answer a few questions – and then oversaw a parade of ‘awards’ (e.g. Best Parent) that mostly came across as an excuse to fill time. Away from the tiny studio audience, it was a video bit of the friends going on a drive in the familiar yellow Fiat that gave us a taste of what the reunion could have been. Even with the occasionally interesting bit of trivia – Matt Smith apparently auditioned for the show – this special is a strangely missed opportunity.
The Great New Year’s Bake Off (All 4)
After the Christmas special, The Great British Bake Off once again delivers a treat with the second of its festive one-offs. This time, it’s New Year-themed, which means stollen wreaths and some resolution-based 3D cakes. Taking on the challenges are a bunch of former stars, and it’s another well-chosen blend of old and recent contestants – there’s the nervous Dr. Tamal, the precise Steven, the confident (and heavily lipsticked) Candice and imaginative Kate. Kate and Steven’s banter as they admire and envy each other’s work in progress (“Can’t you break something?”) brings a fresh sense of what it’s like in the tent – as that rivalry gives way to genuine concern when things go wrong. A task involving very unusual meringue eggs, meanwhile, is genuinely fascinating. With Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig on typically silly form (“You made a house my size!”), and Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith don’t hesitate to tease each baker with things that went wrong last time they were on the show. The result is precisely the kind of comfort eating that’s needed at this time of year: forget the January blues, put down those diet books, and enjoy a slice of cake.
Bradley Walsh and Son: Breaking Dad (ITV Hub)
Without anyone noticing, Bradley Walsh has become something of a national treasure, and after his charismatic work on The Chase and moving turn in Doctor Who, it’s hard to argue with it: the man is a walking ball of charm and genuine heart. So even the prospect of him taking on the tired format of celebrity-and-dad/child travelogue is one that comes with a cautious hope for something a little more entertaining than the norm.
The result is precisely the kind of staged silliness that we’ve come to expect from the age-old scenario, as Bradley and his son, Barney, go on a road trip across America in a camper van (hence the “Breaking Dad” pun). Barney promptly trended on Twitter, as viewers gawped at how hot he was, and it’s hard not to suspect that this was partly the aim of the programme.
But even with the vaguely contrived banter – Bradley, of course, is the lazy old man who doesn’t want to be taken out of his comfort zone – there’s a fun chance to see behind the Brad persona, whether it’s him being actually nervous on the roads driving an RV or jumping out of a plane. It’s the latter that really emerges as the decisive moment of the series, as he looks around mid-air once his parachute has popped – not to admire the view, but to check that his son made it safely, before quietly admiring him from afar. For that second, TV’s most genuine old-school entertainer gave us a little glimpse of the real Bradley.
The Secret World of Emily Brontë (All 4)
Christmas time is always well suited to period drama, so a documentary about Wuthering Heights provides a welcome counterpart, promising to give us a fresh look at Emily Bronte’s timeless novel. Lily Cole steps in front of the camera to present the film, and is undoubtedly engaged with the novel, highlighting in retrospect the book’s themes of violence and abuse, and considering parallels with women’s positions in modern society (especially given Bronte had to publish under the name Ellis Bell). But there winds up a little more Lily than Emily at times, as we’re reminded of how her appointment to the Bronte Society in the year of the author’s bicentenary was met with notable backlash from some members. It was an unfair criticism before Cole had even done work as a “creative partner” for the organisation, and this documentary serves as a deserved rebuttal to that snobbery – but also leaves you wishing for more screen-time for Cole to delve further into the actual text proper.