Catch up TV review: Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, High & Dry, Friday Night Dinner
James R | On 06, May 2018
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? (ITV Hub)
Who wants to be a millionaire? It’s a question that hasn’t been asked by our TV screens in years, which means that – yes – it’s high time for the TV Gods to whip a reboot. As with all the best revivals (hello to The Crystal Maze and Robot Wars), ITV has largely left the rules unaltered, tweaking only two things: the option for contestants to set their own safety net, as they try to answer 15 questions and climb the ladder to the big 1M, and the opportunity not just to ask the audience and phone a friend, but also ask the host. That’s where the big change comes in, as former compere Chris Tarrant is replaced by Jeremy Clarkson. It’s a successful move that pays off handsomely. If Tarrant’s austere, straight-faced style was the epitome of professionalism, Clarkson’s opinionated curmudgeon had something even better: personality.
In his first return to the terrestrial airwaves since Top Gear’s SteakGate, Clarkson cuts a restrained figure (he didn’t punch any producers) but not a reticent one, and he’s all the better for it, playing the role of disgruntled quizmaster like Jeremy Paxman’s grouchy cousin. He berates contestants for not knowing answers (“Now, it’s hopefully time for someone with some actual general knowledge”), but that lack of facade means that when he tries to encourage them or compliments them, it comes across as genuine – just the right balance of charming and rude. When one player phones a friend and they don’t answer on the first try, Clarkson asks where they were, only to cut them off mid-sentence. “We don’t care,” he declares bluntly, and gets back down to quizzing business. The series is on every night this week to mark the show’s anniversary, but expect a proper renewal order soon: with Clarkson in the chair (and just £10,000 paid out across the opening episode), this vehicle has still got lots of fuel in the engine.
High & Dry (All 4)
If you’ve seen Nativity!, Mark Wootton needs no introduction: he’s the man who gave us the supremely annoying and endearingly dim Mr. Poppy, a truly terrible teaching assistant. Now, he’s heading to Channel 4 will his own comedy (commissioned after a Comedy Blap, one of Channel 4’s online shorts), and he plays the annoying Brett Sullivan, a flight attendant who’s dim, and a little less endearing with it. Brett decides to take charge, when his flight crash lands in a tropical paradise, leaving a group of passengers stranded on a remote island – and things only get worse from there.
Narcissistic, petty and incredibly loud, it’s a fantastic performance from Wootton, who commits whole-heartedly to the role of the world’s worst human being. He’s balanced out by Harry Peacock as Douglas, the conservative family man whom Brett wants to be BFFs with, Vicki Pepperdine’s straight-talking Harriet, who sees through Brett’s attempts at authority, Grace Rex’s quirky Susan and People Just Do Nothing MVP Asim Chaudry as Arnab, who’s convinced that zombies are somehow involved, but this is Wootton’s show and his overpowering presence is both irritating and testament to how larger-than-life his comedy creation is – for this to stick the landing, and survive a voyage with an uneven number of laughs, it needs exactly that kind of character in the cockpit. This opening episode certainly takes off with a brash, often entertaining, confidence.
Friday Night Dinner (All 4)
The only thing harder than launching a brand new comedy is keeping an old one going years later, and Friday Night Dinner is managing better than most, as we rejoin the Goodman family in their constantly-thwarted attempts to have a Friday evening meal together. Robert Popper’s writing knows his characters inside and out, with Simon Bird and Tom Rosenthal tuned into a believable weariness with each other and their parents – who now have an embarrassing hot tub in the garden. Jokes about their nickname for sex are a little tired, but Tamsin Greig and Paul Ritter have lost none of their chemistry. The real star, though, is Mark Heap, who is given centre stage for this Season 5 opener, which sees his eccentric neighbour dump his furniture-devouring dog upon the Goodmans, so he can go on a date – only for them to end up at the family’s house too. By the time he’s inhaling pepper to stop a coughing fit, you’ll be struggling to breathe yourself.