Catch up TV reviews: Eden, Friday Night Dinner, Taskmaster
Ivan Radford | On 24, Jul 2016
Eden (All 4)
What if we could all start again? That’s the starting point for Channel 4’s Eden, which sees a group of 23 men and women cast away to a remote patch of the Scottish Highlands to live for a year. A bit like Castaway on the BBC in 2000.
It claims to be an experiment, but make no mistake: this is a reality TV show, pure and simple. But while viewers have long since grown tired of programmes such as Big Brother and I’m a Celebrity attempting to craft conflict between clashing personalities, Eden’s approach is surprisingly refreshing – there are no trials, challenges, winners or losers, just a bunch of people (with a range of skills to help form a society, from plumbing and cooking to carpentry and farming) attempting to get along.
The result is devoid of the (artificial) tension that reality TV has become associated with, which may alienate fans of the genre, but Eden is far more genuine because of it. Participants are given their own cameras to record selfie-like segments, while a rig of fixed lenses try to snap everything without missing the important bits. And, sure enough, people fall out, make up, and, in the case of one petulant team member, flounce off to build their own settlement in the woods because they’re sick of people being childish. But it doesn’t come across as artificial as when so-called celebrities pull such tricks in ITV’s not-very-isolated jungle, partly because we know they won’t be able to put on a front for 365 days – there’s no reward for them doing so.
What if we could start again? Anyone who has read The Beach will know the answer to the show’s initial question: we’ll end up with a world a lot like our real one, thanks to good old human nature. Watching this week in, week out may not prove entirely gripping (or groundbreaking) TV, but it’s undeniably intriguing to see what their community will be like in three months’ time. The real question, though, is what on earth these people’s reactions will be, when they come out at the end of it and see what we’ve done to the UK while they were away. Now that’s a TV show we want to see. Keep tuning in for 12 more months to get it.
Friday Night Dinner (All 4)
Now beginning its fourth season, you’d expect Friday Night Dinner to be firing on cylinders. That’s not quite the case with the Season 4 opener, which once again joins the Goodman family for their end-of-the-week din-dins. The problem? Dad Martin (Paul Ritter) has accidentally invited someone from school that he hated – and so wife Jackie (Tamsin Grieg) and sons Adam (Simon Bird) and Jonny (Tom Rosenthal) have to tolerate their evening being intruded upon by a strange fellow who closes his eyes when he talks.
The familiar descent into farce proceeds at a predictable pace, with the outbursts of silliness (particularly Martin, who is prone to over-the-top shouting) veering from mildly diverting to unfortunately forced. But the casting of Jason Watkins as their unwanted guest is perfect and his wonderfully weird opening and closing of his eyes never fails to raise a smile, while Mark Heap’s signature eccentric presence is on fine form as bizarre neighbour Jim.
Taskmaster: Season 2 (UKTV Play)
Dave’s comedy series, based on an Edinburgh Fringe game show, returned for a second season this July. Following a first season that never quite found its funny bone, the programme has switched up its contestants: gone are comedians such as Josh Widdicombe and Frank Skinner and in their place are Doc Brown, Richard Osman, Jon Richardson, Katherine Ryan and Joe Wilkinson.
The change of personas, and the increasingly diverse and absurd nature of the tasks (the finale includes having to making a stop-motion film using a potato), takes the show away from the cliquey feel of the first season, allowing you to enjoy to the sheer silliness on display. Ryan, in particular, is amusing, while Greg Davies and co-presenter Alex Horne have gotten even better at playing the abrupt, nasty judges. Fun, light-hearted entertainment for warm summer nights.