Catch up TV reviews: What British Muslims Really Think, River Monsters, Scott & Bailey, Tower Block
James R | On 17, Apr 2016
What British Muslims Really Think (All 4)
If the title for this one-off Channel 4 documentary makes you think of clickbait headlines from The Daily Mail, there’s a reason for that: this is more a sensationalist piece of tabloid journalism than a serious documentary. Its intent? To tell you what British Muslims really think – you know, in those Muslim heads of theirs that are so different to all those other British people who aren’t Muslims.
To find out, the show examines the results of “an extensive and rigorous survey”, crunching the numbers to find the most headline-grabbing statistics possible. ‘4 per cent of Muslims sympathise with terrorists!’ is the kind of thing you can expect to hear from presenter Trevor Phillips – despite the fact that 4 per cent isn’t that many people and the survey was only based on 1,081 participants anyway. It would be irresponsible to extrapolate to make rampant generalisations about Britain’s Muslim population – and so the programme goes on to do that anyway, all in the name of “a better understanding” of attitudes and culture.
Those broad strokes continue for the whole hour, each time painting things a darker shade of red to alarm viewers. Phillips compares the 4 per cent who do sympathise with violent acts or threats as part of a process in getting views heard with the 96 per cent of people who don’t, to see if there are any similarities whatsoever. It turns out that both groups have feet and hands and often wear clothes. They also eat food with their mouths and blink occasionally, so they’re obviously all the same.
It’s not just Muslims that the show tars with the same brush – Phillips stands outside a church in North London and tells us that Bible doesn’t tell Christians what to do every single moment of every day, not bothering to mention the various denominations within the UK that may well follow scripture differently. Even the Muslims whose views are supposedly being revealed don’t get a chance to speak properly: our results are voiced by people in reconstructions of survey responses, rather than, say, through interviews with actual members of the population. (A more revealing format would be a series of episodes interviewing Muslims in different areas and communities around the country, to take into account such things as generational divides and personal beliefs.)
“We have to discourage the many Muslims who want to live lives with values at odds to those of non-Muslim Britain,” says Phillips, while simultaneously arguing that nobody likes the idea of assimilation. “The whole of Britain may have to set aside the live-and-let-live philosophy that’s paved the way for separation,” he continues, as his rhetoric becomes more confused. But it’s ok, because there are statistics to quote and statistics never lie, do they? Evangelising the need for a multi-cultural Britain and greater understanding between social groups, this dangerous programme’s irresponsible generalisations only risks encouraging the “us and them” attitude that exists in some corners of society. At least, that’s why I think. And have feet, hands and blink occasionally, so that must be the opinion of everyone, right?
River Monsters (ITV Hub)
When a programme begins with the immortal words “I’m Jeremy Wade, fresh water detective”, you know you’re in for a good time. Read our full review.
Photo: Icon Films
Scott & Bailey (ITV Hub)
Hot on the heels of the BBC’s excellent Doctor Foster, Suranne Jones returns to ITV for a three-part instalment of Scott & Bailey.
ITV’s crime drama sees Jones’ Scott return to Manchester following a stint in Vice, reuniting with Lesley Sharp’s Janet to solve a crime that involves the Dark Web, death and other modern, sinister things. The plot itself isn’t as contemporary as it would like, although the decision to span a whole tale over three episodes rather than standalone cases gives it the potential to take promising, unexpected directions. The secret to the show’s appeal, though, is the relationship between the eponymous duo. Sharp and Jones click together like old friends, particularly old friends who have failed to keep in touch for a while – the tension between Jones and another officer, who has seemingly stepped into her shoes, is nicely judged by writer Lee Warburton, even if all of the personal conversations between Scott & Bailey seem to take place in the toilets.
Tower Block (My 5)
Tower Block is a genre thriller in the classic mode of John Carpenter’s early work; a somewhat socially conscious and claustrophobic effort, it offers a lean runtime and some short, sharp shocks, although unlike the great man’s work, it doesn’t leave much in its trail of vapours once it ends. Words: Ian Loring