Worth Watching: “Richard E Grant: Write Around The World,” "Ghosts" and “Blind Ambition”
Plus Olympic highlights and Ofcom findings.
Welcome to Worth Watching. Hope you are doing well.
With the Olympics dominating so much of TV schedules at the moment, broadcasters haven’t bothered putting much else on. This changes soon though with the return of the much loved sitcom Ghosts, brought to you by the same team behind Horrible Histories. All episodes of the third series will be available on iPlayer on Monday. It continues to be an utter delight, the gag rate so impressively high. The first episode delves into the backstory of the headless Sir Humphrey Bone.
The third and final series of Pose also arrives as a boxset on BBC iPlayer this Sunday. Just around the corner too is Changing Rooms, back for its much anticipated revival on Channel 4 on August 18th (I hope some of the makeovers look like this). There’s also a reunion of the iconic satire The Day Today on BBC Radio 4 later this month, to celebrate the show’s 30th anniversary.
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Here are some shows worth your time in the next week…
A GREAT TRAVEL PROGRAMME
Richard E Grant: Write Around the World (BBC iPlayer) - This is an interesting way to do a celebrity travel documentary. This BBC Four show features the Withnail & I actor heading to destinations that have been the setting of some of our favourite books, in order to work out how the location inspired the authors. Also to witness first-hand the impact the book’s overwhelming popularity has had.
Whilst many of the places featured in the show are beautiful locations (expect a scene where Grant delightfully devours a pizza in an Italian restaurant), some places featured are not. In one scene he goes to the deprived Naples suburb Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend is assumed to be set, resulting in an illuminating deep dive into the city’s local spirit in the shadow of the local Gomorrah.
As always, Grant’s enthusiasm is infectious. I’m surprised this shows debuted on BBC Four. More people should watch it than the channel’s typical audience.
If you liked that watch… Richard E. Grant’s Hotel Secrets (Sky Atlantic) - Grant is also the host of this delightfully silly Sky show where he goes to extravagant hotel rooms all over the world, just to check out their ludicrous facilities. He is constantly told not to touch anything in each hotel room and not to jump on each bed. What does he do? He touches every everything and jumps onto each bed.
The show is complete nonsense and I love it.
AN OFF-BEAT, INSIGHTFUL DOCUMENTARY
Blind Ambition (BBC iPlayer) - The TV director Jamie O’Leary has spent his career making shows that make people look at disability in a different way. With O’Leary now at risk of losing his eyesight (his eyesight already so bad that when he visits an optician he can’t read any of the letters), we follow him as he speaks to others who have lost their sight about how they managed to cope.
The documentary style is one that you do not expect. It is laced with humour. O’Leary is joined by the blind observational comedian Jamie McDonald, with all of the people with sight loss they meet (a rapper, an opera singer, a photographer and so on) then dragged to participate in a series of unusual stunts. It sounds a bit jarring on paper but trust me, it isn’t. I enjoyed it a lot and I learnt a lot.
A SHARP SUMMER COMEDY
Buffering (ITV2 and the ITV Hub) - There are some funny lines and quips in this sitcom written by Love Island’s Iain Stirling and Steve Bugeja. Stirling is in the lead role, playing a children’s television presenter desperately trying to get a higher profile. It is clear that Stirling’s own experiences in kids TV has provided a lot of material for this series. All episodes are available on the ITV Hub.
A GREAT TEEN SERIES
Young Royals (Netflix) - Speaking of youth television, I do want to give a shout out to this excellent Swedish drama out on Netflix. It follows a young Prince who feels trapped within his Royal Family, whilst falling in love with another pupil. Like other young adult series out in recent years (such as Elite and Skam) the issues that are then explored are authentic, heartfelt, mature and honest.
Yesterday (Thursday 5th) Ofcom released their big report looking at how our media habits have changed over the last year. There are some interesting findings when it comes to TV and streaming. Here’s some of their findings:
Currently people in the UK have a Netflix subscription than a subscription to Sky / Virgin etc combined.
Streaming services have continued to grow, with 31 million of us now having a subscription to at least one.
Broadcast television viewing has continued to decline (especially with young people), despite some huge linear television ratings. These include Euro 2020 matches, Line of Duty, various coronavirus news briefings, the Meghan and Harry interview by Oprah and The Masked Singer.
So whilst streaming is now the standard for a lot of our viewing, traditional television is still the place for thrillers with cliffhangers, event television and national moments.
Netflix famously don’t reveal their viewing figures (unless it suits them) but Ofcom printed a list of what they think their most popular shows have been over the last year. At the top? Bridgerton. A lot of what makes the top ten are crime related murder shows (Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer etc).
We all spent a third of our waking hours watching television and video content during lockdown. My reaction: only a third?
Here’s some other TV news…
ITV has confirmed that I’m A Celebrity will be coming from Wales again in light of continuing restrictions. The castle worked well for them last year, not just in terms of how much money they probably saved but also the ratings held up well, with more than 10 million last year.
Two new streaming services (yes, there are more) Paramount+ and Peacock are going to be available free for Sky customers when they launch later this year. Paramount+ will feature CBS shows (I assume it’ll be the home of the Frasier revival), whilst Peacock will feature a lot of NBC comedies. With rights for NBC shows wrapped up Peacock it makes you wonder what the future of NOW (TV) will be in the long-term.
Also, in case you are wondering why the BBC Olympic coverage likes to restart every few hours with a new title sequence, I got back an answer:
Scott Bryan @scottygbCan anyone explain why the BBC Olympics coverage show suddenly ends when they swap presenter, then they play the opening titles of the Olympics and it starts all over again? Why don't they just hand over to the next presenter and carry on?
Speaking of the Olympics, here is what to look out for this weekend:
SATURDAY 7TH AUGUST
Diving: Men’s 10 Metre Platform Final (aka. Tom Daley, 7am)
Athletics: Women’s and Men’s 4x400 Metre Relay (1.30pm)
Athletics: Men’s Modern Pentathlon (11.30am)
Football: Men’s Final (1pm)
SUNDAY 8TH AUGUST
Athletics: Men’s Marathon (finishes in the early hours)
Track Cycling: Women’s Omnium and Sprint, Men’s Keirin (early hours)
Closing Ceremony (from 12 noon on BBC One)
Where to find me this week:
I wrote for The Guardian about same-sex couples on Strictly and why they still matter, in light of the news that Bake Off star John Whaite will be part of the show’s first all-male pairing: “The inclusion of same-sex couples on Strictly also skewers the homophobic trope that same-sex relationships are somehow inappropriate for families.”
On Must Watch this week we spoke to Iain Stirling and Steve Bugeja, the writers behind Buffering on ITV2. You can subscribe to the show on BBC Sounds.
I think it is fair to say that in the last week we have all been slightly infatuated with Tom Daley’s knitting and crocheting at the Olympic Games. His hobby was even picked by the Olympic cameras.
Yesterday, what he had been working on. It is an Olympic Team GB cardigan. He is also raising money for the Brain Tumour Charity, which you can donate to here.
That’s all for the TV newsletter this week. If you are interested in receiving it weekly, just click the subscribe button below.
Scotty / @scottygb