Who Do You Think You Are? – Liz Bonnin

December 8, 2016 by  
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The science and wildlife present finds some unpleasant truths when she looks up her own family tree.

Liz Bonnin’s heritage is very varied, coming from France, Trinidad and India. On her mother’s side of the family, she learns that her great aunt Sybil help set up a Presbyterian church, and learns that her Indian ancestors had to convert to Christianity in order to provide a better life for their children. However, as they were a low-caste Indian family, immigrating to the West Indies provided them with opportunities provided them with more opportunities for a better life.

The most interest part of this episode however comes when looking at her father’s side of the family, coming from Martinique. When learning about her three times Great Grandfather, at one point she asks for filming to be stopped when she finds a list of names with prices next to them, revealing that her ancestors once owned slaves.

This is certainly a very emotional episode. Bonnin repeatedly breaks into tears through, not just when she learns of her ancestors activities concerning slavery. It is at times like this you remember the darker side of human nature. It is hard to compare it to the two other episodes that have gone out. It would wrong to say it was better or worse, it is just different to the others.

Who Do You Think You Are? is on BBC One on Thursdays at 20.00.

Who Do You Think You Are? – Amanda Holden

December 1, 2016 by  
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If last week’s episode featuring Danny Dyer was fun and royal frolics, this week’s edition of WDYTYA? starring Amanda Holden was a somewhat more sombre affair.

The Britain’s Got Talent judge started by looking into her mother’s side of the family which had French connections. This was due to her five-times great grandfather marrying a Frenchwoman after a series of troublesome events: running away from an apprenticeship, lying about his age in attempt to join the marines and ending up in jail for doing so, changing his name and joining the army at the height of the Peninsula War against Napoleon, and then fleeing from the army in order to be with a woman from Bordeaux that he fell for.

Later on, she looks into the life of her paternal grandfather who was a male nurse who committed suicide in his 70s. We learn that he served in the Royal Army Medical Core as a psychiatric nurse, and was a survivor of the Lancastria, a little-know event that is actually the most catastrophic maritime event in British history in terms of loss of life. The sinking of the Lancastria cost more in human lives than the Titanic and the Lusitania combined.

Holden’s history stands in stark contrast to Dyer’s. While Dyer’s history did deal with war, namely the Civil War, the more recent events of the Second World War still feel more disturbing because there are so many people around today who remember these events. Coupled into that the fact that the Lancastria was such a horrific event that hardly anyone knows about – partly due to the fact that Winston Churchill forbade any mention of it at the time – the overall feeling with this episode is that there is much that needs to be re-remembered and looked back upon.

There were still some light-hearted moments in the episode however, the main one being that Holden discovered that her French ancestors owned a vineyard, giving her the chance to drink the wine that is still being made there.

Who Do You Think You Are? is on BBC One at 20.00.

Who Do You Think You Are? – Danny Dyer

November 24, 2016 by  
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The latest series of the genealogy show sees the EastEnders star discovering that he surprisingly regal ancestry.

Danny Dyer’s episode begins with him saying that: “I’d like to freak some people out.” At first it might seem he will, with him being told that his 3xGreat grandparents ran the local workhouse. In fact it turns out that they were just regular inmates of the workhouse. What is more shocking is that his 2xGreat grandmother plead guilty to concealing the birth of her firstborn – something which seem to have later inspired her to be in charge of all the family births.

After seeking help from a genealogist – which one always feels is slightly cheating on WDYTYA? because you feel that point of the show should be the star themselves doing most of the research – Dyer learns that his 10xGreat grandfather fought for the Royalists during the English Civil War, and he discovers someone even more notable in his family. His 15xGreat grandfather is Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s right-hand man.

This was a fun start to the series. You got pretty much everything you want from WDYTYA? You had the classic tragedy, but not just in one form – there was the workhouse, the crime and the Civil War. However, you also have the revelations that Dyer’s background is actually royal. This also does mean that thanks to an earlier episode from a few years back, that Danny Dyer is a distant cousin to Alexander Armstrong.

The best line from the episode: Dyer driving into a distant cousin’s grand country retreat saying: “This geezer’s got a drawbridge – f***ing Hell!”

Who Do You Think You Are? is on BBC One on Thursdays at 20.00.

Dave Gorman: Modern Life is Goodish

November 8, 2016 by  
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Is modern life good? Sort of. Is it good to see Modern Life is Goodish back on the box? Definitely.

Back of its fourth series, Dave Gorman returns to examine life’s little oddities, of which there are many. The opening episode looks at how he is often mistaken for a geek, how to deal with people who suck any enjoyment out of something you might want to become a fan of, and the dangers of claiming that superheroes are some form of science fiction – even if Superman comes from another planet. Later episodes see Gorman dealing with the dangers of stock photo modelling and attempting to deal with an inaccuracy on his own Wikipedia page.

Gorman is brilliant thanks to his many years of experience. He has for a long time now been famous for his use of PowerPoint in his shows which give him a great template to build each episode around. He is able to hone his material just right and create new ideas that make you think as well as making you laugh.

Plus there is always the enjoyment of the “Found Poem”, which consists of comments on news websites about a trivial story. It is one of the best segments of the show, because you always want to see if Gorman is going to end up laughing at the nonsense he has just read.

Of course, if you don’t like the show, you can always do something else like this music quiz.

Dave Gorman: Modern Life is Goodish is on Dave at 22.00 on Tuesday nights.

Taskmaster: Series 3, Episode 5 – The F.I.P.

November 1, 2016 by  
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The winner of the third series of Taskmaster is revealed, Greg Davies’s gold head is presented to the champion and Alex Horne is paid £80 to move a bucket of water.

As the contestants fight out to win five framed photos of their handsome relatives, including Al Murray’s grandfather Sir Ralph (a former minister at the Foreign Office), Dave Gorman’s cousin Cary Grant, and Sara Pascoe’s cat, the first task proper witnessed everyone trying to move water from one bucket to another without touching the buckets, armed with among other things a colander, a woolly hat and a coconut. In this final episode it seems Davies is becoming stricter – he has to penalise Gorman for cheating, which has already done in this episode, and forces Horne to present the rest of the show with one bare foot after he breaks a promise about not touch the water himself.

Meanwhile Rob Beckett gets angry when he plays charades across a river while wearing sponge hands while Gorman just gets his clues shouted out by a passing Ben Fogle; Paul Chowdhry uses camera trickery to create some impressive football footage; and we have one of the best live task so far in the run of the programme: trying to put the lowest unique number of donuts on a stick.

The live task was the best challenge of this episode, because while most are against the clock and are competitive in terms of improvising a solution, the donut task was much more tactical.

It is hard to judge how good this series compared to its two predecessors. Series 2 and 3 are both better than the first in my few, but I think I preferred the second series primarily because although he was not great at scoring points, Joe Wilkinson has so far been the funniest contestant across the three series.

Two more series have already been commissioned. In terms of improvements, what would be nice would be more diverse contestants – and this is something they ARE doing. Details for series four have been revealed, and for the first time there is more than one woman competiting: Lolly Adefope and Mel Giedroyc will be on, as well as Hugh Dennis, Noel Fielding and Joe Lycett. Things are looking up.

Taskmaster is available to watch on UKTV Play.

Derren Brown Presents Twisted Tales

November 1, 2016 by  
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Little information has been released about the latest Derren Brown special, Twisted Tales. There has been not much in the way of advertising, and this 50-minute one-off episode was broadcast on Halloween evening, at the late time of 11pm. We follow three horror fans, as they are taken on an unexpected journey and faced with strange occurrences. Tricks and treats were indeed in store for these participants, as they were faced with real life horrors.

During his television career, the illusionist has presented us with a variety of situations involving members of the public. This has included influencing people to unwillingly commit armed robbery, making someone believe that they had landed a plane, hypnotising someone into murdering a celebrity, convincing a young man that he had survived a meteor hitting earth, and persuading several people to push a man to his death. We have also seen Brown play Russian Roulette live on television, and correctly predict the lottery.

If you are familiar with any previous Derren Brown work, what this one-off special has to offer is a little different. The show is not written by Brown, nor does he perform anything within it. Instead, he provides some background to the upcoming stories before they are revealed. Although his name is in the title, I wouldn’t class this as a Derren Brown special, but rather a show which he is lending his name to. But as with Derren Brown’s shows, the participants appear to end their experience being pleased to have taken part, despite what they’ve endured.

Brown has been off our television screens since his January 2016 special, Pushed to the Edge, and in that time he has certainly been busy. Brown has been performing his latest tour Miracle, released another book titled Happy, and created a ride for Thorpe Park amusements, aptly titled Derren Brown’s Ghost Train. Indeed, it appears that his career is branching out into a variety of mediums.

One reason for his deserved success over the years is the uniqueness in what he does; there is little opportunity to see any similar acts on television or on stage. We can only wonder what Derren Brown will offer us next, and I am certainly excited to find out!

Derren Brown Presents Twisted Tales, and a collection of other shows from Derren Brown, are available to watch now on All 4.

Red Dwarf XI: Episode 6 – Can of Worms

October 27, 2016 by  
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The final episode of the current series sees the return of one of Red Dwarf’s classic and scary creations.

Lister (Craig Charles) falls asleep at the wheel of Starbug when they enter an asteroid field, knocking the crew off-course. They then pick up a pair of life signs on board a ship and Lister decides to rescue them. In order to do so they can either go the long way around or cut through the asteroids, which Kryten (Robert Llewellyn) claims are inhabited by vampire GELFs. According to Rimmer (Chris Barrie) they only attack virgins – which results in one of the crew suddenly getting worried: The Cat (Danny John-Jules), who denies he is a virgin, even though he is the only Felis Sapiens known to be alive.

On board the ship, after tackling the first life sign on the ship which is a mercinoid guard, they find the second life sign – a female Cat (Dominique Moore). The crew release her and bring her back to Red Dwarf where the two felines have some fun. But then Kryten discovers someone terrifying. What they have brought on board is not another Felis Sapiens, but a shape-shifting emotion-sucking polymorph. To make matters worse, it is a female that is ready to deposit its eggs into a male host. By the time they rest of the crew learn about this, the Cat has already done their dirty deed and finds himself pregnant with eight polymorphs, all ready to come out of the nearest orifice.

The episode ends the series on a high. Firstly we again see the rise of Cat as a major character when he has previously often been on the side-lines. Secondly, we also get to relive the excitement on one of the most famous creatures in the series, but also done in a way that perhaps some people are not expecting. One scene for example sees Lister, Rimmer and Kryten watching a documentary about how the female polymorph deposits her eggs, which is clearly gross but you never see the footage, just the reaction of the characters.

We also get to some great gags. Probably the best is one in which Rimmer is telling the rest of the crew to get away from some threatening life signs. This is a joke I’ve seen repeated several times in the trailer for the series, but despite this it doesn’t feel old and still gets me laughing.

Most of the series has been good and certainly has been a lot better than certain other returning sitcoms I can think of.

Red Dwarf XI can be watched on UKTV Play. The series is released on DVD and Blu-Ray on 14th November. Series XII is due to be broadcast next year.

Taskmaster: Series 3, Episode 4 – A Very Nuanced Character

October 25, 2016 by  
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This time we delve into competitive clothes spreading, deceitful nodding and why Greg Davies and Alex Horne need to watch more foreign films.

With a selection of five shiny things to play for, including Al Murray’s broken torch, Rob Beckett’s almost complete football sticker album, and Sara Pascoe’s copy of “Shine” by Take That (which was not the best prize due to Take That’s tax arrangements), things kicked-off with a challenge to spread four items of clothes as far and wide as possible within 30 minutes. Things thus started badly for Paul Chowdhry who started by scattering his clothes around the Taskmaster garden, then tried to fly a remote control plane with one of his socks in it, which was clearly too heavy a load. Meanwhile Dave Gorman adopted the strategy of tearing up his own shirt so he had five “nodes” to play with.

Elsewhere the contenders had to figure out an octogenarian’s occupation by whispering yes or no question, to which the man in question could only nod, shake his head, or lie; perform a team task using a green screen to make special effects, resulting in some confusion when Chowdhry suggested taking inspiration from Big Momma’s House; Cowdhry trying to have as much fun on a bouncy castle for a whole hour (a task no-one else did), and then everyone trying to post sticky notes on themselves blindfolded.

Over the series it has been Chowdhry who has seemingly become the audience favourite. As with the last series with Joe Wilkinson, the crowd love the underdog. However, Chowdhry has already one episode, so perhaps there is hope. We also learned that if someone has a medical background, they are probably not Dr. Pepper or Dr. Dre.

Taskmaster is on Dave at 22.00 on Tuesday nights.

Red Dwarf XI: Episode 5 – Krysis

October 20, 2016 by  
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It is always tough when you go through a mid-life crisis, and even tougher when you are going through it while three million light years into deep space.

This is what has happened to Kryten (Robert Llewellyn), who has started forgetting to make breakfast for Lister (Craig Charles) and beginning to think that there is no point to life now that he has reached the half-way point of his lifespan. He’s lost his belief in Silicon Heaven. He’s even starting to lose his love of cleaning! Lister comes to realise that Kryten is having a mid-life crisis, but before he, Rimmer (Chris Barrie) and the Cat (Danny John-Jules) can stop him from doing something he will regret, Kryten paints his body Ferrari red and installed some subwoofers into his body.

Lister decides that the best way to get Kryten out of this state is to find a vessel that was link to his original, the Nova 5, find a service mechanoid on it, and show how much Kryten has evolved since he has broken free of his programming. They find the Nova 3 which has a mechanoid called Butler (Dominic Coleman), but when they meet him they discover that Butler has had a much better life than Kryten: he’s more talented, more intelligent and more artistic, thus making Kryten jealous. Is there any way at all that Lister can get Kryten out of his rut?

This is not the best episode of the series, mainly because it sacrifices too much of the comedy over more dramatic sequences, especially near the end. None of the gags really sustain themselves. While the new red body is good for starters, it begins to wear a bit thin later on. The same is true of Butler: it is funny at first to learn how better he is than Kryten, especially in a scene when both of them try to communicate with a GELF and Butler tries to improve Kryten’s pronunciation, but overall it all feels a bit forgettable.

Red Dwarf is on Dave at 21.00 on Thursday nights.

Taskmaster: Series 3, Episode 3 – Little Polythene Grief Cave

October 18, 2016 by  
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This week we witness one of most disgusting ways to win a challenge ever, a return of a classic task, and some balloon-on-bread action.

The prize task sees the contestants trying to impress Greg Davies and Alex Horne by bringing their best battery operated item. Luckily no-one went anything rude, but there was something rude in the first task proper: filling an eggcup with as much of their own sweat as possible. Rob Beckett was also cheekily given an extra task to do at the same time, which was to do the whole challenge while speaking in an accent that was not his own, which resulted in him speaking just about every known accent and some unknown, while eating peppers.

While Paul Chowdhry exercised, Dave Gorman built his own little Clingfilm greenhouse and Sara Pascoe purchased the sweat of the people filming her, Al Murray went to extreme lengths, claiming that sweat and urine were made of the same things, and thus filling the eggcup with that liquid instead. Fortunately he was disqualified, and quite right too.

Elsewhere, we witnessed Beckett making a human domino rally; the panel completing the now classic “buy a gift for the Taskmaster” challenge with Gorman paying tribute to Davies’s hometown of Wem, Shropshire; making meals in the shape of flags leading to the Pub Landlord making a beautiful British flag from rice; and the difficulties of using bread to hold down helium-filled balloons.

This is one of the best episodes so far, partly because of the range of skills displayed, but it is also one of the most disturbing, and not just because Murray thinks that sweat and urine are interchangeable. A flag might look pretty, but you don’t necessarily want to eat a meal based on one.

Taskmaster is on Dave at 22.00 on Tuesday nights.

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