Tag Archives: Channel 4

Channel 4 …Is “Hostages” the new “Homeland”?

18 Jan

“Homeland” was a ratings winner can “Hostages” replace it?

Channel 4 got a ratings winner with the first season of Homeland, the second and third seasons also did relatively well and the lesson for the schedulers at Channel 4 was that a strong US drama has the potential to be winner in the prime time 9 pm weekend slot.

Step forward Hostages, the new Saturday night US drama on Channel 4. The series debuted last Saturday starring Toni Collette as Surgeon Dr Ellen Saunders, who was to undertake a surgery on the President of the United States. In a bit of politicking the President had decided to have his surgery done in a normal public hospital where Dr Saunders worked, rather than using the ultra secure facilities available to the most powerful man in the world.

We are also introduced to FBI Agent Duncan Carlisle (“Dylan McDermott“). Now his role is pivotal to Hostages and he is initially shown to us as all action good guy, foiling a bank robbery. Soon after the drama turns dark as Dr Ellen Saunders suffers a home invasion and as her family are held hostage, she is told she needs to kill the President by botching the Surgery scheduled for the next day otherwise her family will be killed. The leader of the home invaders being none other than FBI Agent Duncan Carlisle.

Has he gone renegade? Why doesn’t Dr Saunders contact the Secret Service? How will the plot keep us engaged for all full series? We shall no doubt find out.

Channel 4…Benefits Street. Was the law being broken?

8 Jan

Benefits Street… Benefit Voyeurism gone wrong.

When I watch programmes like Benefit Street I feel it is has a clear demographic in mind. The demographic is one of people who are convinced that being on benefits is simply a pathway to criminality, dysfunctional behaviour and a disdain for all civilised social norms.

The Channel 4 documentary which visited James Turner Street, Winlsow Green, Birmingham would have done little if anything to dispel that impression, and plenty to re-enforce it.

So rampant were the suggestions of criminal activity being undertaken, that you would be forgiven for thinking this was just one long re-enactment on CrimeWatch. From  scenes which depicted what seemed like the illegal cultivation of marijuana, through to scenes purporting to show the proceeds of shop lifting, the breaching of  Anti Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) and obtaining money under false pretences, the show wallowed in the criminal aura given off by people it followed in the documentary.

Setting aside the wider question of why the programme failed to show a balanced view of what living on benefits might be like, a more immediate question that came to mind was if the actions they were filming were actual criminal activities, or evidence that criminal activities had taken place, aren’t the producers or film crew legally bound to inform the police as to what they had witnessed and filmed, and did they?

 

 

 

 

Channel 4 …Is Street Magic losing its Mystique?

2 Jan

Magic was once a staple of British TV and  in the seventies and eighties no Saturday night light entertainment schedule was complete without the likes of the late Tommy Cooper, Paul Daniels, Matthew Corbett and other TV magicians. By the nineties as popular taste changed, and the musical hall culture that had driven had driven some much of entertainment in the previous decades waned, so did our taste for these magic shows.

Watching a performer going through his repertoire on a distant stage while we are stuck firmly at a safe distance away in the audience responding to cues from the floor manager was losing its charm. As far as magic acts went we wanted something more immediate, more compelling, more “real”, and with Street Magic we got it.

Street magic as the name implies literally took it performance onto the street. Magicians wondered the streets of New York,  London or any other big city, accosting small groups of people with a selection of magic tricks and it is this close interaction that has given street magic its cachet.

It is not so much the magic that entrances us because we have probably seen similar tricks over the years, it is the reaction of the audience, amazed at what they are seeing at close quarters, the initial confusion as they try to work out what just happened and then the explosion of disbelief as it registers that something “magic” has just happened.

 

 

David Blaine may not have been the first street magician out there, but he is arguably the best known and on New Year’s Day he was back on Channel 4 with a new show “David Blaine: Real or Magic”. Not content with wow-ing mere mortals, he stepped up his game by taking his street magic to a celebrity audience including the likes of Harrison Ford, Will Smith, Kanye West, Kathy Perry and former US President George W. Bush, who got his watch stolen as well.

All well and good and probably a sop to the celebrity obsessed times we live in, but celebrities so use to creating controlled personas for public consumption simply do not give that raw visceral reaction that makes street magic what it is.

If this is the direction street magic takes it will lose the very thing that made it great, being from the street.

Channel 4…The Eloquence Of Chris Hadfield on Sunday Bunch

15 Dec

Although the TV channels never come out and say so, chat shows are almost primarily there to help promote new movies, albums or TV Shows. So you regularly get your famous Hollywood Movie stars coming into London to spend a few days warming the sofas across various studios, and being asked the same questions by the likes Graham Norton, Alan Carr, Jonathan Ross and all the other chat shows on TV and radio.

Some handle it quite professionally and you forget they are simply trying to sell you something, others don’t try that hard and can come across as a bit phlegmatic, like some of the infamous Bruce Willis interviews.

 

 

So it is really refreshing when you have someone on the sofa who is super-enthusiastic about what they do, and you would struggle to find someone more enthusiastic, more charismatic or more engaging than Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield.

You may remember him from this video, singing the David Bowie hit Space Oddity aboard the International Space Station.

 

 

If that video was not enough to convince you that this was a man who is really passionate in a fun way about what he does, then his appearance on Channel 4′s Sunday Brunch programme this morning served to further confirm this.

He had the hosts Tim Lovejoy and Simon Rimmer, and fellow guests Little Mix, Dan Snow and Kim Wilde entranced as he explained the wonders of weightlessness in space, how you have to relearn to lift your tongue when speaking after you come back to Earth from space, and how re-entry and landing aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft was like being in a car accident.

If you missed it it is worth catching up on 4oD just for the Chris Hadfield segment.

Channel4…Introducing the couples watching TV on GoggleBox

10 Nov

I have written a bit about the cult hit that is GoggleBox, and as it rolls through its second season its success doesn’t show any sign of diminishing.  Not only is is show itself proving popular, but the veneer of fame is also spreading to the families who feature on the show.

In a recent article in the London Metro we were taken behind the scenes to meet three of the couples Steph and Dom, Chris and Stephen and Jeff and Tracey.

Steph and Dom


The posh couple who’s night of TV watching is rarely complete with out a tipple from their seemingly endless bar of plenty. Watching them in various states of inebriation only adds to the surrealness of their comments on some of the TV we watch them watching. In the Metro article Steph admits her fondness for Bloody Marys and her dislike for posh faux-reality show Made in Chelsea.

 

Jeff and Tracey are from the other end of the spectrum, permanently ensconced in bed while watching TV, the couple have been unflattering compared to Harry Enfield’s character’s Wayne and Waynetta (from the Harry Enfield and Chums series).  In their defence they claim they have been relegated to the bedroom because their kids have taken control of the TV downstairs. They couple don’t seem to have a problem with the Channel 4 sharing their bedroom TV habits with the rest of the world,  and that’s exactly what we get.

 Stephen and Chris

Friends Stephen and Chris reveal they’re are not under pressure from the programme producers to watch any particular programme, if they find it boring they simply turn it off. Their fame has spread to the outside world, Stephen admits they do get recognised and asked for pictures, but he is still waiting for any real perks from being a minor celebrity.

Channel 4…Is Homeland Season 3 finally taking off

3 Nov

Homeland Season 3 has struggled. The main bogey-man from the first two seasons, Abu Nazir, is gone and Brody is faraway in Caracas, Venezuela. It has been left to Carrie and Saul to provide the suspense and drama that season 3 desperately needs.

Carrie it seemed was being hung out dry by the CIA over her relationship with Brody. Saul had apparently washed his hands of her, and was determined to have her permanently detained in a mental institution as her trademark erratic behaviour appeared to worsen.

Just when we start to think where was this all going, the story took a dramatic turn. Carrie, it became clear had all along been undercover with Saul’s approval. The plan to make her made a pariah was an elaborate hoax to get people representing Iranian interests to contact her on the basis that she was now vulnerable and isolated, and she had information they needed.

It worked, contact was made. It seemed however it may have worked a bit too well as the Iranians seem somewhat eager to speak to Carrie. So much so in last night’s episode they kidnapped her at night from the flat. Once more Carrie is “out in the wild” and in real danger.

Saul meanwhile was fighting his own battles, battles of a more political nature. After the Langley bombing in Season 2 he had ended being the most likely man to head the CIA going forward, but was outmaneuvered as the President handed the position to a man who sees less of a benefit in human intelligence and more reliance on technology, a view Saul thinks is madness. The appointment clearly put Saul’s career in jeopardy.

Now that we are done with the seemingly pointless distraction of Dana Brody running away with her boyfriend, all the main pieces of season 3 are falling into place. The Iranians are in town and mean business, Carrie is out in the wild with only her skill to rely on, Saul is one again at odds with the powers that be but still needs to protect his people. Folks, Homeland Season 3 has finally got its groove back.

Homeland Season 3 – Teaser Release…

29 Jul

Homeland is back in September and I believe Channel 4 will be showing season 3.

For all Homeland fans out there here is a teaser released for the next season. Very cryptics so make of it what you will.

Channel 4…The Returned

9 Jun

Just a quick note to say this is brilliant. Yes it is in French and yes it has subtitles but if you can get past that then you are in for a superb Sunday night thriller.

Snyopsis of episode 1 From Channel 4

In a small mountain community, two local people – Camille, a teenager, and Simon – who both died years earlier, suddenly re-appear at their homes. They have not aged, and they are completely unaware of their own deaths.

Camille and Simon assume they can rejoin the world of the living as though nothing has happened, but their return throws their friends and family into a state of turmoil.

Camille’s sister Léna has continued to grow up without her sibling beside her, and Simon’s wife Adèle is just about to get remarried, to Thomas. Meanwhile, lonely nurse Julie receives a visit from a very strange little boy.

Seven years ago, the town was struck by a series of bloody murders. Now it seems the killings have started up again.

Great episode one, there was one flaw though. A pensioner made an out of hours call to his GP and got a home visit by that night by the GP…now that is just unrealistic….

Channel 4 …Terror in the Skies

9 Jun

Boeing 747-400 takes off from London Heathrow ...

It is safe to say if you are of a nervous disposition, have even the mildest fear of flying or just general more comfortable with your two feet on the ground this new series on Channel 4 is DEFINITELY NOT for you.

Over the years there have been many documentaries on aircraft safety and crashes, but what was really chilling about this series is with the advent of mobile phones and other hand held devices we are now getting footage from inside the plane.  As we found out with the movie the Blair Witch Project there is nothing that freaks you out more than shaky and very grainy footage of impeding doom.

The point the documentary stressed was that flying is very safe and a lot of effort has gone into making it as safe as possible, but there remain rare events or combination of rare events that are almost impossible to predict and when these  occur they can put the plane in a very precarious situation, what some might call the “Unknown Unknowns” – what you don’t know that you don’t know!

Brendan Walker, an aeronautical engineer, took us through us a number of cases including the sticky ice that almost brought a British Airways flight from Beijing to Heathrow almost crashing in to Hounslow a suburb just outside the airport.

A scary but very informative series, if you have the stomach for it one I would recommend.

Murder Workers …Channel 4

16 May

The only thing in common with all these stories on this thoughtful documentary was that they had lost a loved one in a murder. The hurt, the questions, the grief and the emptiness are all unique to each family. A burden each parent, sibling, child and relative had to deal with in their own way

I lost my dad when I was a teenager in a not unsimilar circumstance and I remember the immediate aftermath, dreams that he had travelled and come back and all was well but waking up every morning to the same gut wrenching void, so I have a lot of empathy for the families shown.

The loss you feel can be almost overwhelming, but real life does not stop out of sympathy and neither do the sad but inevitable consequences of the loss, like funerals or trials go away. In to this emotional whirlpool step in the workers of Victim’s Support National Homicide Team.

The gentle way they talked the little girl through the family album and watched her as she blots out the face of her ‘dad’ who had murdered her mother. The biker who had lost his son, said he was coping but when he talked about the son it was obvious he was welling up inside. The family watching the moment their dying son is dragged out of a club by the bouncers accused of killing him. The family who’s son is murdered and find the law sadly doesn’t alway dispense justice. The son who watched as his dad stabbed his mother to death and finds his dad is still his legal guardian.

In the face of this overwhelming grief the ‘Murder Workers’ offered a shoulder to cry on, an ear to share your grief and guiding hand to help you pull through

From the Channel 4 Website

The Murder Workers is a powerful and insightful Cutting Edge documentary exploring a side of murder that most people know very little about. It follows members of Victim Support’s National Homicide team as they work closely with families who have been bereaved by murder or manslaughter.

The Murder Workers offer practical and emotional support for families at different stages of bereavement from the initial shock right up until the steps needed to start re-building their lives again. The families are often thrown into a world of police investigations forced to navigate the deeply confusing world of the criminal system and it is the Murder Worker’s responsibility to guide them through this difficult time.

When others don’t know what to say or how they can help, it’s Murder Workers Dave, Alli and Carol who step in to help with funeral arrangements, apply for compensation, seek specialist help, close down bank accounts, cancel booked holidays or be there when their homes are turned into crime scenes; but most importantly, they are a shoulder to cry on. They are there to fight the family’s corner and whether its humour or a hug that’s required, they know the right thing to say – they have an extraordinary capacity to go into the unknown and alleviate some of the stress put on the families.

The Murder Workers also goes into the lives and homes of those recently bereaved to learn about the impact of homicide. Marie is an extraordinary woman with an inner fight and superior strength preparing to come face-to-face with the men accused of killing her son Lee. Elsewhere, Jackie who was getting ready for her retirement now has her hands and house full of young children. Her three grandchildren, aged five, eight and thirteen years old moved in with her after their father killed their mother, who was Jackie’s daughter. She is now battling to become the children’s legal guardian.

The Victim Support Website : www.victimsupport.org