Tuesday 20 February 2018

DVD reviews

Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

The Big Reunion

Sunday, ITV, 9pm

The Soup

E! Network, times vary

The Challenger

Monday, BBC2, 9pm

There was a time when we'd shove our kids up the nearest chimney or have them scamper through the lethal cotton mills that threatened to crush them at any moment.

We don't force them engage in such foul and terrible jobs any more.We put them in boy and girl bands instead – and the damage is just as horrific. Proof, if it were needed, comes in grim detail in ITV's unintentionally fascinating The Big Reunion.

Long, and justifiably, forgotten pop acts from the early Noughties such as B*Witched, Liberty X, Blue, Atomic Kitten and 5ive have reformed and the viewer is treated to the sight of them desperately trying to regain their mojo before their first major gig in years.

As car crash telly goes, there is something strangely poignant about the whole thing.

In fact, like former pupils at a school reunion, all the old alliances, insecurities and bitchiness between the former band mates soon took centre stage – as did the occasional glimpses of existential despair. It was a desperately sad glimpse into the broken lives of people who were told they were finished and worthless by the time they were 25. As they approached the big night, they all desperately tried to convince themselves that anyone actually cared.

And you know what? Against my better judgement, I kinda did.

Q Boasting that because of his Norwegian/ Irish genes he is "officially the palest man in Hollywood", The Soup's presenter Joel McHale is also one of the sharpest.

The process is simple – McHale (below) is a snarky wise-ass with a love of trashy TV that makes him hate himself.

We're given a half hour (well, half an hour by American Network Standard Time, anyway) of McHale standing in front of a large telly and simply ripping on everyone from Lindsay Lohan to reality shows to bonkers rednecks to insane American politicians, with plenty of clips of the industrial scale madness that passes for much of American TV.

McHale doesn't indulge in the occasionally lazy cynicism that has crept into Charlie Brooker and his thematically similar Screenwipe (bloke with no friends gives out about what he has to watch on the box), but there are are some satisfyingly bitchy lines.

The fact that most of the programmes he reserves his deepest contempt for also happen to appear on his own network must have led to some rather awkward conversations with some of his stablemates . . .

He is due back on our screens in a few weeks with his sit-com Community, where he plays a disgraced lawyer forced to teach at a local community college.

It's warm, funny and slyly subversive – and a hell of a lot better than the infuriatingly overrated Parks and Recreation.

Q Looking and sounding suspiciously like the great Sam Waterston, William Hurt was strangely mannered but still at his customary best in Monday night's docudrama.

Hurt played physicist Richard Feynman in this true story.

It's 1986 and Feynman is co opted onto a presidential commission to examine the causes of the Challenger shuttle disaster – was a shuttle that should never have flown allowed to take off for political reasons?

By the end, we saw the exposure of a gross example of cynicism and corruption that led to the deaths of those on board.

Something struck me while watching the drama unfold and it took me a while to cop on. And then it hit me – what was supposed to be a devastating expose of corruption and venality and hubris just seemed so old and familiar that the revelations failed to land a dramatic punch.

But I think that says more about the viewer, jaded with tribunals and routine corruption in Ireland, than the producers.


Irish Independent

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