Tuesday 23 July 2019

Television: Hook, Hopkins... and a week of 'wind-up' TV

Ire: Katie Hopkins has been given her own TV show over on TLC
Ire: Katie Hopkins has been given her own TV show over on TLC

Tanya Sweeney

Katie Hopkins has found herself a home in the televisual outpost of TLC, but never let it be said that being higher up on the UPC/Sky TV guide doesn't mean people won't be talking about you. Katie Hopkins Ruled the World (TLC) found everyone's least favourite motor-mouth get off to a rather flying start, what with chatter of (oooh!) vaginal steaming and (eeek!) 'fat tax'.

Joined by the equally (cough) polarising Daily Mail journalist Liz Jones and Gemma Collins of The Only Way is Essex, Hopkins is in rare form ("I would never lower myself to propose to a man"), yet the malignant bite that she has shown on her Twitter feed is curiously missing in action.

Perhaps the show will unfurl and Katie can show her truly irate side: perhaps her hateful persona really is just all for show. Either way, the hate-watching shall likely continue apace.

Over on Irish screens, The Late Review (TV3) has found its sea legs in its second week. If salience is the holy grail, presenter Colette Fitzpatrick and her irascible guest George Hook sit upon a televisual sweet spot. "There's a difference now between speaking your mind and being controversial and saying things for the sake of winding people up, and you like it," offered Fitzpatrick at one point in their segment.

Whether by accident or design, Fitzpatrick touched on a raw nerve, leading Hook to respond: "If you think you can call me a fake and a liar, I'll do what the president of SIPTU did on Vincent Browne which is to whip off the microphone and walk out of this studio."

The walkout moment remained at large, but to her credit, Fitzpatrick has proved herself not just a presenter able to wrangle the grizzlies, but an amiable one to boot. More of the same, please.

Elsewhere, Channel 4 continue to infiltrate workplaces the length and breadth of the British isles. First it was A&E rooms, next it was police stations and this week, we also find ourselves in the office of the oldest profession in the world: Ye Olde Massage Parlour.

Sex work may be the oldest gig going, but the brothel is still cloaked in mystery, darkness and question marks. Little is known, not least to the gogglebox viewing public, of the whys and wherefores of prostitution. A Very British Brothel (Channel 4) went some way towards humanising both its workers and its regulars.

The redoubtable northerner Kath opened her city massage parlour in Sheffield while caring for her ailing, elderly father. Her daughter Jenni sometimes mans the lines, while staff members like Foxy and Anna sit around waiting for clients to show up.

And the customer base ran a refreshingly wide gamut, from the 70-something pensioner (later seen staggering down the stairs after a session) to Sean, the regular who likes to pop in for a cup of tea and a biccie. Arguably, the stars of the programme were the workers: cheerful mums and wives who treat sex work as any other job. When it comes to hearing the actual voices of the women in the sex trade over the humdrum of ongoing debates, A Very British Brothel affords women a much-needed mouthpiece.

Those hoping for a prime slice of shady voyeurism were left wanting. Cameras stayed firmly outside the door. Instead, this was all good, clean wholesome fun: consenting adults buying and selling a service, with a hefty dollop of cheek.

That's not to say that the programme wasn't without its truly jaw-dropping moments. At one point, Kath is cleaning out her Jacuzzi, supremely irritated. It looks as though the stomachs of several cows have exploded. Nearby, pots of soup, custard, coleslaw and Greek yoghurt line the bath's rim.

"Don't let the food fetishist in here," she warns down the phone.

Despite sex being the main service on sale in this Sheffield establishment, A Very British Brothel turned out to be curiously unsexy. Even Kath isn't bothered with nookie: "I suppose it's like workin' in a fish 'n' chip shop... You'd go off chips." Well, quite.

Last weekend, the internet provided audiences with plenty of televisual bounty: Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp (Netflix) is essentially an origin story to the 2001 cult classic Wet Hot American Summer. As movies go, this had more comedic star power than you could shake a campfire poker at: Bradley Cooper, Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Elizabeth Banks and Janeane Garofalo are all present and correct (again). A constellation of celebs attempting to goof it up is surely reason enough to stick with the series. Most people, after all, would watch this lot in a Cillit Bang advert.

Happily, WHAM:FDOC is much more than the sum of its (admittedly myriad) parts. Taking a neat potshot at films of the same genre, the series takes place in a single day, meaning that the action on that titular first day of camp comes thick and fast. Romances bloom and are crushed underfoot, while each character from the 2001 film is nicely fleshed out with backstory.

The joy, pain and awkwardness of summer camp, not to mention the coming-of-age trope, is a rich seam to mine, even if you've been nowhere near an American summer camp.

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