mad mad world
Thursday, 28 June 2012

Television Reviews: 29 June

Foreign clips fall flat and celebs get a wake-up call, says Michael Moran

Written by Michael Moran
Michael-Moran1I generally endeavour to bring you the best of the week's television. But this week sees the beginning of a series that is symptomatic of the worst in contemporary British TV. Mad Mad World, which makes its debut on ITV (30 June at 10pm), is one of those panel shows where two teams of comedians bellow bons mots of varying quality at one another in front of a live studio audience. There's a lot of them about, but this one's more egregious than most.

The title sequence, while promoting the notion that penguins live in the Arctic, alerts you to the show's central theme.

The theme is that clips from foreign TV shows are innately funny. It's a creaky old idea that just about worked for the great Clive James but was roundly exhausted by Chris Tarrant.

Despite the best efforts of the panellists, led by Rufus Hound and Rhys Darby, the idea is played out long before the first commercial break.

It's a Saturday-night entertainment show. It's not reasonable to expect it to be educational, but I think at a minimum it should be fairly enjoyable.

Still, we can't all share the same taste I suppose.

There is one thing that all but the unluckiest people do share. We're going to get old. Once we're too old to work, the inevitable decline in income and activity can prove as dangerous as declining health. And many pensioners in the UK scrape by on piteously low incomes.

Those kind of privations don't apply to the type of celebrities that get invited to appear on TV shows like When I Get Older (4 July, BBC One at 9pm). Gloria Hunniford, John Simpson, Tony Robinson and Lesley Joseph aren't bound by a mandatory retirement age, and they earn a fair bit more than most of us, too.

It's an eye-opener for them then to spend a few days living the life of the average pensioner. Tony Robinson spends some time with a lovable old romantic who has lost his zest for life, and his singing voice, since the death of his wife. Gloria Hunniford gets a shopping day wake-up call as she attempts to manage on an average pensioner's budget. Lesley Joseph is embedded in the home of a couple whose lives have been petrified by the husband's stroke.

Meanwhile, war correspondent John Simpson spends some time with a prickly old so-and-so who reminds me a little of myself.

Now, this is a television documentary. As such, there's a certain fudging of reality in order to lend the show a satisfying arc. Certainly, I suspect Lesley Joseph of covertly spending some of her own money in order to ensure a happy ending. Nevertheless, it's still a timely insight into a world that we're all headed for. You couldn't describe this programme as an enjoyable watch, but it's certainly an educational one.

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