Archives for posts with tag: Alex Brooker

Confession time – there has been little new for me to watch this week. No new series have taken my fancy and my week has fell into a humdrum pattern of viewing. The good news is that this week coming there are a couple of new things on the horizon. For now though, you will have to suffer me talking about something I’ve discussed before.

The Last Leg has built a loyal following over the last five years. It has moved beyond its original remit of just being a Paralympics companion show to becoming an incisive current affairs programme, gleefully mixing pop culture references with satire to cut through the news of the week.

By and large, it does an excellent job. Neither forced to be neutral like the BBC or owned by someone with an agenda like our newspapers, it can break down stories to make them understandable whilst offering social commentary. It is positive and uplifting and is capable of discussing both sides of the argument whilst still able to draw a line when one side is talking nonsense. They even have a special ‘bullshit’ button to know when that line is being crossed.

Of course, time restraints mean that they can never go into too much detail, but shows like this are only ever intended to be a jumping off point, especially ones like this that aim to give some light relief. Of course, it is seen by many as a home to ‘libtards’, although this seems harsh when you consider they have been as quick to criticise the shortcomings of Clinton and Corbyn as they have to May and Trump, it’s just the latter two have now got power and need to be more accountable for what they say and do.

My biggest critique is that actually, for all its talk of equality and diversity, it sometimes fails its own standards. The last three female guests on the show, Victoria Coren Mitchell, Sandi Toksvig and Sharon Horgan, have all been paired with male guests, with only Horgan’s understandable, as it was her writing partner Rob Delaney. Both Coren Mitchell and Toksvig could hold their own. There didn’t seem to be a need to book a female guess to counter balance Kevin Bridges, and, as Harry Hill pointed out when he appeared, it was ironic that the show broadcast on International Women’s Day had five men and no women.

Similar arguments could be made regarding race and LGBT figures (Stormzy the sole BME guest and Toksvig ticking the LGBT box for the series). Nobody wants this reduced to a box-ticking exercise but something as simple as allowing female guests to fly solo would be a start.

Am I being pedantic? Maybe. But it would be a shame for a show that covers equality and diversity so well in other areas to fall on something as basic as this. Otherwise it might be their hiring policy that is termed ‘bullshit’.

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Most TV shows I find I have to watch every week, even if there is no requirement to do so. Chat shows, for example, require no knowledge of who was on previously to impact on the next one. Even so, I often tune in avidly.

The exception to this rule is when the chat show is more one-on-one. Unlike a more ‘panel’ based one, you are entirely dependent on being interested in that person who is under the microscope. A public figure could give all the revelations they want, but if you find the person repellent or just plain dull then the information means nothing.

Which is why I am so surprised at my own hit rate at watching John Bishop: In Conversation With. Three out of the four guests he has had on I have found interesting: James Corden, Charlotte Church and Alex Brooker. Admittedly, I find them so for different reasons. Corden and Brooker, to me, are naturally funny people. I find the dislike of Corden in some quarters to be almost irrational. Church, meanwhile, has led a truly fascinating life as someone who travelled through the always turbulent child star years to being an uncompromising musician and social campaigner.

One thing I did find in each episode is surprisingly varied tone in each one. This is to some degree understandable, as each guest is different. Yet there did seem to be a disparity in how Bishop treated Corden, a friend of his, to Church, an unknown figure to him.

Take for example the way Corden was questioned about his reaction to fame. He happily offered up the opportunity for Bishop to grill him about some less than dignified moments, but Bishop didn’t bite. No attempt to reference his spat with Patrick Stewart, for example. Instead, it felt like he had only interest in praising Corden.

By contrast, whilst he was gallant to Church when she was discussing the countdown to her 16th birthday coordinated by The Sun, he happily opened fire on some raunchy pop videos she had done. He was particularly disparaging of her defence of Miley Cyrus, suddenly playing a ‘Dad’ card. To Church’s credit, she made a strong case, pointing out that, as a parent, Bishop can censure his children from seeing it if he wishes, whilst also explain the context between different artists’ approach to raunchiness. Bishop didn’t really seem to listen though.

I don’t think Bishop’s problem was misogyny though. More that, in knowing Corden more personally, and likewise Brooker, he was happy to avoid challenging them. An interviewer who was equally distant or close to all three would have perhaps created a more consistent tone.

That’s not to say he isn’t good at his role. The conversations move along well and there’s a good mixture of personal introspection with well-told anecdotes, although his need to tell his own stories seems misplaced, another sin he seemed to commit more with Church than the others.

Overall, it is a good hour of TV. A bit of fine tuning with the tone, and this show could be really compelling. I will certainly be interested to see which side it chooses to take in the long run – the two mates chatting or the confessional.

For saying we live in the 21st century, there are times when you feel TV is struggling to play catch-up. Take for example the excitement over Claudia Winkleman being made permanent co-host of Strictly Come Dancing. Finally, two women were allowed to co-anchor a primetime Saturday night family entertainment show. How it took us to 2014 to achieve that landmark should be the real story. It’s not like the concept of Saturday night as a captive audience or that women being good at presenters is a new thing. As good as something like this happening is, you can’t help but wonder why this wasn’t being done a decade or two ago.

Likewise, considering that being disabled hasn’t been invented in the last few years, it seems surprising that it took until 2012 for a light entertainment format to be fronted by, and to frequently discuss, people with disabilities. Yet in The Last Leg, we finally do. For the uninitiated, The Last Leg is a satirical look at the week’s events, with an added chat element thrown in, fronted by Adam Hills (a successful stand-up comic who has a prosthetic leg) and co-hosted by Alex Brooker (another comedian and also disabled) and Josh Widdicombe (not disabled, although he is from Devon, so has his own issues to deal with).

For a show that is at its heart quite light-hearted, it doesn’t shy away from big issues. The most recent episode debated tax avoidance, whilst on the flip side it also looked at Fifty Shades of Grey and Australia entering Eurovision. It is informed, edgy and sharp, but isn’t worthy. It’s like Mock the Week without the cruelty. The central theme of the show, whether they are discussing Russia, ISIS or trigger-happy Americans, is ‘don’t be a dick’.

One of the most interesting recurring themes of the show though is disability. I like the honesty of it. When discussing whether or not they would take a pill to cure their disabilities, Hills gave a resounding yes, pointing out that he had learnt all he could about life from being disabled. In a previous series, he had said that the biggest issue with being disabled was that it was, quite frankly, a pain the arse. I find this honesty far more inspirational than the ‘human interest’ stories you read in the tabloids, where someone discusses their triumph over tragedy.

It is a sign of progress that a show like this is being made for a mass-audience, not a niche one that some may presume. However, it would be even better to see more of this kind of programming, not just involving disability, but covering all sections of society. Too often diversity is tucked away into niche programming, or at the other extreme so heavily promoted you choke on the worthiness. The Last Leg shows how you can avoid this.