Boiling Point, Michael McIntyre’s The Wheel and All Creatures Great and Small: TV highlights this week
Michael McIntyre’s The Wheel (Saturday 30/09/23, BBC1, 8.35pm)
Words by Scheenagh Harrington
It may come as a surprise to some, but there’s a reason Michael McIntyre’s name is part of this show’s title. He actually came up with the idea during lockdown – while in the bath.
However, there’s no surprise it’s turned out to be a hit with audiences: all the ingredients are there.
The spinning set, the lashings of colour, the eager-to-help celebrities, the ordinary people hoping Lady Luck will be on their side…
At the centre of it all, literally and figuratively, is the funnyman: master of a small-screen travelling circus that serves up low comedy and high drama in every sitting.
“I’m just playing a game and having fun with the contestants and celebs,” he says. “Until the format creeps up on us and everything takes a dramatic turn. It’s so wonderful when lovely people win money that can make such a positive impact on their lives.”
When asked about the show’s popularity, he explained: “Every series is better than the last. I think this is because the returning celebrity experts are more comfortable and confident, and new experts are excited to be on a show that has become such a favourite.
“When I asked Alex Jones, who is on this series as a CBeebies expert, why she hadn’t been on before she said ‘I was waiting to see if it was a hit!’”
All that whizzing round must have made at least one person feel a bit grim, surely? “Richie Anderson, who does the traffic and travel on Radio 2, said he suffered with travel sickness and wore anti-sickness wrist bands on the show. He said he felt fine though, as has everyone else.
“I think the Wheel is just fast enough to be fun without feeling sicky.”
One of the best things about the show are the celebrity rankings. Unsurprisingly they cause a stir on set. “Finishing top of the leaderboard is a badge of honour for the celebrity experts,” Michael said.
“I love the tension when I reveal where everyone has placed, especially when we get near the bottom end.
“In one show the absolutely hilarious Big Narstie takes a few, as he calls them, ‘power naps’ but still manages to beat some very disgruntled celebs who were giving their all.”
The famous faces in this edition hoping to help contestants come home as winners are Alex Jones on CBeebies, Ellie Simmonds on swimming, Paddy McGuiness on karate, Ranvir Singh on politics, Rosie Ramsey on musicals, Seann Walsh on Batman and Sue Perkins on – you guessed it – cake.
Michael refused to be drawn about how many people may or may not have walked away with nothing in the latest run, after it shocked the nation in the previous series.
However, he was prepared to reveal the strangest location that someone has approached him and begun singing the show’s funky theme song.
“I went to Old Trafford to watch Spurs play Manchester United and walked past rival fans hurling abuse at each other,” he quipped. “One of them clocked me and started to jovially sing ‘The Wheel’ and then the other one joined in.”
Boiling Point (Sunday 01/10/23, BBC One, 9pm)
Words by Sarah Morgan
‘Write what you know’.
It’s become a bit of a cliche, but the old adage continues to be offered up as advice to aspiring authors because bringing their personal experience into a work of fiction can give it a more realistic edge.
It’s certainly something that Philip Barantini seemed to take to heart when creating his second short film, Boiling Point, in 2019. Before turning to acting and then writing and directing, he worked as a head chef, and some of the events he witnessed went into his screenplay, which told the story of a shift led by talented cook Andy Jones.
Barantini’s insider knowledge clearly worked a treat, because two years later, he released an expanded, feature-length version that received four Bafta nominations, including one for Outstanding British Film. The movie really captured the tension of life in a restaurant kitchen while telling the story of troubled Andy, whose dream of running his own upmarket London eaterie was being threatened by his own personal problems.
Barantini co-wrote the screenplay with James Cummings, and the pair have reteamed for a five-part sequel. The movie was notable for seemingly being filmed in one continuous take; whether the director opts for the same, technically very difficult approach again remains to be seen – he’s taking charge of the first two episodes.
His old friend Stephen Graham (the pair met while appearing in Band of Brothers) reprises his role as Andy who (spoiler alert) appears to have survived the heart attack he suffered at the end of the film. Graham’s real-life wife, Hannah Walters, is back too as restaurant worker Emily; the couple’s production company, Matriarch, are among the project’s backers. Ray Panthaki and Gary Lamont are also among those returning, as is Vinette Robinson, from Bradford, who plays Andy’s former right-hand woman and sous chef Carly.
The story picks up eight months on from the events depicted in the film, and it’s Carly who’s now in charge, with many of Andy’s staff members working for her. However, the realities of trying to keep the business afloat and profitable during a particularly challenging time for the hospitality industry soon begin to hit home. Making life even more difficult are numerous personal issues involving the already stressed-out staff.
“When we made the Boiling Point feature film, there were so many ideas left on the whiteboard that it always felt like a possibility we would come back to this world,” claims Cummings. “The response to our film has been incredible and hearing the way it has resonated with people in the hospitality industry has been nothing short of amazing.
“Restaurants are an intersection of different people from different backgrounds, all dealing with a variety of social issues – and I am so proud to be using our series as a vehicle to tell those stories with a cast of characters that we have already fallen in love with. Food will fly and tears will fall!”
We can’t wait to see how it all pans out, but what’s next for Barantini? If he continues to write what he knows, maybe a series about making a TV show is just around the corner…
Union with David Olusoga (Monday 02/10/23, BBC Two, 9pm)
Words by Sarah Morgan
David Olusoga is back on the box – and that can only be a good thing.
While watching his informative yet entertaining programmes, we tend to feel a little more intelligent; he manages to enlighten his viewers without browbeating them. If only he’d been in charge of our school history lessons…
If you’re wondering why a large number of his projects crop up on the BBC, it’s because they know a good thing when they see it – in 2021, the broadcaster signed a deal giving them a first look at everything made by Uplands TV, the production company set up by Olusoga and Mike Smith in 2017.
“Our ambition in founding Uplands TV was to create television that brought a diverse range of factual stories and history to life which would appeal to a range of audiences in Britain and across the world,” say the duo.
“Mike and David create television that is both accessible to watch and thought-provoking,” adds Mark Linsey, BBC Studios’ Chief Creative Officer. “They are experts in story-telling, using their background in history and programme-making to engage and enlighten audiences, even on difficult subject matters. This makes their work fresh, unique and inclusive.”
Olusoga is, of course, best known for presenting the series A House Through Time, in which he explores history via the people who have lived in a particular property. He’s also hosted such shows as Britain’s Forgotten Slave Owners, The Unwanted: The Secret Windrush Files and Our NHS: A Hidden History.
Their success and importance in bringing to light largely uncovered stories led to him receiving a Bafta Special Award earlier this year. In his acceptance speech, he was keen to point out the huge part TV had played in his life.
He said: “I owe television so much… It was watching history documentaries as a teenager that made me decide to study history. It was watching David Attenborough reveal the natural world that made me get on a plane with a backpack in my 20s and 30s.”
He then added: “If I have a hope, it is that people entering the industry today, people from backgrounds like mine, minority communities, people from council estates, that they might perhaps find their journey through the industry a little easier.”
Now Olusoga believes his personal background – after relocating to his mother’s native north east from Nigeria at the age of five, he grew up within a working-class community, seeing first hand social divisions while experiencing terrifying racist attacks – gives him a perhaps unique insight into the subject of his latest series, a five-part documentary examining the fractures within the United Kingdom, as well as what has kept it together, so far.
“I’m seeking to bring a timely understanding of the history that lies behind the fault lines of contemporary Britain,” he explains.
No doubt he’ll be successful in his quest, and after tuning in, we’ll all feel rather more enlightened – and who knows, he may even inspire a TV historian of the future in the process.
Partygate (Tuesday 03/10/23 Channel 4, 9.30pm)
Words by Rachael Popow
During the covid lockdowns, when many of us were unable to see our loved ones, a lot of people took some comfort from the thought that we were all in it together and the sacrifices were for the greater good.
So, when the news began to emerge that the people in charge of making the rules might have also been taking them a lot less seriously than the general public, there was understandable anger.
Now, this docudrama aims to tell the story of the Covid pandemic through the story of what was happening at No 10, where there was karaoke, suitcases of wine, and a very real risk of being ambushed by a cake.
The programme interweaves real-world footage with dramatised scenes inside Number 10, including parties that stretch into the early hours. However, while some of the aides may have been fictionalised, we’re promised that it’s all based on meticulous research and the findings of the Sue Gray report.
According to Channel 4, it will: “juxtapose the revelry inside the nation’s seat of power with the hardship and sacrifice being experienced across the rest of the country.”
If that sounds like something that will get your blood boiling or take you back to a time you would rather forget, then Channel 4 are sweetening the pill a little with an impressive cast, many of whom are no strangers to satire.
Impressionist Jon Culshaw provides the voice of Boris Johnson, and there’s also a role for Hugh Skinner, who plays Prince William in The Windsors.
Meanwhile, Ophelia Lovibond has experience when it comes to appearing in pandemic dramas – she played Carrie Johnson (nee Symonds) in This England, a series which arguably suffered from being filmed before some of the details of what went on in Number 10 began to fully emerge.
Speaking to Vogue about playing the Prime Minister’s other half, Ophelia said: “This England was a unique experience, because I would see Carrie’s face on the front of a newspaper as I was being wigged to play her… That was quite sobering.”
Viewers should also keep their eyes peeled for Phil Daniels, a reunion between Fresh Meat stars Charlotte Ritchie and Kimberly Nixon (Ritchie is also back this week for the fifth and final series of Ghosts), and Georgie Henley, who is probably still best known for playing Lucy in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
No matter how often you may find yourself asking where you know a particular actor from, the main point of Partygate is to remind us of a very strange and testing time for the country, and to perhaps draw your attention to some details that had passed you by as we tried to absorb the scale of the scandal.
Channel 4 suggests the results will be “surprising, enraging and beyond satire”. But it could also leave some viewers questioning how likely the public would be to follow the rules if the government ever tried to introduce similar restriction in the future.
Payback (Wednesday 04/10/23, ITV1, 9pm)
Words by Rachael Popow
As the star of the first two series of The Bay, Morven Christie should know a good crime drama script when she sees one, and it seems she was very excited about her new project, Payback.
She says: “The pitch just felt different; it felt exciting. At that stage there was only one pilot script and then a pitch for the series, and I thought the character had so much scope for me to play with. She was somebody sort of hemmed in by incredibly difficult circumstances and that’s always really fun to play your way out of.”
The actress isn’t exaggerating about her character being in a tough spot. Morven plays Lexie Noble, who is leading an idyllic life in the suburbs of Edinburgh. What she doesn’t know is that her lifestyle is being funded by illegal means – her husband Jared has been using their accountancy firm to launder money for notorious crime lord, Cal Morris (Peter Mullan).
Morvern says: “I think she’s had some suspicions that he’s had secrets. If you’re in a relationship
with someone and you think they’re keeping secrets from you, it’s fairly likely that you’re going to assume that those secrets involve someone else – like they’re having a relationship with someone.
“When she does actually find out what he’s been doing, she’s got this weird animalistic sort of quality where on the one hand she’s furious at him but on the other she’s wildly protective of him on the basis that there’s nothing that he would do that wasn’t to protect his family. She fundamentally
believes that he had their best interests at heart but at the same time her children’s lives are being threatened, so she’s not loving it.”
However, while she may have been in the dark about Jared’s activities, the police are well aware of what he’s been up to and are hoping to use the Noble family to bring Cal down.
So, when Jared is taken out of the picture, Lexie is forced to take over running the family firm and try to keep Cal on side, all while knowing the police’s net is tightening…
It’s easy to see why Morven was excited about playing Lexie, but there was an added enticement when she saw who she would be working with.
She says: “There were people involved like Jed Mercurio. He wasn’t directing or writing this one but he’s a really solid name in television and when he’s involved you know that it’s going to be a quality production.
“There was also Jimmy Mulville at Hat Trick Productions and Peter Mullan was already attached to it. He has been one of my favourite actors for as long as I can remember. So, it was the combination of those things and getting to play this kind of character opposite someone like Peter…
“People say you should never meet or work with your heroes but that’s not true of Peter. He’s a profoundly generous, creative, funny, supportive, brilliant man. I found working with him honestly one of the most exciting creative experiences I’ve ever had.”
She adds: “It was a no-brainer really.”https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/arts-and-culture/film-and-tv/all-creatures-great-and-small-series-4-first-look-images-show-james-and-helen-closer-than-ever-as-war-brings-separation-worries-4272243
All Creatures Great and Small (Thursday 05/10/23, Channel 5, 9pm)
Words by Scheenagh Harrington
A well-known online encyclopaedia describes the literary version of Siegfried Farnon as “outspoken, opinionated, bossy, quick to lose his temper, and also quick to blow over”.
As lovers of this drama know all too well, he is based on Donald Sinclair, the Yorkshire vet who was immortalised by partner Alf Wight in the James Herriott stories.
Viewers of a certain age will forever associate the role of Siegfried with the incomparable Robert Hardy, who brought the character so vividly to life in the 1978 television series.
What is less well known is that Sinclair wasn’t especially keen on Hardy’s portrayal of him, despite the fact the thespian based his performance on Sinclair’s “eccentricities”.
Luckily, it didn’t prevent the pair from later becoming firm friends, with Hardy remarking he wished he had got to know Sinclair sooner. “It would have helped me to perfect a much more interesting character,” he mused.
Fast-forward to 2020 and it’s Samuel West who takes on the role of the curmudgeonly vet for the series reboot.
He described his alter-ego as “a man of honour”, and believed Siegfried had evolved over the series to become a “deeper and more serious” character. However, the actor said he wanted to retain the sense of him being a bit of a “loose cannon, because that’s fun to play.”
For the uninitiated, Samuel’s mum and dad are veteran stars Prunella Scales and Timothy West, while his grandfather was actor Lockwood West.
Samuel’s CV reads like every wannabe thespian’s dream, working in theatre, film, television and radio. His dulcet tones have enhanced countless documentaries, but he has also appeared as a reciter with orchestras, even performing at the 2002 Last Night of the Proms.
Born in 1966, he first appeared on the TV in the 1975 drama series Edward the Seventh, and made his London stage debut in 1989 at the Orange Tree Theatre, playing Michael in Cocteau’s Les Parents Terribles, and got rave reviews.
Thirteen years later came his stage directorial debut with The Lady’s Not for Burning at the Minerva Theatre, before his radio directing debut with a 2011 production of Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s Money on BBC Radio 3.
Samuel has racked up countless appearances on the small and big screen, and one thing connects them all: no matter how big or small they are, they are always great.
He’s the ideal choice then, for Siegfried, who we find trying to hold Skeldale House together singlehandedly, as the curtain goes up on series four of this evergreen drama.
It is spring 1940 and change is on the horizon for everyone. Without Tristan, Skeldale House is busier than ever. The war hasn’t come to much, prompting James and Helen to dream about the future, hoping that he won’t be called up.
Meanwhile, a chance encounter leaves the vet worrying if a dog is being mistreated. True to form, James wants to ‘put the animal first’ regardless of the consequences.
At the same time, Siegfried finds himself repeatedly called out by experienced farmer Clifford Slavens and has to learn that everyone needs a bit of support during hard times. So, when Mrs Hall takes a leap of faith, he’s on hand to do so.
The cast also includes Nicholas Ralph, Rachel Shenton and Anna Madeley.
Ghosts (Friday 06/10/23, BBC1, 8.30pm)
Words by Rachael Popow
The sitcom Ghosts has been a huge hit with viewers, perhaps because it’s one of those rare series that families can watch together.
As star and co-creator Jim Howick says: “When we were kids growing up, TV was a real event. You couldn’t record stuff and you couldn’t catch up. Shows like Blackadder and Bottom and all the other things I used to love watching – they were a family event.
“Now obviously, there are a lot more platforms and a lot more choice, and that’s fantastic. But it’s also really nice to gather around the television and treat a TV programme almost like a theatre show. It’s great to be there all together at the same time.”
But it seems that the team also don’t want to wear out their welcome as they made the announcement that the new, fifth season would be their last.
Posting on social media, they said: “After five incredible years haunting the halls of Button House, we have decided that the time is right to let our beloved sitcom Ghosts rest in peace. We have just wrapped filming on our fifth and final series and we can’t wait to share it with you all.
“We could never have imagined the reception the show has enjoyed, or the fun we have had making it, and we would like to thank our amazing cast and crew as well as everyone at BBC Comedy, BBC One and Monumental Television for their tireless support. But most of all we’d like to thank everyone who watches.”
That will be sad news to the many viewers who thought there was still plenty of life left in this delightfully daft sitcom, but on the upside we do have this last batch of episodes to see us through before Ghosts is laid to rest.
We’re promised that the new run will see Alison (Charlotte Ritchie) and Mike (Kiell Smith-Bynoe) making plans for the future that will have huge effect on their (not very) spooky housemates. Could it be that they leave Button House behind?
As the series begins, Mike thinks it’s time they had a serious conversation about their finances following the loss of the B&B business, but Alison seems more interested in how she’s going to prank the ghosts for April Fool’s Day – and given that they’ve pulled plenty of stunts over the past few series, she’s really going to have to push the boat out. Humphrey (Laurence Rickard) is more than willing to help her, but which of the gang will prove the easiest to fool?
Meanwhile, it seems the insurance company think they are the ones being pranked, as Mike is shocked when someone turns up for an unannounced visit. She has a few questions about the gatehouse fire – can Mike convince her that it’s not really that unusual for lightning to strike thrice?