The Long Shadow, The Voice and Louis Theroux Interviews: TV highlights this week
The Voice UK (Saturday 04/11/23, ITV1, 8.25pm)
Words by Rachael Popow
Fans of The Voice UK were shocked last month when Olly Murs revealed that he’d been axed as a coach.
He told The Sun: “I’m gutted. I got the call… to say I won’t be back on the show, and it’s a bit of a shock, to be honest. I didn’t really expect that to come.
“But I don’t want to sit here like other artists might, and shine and gloss this up and say, ‘It was my decision’. I don’t want to do that.”
Murs, who found fame as the runner-up on The X Factor in 2009, joined The Voice UK in 2018, and guided Molly Hocking and Blessing Chitapa to victory.
However, the good news for anyone who will miss seeing Murs in one of the spinning chairs is that the changes only take effect from 2024 – he’s still present and correct for this year’s run, which gets under way tonight.
He’ll be joined by fellow coaches Anne-Marie, Tom Jones and will.i.am, and returning presenter Emma Willis ready to find a new singing star. And, for the first time in the show’s history, groups have been allowed to audition.
They’ll join the solo hopefuls who will be competing to win a recording contract with Universal Records as well as a massive 50k cash prize and a luxury holiday.
First though, they will have to make it through the Blind Audition stage as they try to impress the panel with their vocal talents alone.
Who will get the coaches spinning in their chairs, and will any of the hopefuls have a difficult decision about whose team to join?
Anyone who is still wondering how the show will cope without Murs can take some comfort from the fact that The Voice has consistently proven it’s bigger than any one person – or even channel.
Based on The Voice of Holland, the homegrown version began on BBC1 back in 2012, when the coaches were will.iam (the only person who has been there though every series so far), Tom Jones, Jessie J and the Script’s Danny O’Donoghue.
That line-up remaimed for the first two series, before Kylie Minogue and Kaiser Chief Ricky Wilson took over from Danny and Jessie in season three. After just one series, Kylie stepped aside to be replaced by Rita Ora, and it was all change again for series five, when Tom was axed and Rita left, to be replaced by Paloma Faith and Boy George.
For season six, the show made the jump to ITV1, where the line-up was Tom Jones (making a glorious comeback), will.i.am, Jennifer Hudson and Gavin Rossdale. Olly replaced Gavin for season seven, and Meghan Trainor took over from Hudson in season eight.
However, she then had to bow out after becoming pregnant, leaving the way clear for Anne-Marie to join in season nine, and she’s been there ever since.
ITV1 are remaining tight-lipped for now about who might be joining for the next run, saying that details of the 2024 series will be confirmed in due course, so in the meantime forget about the coaches and concentrate on finding out who is going to take this year’s title.
Liz Bonnin’s Wild Caribbean (Sunday 05/11/23, BBC Two, 9pm)
Words by Sarah Morgan
Cast your mind back to 2016 when Liz Bonnin appeared in the genealogy show Who Do You Think You Are?
During the programme, she described herself as “a mongrel” due to being born in Paris and raised in Dublin with lineage from around the world – her mother was of Indian and Portuguese descent and grew up in Trinidad, while her father hailed from Martinique.
Due to her parental roots in the Caribbean, she spent many holidays there, and remarked during an interview with The Telegraph back in 2011: “My mum was born in Trinidad, so we used go to there twice a year to see family. I have fond memories of island-hopping with my cousins and aunts and being by the beautiful Caribbean sea. Every time I go, it feels like returning home, even though I’ve never lived there.”
She must have been in her element, then, when she began filming her latest gig. It’s one of a number of new factual commissions for the production company Lion, which also include Netflix’s Alexander the Great docudrama and another BBC project, Pompeii.
The BBC describes Bonnin’s series as an “immersive natural history travelogue”.
“Bringing wildlife to a new audience is always a challenge – you have to be able to tell the story and bring the characters of individual animals to life, and to get a sense of the place,” explains Bonnin.
She reckons that filming in remote places, although exhilarating, is never easy. Thankfully, she always has a lucky charm up her sleeve.
“My notebook!” she exclaims. “I’m lucky that I have diaries on film of the things I have done, but it’s the little moments and the experiential stuff which you might forget without writing it down. It’s such a privilege that I want to remember the special moments, as well as the films we make.”
No doubt she kept it close to hand in the Caribbean because there was so much to witness. Her first port of call is the Greater Antilles, a stretch of islands containing many hidden natural treasures, from salt lates to deserts and tree-covered peaks.
On the Dominican Republic island of Hispaniola, Bonnin helps the residents of a tiny village save the life of an endangered Ridgeway’s Hawk chick who is threatened by a deadly parasitic infection. She also comes face-to-face with the solenodon, a rodent-looking creature with a nose like a trunk – it’s survived against the odds since pre-dinosaur times, and getting to see one in the wild is a rare treat.
Future episodes see her on the trail of a pig-stealing jaguar before meeting the owner of a frog haven on the Central America coast. She then visits the volcanic island of Mayreau and searches for the Guiana dolphins who live harmoniously alongside fishermen in a lake high up in the Andes.
This may be a personal journey for Bonnin, but for the rest of us, it’s a fascinating insight into extraordinary places and even more incredible creatures.
The Long Shadow (Monday 06/11/23, ITV1, 9pm)
Words by Sarah Morgan
There will be some people out there saying, “why bother watching a drama when you know how the story pans out?”
But sometimes, it’s the journey not the destination that’s important, and that’s certainly been the case with The Long Shadow, the seven-part series about the hunt for the man eventually known to be Peter Sutcliffe, which took place across the north of England between 1975 and the early days of 1981.
Viewers have been gripped, some of them even shouting at the screen as they witnessed the myriad of mistakes committed by the police, the shameful attitudes of some of those involved in the investigation, and the terrible impact the attacks carried out by killer Sutcliffe had on the loved ones of his victims – not to mention the handful of women who survived.
The story reaches its conclusion this week as detectives finally get their hands on Sutcliffe – although his capture is something of an accident.
During the last few episodes, an almost unrecognisable Jill Halfpenny has appeared as Doreen, mother of his final murder victim, Leeds University student Jacqueline Hill.
“Doreen is a very forward-thinking woman who has ambitions for her children,” says Halfpenny. “When we first meet her, she’s so proud that her daughter is going to university. She’s so proud that her daughter wants to do the things she wants to do.
“Had Doreen been given the chance in her own career, maybe she would have been a bit of a trailblazer. She’s quiet, she’s not loud. She’s not audacious, but she’s quietly steely and confident. She can’t understand why people can’t do whatever they’re capable of doing, no matter where they’re from, or what sex they are.”
The former EastEnders and Coronation Street star admits it’s a big responsibility to play a real-life person: “I remember having a conversation with (writer) George Kay, who said that some of the families were very cautious about how it was going to be handled and how they would be portrayed. I don’t want to put words into their mouths, but possibly they felt like they’d been burned in the past. It’s so difficult. You just felt like you never wanted to give any of them any more pain than they’ve already been given.
“I know that we got a personal email from one member of a family, and it was lovely. It was everything that we hoped they would be thinking. So that was a great relief for us. We just felt like, ‘OK, if we’ve made them happy, then we’ve done our job’.”
Halfpenny adds: “We forget about the ripple effect that these crimes have over the years. This is not just something that happened in the 1970s and that was it. Whole families got pulled apart. I would just like people to watch it and be able to really think and feel for all of those families for whom it’s a living nightmare.”
If the audience’s response so far is anything to go by, the series’ makers have achieved their goal – it’s an upsetting subject, but one delivered in a thought-provoking yet sensitive manner. Expect awards galore for all involved.
Louis Theroux Interviews (Tuesday 07/11/23, BBC Two, 9pm)
Words by Richard Jones
Louis Theroux made a name for himself inoffensively embedding himself in people’s lives and using his ‘affable Englishman’ routine to discover more about them than the average documentarian.
Nowadays, he is far too recognisable around the globe to take people by surprise, and is instead focusing on the lives of fellow celebrities, who clearly know who he is and what he does, but are still willing to open up.
During the early noughties Theroux’s interviews with the likes of Ann Widdecombe, Neil and Christine Hamilton and Chris Eubank were TV gold.
And he revisited the celeb chat idea last year, with his series Louis Theroux Interviews, in which he got up close and personal with Stormzy, Dame Judi Dench, Yungblud, Bear Grylls, Katherine Ryan and Rita Ora.
The 53-year-old journalist is back with another run tonight, and this year’s line-up sounds just as strong.
Over the next few weeks, we will see him travel from New York to France, and from Glastonbury to Kent, to spend time with actor and rapper Ashley Walters, activist and whistleblower Chelsea Manning, Hollywood legend Dame Joan Collins, Libertines and Babyshambles frontman Pete Doherty, and Tooting-born singer-songwriter Raye.
As before, the series will feature both one-on-one conversations and Theroux’s ‘signature immersive filming style’ as the subject’s lives and careers are explored up to the present day.
“Working with the team on these six new programmes has been an enormous pleasure,” Louis says.
“The six guests are all distinctive and brilliant in different ways, all of them people who have endured setbacks and huge successes, and who have something to share with the world based on their journeys through life.
“We have tried to build on the success of the first six Louis Theroux Interviews, while pushing further this time into terrain that is gritty and difficult, exploring subjects like mental health, brushes with the law and political controversy.
“Each show mixes stylish master interviews with behind-the-scenes moments and actuality shot on location, so viewers have the double pleasure of a thoughtful in-depth conversation alongside a revealing look into the lives of contributors – RAYE’s dressing room before her Glastonbury set, Joan Collins’ house in the south of France.
“The tone of the shows is always open-minded and generous-hearted, while hopefully being funny, and always mindful of the need to keep viewers interested.
“I like them, and I’m notoriously hard to please.”
First up, Louis comes face to face with two-time world heavyweight champion, Anthony Joshua, at his local boxing gym in North London.
Against the backdrop of AJ’s fight with American heavyweight Jermaine Franklin in May, Louis explores the boxer’s success, humbling defeats and his sporting motivations, as well as spending time with him on the Watford estate in which he was raised.
Louis also quizzes the 34-year-old about his future plans, potential fights with Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury, and getting back to the top of a sport where the opportunity for fighters to earn life-changing amounts of money comes with considerable risks.
Shakespeare: Rise of a Genius (Wednesday 08/11/23, BBC Two, 9pm)
Words by Richard Jones
It is 400 years since one of the most influential works of English literature was created.
The First Folio was published in 1623, seven years after the death of William Shakespeare.
Brought together by two of his friends, John Heminges and Henry Condell, ‘Mr. VVilliam Shakespeares comedies, histories, & tragedies. Published according to the true originall copies’ is a collection of 36 of the Bard’s works, and without it, much of his work would have been lost for future generations.
To mark the anniversary, the BBC is broadcasting a range of programmes in which major actors and leading experts celebrate how the glover’s son from rural Stratford became the greatest writer who ever lived.
Suzy Klein, Head of BBC Arts and Classical TV, says: “Shakespeare lived in a dangerous age of plague, violence, vicious rivalries and political assassinations and his very survival is something of a miracle.
“His work was almost lost to history, and without the First Folio being published in 1623, some of his greatest plays would have been lost forever.
“We would have none of those immortal characters such as Cleopatra and Marc Anthony, Macbeth or Malvolio, Prospero and Ariel.
“Shakespeare changed the way we talk, the words we use, our films, books, catchphrases and memes, the very way we think – and yet we know very little about him.
“This major new season pieces together the clues from his life and work to reveal the driving forces behind the greatest writer that ever lived.”
The most exciting of the new shows is gripping three-part documentary series Shakespeare: Rise of a Genius.
Narrated by Juliet Stevenson, it takes a deep dive into the places and time Shakespeare inhabited to show how they ignited and nourished his creative genius.
Cinematic drama vignettes depict the playwright’s life alongside a host of stars, including Dame Judi Dench, Brian Cox, Adrian Lester, Lolita Chakrabarti, Helen Mirren, Martin Freeman and Jessie Buckley, alongside academics and writers James Shapiro, Ewan Fernie, Jeanette Winterson, Brenda Hale, The Baroness Hale of Richmond, Gordon Brown, Jeremy O’Harris and Professor Farah Karim-Cooper.
Tracing Shakespeare’s life story, each episode follows the triumphs and setbacks of his writing life, revealing how the people he met and the world he witnessed found their way into his work.
Intercut through the series is archive of some of the world’s best screen adaptations of the featured plays.
We begin tonight in 1587, as William Shakespeare leaves behind the small rural town of Stratford and his father’s struggling glove business to pursue his dreams of becoming a playwright in London – at that time a dangerous, burgeoning metropolis.
Public theatre is the new art form, and Shakespeare begins his journey at the bottom, as a stagehand and occasional actor.
He grabs an opportunity and writes a gory Roman revenge play, Titus Andronicus, which does well.
That’s followed by a teenage romance between two Italian youths from feuding families that he flips to end in tragedy.
Entitled Romeo and Juliet, it would change his life, and the world, forever.
Stacey Dooley: Inside the Undertakers (Thursday 09/11/23, BBC1, 9pm)
Words by Rachael Popow
Stacey Dooley has always seemed fearless.
She was still in her very early twenties when she signed up for the BBC Three documentary series Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts, which followed six young Brits as they learned about the conditions in Indian clothing factories.
Not only did taking part in the programme give Stacey an increased interest in international labour laws and the rights of women and children, but it also convinced the Beeb that she had star potential.
Before long, Stacey was fronting her own investigative documentaries, exploring such sensitive subjects as sex trafficking, political extremism and child soldiers.
Then it 2018, she reached a whole new audience when she won Strictly Come Dancing – admittedly, it was safer than travelling to a war zone, but plenty of people would be terrified at the thought of trying to cha cha on national television.
However, there is one thing that continues to terrify Stacey, and that’s the idea of death. It’s an issue she tried to address in her documentary Inside the Convent, which saw her spending time with a group of nuns. She spoke to them about mortality, but it seems that didn’t put her mind entirely at rest.
Since taking part in that series, Stacey has some more life-changing experiences, including becoming a mother, which she admits have left her even more worried about the future and death.
So, now she’s attempting to face those fears head on in Stacey Dooley: Inside the Undertakers as she goes behind the scenes at of the UK’s busiest family-run funeral businesses.
Of course, Stacey is hardly unique in being uncomfortable with the subject of death. As she says: “Death is a topic that’s openly discussed in many other cultures, even celebrated in some instances, yet I am so awkwardly British about the whole thing!
“It is, of course, inevitable, and that’s why I wanted to really explore exactly what happens when we do die. This access allows us to ponder the bigger questions surrounding life, as well as witness the practical logistics of a funeral. I’d like to thank every family member that has allowed us to document their story. I’m so grateful.”
So, she’s hoping the documentary will get other people talking too and help to demystify some aspects of the process.
Cameras follow the presenter as she joins the team at Nottinghamshire-based firm, A.W. Lymn the Family Funeral Service, which has been run by the same family for five generations.
She’ll pitch in to help with the day-to-day job of undertaking, from arranging funerals and carving headstones to making coffins and even embalming.
The presenter will also follow the stories of some of the people who are saying goodbye to their loved ones, or even planning their own send-offs, and discover how, in an increasingly secular society, faith and spirituality still have a role to play in the ceremonies.
By doing so, she hopes to gain an insight into how we deal with the ultimate rite of passage.
Ghosts (Friday 10/11/23, BBC1, 8.30pm)
Words by Rachael Popow
Some viewers would be happy for the sitcom Ghosts, which comes to an end tonight, to go on haunting the schedules forever, but it seems that its cast and creators were keen to leave the viewers wanting more.
Mathew Boynton, who plays the poetic Thomas, says: “It’s best to go out at the top while people are still saying, ‘It’s great’, rather than, ‘It’s not as good as it used to be’, which can happen with some shows.
“The way I see it, we’re a band who have made this very successful album. I want the last series to be as good as it’s ever been. I want people to miss it and us, and therefore be excited when we come back with something new.”
To carry on the band analogy, it’s certainly not the case that Ghosts is ending because of creative differences. The show was the brainchild of a group of actors and writers who first came together on the acclaimed children’s show Horrible Histories and went on to create Yonderland, and Mathew says that even if they don’t have a specific new project in mind at the moment, they’ll continue to collaborate.
He says: “There’s absolutely no way that we won’t work together again. It’s exciting to think about getting back in a room together, talking, making each other laugh and coming up with ideas about what we might do next.”
However, even knowing he’ll be reunited with his colleagues doesn’t mean that saying goodbye to Ghosts wasn’t a bittersweet experience.
Mathew says: “On the last day, the emotion took me by surprise. I thought, ‘Hang on, we’ve just got to the end.’ I just suddenly found my shoulders going. I felt like if I let myself, I could have really sobbed and sobbed, but I took a deep breath and carried on.
“I’ve never played a single character for that long or written a group of characters for that long. You become so attached emotionally to these imaginary people, but also to the real people who are the cast and crew around you. You’re thinking, ‘This has been a privilege and a joy’. I’ll carry those joyful memories with me for the rest of my life.”
Now, viewers will get a chance to say their own goodbyes as the final episode airs.
Mike and Alison have received a life-changing offer beyond their wildest dreams, but they need to weigh up the pros and cons. However, the chances of them getting some time alone to discuss it are looking slim, as a heartbroken Obi interrupts them to reveal he’s been dumped by Brenda.
The situation has left Obi so lovelorn, even Thomas, who is no stranger to moping over an unrequited love, thinks he need to get a grip and stop feeling sorry for himself.
Meanwhile, the rest of the ghosts are keen to help Alison make her mind up, but can she tune out their ‘helpful’ advice?