The Reckoning, Big Brother and Celebrity Race Across The World: TV highlights this week
First Ladies of Hip Hop (Saturday 07/10/23, BBC2, 9.35pm)
Words by Rachael Popow
There have been plenty of documentaries about the history of hip hop, which isn’t surprising – it’s arguably the most influential music genre to emerge in the past 50 years and has played a huge role in shaping pop culture as we know it.
However, if you were to watch some of those programmes, you could come away with idea that it’s a very male-dominated world. Female artists from the US are often treated as an afterthought and British women rarely get mentioned at all.
The BBC is aiming to put that right with the new three-part documentary First Ladies of Hip Hop, which celebrates the women rappers, DJs, producers and industry insiders who played a pivotal role in the music’s evolution and helped to pave the way for future generations.
The Beeb has also found the perfect narrator for the documentary in Neneh Cherry. The Swedish-British rapper scored a worldwide hit with her single Buffalo Stance in 1989. She also broke barriers by performing the track on Top of the Pops while seven months pregnant with her second child – if any younger viewers are wondering why that could have possibly been controversial, it stirred up a lot of press coverage, and a journalist reportedly asked her if she was sure it was safe to be on stage in her condition.
We’ll be hearing some more eye-opening stories over the course of the series, which begins tonight with a double bill. It looks at the careers of figures including Eve, Rah Digga, Sha Rock, Debbie D, Deidra Roper (aka DJ Spinderella of Salt-n-Pepa) Yo-Yo (who is well known for her work with N.W.A’s Ice Cube), Millie Jackson, Cheryl the Pearl (The Sequence), JJ Fad, Sheri Sher (The Mercedes Ladies), and the pioneering Roxanne Shanté, who tells viewers about how she was, unfairly in her view, denied the accolade of the greatest rapper on earth because she was a woman.
The spotlight is also shone on homegrown talents, including British hip hop phenomenon Monie Love, and UK acts Estelle, Betty Boo, Cookie Pryce , the Wee Papa Girl Rappers and So Solid Crew’s Lisa Maffia.
The opening double bill begins though with a look at how women fought to make their voices heard during the early days of the scene, and the key role played by super-producer Sylvia Robinson in creating the 1979 hit Rapper’s Delight by the Sugarhill Gang, which helped to introduce hip hop to the mainstream.
And The hip hop don’t stop (or start) there. BBC2 is getting us hyped for the documentary with Women of Hip Hop & Soul: Later… with Jools Holland (8.35pm), which includes performances from Erykah Badu, Kelis, India Arie, Angie Stone, Ms Dynamite, Stefflon Don, Jorja Smith, Little Simz and Mary J Blige.
Then at 11.35pm, there’s another chance to see Lizzo at Glastonbury 2023, as the rapper, singer and flautist performs hits such as Good As Hell, About Damn Time and Juice.
Big Brother: The Launch (Sunday 08/10/23, ITV1, 9pm)
Words by Sarah Morgan
Can you remember who won the last series of Big Brother?
Unless you’re a die-hard fanatic, chances are the answer to the above questions is “no”. By the time it came to an end in November 2018 after 19 series, the reality show appeared to be long past its sell-by date.
Of course, in its heyday, it was must-see TV. Davina McCall hosted it during its run on Channel 4, with former winner Brian Dowling and then Emma Willis taking over when it moved to Channel 5.
Jade Goody is perhaps the most famous person to have appeared on the show, with many forgetting that new Bake Off host Alison Hammond started her TV career as a housemate in the third series. And who could forget the first run’s ‘nasty’ Nick Bateman, whose efforts to manipulate his fellow contestants failed miserably – he was eventually evicted, paving the way for builder Craig Phillips to become the inaugural winner.
Now, following a five-year hiatus, Big Brother could be on the verge of creating some new stars – the format has been snapped up by ITV; the broadcaster will show the first episode of its 20th series simultaneously on ITV1, ITV2 and streaming platform ITVX. After that, it will run nightly on the latter pair.
“This refreshed, contemporary new series of Big Brother will contain all the familiar format points that kept viewers engaged and entertained the first time round, but with a brand new look and some additional twists that speak to today’s audience,” says Paul Mortimer, Director of Reality Commissioning & Acquisitions and Controller, ITV2, ITVBe and CITV. “We’re beyond excited to bring this iconic series to ITV2 and ITVX where it should especially engage with our younger viewers.”
The main show will be followed each evening by Big Brother: Late & Live, which gives viewers an additional hour of exclusive content, as well as interviews with the latest evictees. We’re also promised a live stream via ITVX.
The all-important house has been given a new, contemporary feel, and this evening’s programme will see its residents arrive, offering viewers the first chance to see the people they’re going to get to know over the coming weeks.
And, of course, there are new hosts to get used to – AJ Odudu and Will Best are the people taking charge.
“I’m so excited to be able to say that, yes: I’m hosting Big Brother!” smiles Odudu. “I couldn’t be happier. Following in the footsteps of some of my favourite broadcasting legends to front such an iconic show is an absolute honour – and to do it alongside my amazing friend Will is the icing on the cake.”
“I grew up with Big Brother so getting a chance to host it with my mate AJ is a dream come true,” claims Best. “I can’t wait to tell some housemates not to swear.”
It seems the show and its fans are in safe hands. And if you’re still pondering that opening question, fret no more – it was then-teenager Cameron Cole.
The Reckoning (Monday 09/10/23, BBC1, 9pm)
Words by Rachael Popow
Although he’s now remembered as a predator and one of the most reviled figures in modern British history, there was a time when Jimmy Savile was one of the biggest stars on British TV.
He was so famous that many people mimicked him – and his distinctive style and unique vocal tics made him instantly recognisable.
However, those impersonations have now taken on a much darker tinge, so it’s understandable that Steve Coogan had to think carefully about whether to accept the role in the new BBC drama The Reckoning, which traces Savile’s life.
The actor, who is probably most famous for his alter ego Alan Patridge but has also taken on plenty of real-life roles, including Stan Laurel in the film Stan and Ollie, says: “To play Jimmy Savile was not a decision I took lightly. Neil McKay has written an intelligent script tackling sensitively an horrific story which – however harrowing – needs to be told.”
Not everyone has agreed that this story does need to be told – or that the BBC, which missed opportunities to bring Savile to justice while he was alive, needs to tell it.
Coogan told the Radio Times that while he can empathise with the objections, he thinks The Reckoning is an important show.
He said: “It is controversial and I understand that. The BBC are damned if they do and damned if they don’t, and I believe the correct choice is to be damned if they do.
“Broadly, it’s better to talk about something than not. The team had the right attitude and it was done with the cooperation of survivors. I think when it’s broadcast, it will vindicate itself.”
Some viewers may be reassured to learn that The Reckoning has been produced by Jeff Pope, who with writer McKay, has a track record for creating thoughtful dramas about controversial real-life cases. Their previous credits include Appropriate Adult, which dealt with serial killer Fred West, as well as The Moorside, which told the story of the community impacted by the disappearance of Shannon Matthews, and Four Lives, which shed new light on the murders of four young gay men by Stephen Port.
Now, they will be telling the story of how Savile rose to fame – and how he used his involvement in multiple organisations, such as the BBC, hospitals, prisons, and charities, and friendships with powerful figures to both prey on victims and conceal his crimes.
The drama aims to raise important questions about how the abuser evaded justice, even in his twilight years when the rumours surrounding him were gaining strength and the man himself seem concerned with his legacy.
It will also examine the impact of his crimes on his victims and the powerlessness they felt when they tried to raise the alarm. Four of the survivors who contributed to The Reckoning will feature in the series speaking about their experiences.
The supporting cast includes Gemma Jones, Robert Emms and Siobhan Finneran.
Don’t Look Down for Su2C (Tuesday 10/10/23, Channel 4, 9.30pm)
Words by Rob Lavender
Stand Up To Cancer, or Su2C, has been a huge success since launching in the UK in 2012. Not only has it raised more than £100m for cancer research, but it has also garnered huge viewing figures – which, in turn, leads to a greater awareness of the work being done by Su2C, which is a worldwide movement.
Its success in the UK has much to do with the generous spirit of our public, of course, but it also has a lot to thank Channel 4’s innovative programming for.
For example for its inaugural year the channel, fresh from the success of its “Mash-Up Night” earlier in the year (which originated the format of 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown), introduced the cast of Made in Chelsea to the concept of good, honest hard graft by having them work at Tesco; there was another special edition of 8 Out of 10 Cats, and a live celebrity version of The Million Pound Drop featuring, among others, stars of the London 2012 Paralympics companion programme The Last Leg.
Much like The Last Leg, and 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown, Su2C felt very ‘2012’ but proved to have terrific staying power. It quickly became a firm fixture in the Channel 4 calendar, with the celebrity Bake Off series being particularly popular and memorable.
This year we get another celebs-out-of-their-comfort-zones treat, as a team of famous faces train up in an effort to master the highwire.
Host and team leader Paddy McGuinness is joined by soap star Beverley Callard, former footballer Anton Ferdinand, erstwhile Pussycat Doll member Kimberly Wyatt, Love Island star Chris Hughes, French former footballer and I’m a Celeb star David Ginola, adventurer/presenter Charley Boorman, TikTok star GK Barry, comedian Fats Timbo and Olympic champion cyclist-turned-jockey Victoria Pendleton.
The group start their training for this most daredevil and unconventional of pursuits by heading out to the Austrian Alps, where they are tutored by the world’s foremost experts in high-wire walking. The ultimate aim is to achieve something which has never been accomplished before, even by the experts: a huge-scale relay walk on a wire looming high above the ground. And Paddy isn’t just hosting – he will be leading the relay walk himself.
Looking ahead to the daunting feat, Paddy says: “I’ve done all kinds of shows, but this is definitely the most nerve racking! I’m so excited to be hosting Don’t Look Down, which is undoubtedly going to be the challenge of a lifetime for everyone involved. I can’t wait to get cracking and see whether I can lead the team to find the nerve to take on this ridiculously high and very difficult walk. They’re not going to be in for an easy ride, but it’s all for such a brilliant cause and I hope we raise loads of money for Stand Up to Cancer. I’m now off to practice on the washing line…”.
Celebrity Race Across the World (Wednesday 11/10/23, BBC1, 9pm)
Words by Scheenagh Harrington
We now have three episodes of this six-part nail biting competition firmly under our belt, in which a quartet of stars, partnered by a loved one, are racing from Marrakech in Morocco to Tromso in Norway.
McFly drummer Harry Judd and his mum, retired nurse Emma, racing driver and pundit Billy Monger and his sister, Bonny, a make-up artist, All Saints singer-songwriter Mel Blatt and her mum Helene, and weatherman Alex Beresford in the company of his retired engineer dad Noel, have been battling it out to get their noses ahead of the pack.
As the curtain goes up on the fourth instalment, everyone’s budgets are dwindling and the intensity of the race is stepping up as the teams leave western Europe behind.
Current leaders Harry and Emma are the first to learn the next checkpoint is Sarajevo, and are the only ones who decide to travel through Austria.
At the start of the competition, Harry quipped: “You’ve got to balance the competition between your own sanity and comfort. I think you can be a more effective racer if you don’t go out all guns blazing”. But, when he falls ill during this leg, Emma is pushed to her limit by her son’s time keeping and is forced to deliver a few home truths.
In contrast, Alex and his dad Noel are taking the race at a more leisurely pace so they can appreciate the incredible places they are travelling through.
“We are very competitive, but we’re here to enjoy it and see things, different cultures, how people live, explore all the nice things we come across,” Noel said.
A stop at the picturesque Lake Bled in Slovenia offers them a precious moment to reflect on their relationship and the trials and tribulations that come with fatherhood.
“We do get to see each but not really for proper quality time, sometimes it’s very brief, so this is uninterrupted time,” Alex mused.
Billy and younger sister Bonny try to play it ‘cheap and smart’ in this edition, something she was happy to do before the race began. “When it gets to the point where we get to do some work, we’ll take that in our stride and have a bit of fun with it and try to make the most out of it,” she said.
The siblings end up taking on two jobs to help them achieve their goal, and working on a stud farm in Slovenia ignites a poignant conversation about their childhood and Billy’s racing career.
The race is also giving Mel and her mum Helene valuable time together, something they were relishing before the starting gun fired. Sadly, Zadar in Croatia doesn’t turn out to be the sunny beach stop-off Mel was hoping for. Instead, the pair focus on earning enough money to pay for expensive transport that will give them the edge. As Mel admitted: “I love to travel, but I like to travel nicely!”
However, as the fast-paced nature, scale and unpredictability of the race continues, the final sprint into the checkpoint in Sarajevo takes an unexpected turn.
Interview with the Vampire (Thursday 12/10/23, BBC2, 9pm)
Words by Scheenagh Harrington
It might be hard to imagine but there was once a time when Tom Cruise didn’t inspire automatic, carpet-scraping awe.
Back in the early 1990s, when actors were being cast for the big-screen version of Anne Rice’s gothic horror novel Interview with the Vampire, she desperately wanted British actor Julian Sands for the role.
Unfortunately, the A Room with a View star was not considered famous enough by the powers that be, and the plum role was handed to Cruise instead.
Rice did not beat around the bush making her negative opinion known, famously quipping the Top Gun star was: “no more my vampire Lestat than Edward G Robinson is Rhett Butler”.
Of course, Anne went on to fall under his spell the instant she saw him on screen, calling the actor personally to apologise and saying publicly: “from the moment he appeared, Tom was Lestat for me”.
It was far from the only problem to plague the film, directed by Neil Jordan. Cruise’s co-star Brad Pitt, who played Louis de Pointe du Lac, complained of being “miserable” during the shoot, which took place mostly in the winter and at night.
Another ill omen was the tragic death of River Phoenix, who had been cast as journalist Daniel Molloy, several weeks before filming began.
It would be interesting to see what Anne, who died in 2021 aged 80 (she is nevertheless listed as an executive producer, alongside her son Christopher), would have made of this 21st-century reimagining of her seminal novel.
The glorious, seven-part drama follows Louis de Pointe du Lac, Lestat de Lioncourt (Sam Reid) and Claudia (Bailey Bass) and their epic story of love, blood and the perils of immortality, as told to journalist Daniel Molloy (Eric Bogosian).
As for Louis, he is played by Jacob Anderson, arguably best known for playing Grey Worm in Game of Thrones and Vinder in the 13th series of Doctor Who.
Chafing at the limitations of life as a Black man in 1900s New Orleans, Louis finds it impossible to resist the rakish Lestat’s offer of the ultimate escape: joining him as his vampire companion. However, all too soon, Louis discovers that his intoxicating new powers come at a violent price, while the introduction of Lestat’s newest fledgling, the child vampire Claudia, soon sets them on a decades-long path of revenge and atonement.
All the while, Louis struggles with who and what he is. “The humiliation of a human life in order to feed yourself is not something he enjoys,” Jacob said.
The series has already aired across the Pond and has whipped critics and fans into a frenzy.
Sue Deeks, head of BBC Programme Acquisition, is delighted to bring the drama to UK screens, describing it as “a sumptuous, sensual, complex and disturbing treat”.
In a reassuring note for fans of the book (and perhaps the movie too), she added that the “series stays true to the gothic spirit of Anne Rice’s eternally popular novels, while sympathetically re-imagining her world for a new generation”.
It will be fascinating to see how the new version plays out. Who knows, maybe Tom Cruise is also a secret fan?
Uncanny (Friday 13/10/23, BBC2, 9pm)
Words by Rob Lavender
October is ‘spooky season’, as we count down towards Halloween. Not only that, but this is also Friday 13th – that has to count double in the spookiness stakes. The last Friday 13th of October was 2017, and it won’t happen again until 2028, so it feels worth doing something suitably spectral to celebrate.
And when it comes to spooks, Danny Robins is the UK’s go-to ghost guy.
He’s the man behind Radio 4’s smash-hit Uncanny podcast, as well as The Battersea Poltergeist and Witch Farm, and the award-winning West End play 2:22 – A Ghost Story.
Before he broke into the world of real-life hauntings, Robins was primarily a comedian and writer. He penned Radio 4’s cosy sitcom A Cold Swedish Winter, based on his life after meeting his Swedish wife and subsequently living in the country.
Then, what had obviously been a personal interest – the supernatural – changed his professional life entirely. He wrote and presented The Battersea Poltergeist, which was the true story of a London haunting in 1956 presented as documentary alongside dramatised reenactments, with voice acting from Dafne Keen (His Dark Materials) and Toby Jones.
The series was frankly terrifying. But what happened next was astonishing.
Robins was inundated with emails, letters and phone calls from people from all walks of life, detailing their own paranormal experiences. He made no appeal for such information, but it came anyway. In droves.
The result was Uncanny. Robins featured these people’s stories, and investigated them himself. He would be joined each episode by two experts, inevitably one from “Team Sceptic” and “Team Believer”, each with their own ideas and potential explanations.
Uncanny has been played almost five million times on BBC Sounds and with three million downloads on other platforms globally. With this sort of reach, he not only hears new stories but also ones which tie in with hauntings he has already covered. People will get in touch to say they has been at a featured location too, at a different time, and have stories of their own.
The podcast’s immense success has also had another inevitable consequence: a branch out into TV.
This three-part initial series (if the podcast is anything to go by, subsequent series and follow-up episodes are inevitable; response from the community is ingrained into the DNA of the format) will feature real-life stories of experiences that seem to defy logical explanation.
Speaking ahead of the show, Robins says: “I’ve been blown away by the response to Uncanny. We’ve built an incredible community around the show, many of whom never realised how interested in the paranormal they were! I’m incredibly excited to get the chance to both continue the podcast and adapt it for TV, as we explore that biggest of all questions – ‘do ghosts exist’? I promise it will be scary and fascinating in equal measure – so, do you dare watch?”.
Heed the warning – particularly if you consider yourself “Team Sceptic”, for you may find your convictions tested…