It was with a degree of trepidation that I sat down to watch Glee (Episodes 1+2, E4, 4od until 16/02), 4’s latest galactico signing from the US. I’ve never been a fan of these brightly coloured, brash, ‘quirky’ music = ‘charm’ shows like Ugly Betty et al that suggest the world revolves around terrible people. And that maybe we should aspire to be more like these terrible people. Glee actually proved to be pleasantly surprising.
Sure, it’d be embarrassing if someone came in the room while you were watching it, but it’s not without its charm (no inverted commas this time). The tongue in cheek humour at its best comes across like the good moments of a Ben Stilleresque film and there is a generous smattering of actually quite likeable characters. Let’s not get carried away though, no matter how knowingly it winks, the jock/geek thing is tired, down to the inevitable crossover jock. And would it kill a big American series to go easy on racial stereotypes? Just once? It’s unclear whether it’s meant to be ironic, but even if it is, I think the rule on these matters is if Family Guy’s done it then it’s probably best to leave it out. I’m also unclear as to the point of a glee club. Answers on a postcard.
‘It may seem to him now that he is as much the prisoner, as the master of history’ says Simon Schama of Barack Obama, in Obama’s America (BBC 2, iPlayer until 21/02). With this, the man with the world’s most high profile job is put into Schama’s pocket. The title is something of a trick, as this is as much about Truman and the Korean War as it is about Obama. This is a good place to start if you’ve never seen one of those compilations of war footage documentaries from back in the day. The Korean War is one of the most important but glossed over moments of the last century, not to mention one of the most interesting. Who better to hold your hand than the majestic Schama? Been done better, but still good stuff.
Kevin McCloud: Slumming it (Channel 4, 4od until 14/02) was also a good solid documentary, almost in the vein of Bruce Parry’s seminal Tribe. Perhaps the conclusion he came to, namely that in the slum of Dharavi in Mumbai, community spirit is as rife as the dysentery, was somewhat pre-packaged, but it certainly rang true. He did a good job of not over-romanticising the place, which given the camera’s fondness of lingering over children crapping in the streets, seemed sound policy. The programme did a good job of really exploring the place, which was definitely worth doing as it seems as colourful a bizarre little hobbit world as you’ll ever find. If nothing else you’ll find a new fond appreciation for the Western Commode.
Apparently Iain Lee had to leave Twitter after the first episode of The Persuasionists (BBC 2, iPlayer until 17/02), such was the torrent of abuse. I greatly regret not getting in there while the going was good. The Persuasionists is horrible. This is what I imagine it would be like to watch children’s TV if you were coming off heroin and had run out methadone. Presumably this is one for the Two Pints of Lager crowd, if such a thing actually exists.
Celebrity Big Brother (Channel 4, 4od) is happening. Maybe you care about that, although you probably don’t. For what it’s worth, I think it’d be more use to review the queen than try to encroach the subject. Let’s leave it at that.