THE BUTTON + HOME FROM HOME + WANNABE
THE BUTTON: Friday, BBC One
HOME FROM HOME: Friday, BBC One
WANNABE: Friday, BBC One
In the competitive realm of TV gameshows, the simplest formats always win. The only exception was the inscrutable 3-2-1, which managed to survive for ten years despite no one ever knowing what the hell was going on.
The canny minds behind cult Dave hit Taskmaster know a good, simple idea when they find one, as they proved yet again with their new BBC bauble THE BUTTON.
A literal manifestation of fun for all the family, it involves five nuclear broods from around the UK undertaking various challenges at exactly the same time from the comfort of their own living rooms. The winning family earns a large cash prize, the losers get nothing.
They receive their instructions from a shiny plastic box crowned with a mushroom-shaped button. When the button – or rather, The Button; he’s a character voiced by comedian and series co-creator Alex Horne – turns red they must spring into action. Once they’ve completed the round, they press The Button again. The quickest family to do so wins.
That’s all there is to it, but it makes for cheerful, undemanding viewing.
Challenges in the first episode included building a free-standing tower from cans, books and pillows that was taller than the tallest person in the household (this led to the depressing spectacle of one contestant shrieking, “We don’t have any books!”), bouncing a ping pong ball into a cup, reciting the entire alphabet backwards without saying any of the vowels, and stuffing a mound of huge inflatables into their homes.
This harmless bit of fun benefits from a refreshing lack of cynicism. Horne never mocks the contestants, and even when they get to watch and sometimes laugh at their rivals in action, it’s all done in a spirit of friendly competition.
Pre-watershed gameshows are notoriously hard to get right – the grim spectre of Don’t Scare The Hare still looms large – but the BBC have almost certainly got a hit on their hands here. You can guarantee that children up and down the land will be urging their parents to apply.
It will also inevitably lead to the TV-eating-itself weirdness of the families from Gogglebox watching the families from The Button. We’re through the looking glass, people.
BBC One’s new Friday night schedule continued with a pair of debuting sitcoms. The first, HOME FROM HOME is a class-based comedy set in a Lake District holiday park.
The presence of Johnny Vegas suggests that it might have some bite and bitter pathos. It doesn’t. It’s a gentle gust of nothing in particular. Despite offering Vegas another opportunity to riff on his lovable sad-sack persona, the mild scripts by Coronation Street writers Simon Crowther and Chris Fewtrell are beneath him.
The supporting cast, which includes Emilia Fox as a snooty neighbour and Susan Calman as a conspiracy theorist, also do what they can, but Home From Home is a featherweight waste of their talents. It’s not a bad show, it means no harm, but it doesn’t raise so much as a titter or indulgent smile. Still, lovely scenery.
It’s slightly better than WANNABE, however, which follows a selfish, deluded and sad ex-member of a forgotten girl band who decides to make an unbidden comeback.
Competently performed by Nicholas ‘Nathan Barley’ Burns and co-writer Lily Brazier, it nevertheless leans far too heavily on Gervais-esque tics and his worn-out themes. It’s the pointless David Brent film starring a middle-class mum. No one needs this.
TV HIGHLIGHTS of THE WEEK
Tuesday, BBC One, 9pm
Written by Abi Morgan (The Hour), this new drama stars Nicola Walker as a leading divorce lawyer who finds that business is personal when she leaves the family firm to join a rival. She also faces her father who walked out 30 years ago.
THE CANCER HOSPITAL
Wednesday, BBC One, 9pm
Based in Beatson Cancer Centre in Glasgow, this new documentary series explores the reality of modern cancer treatment. Episode one focuses on breast cancer via the experience of several patients.
PAUL O’GRADY: FOR THE LOVE OF DOGS – INDIA
Thursday, STV, 8:30pm
The pooch-loving entertainer returns for another series of canine studies. His latest journey begins in Delhi, where thousands of dogs live wild on the streets. He meets some of the people who devote their lives to helping these vulnerable creatures.
HAROLD SHIPMAN: DOCTOR DEATH
Thursday, STV, 9pm
Twenty years on from the arrest of Britain’s most prolific serial killer, this documentary investigates how he got away with murdering 250 patients. Eyewitnesses and detectives reveal how they eventually brought him to justice.
FILM of THE WEEK
THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
Monday, Film4, 4:50pm
Steeped in Gothic atmosphere, this marvellous adaptation of the classic Sherlock Holmes mystery is one of the key early offerings from the Hammer house of horror. Peter Cushing is perfectly cast as Holmes, while Christopher Lee provides strong support as the last remaining member of an aristocratic family who believes he’s being targeted by a supernatural hound roaming the remote Devon moors. Draw the curtains, dim the lights, and bask in the ghoulish ambience of this beautifully made production.