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In praise of Channel 4

December 20, 2009

A documentary series on 11-year-olds starting secondary school and a fake reality show with six people with a disability on a desert island might sound poles apart, but they are both Channel 4 programmes that I really enjoyed recently.

My First Year followed the progress of Year 7 students throughout their first year of secondary school. The themes that it deals with are the ones you’d expect, love, friendship, parents; but it doesn’t shy away from other topics, and not just bullying and having difficulties coping with homework. Today I watched an episode about religion that I found most compelling. The kids who did have a strong faith spoke with great maturity and a great deal of openness, and one kid (Elliot, a truly loveable character) went to the Sikh temple with his friend to discover more about her religion.

Despite there being a narrator, and an occasional drizzle of patronising talk, the children dominate the scene. While not ground-breaking, the programme feels genuine. It is a funny age, eleven, and I have not had a change to spend time with people that age recently – so seeing them on television is refreshing.

Cast-Offs is a scripted reality show in which six people, each with their own disability (yes, like superpowers), have to survive on an island for three months. Much like in Lost, each episode is dedicated to a specific character and features flashbacks from their life before the island. The writing is vitriolic and the acting is superb. Unfortunately I only saw a couple of episodes – it was scheduled at a ridiculously late slot – but what I found blood-curdling was how rounded, interesting and believable the characters were. I have a quiet suspicion that the characters are heavily based on the actors who play them, in personality at least if not in life stories – just to add to the various layers of fiction – reality – fiction. I couldn’t pick my favourite character or my favourite actor. Truly stunning all round. And despite the late time slot it received great comments from those who did see it. Most said “it was about time” and “why hasn’t this been advertised more”, both thoughts that I share.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Rachael permalink
    December 20, 2009 12:21

    I wish the whole series of My First Year would stay on 4oD, it’s something worth coming back to.

  2. December 20, 2009 22:26

    You should do the write up for G2’s tv review ele!

  3. December 25, 2009 02:56

    Ahaha thanks Holly! Your food writing skills are way better though… or maybe it’s just that I’m too distracted drooling over the gorgeous pictures :)

    Rachael, welcome to the blog! I agree with you, it should stick around. Also because next year, it’ll be someone else’s first year!

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