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TV review: 22 Kids and Counting and Stand Up and Deliver

Benjie Goodhart / 18 February 2021

In 22 Kids and Counting we see how Britain's biggest family are coping with lockdown, and in Stand Up and Deliver celebrities get a taste of life as a stand up comedian.

22 Kids and Counting 1/4, Monday 22nd February, 9pm, Channel 5

There has been much talk about the quiet heroism of the British people over the last 12 months. About how we have all uncomplainingly got on with the various pandemic privations with a determined stoicism. Well, not me. Nope. No siree, Bob! I have complained, whined, moaned and bellyached my way through the whole thing.

Well, no more. The complaining stops here*. Because I’ve seen what stuff to really complain about looks like, and it is not pretty. Welcome to the Radford household. Welcome to lockdown life and home-schooling when you have 22 kids. Welcome to hell.

Sort of. The peculiar thing about this particular version of hell is that everyone seems pretty cheerful. My wife and I watched in open-mouthed horror at the idea of life with that many kids. We have two, and they run rings around us. But in the Radford household (a ten-bedroom pile in Morecambe) everyone seems to be doing just fine, thank you very much. The kids are all dressed and fed. Nobody seems to be missing (probably – you’d never be entirely sure). And neither parent appears to be putting vodka on their cornflakes.

This four-part series catches up with the family during a tumultuous year. It is basically just a matter of pointing the camera and pressing ‘record’, because everything that happens in a house with that many kids is extraordinary. Just the stats alone are mind-boggling. They get through 16 pints of milk a day, two to three loaves of bread, and will demolish 56 sausages at a single meal. Mum Sue does four or five loads of washing daily. She’s spent 16.5 years of her life pregnant. It’s all just a bit much to take in. My wife spent the entire programme shouting “I don’t understand” and looking increasingly stressed out.

Unsurprisingly, at the start of the programme, Sue is pregnant. (Side note: Without being indelicate, it can’t be easy to, ah, facilitate the reproductive process in a house that full of kids). This is after they’d given away all of their baby stuff, having decided two-year-old Bonnie would be their last one. Having witnessed the splendid amount of attitude displayed by walking tantrum Archie, aged 3, I’m not entirely surprised they reached this conclusion. And yet here they are again.

So far so chaotic. You see them putting the littlest ones to bed, reading them stories, helping them get off to sleep. Finally, they are done. “Only 17 to go,” says dad Noel. I feel exhausted just watching. But then the trouble really begins. Enter Covid from stage left. Suddenly, the kids are at home all of the time. They need feeding. They create mess. They need educating. (To be fair, there’s not a whole lot of footage of home schooling going on, but that’s hardly surprising. We’ve struggled with our two, in spite of my wife being a former teacher). And Noel has to close his pie shop. It all seems unbelievably stressful, but bless Sue and Noel, they keep on smiling.

Cut to my wife and I, sitting on the sofa, knuckles white with the stress of just watching it all. After which, we decide to go to bed. Stepping over the piles of laundry, and the coats from endless trips to the park. There may be a child underneath them all somewhere. I can’t be expected to keep track. I’ve got two of them to look after. It’s just too many.

*I reserve the right to resume complaining any time I like. Probably within the next five minutes.

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Stand Up and Deliver, Thursday 25th February, 9pm, Channel 4

People will often remark than doing stand-up is the scariest thing on earth. I’m not sure I fully subscribe to this opinion. I suspect being a bomb disposal expert in Helmand has its stressful moments. Or performing complex surgery. Or being in a car with my father-in-law as he attempts a three-point-turn. (Like stand-up, this last one is terrifying, but potentially absolutely hilarious as well). What is certainly true, though, is that performing stand-up is a deeply nerve-wracking, personal, raw experience.

This new series subjects five celebrities to this unpleasant experience – presumably on the basis that getting them to defuse IEDs or operate on someone’s brain might be deemed reckless. So stand up it is. They are given a comedy mentor, and two weeks to prepare a five-minute set for a live show. And the whole thing is in aid of Stand Up to Cancer.

The celebrities arrive one by one. First up is Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, former chair of the Conservative Party, and a woman not noted for her comic delivery. Next up is former Happy Mondays front man and walking swearbox Shaun Ryder, whose life of excess over the years makes Keith Richards look like the Archbishop of Canterbury. Needless to say, he and Sayeeda appear not to recognise each other. They occupy different habitats. It’s like an octopus coming face to face with a meerkat.

Curtis Pritchard is the star of Strictly, which I imagine a fair few of you will watch, and Love Island, which I imagine rather fewer of you watched. Katie McGlynn is a former Corrie star, having played Sinead Tinker on the streets of Weatherfield for seven years. And finally, there is the Reverend Richard Coles, vicar, radio presenter, media personality and former Communard.

Each celebrity is given a mentor, in the form of an established comedian. Curtis is paired with Judi Love, Katie with Zoe Lyons, and Jason Manford is given the not insignificant challenge of bringing the best out of Shaun. Meanwhile, Nick Helm is less than delighted at the prospect of working with Sayeeda, as he doesn’t exactly identify as a Tory. Early favourites to win the most laughs must be the pairing of David Baddiel and Richard, not least because the latter is already a very funny and confident performer. Helped, perhaps, by the assumptions people make as soon as they see the dog collar. “There’s a sort of solemn look that people have when a clergyman stands up which tells you they have a very low expectation of being entertained,” he explains.

Richard’s talent for humour is apparent from the off, as each celebrity does a two-minute taster performance. While the comedic clergyman nails it, Curtis, Shaun and Katie very definitely do not. Last up is Sayeeda… who is surprisingly good. But it’s clear, they all have a long way to go before they will be ready to stand up in front of an audience.

Next, the celebs and their mentors need to get to know each other. Sayeeda takes Nick to her hometown of Dewsbury, where they begin to discover some unexpected common ground and – dare I say it – a degree of mutual respect. But Jason and Shaun are making less progress. Desperate to unlock some material about Shaun, Jason takes him back to where Shaun grew up, near a sewage works. Could it prove fertile ground?

Meanwhile, David is keen to get Richard to explore his darker side. But Richard is aware that he has to consider his ecclesiastical responsibilities, as well as his comic ones. Some areas are off limits for a vicar, he reasons. Will David persuade him to indulge his more risqué side?

The best… and the rest:

Saturday 20th February

The Wall Versus Celebrities 1/8, 6:40pm, BBC One: New series of the gameshow presented in gloriously melodramatic fashion by Danny Dyer. This series is a celebrity version, for charity. Up tonight are former footballers John Barnes and Chris Kamara.

Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway 1/7, 7pm, ITV: Return of the enjoyably daft family Saturday night entertainment show, with all the usual nonsense, albeit socially distanced. This week’s guest stars are Harry and Jamie Redknapp (more footballers) and Gary Barlow.

Princess Anne: The Seven Loves of Her Life, 9pm, Channel 5: A look at the Princess Royal’s romantic relationships, from equestrian gold medallist Richard Meade up to Timothy Lawrence, her husband of 28 years.

Sunday 21st February

Chris Packham’s Animal Einsteins 1/6, 8pm, BBC Two: The naturalist looks at some of the animal kingdom’s most intelligent creatures, and assesses how smart they are in relation to humans. Prepare to be amazed.

Million Pound Mega Motorhomes 1/3, 8pm, Channel 5: It’s fair to say we’ve moved on a bit from the draughty and tiny old caravans of yesteryear. This three-part series looks at the flashiest examples of motorhome modernity out there.

Bloodlands 1/4, 9pm, BBC One: James Nesbitt stars as Tom Brannick, a policeman with a troubled past (of course) in this moody and atmospheric noirish thriller. When a former IRA member associated with organised crime goes missing, evidence links the case to an unsuccessful hunt for a brutal assassin, known as Goliath, who last operated 20 years ago. But for Brannick, the historic case is one with tragic personal significance.

Monday 22nd February

Jamie: Keep Cooking Family Favourites 1/8, 8:30pm, Channel 4: Jamie Oliver returns with more recipes for simple, affordable, delicious meals. Tonight, it’s time to reinvent the roast chicken. Anything to stop me feeding my kids Pot Noodles for lunch.

Unforgotten 1/6, 9pm, ITV: Sanjeev Bhaskar and the eternally brilliant Nicola Walker star in series four of the acclaimed police drama. It’s fair to say, they’re probably investigating a murder. Frankly, it’s a miracle there’s anyone left alive in the UK.

Tuesday 23rd February

Million Pound Pawn, 8pm, ITV: Documentary series about pawnbrokers and some very high-end pawn.

Blitz Spirit with Lucy Worsley, 8:30pm, BBC One: The historian tells the story of six people during the blitz. A timely reminder that watching Netflix and wearing a mask isn’t as tough as being bombed and living on rations.

Wednesday 24th February

Gordon Ramsay’s Bank Balance, 9pm, BBC One: Pairs of contestants answer questions in order to place stacks of gold bars on a balance board, with a possible jackpot of £100k. All presented by TV chef Gordon Rasmsay. No, I’ve no idea why, either. Continues tomorrow.

Murder in a Small Town 1/2, 9pm, Channel 5: Two-part documentary examining the case against Luke Mitchell, convicted of the brutal murder of 14-year-old Jodi Jones in 2003. Did the police find the right man?

Thursday 25th February

How to Keep a Healthy Weight with Michael Mosley, 8pm, Channel 4: Advice I suspect quite a few of us could do with following, based on the last 12 months of somewhat sedentary activity!

Coronavirus: A Horizon Special – What We Know Now, 9pm, BBC Two: Chris and Xand van Tulleken – the charismatic twin TV doctors, and Dr Guddi Singh, present the latest developments in the fight against the virus. Fingers crossed for a happy ending!

Friday 26th February

Grayson’s Art Club 1/6, 8pm, Channel 4: The hugely popular show, that encourages your inner artist to express itself, returns with presenters Grayson Perry and his wife Philippa. Tonight’s theme is family, and guests include Boy George, David Bailey and Harry Hill.

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