Foxy’s Fearless 48 Hours, Sunday 26th September, 10pm, Channel 4
If you watch SAS: Who Dares Wins, you’ll be familiar with Jason Fox. In the show, which sees recruits attempt to go through a condensed version of SAS training, he’s the nicest, gentlest one of the ‘staff’, former special forces soldiers who put the recruits through their paces. When I say he’s the nicest and gentlest, what I mean is he screams abuse in the faces of the recruits slightly less than the others. Slightly. You still get the impression from him that he’d snap you in two if you took the last Weetabix.
In this new series, he takes what the tabloids always refer to as a ‘pampered’ celebrity out into the wilds for 48 hours, subjects them to some hideous, terror-inducing exercises, and in between times, chats to them about their lives. This bears a not insignificant resemblance to Bear Grylls’ show, in which he takes a pampered celebrity out into the wilds for 48 hours, subjects them to some hideous, terror-inducing exercises, and in between times, chats to them about their lives.
To be fair, there are a couple of key differences. The first is that, in this show, they don’t sleep outdoors, on a bed of twigs and sheep dung. Nor is the celebrity forced to eat worms cooked in a jerry can – indeed, here the celebrity in question gets to stay in a luxury farmhouse and eat barbecued steak – you don’t get grills with Grylls! And the third thing is that this show features swearing – something you can’t really imagine the wholesome Bear Grylls doing. You certainly would never hear him utter the eloquently blunt line that Foxy comes out with at one point: “If he f***s around, he’s f***ed.” Those of a sensitive disposition might want to seek their entertainment elsewhere.
The celebrity in question in this first episode is Rob Delaney, an actor, writer and comedian perhaps best known for starring alongside Sharon Horgan in Channel 4’s marvellous sitcom Catastrophe (which you will also have avoided if you’re of a sensitive disposition). I liked Delaney an awful lot before this programme, and by the end of it, I liked him even more.
We first see Delaney preparing for his adrenaline-fuelled weekend in Snowdonia by walking up a mountain, rather incongruously pulling his wheelie suitcase behind him. He stops to have his carefully wrapped picnic, and declares himself capable of handling a crisis because he has managed to sup his apple and mango carton even though the straw is missing. The special forces could use a man like him.
Foxy, meanwhile, is off-roading up the mountain in an enormous Land Rover. He meets Delaney, the two exchange pleasantries, and then Delaney is put behind the wheel and told to drive across some extremely inhospitable terrain. There are lots of heroic shots of the car, which begins to make sense when you reach the first ad break and discover that the show is sponsored by Land Rover. I suppose we should be grateful it wasn’t sponsored by Wonderbra.
Foxy informs Delaney that they are to perform a terrifying stunt at the end of the weekend, but first, they have to do two slightly less terrifying stunts, so Foxy can get the measure of his charge. And, presumably, because we don’t all want to spend an hour watching two men do a single task.
I won’t reveal the tasks, because it’s more fun finding out on the show, but suffice to say, each one looks sufficiently horrendous to be the show’s ultimate, final one. It’s fun, watching the two men face their fears, and Delaney is a courageous, willing and funny participant. But what is even more rewarding is watching the conversations between the two. Rob Delaney has had a life scarred by illness, addiction and seemingly unbearable tragedy, and he talks about it with commendable and moving openness. And Jason Fox, it turns out, really is a nice chap. I’d be delighted to and stay in a farmhouse with him, and eat steak. I’d just pull the duvet over my head every time he suggested we set foot outside.
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7 Up: New Generation 1/3, Wednesday 29th September, 9pm, BBC One
When I was younger, I used to yearn for fame. I couldn’t think of anything better than having people flocking around me, asking for my autograph, taking photos with me, and generally adoring me. I never really paused to take into consideration how I would become famous – it was almost immaterial. I’d have settled for actor, pop star, athlete, politician – almost anything, in fact, apart from the kind of notoriety that sees your likeness on Crimewatch and ends up with you serving a 30-year stretch at Her Majesty’s Pleasure.
Now, of course, I can’t think of anything worse than being famous. Imagine people’s eyes on you all the time. Not being able to go to the shops without people judging the contents of your trolley (“look at all that prosecco!”), being photographed looking fat or sweaty or picking your nose, or having people ask for a selfie just as your shouting at your kids. Life has enough pressure without adding to it with fame.
I thought of that when I watched this marvellous film – the first in a new series that catches up with its subjects every seven years to find out how their lives are going. The first series filmed them in 2000, when they were seven. It would have been a rather exciting wheeze for them then. What seven-year-old doesn’t want to be on telly, and feel important and listened too? All the more so at 14, when anything that allows you to stand out from the crowd is pretty exciting. And at 21, it’s probably pretty good fun. While all your mates are trying to stand out on social media, you’ve got your own TV series being broadcast to the nation.
But at 28? I’m not entirely sure. By that stage, you might be starting to regard it all as something of a double-edged sword. In this world where everything is picked over minutely, and regurgitated and judged on Twitter, you might be starting to feel a bit nervous about how you come across.
Fortunately, the contributors to this series all seem content enough to appear in front of the camera. What makes this show so engrossing is the diversity of those involved. In the first episode, we catch up with Sanchez, a former trainee footballer with Leeds United whose career has taken a rather different direction. There’s John from Slough who, at the age of seven, wanted nothing more than to find a wife. Aged 28, he is still single, but seems less intent on settling down.
Gemma, from Bolton, suffered a rare virus when she was 18 months old, causing extensive paralysis. Ben grew up in a quiet, remote community on the Isle of Mull. Courtney, meanwhile, was from the rather noisier streets of Liverpool. Oliver grew up in one of London’s more exclusive neighbourhoods, and went to Eton.
The individuals are well-chosen, each one giving us an insight into a different aspect of modern life in 21st Century Britain. They are treated with commendable even-handedness by the programme makers, their lives portrayed with sensitivity and respect. It would be simple to show Oliver as a privileged elitist, or Sanchez as a kid from a rough neighbourhood who made it good. But such easy cliches are avoided, and the result is that we see more rounded pictures of real people.
You could watch weeks on end of television and not get as complete a picture of modern Britain as you get from watching this series. And, most encouragingly of all, what emerges is not a picture of a younger generation all out for themselves, or obsessed with updating their Instagram pages. Instead, they seem like a thoughtful and responsible collection of young people, doing their best to survive and navigate life’s travails. Not surprisingly, though, it seems that pretty much none of them can afford their own houses.
The best… and the rest:
Saturday 25th September
Global Citizen Live: Music Festival for the Planet, from 5:30pm on BBC Two, and 9:20pm on BBC One: Live coverage of the 24-hour music event raising awareness of climate change, taking place on six continents, and featuring some of the biggest stars of the music scene.
Britain’s Forgotten Wars with Tony Robinson 1/6, 8:20pm, Channel 4: This documentary series looks back at the conflicts the UK was involved with in the second half of the 20th Century, starting tonight with Operation Desert Storm in Iraq in 1990.
Golf: Ryder Cup Highlights, Midnight, BBC Two: Highlights of the first day’s play from Whistling Straits, Wisconsin, as Europe take on the USA in the biennial tournament.
Sunday 26th September
The Last Mountain, 9pm, BBC Two: This feature-length documentary tells the story of Tom Ballard, who died on Nanga Parbat in 2019. In this moving film, his sister makes a pilgrimage to the mountain to remember him.
Monday 27th September
The Goes Wrong Show 1/5, 8:30pm, BBC One: The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society returns for a second series of amusingly shambolic am-dram performances.
Gordon, Gino and Fred Go Greek 1/2, Monday 27th September, 9pm, ITV: Gordon Ramsay, Gino D’Acampo and Fred Sirieix sample the cultural and culinary delights of Greece, starting tonight with Crete, Santorini and Mykonos.
24 Hours in Police Custody 1/6, 9pm, Channel 4: Tonight, police go in search of a man posing as a delivery driver before forcing his way into people’s homes and committing brutal assaults.
D-Day Remembered: Minute By Minute 1/2, 9pm, Channel 5: Two-part documentary series telling the story of the events of 6th June 1944, when 150,000 allied troops landed in France in the largest amphibious invasion in history.
Wednesday 29th September
Location, Location, Location, 8pm, Channel 4: Kirstie and Phil return for series 36(!!) of the tried-and-tested property show.
Hollington Drive 1/4, 9pm, ITV: New drama series starring Anna Maxwell Martin and Rachel Stirling, about a 10-year-old boy who goes missing.
Thursday 30th September
Ambulance 1/6, 9pm, BBC One: New series of the riveting documentary series following the North West Ambulance Service as it battles to help the people of Lancashire during the second wave of Covid-19.
Don’t Exclude Me 1/2, 9pm, BBC Two: Behavioural expert Marie Gentles visits a Southend primary school to help manage its most challenging pupils.
The Real Manhunt: The Night Stalker, 9pm, ITV: Susanna Reid interviews senior officers involved in the 17-year hunt to find the serial rapist known as The Night Stalker.
Friday 1st October
Richard Osman’s House of Games Night, 8:30pm, BBC One: Ed Gamble, Sian Gibson, Dara O’Briain and Sindhu Vee go head-to-head in a series of fun trivia challenges, hosted by the amiable Richard Osman.
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