TV Blog: The best (and worst) of the week's telly

Blog by Chris Lindsay | 31 Aug 2009
  • Doctors (lacking clowns)

My top find of last week was A1: The Road Musical (More4, Tuesday), a pseudo-documentary directed and composed by Benjamin Till and part of First Cut, the channel's showcase for new directors. The film features real people who live and work along the A1 telling their life stories through song and dance routines written in collaboration with the filmmakers.

Initially hilarious, early musical numbers see a Polish immigrant singing the praises of British bureaucracy while a truck driver laments the state of the UK's road network. The film then moves on to become profoundly moving, first as a woman shares how a stranger held her hand after a car crash and then as the grandmother of a teenage boy killed on the road sings a hymn to his memory.

Musical theatre is often considered an inherently ridiculous art form yet when done well it is able to transcend it's limitations and provide a soundtrack to our lives. This was the case here and seeing genuine, non-photogenic people singing from the heart about their real life loves and losses brought your reviewer both tears and laughter. And I don't even like musicals...

As mad as a documentary featuring a song and dance routine about Berwick-upon-Tweed was, it was nothing compared to what Doctors (BBC1, Wednesday) threw up this week. The cheapo daytime medical soap is normally pretty dull but occasionally gives us the odd surreal gem. Wednesday's installment saw a practice nurse getting caught in the crossfire of a mafia style battle between two warring clowns, complete with drive-by assaults and muggings perpetrated by men with inflatable hammers and custard pies. Serious drama doesn't usually orchestrate its fight scenes with comedy beeps and honks and doing so here made the usually bland show strangely compelling; a sort of Casualty meets Chucklevision.

Doctors partly exists as a training ground within BBC drama for new writers and directors as it's cheapness allows the corporation to take risks and try out new talent; which explains that though it's often rubbish it's worth dipping into in the hope that you get something as gloriously silly as this. Anyone thinking of working in TV should be keeping an eye on Doctors as it's often the first gig people get before moving on to more prominent roles. I'm expecting big things of the genius behind the gangland clown storyline.

Talking of clowns, last week saw the return of Reeves and Mortimer to our screens with a new series of Shooting Stars (BBC2, Wednesday) the first regular one since 1997. I'm always wary of revivals, more often than not it's best to leave the public with good memories rather than sullying your legacy by exhuming a once great show (I'm looking at you Only Fools and Horses).Vic and Bob's panel show parody is rightly remembered as a ground breaking piece of Dadaist comedy and for it's contempt of celebrity culture, as well as launching the career of Matt Lucas – back here as giant baby George Dawes.

The new show certainly doesn't disgrace what went before but what it does do is highlight pre-existing weaknesses that time might have caused us to forget. The show is pretty hit and miss, brilliant when on form, annoyingly self indulgent when not. I'd also forgotten the slightly creepy, masturbatory edge that some of the routines have which was more off putting than hilarious. Perhaps its just that R&M's sense of humour isn't as fresh as it once was but the show feels tired and jaded in places. That said, when things do come together the laughs come thick and fast and any show where the top prize is a cassette tape of reggae will never be a disaster.

A1: The Road Musical is available to watch at 4OD.

Doctors is available to watch at BBC iPlayer.

Shooting Stars is available to watch at BBC iPlayer.