Remote Control

Brian Donaldson finds a bunch of shows with families at war

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Instead of mucking about in casinos and getting pointlessly on the nerves of the once-famous, Louis Theroux is back making the kind of show which forged his reputation in the late 90s. Within five minutes of The Most Hated Family in America (BBC2, Sun 1 Apr, 9pm, 4 Stars), the old spark has returned as he confronts the Kansas-based Phelps clan whose views extend to hating homosexuals and believing that 9/11 was sent to punish America for allowing gays into the military while their activities amount to picketing soldiers’ funerals and brainwashing their own children.

Should Theroux ever make a film about the most hated family in Britain, the Harpers and the Thatchers should sneak onto the shortlist. How on earth My Family (BBC1, Fri 6 Apr, 8.30pm, 1 Star) ever survived past its first episode is beyond me. The fact that this garbage is now into its seventh series defies the laws of nature, logic and taste. You don’t need to know the storyline of this 28 minutes of hell; you’ll just instinctively know that it isn’t right. Something else that outstayed its welcome was the reign of Dame Maggie. Mummy’s War (Channel 4, Thu 29 Mar, 9pm, 3 Stars), marks 25 years since the Falklands stramash (was it really a war?) when those nasty Argies jackbooted into Goose Green, knocking dozens of penguins over to reclaim the Malvinas. Carol Thatcher drops in on the grateful Brits and, to her credit, meets some grieving Argentine mothers who lost their boys when the Belgrano was sunk while sailing away from the island. But was this really the PM’s ‘darkest hour’ or was it the moment when her fading Tory administration regained the public’s favour to ensure a landslide election win in 1983? This question goes unanswered.

The key unanswered question with Wedding Belles (Channel 4, Thu 29 Mar, 10pm, 2 Stars) is ‘why’? Or, more pertinently: ‘why, oh why?’ Co-written by Irvine Welsh, this is self-parody gone haywire. There’s plenty skag and shag with enough fighting and swearing to keep the writer’s followers happy, but the twist of having a quartet of bridal-gowned females doing his bidding wears off mighty swiftly. Though I’ll give him credit for appearing in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sequence as a transvestite (a blessing, perhaps) while it’s not every day that you see Harry Potter’s Moaning Myrtle stab Balamory’s Edie McCredie in the chest with a crucifix.

You’d think that the institution of marriage would have been given enough of a hammering from Irvo and co, but the people behind Celebrity Wife Swap (Channel 4, Sun 1 Apr, 8pm, 2 Stars) might well be aiming to stick the final nail into that coffin. Perhaps this isn’t their intention; what would be the point in that? But then, the reason for this show’s existence seems completely lost other than proving that no one at Channel 4 has learned any lessons from Shilpagate. Aren’t we just a little war-weary of seeing people (celebs or not) at each other’s throats in unrealistic situations which are manufactured in such a way that their sole purpose is to have people at each other’s throats? So, when Debbie McGee and Vanessa Feltz swap places, how astonished are we really supposed to be on learning that the lovely Debbie isn’t the partying type and can’t cope when forced to host a radio show, while Feltz doesn’t care for fetching Paul Daniels’ socks or having a one-way conversation? With eight more grotesque mismatches to come it has to be assumed that somewhere there is a market for this vapid voyeurism. So, will you like this? Not a jot.

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