Brian Donaldson finds human oddities and bad hair days running amok in the schedules
The internet is a wonderful, wonderful place. Where else can you tap a few buttons and see men lip-synching to Romanian hit songs or witness dogs interfering with cats or watch a yardful of hardnut prisoners do the ‘Thriller’ dance or gasp in amazement as a bulky Scottish barmaid falls down a trapdoor? None of which is to even mention the lad whose moment of Jedi contemplation was scoffed at by millions or the oddball who wailed at the media’s taunting of Britney Spears simply for our voyeuristic entertainment. Rude Tube (Channel 4, Fri 15 Feb, 9pm •••), which we don’t think is named after its host, features foppish presenter Alex Zane running down the top 50 viral sensations with sweaty-palmed relish. He even includes a woman going absolutely ape about a disastrous visit to the hairdresser.
I’d be amazed if Lakshmi Tatma hasn’t appeared somewhere on the web. This two-year-old is the subject of The Girl with 8 Limbs: A Bodyshock Special (Channel 4, Tue 19 Feb, 9pm •••) which is essentially a mortal battle in rural India between the twin towers of religion and science. And guess what, science wins! Get it right up ye!! For those that believed little Lakshmi is the reincarnation of the eight-limbed goddess who even had the same name and everything, there are doctors on hand to say no, she is in fact a conjoined twin whose partner has gone and lost its head. Some quite astonishing footage accompanies this tragic private hell of parents dragged into an almighty struggle between their own faith and doing what’s right for the baby.
The struggle which accompanies viewing Skins (Channel 4, Thu 14 Feb, 10.35pm ••) is between gently pushing the off button or smashing a fist through your LCD screen. The overblown gloss of the season two trailer brought to mind the misleading farce of the initial ad campaign for Lost and for sheer ‘who gives a tossability?’, the pair are on a level footing. Nicholas Hoult’s spindly eyebrows remain the most fascinating things about this show as is the brief moment when Bill Bailey and Harry Enfield square up at a table all Pacino/De Niro Heat-like. Matching the Skins thinning veneer is The Last Enemy (BBC1, Sun 17 Feb, 9pm ••), a fast-paced conspiracy thriller set in a not too distant future UK where ID cards are mandatory and hygiene has become an obsessive compulsion. Benedict Cumberbatch frenetically washes his hands in between trying to find out why his eco-warrior brother was blown up, sleeping with his East European sister-in-law and hiding from the psychotic assassin attentions of, surprise surprise, Robert Carlyle. Maintaining the hirsute theme, Max Beesley steps out of his clean-cut stereo-image to muster up a really big beard.
Freezing (BBC2, Thu 21 Feb, 10pm •••) has a slight tinge of the dreadful Lead Balloon about it but features a redundant literary publicist (Hugh Bonneville) rather than a lame comedian whose wife (Elizabeth McGovern) is more than a mere cipher for his cynical worldview. While Lead Balloon just wanted to be a British Curb Your Enthusiasm, this goes out on a limb (sorry, Lakshmi) to make obscure references to Vincent Gallo movies and has the spectacular Tom Hollander as a no-nonsense agent.
Curiously, the worst sounding show of the fortnight (for ‘fortnight’ read ‘decade’) is actually the best new thing on the box. Ready? OK, a thin vampire, hairy werewolf and fragile ghost share a flat. No, it’s not a Five documentary, but a zippy new drama entitled Being Human (BBC3, Mon 18 Feb, 9pm ••••) which stars three new rising British talents, including Andrea Riseborough who will soon play Margaret Thatcher in a BBC4 drama (what is it with Andrea and mythical beasts?). It also has the added bonus of the ever marvellous Adrian Lester as the leader of the bloodsuckers who is slightly miffed that his protégé is hanging out with a pesky lycanthrope and smelly ghoul. It’s witty, it’s spirited and punchy in the right places, has some nice special effects that don’t detract from the tale’s heart and shows last year’s Jekyll a thing or two about applying a proper twist to the modern gothic.