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23 January ‘12

TV Critics: Bob Servant Independent; Life After War; Model Railways Story; Africa

“I found myself thinking that it was all getting a bit silly and laughing at it at the same time.” Read on for the verdict on last night’s TV.

Bob Servant Independent, BBC4

“Brian Cox gives a stupendous performance, so calculatedly over the top, yet so irresistible, that we viewers feel it is we, rather than the studio mike, that Servant has seized to his lips. It shouldn’t be, but Bob Servant Independent is funny.”
Andrew Billen, The Times

“Cox is a magnificent actor. Every time Bob opens his mouth we see blind panic, the face of a man who does not know what the next few words are going to be, nor where they might lead him. How often have we seen that look on Newsnight and Question Time? How good an actor do you have to be to look as if you’re making it all up? For that reason alone this show’s got my vote.”
Matt Baylis, Daily Express

“There are rough edges here, but Brian Cox speeds you past them by the ebullience of his performance, and quite often I found myself simultaneously thinking that it was all getting a bit silly and laughing at it at the same time.”
Tom Sutcliffe, The Independent

“Delusional interior worlds are much easier to create – and a lot funnier – when they are done as a series of soundscapes or monologues. Seeing Bob in the flesh diminished him, as it became increasingly difficult to see his extreme vision as absurd, rather than moronic. Still, there were some good moments and Greg McHugh (Howard from Fresh Meat), who played Anders the local radio presenter, is almost worth his own show.”
Sam Wollaston, The Guardian

Life After War: Haunted by Helmand, BBC3

“Michael Price’s film properly reminded you that the dangers don’t stop when the troops get back, but it was a little marred by wishful thinking – or at least television’s addiction to the upbeat conclusion.”
Tom Sutcliffe, The Independent

“It was hard to watch. The commander, Old Etonian Alex Horsfall, who lost a leg and a hand in the attack and was trying to organise a reunion, was the one giving the best impression of someone who had recovered from the experience. But his empty flat and emptier eyes suggested that he was still spending a lot of time in his own private hell. Of the others, one had committed suicide, several were still experiencing nightmares and post-traumatic stress, one was a borderline alcoholic, another had split up with his partner, and none had reintegrated into civilian life. The army may be a lot better at saving lives on the battlefield these days, but it has still got a lot to learn about piecing minds back together.”
Sam Wollaston, The Guardian

The Joy of (Train) Sets: The Model Railways Story, BBC4

“The Joy of (Train) Sets: The Model Railways Story made no great claims to be anything other than an entertaining film about the male fascination with trains… The only slightly jarring note was several modellers talking about how nice it was to see a younger generation, inspired by Thomas the Tank Engine, taking an interest in the hobby, when the only person in the whole film who looked under the age of 50 was the editor of Model Rail Magazine.”
Sam Wollaston, The Guardian

Africa, BBC1

“Wonderful: but two things. Is not the concentration on a single lovable turtle, when set against the great tides of evolution, rather arbitrary? And it wasn’t actually the same plucky hatchling we saw on the sand that we saw in the sea, now was it?”
Andrew Billen, The Times

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