HAVING won the 16,037 National Television Awards, or so, Ant and Dec need little publicity, but they were there, quoted all over the paper, on TV and on the web this week. If a boost was in order for the finale of I’m a Celebrity (STV, Sunday, 9 p.m.), think it in the bag.
The duo’s Tuesday night skit on the leaked Downing Street video was even quoted by Labor leader Keir Starmer during Prime Minister’s Questions.
You can’t imagine Tess and Claudia doing such a thing on Strictly. Indeed, only Ant and Dec might have been able to do it without complaining. With this year’s series on the verge of being rated as A for average rather than V for vintage, the pair made sure they were memorable for something other than EastEnders Ian Beale moaning to Naughty Boy to stay in bed when there was a camp to clean up.
David Baddiel: Social Media, Anger and Us (BBC2, Monday, 9 p.m.) opens with a surprising CCTV footage. Two figures, their faces hidden in hoodies, approach a car parked in the driveway of a house. Within minutes, the doors are open and one of them puts something in the backseat. Suddenly the car is in flames, only a few feet from where a family is sleeping. And all because of a few lark videos posted on social networks.
As Baddiel finds out when he goes to meet the family, the story began when Dad, a builder, posted short, homemade comedy sketches on TikTok. People liked them, he attracted publicity, even more people liked them, so much so that he was able to give up his job and make videos full time. Result for dad.
Then the nasty comments started. Follow-up of death threats and finally arson. According to Baddiel, the incident illustrates the ‘age of anger’ ushered in and fueled by social media. How did something originally designed to allow people to talk to each other, he wonders, become the cause of so much shouting and aggression?
Baddiel was one of the first Twitter users over ten years ago. He has since sent 65,000 tweets. While he needs it for practical and professional reasons – plugging in his stand-up tours, for example – he admits to being addicted to this “terrible” and “unbelievable” thing that provides constant feedback, some positive, many abusive, on his life.
He traces the history of social media and discovers that there have been trolls from the start. During his research, he came across a clip of David Bowie, appearing on Newsnight in 1999, telling the stunned Jeremy Paxman how this new social media thing was going to change the world.
Besides talking to academics and other users, Baddiel decides to chill turkey on Twitter for a few weeks. Tested before and after the “break”, he found that he slept better and was generally happier and less stressed. Still, he’s stepping back, giving social media one more chance.
By taking on social media and tech giants, Baddiel was instead beaten in the hand by whistleblower Frances Haugen, who is also featured in her film. But it’s still a fascinating hour that leaves you wondering where social media takes us from here.
The main chains are withholding their major fictions for the official holiday season, leaving the grids rather meager on fiction. Not that you, and all the young viewers nearby, need an excuse to try The Beaker Girls (CBBC, Monday, 5 p.m.). The character of Dame Jacqueline Wilson, a triumph on the page, proved to be a big hit on the small screen, with a previous series, My Mum Tracy Beaker, the channel’s most-aired program.
It’s been 30 years since Wilson introduced young readers to Tracy, the funny and intelligent 10-year-old who lived in a children’s home she called “The Dumping Ground.” A facility of the same name features in the new series, in which Tracy (Dani Harmer) begins a new life in a seaside town with her daughter Jess (Emma Maggie Davies). With the two making new friends, will it be easy to navigate?
Portrait Artist of the Year (Sky Arts, free viewing, Wednesday, 8 p.m.) reaches its grand finale, and with Barry Humphries in the gatehouse, we mean grandiose. Humphries has experience on both sides of the easel and has served for David Hockney before. Fresh off his appearance on This Morning with Dermot O’Leary and Alison Hammond (Google it), Humphries is a great company for artists, viewers and judges.
Finally, a mention for Millennium by Stieg Larsson (BBC4, Saturday, 9:30 p.m. / 11 p.m.). I know: you’ve read the books, seen the movies, and probably already caught that original Swedish version. But of all the actors who have played Lisbeth Salander, extraordinary hacker, none has surpassed the brilliant Noomi Rapace.