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Shipwrecks, Daleks and Crucified Scarecrows: TV critic Adam Postans Dissects Freeview's Autumn Highlights

Posted October 9, 2013 - Blog Posts

Brrrr! The nights are drawing in, the central heating’s back on and soon enough Easter eggs will replace the selection boxes on supermarket shelves.

But before then, don’t despair; we’re heading into an outstanding autumn season on Freeview. There’s a chance you’ve noticed X Factor, Downton Abbey, Homeland and Strictly Come Dancing are back. The brilliant I’m A Celebrity is around the corner.
And there’s a whole raft of new shows steaming our way.

The most intriguing of a plethora of BBC1 dramas is The Whale, telling the true events that inspired Moby Dick through the eyes of a cabin boy, who according to the publicity blurb (get a load of this): “Faces the destructive force of sea-storms, the power of whales, the brutal desolation of the sun and sea after the shipwreck, and finally the grim realities of dark deeds as his only means of survival.”

The Whale

But it’s not all fun and games.

Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary special, The Day of The Doctor stars Matt Smith, John Hurt, Billie Piper, David Tennant and it really doesn’t matter who else. Because the Daleks are back which is all that matters. The first Doctor, William Hartnell, is portrayed in BBC2 docu-drama An Adventure in Time and Space by David Bradley, who played Filch in the Harry Potter movies.

That’ll require some explaining when the new term starts at Hogwarts.

Some shows are impossible to decipher from their name alone.

You’ll need the Engima decoder for ITV drama Lucan, based on the life of Lord Lucan who skedaddled without trace in 1974 after his children’s nanny was murdered. It’ll end either at the point he does a runner or ITV has the biggest news exclusive ever.

Also registering 9.5 on the cryptic Richter scale is Yesterday documentary series Weather That Changed The World, which highlights occasions the world was changed by… (you’ll never guess what)… weather, of all things.

And if that hasn’t scrambled your brains, try this one on for size. Too Fat To Fly.

No clues what that one’s about. But it is part of Channel 5’s Supersize Season which includes the alarmingly titled When Gastric Bands Go Wrong, which can’t end well, and Fat For Cash, which I’m disappointed to report isn’t about larger ladies flaunting themselves before former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash.

Another of 5’s documentaries, Can’t Stop, lifts the lid on Britain’s most obsessive compulsive behaviour. I’ll watch it just as soon as I’ve brushed my teeth seven times, while tapping my tummy, and tied and untied my shoelaces for two hours.

Channel 4’s Health Freaks puts popular home remedies to the test to see if they’re scientifically viable or baseless old wives’ tales. So if they’re looking for volunteers for a hot toddy experiment, I’m your man. Just don’t spare the Scotch.

Health Freaks

C4 also has Tom and Barney Go Back to the Future, which is nothing to do with Marty McFly or a DeLorean but features inventor Tom Lawton’s prototypes which could “transform our lives”. About time too. We’ve been promised jetpacks for far too long.

And it was always going to happen, but Rik Mayall has been cast as lookalike comic Greg Davies’s dad, in C4 sitcom Man Down.

Davies’s character is: “A childish idiot trapped in an adult’s life.” Hence, I really connect with him.

Speaking of childhood memories, comedy channel Dave presents Crackanory, an expletive-littered, twisted take on old story-time favourite Jackanory, with readers including Harry Enfield and Jack Dee, which I expect will be absolutely bl**dy excellent.

ITV has its own throwback to glory days of yore, The One and Only Cilla Black, celebrating the ex-Blind Date host’s 50 years in showbiz with host Paul O’Grady and, you’d imagine, a lorra, lorra surprise surprise guests.

She’ll probably sing too, but don’t let that put you off.

But the show I’m looking forward to most, in the deepest, darkest reaches of my soul, is ITV2 Halloween game show Release the Hounds, presented by Reggie Yates.

Yes. You read correctly. It’s filmed in a remote forest, billed as: “One of the scariest challenges ever endured on TV,” and stars three contestants facing up to their fears.

These include a “field of crucified scarecrows”, “descending beneath the floorboards in a deserted cabin”, and “reading bedtime stories in the nursery from hell”. Which I don’t think is Katie Price’s Children’s Wing. Here’s the clincher: “But the ultimate challenge for them all is to out-run a pack of hounds, trained to guard the cash. If they manage to escape, the money belongs to them. If they don’t…”

If they don’t? I’ve had a great autumn of telly either way.

Adam Postans is a TV critic with weekly columns in the Sunday People and five daily regional newspapers – Western Daily Press, South Wales Argus, Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail. Adam has also written weekly columns for the Mirror Online and the Sun and has enjoyed front-page splashes in the national and regional press. Follow Adam on Twitter @couchpotatoadam.

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