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TV review: Somewhere Boy, Kid’s TV: The surprising story, and The Lovebox in Your Living Room

04 November 2022

Channel 4

Lewis Gribben plays Danny in Somewhere Boy (Channel 4, Sundays)

Lewis Gribben plays Danny in Somewhere Boy (Channel 4, Sundays)

DANNY’s world is resolutely black-and-white. When he was a toddler, his mother was killed in a hit-and-run accident, an event that death drove her already odd husband into deep paranoia. To keep his precious son safe, he nailed up the windows and ensured that the boy had no contact whatsoever with the outside world, terrifying him with tales of ever-present monsters.

Now 18, Danny’s loneliness and desperation tip his father over the edge, and the latter eventually takes his own life. The boy’s aunt takes pity on the strange youth, providing him with a home, while her own son, Aaron, is by no means happy with this generosity. The scenario of Somewhere Boy (Channel 4, Sundays, from 16 October) is far-fetched in the extreme, but it’s worth watching for compelling performances and subtle moral issues.

Danny’s world is black-and-white, because his father entertains them both with videos of classic 1950s movies — and because it is imbued with moral absolutes: everything is either totally right or completely wrong. As Danny learns, falteringly, to deal with the “ordinary” world, he realises, to his distress, that his beloved father might have told him a pack of lies. Was his mother’s death even an accident, the driver potentially forgivable? Aaron, abandoned by his own father, grows less obnoxious as he reluctantly cares for this lost cousin. I fear that the story will end badly, but there’s much to learn on the journey.

If only Danny had been allowed to watch the subject matter of Kid’s TV: The surprising story (BBC1, Wednesday of last week), part of the 100th-anniversary season. As soon as technically possibly, this morphed into glorious colour, making those of us brought up on monochrome Andy Pandy, Bill and Ben, and Muffin the Mule decidedly hard done by. This 60-minute celebration made much of the revolutionary character of its subject: producers and performers were fervent about the importance of childhood and the nurturing of infant imagination. They took children seriously, and pushed radical agendas of inclusion — racial diversity, disability — and faced challenging issues far ahead of supposedly “adult” programmes.

The programme was somewhat undermined if watched (a mistake that I made) immediately after The Lovebox in Your Living Room (BBC2, Thursday of last week). Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse took gleeful potshots at every shibboleth held precious by our national broadcasting network, presenting its overarching trajectory as a plot to make the working classes say “lavatory” instead of “toilet”.

Children’s TV and do-gooding seriousness was sent up something rotten; amid the puerile humour were nuggets of redemptive sharpness, such as constant excoriation of Rupert Murdoch, a nailing of middle-class condescension towards the workers, and a sense that desperation to attract mass audiences has led to an inexorable decline in standards. This surreal nonsense was oddly moving — perhaps even a minor work of genius.

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