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TV review: Britain’s Best Beach Huts, Rose Ayling-Ellis: Signs for change, and We Hunt Together

07 July 2023

Channel 4

Ty Bowring and Laura Jackson in Britain’s Best Beach Huts (Channel 4, Thursday of last week)

Ty Bowring and Laura Jackson in Britain’s Best Beach Huts (Channel 4, Thursday of last week)

CLERGY on holiday, to their families’ disgust, like nothing better than visiting churches. But a civil registrar in Herne Bay has gone one better: so as not to be parted from her vocation, she has created, in a shed on what remains of that resort’s pier, and has had licensed her very own wedding chapel (strictly non-religious, of course).

In Britain’s Best Beach Huts (Channel 4, Thursday of last week), The Repair Shop’s Jay Blades and far too enthusiastic and repetitious Laura Jackson seek out the quirkiest and most admirable examples of this peculiar national obsession. The definition of the genre seemed to me suspiciously elastic: double huts and one example perched on a clifftop in a garden were happily included. This week’s prize winner, however, was surprisingly moving: Ty Bowring, who lives with autism and a learning difficulty, has modified his hut so that it is accessible and kitted out to provide a warm welcome and a day on the beach for people suffering from life-shortening conditions. It creates life-affirming experiences and memories for those who are often cribbed and confined.

Liberation and opportunity for people traditionally considered to have limited freedom was central to Rose Ayling-Ellis: Signs for change (BBC1, Monday of last week). Ms Ayling-Ellis’s sensational triumph on Strictly Come Dancing and her lead role in EastEnders have greatly altered public perception of the talents and abilities of deaf people. But, besides chronicling her personal achievements, the programme focused more memorably on the questions and issues that she posed.

Her mother still worries about whether she made the right educational choices: is it right to teach deaf children to speak, or is that denigrating rather than celebrating their identities? Some of those campaigning for British Sign Language to be accepted as an official national language say that exclusively signing people possess a uniquely flexible and beautiful medium of communication. And, despite all her success, Ms Ayling-Ellis is clearly still scarred by discrimination and abuse.

Churchwardens (like clergy) occasionally fall short of the high standards required by their calling; but, surely, the brutal murders committed by Baba Lenga in the new thriller series We Hunt Together (BBC1, Monday of last week) are exceptional failings in living up to that exalted office? This is very dark TV indeed: despite his faith, Lenga cannot escape the appalling killings that he was forced to commit as a child soldier in Africa; his partner, Frederika, a sex worker, reveals depth after depth of callous psychosis.

This couple, black man/white woman, are pursued by a parallel black/white police team: the plot’s symmetrical pattern and hysterical plausibility is as intellectually satisfying as the brutality and emotional depths are distressing to watch and remember.

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