TV Critic Ben House looks at the funny yet surprisingly realistic comedy This Country as it returns to BBC iPlayerWritten by Redbrick on 1st January 2018
Russell Howard Returns
TV Critic Jonny Isaacs praises The Russell Howard Hour, the comedian's latest show on Sky
Russell Howard is back! I’ve waited a few weeks before writing this because I wanted to see how the new show compares. Overall, it’s a yes from me.
Like Russell Howard’s Good News, the show kicks off with a satirical breakdown of the week’s events, both of the main headlines and of some slightly more obscure stories. Three years off air has only served to improve Howard’s comedic timing and passion for change. As with Good News (and if not more so), there’s a constant focus on small but realistic and positive ways to rectify the issues Howard addresses: period poverty? He suggests schools accept donations of sanitary products to give to girls. Homelessness? Restaurants donate spare food to foodbanks. Poor treatment of junior doctors? Send a copy of a doctor’s memoirs to Jeremy Hunt.
“The move from BBC to Sky has given Howard more scope to push his own views and be more liberal with his choice of comedic interests
New for The Russell Howard Hour is "Playground Politics", a section in which Howard talks to primary school children from around the world. He asks them about quite significant and complicated issues, from North Korean aggression, to war and Vladimir Putin. Whilst I do see the appeal of this section, and it is often funny and enlightening, it’s not my favourite. I sometimes find myself shocked at how desensitised these children are to violence, which clouds the amusement of their child-like innocence.
“Howard continues to bring his unique perspective and incredible humour to these interviews
In place of the aforementioned "It’s Not All Doom and Gloom", the new show features a section called "Good Deeds" in which Howard asks his viewers to tweet him stories of people they know going out of their way to help others. The one that’s stuck with me, is a man who uses his 3D printer to create cool and fun prosthetic limbs for amputee children. Howard also highlighted a story about a man named Matt who hid twenty £10 notes around his native Cardiff, with a note attached asking the finders to pay it forward with good deeds of their own. Howard takes this further and hides one hundred £10 notes around the UK for the same purpose. Over the following weeks, we’ve seen what people have done with the money, tweeting at #TennerForGood, and the stories are truly heartening. That being said, Howard never for a moment drops the comedic veneer on which the whole show is based.