Inside Television: Pushy parents are taught a lesson in Child Genius

 

The young prodigies of Child Genius (Channel 4, Sunday, 9pm) all have their reasons for taking part in Mensa’s annual competition. Home-schooled Jocelyn wants to measure herself against the peers she rarely meets; miniature Mozart Curtis hopes to be prime minister one day and Rubaiyat, an 11-year-old studying Maths at degree level just wants to make friends. For viewers the show’s appeal is even simpler: clever kids make compelling telly.

The child genius is a long-established media favourite who pops up as a guest on talent shows (Curtis has already been on Britain’s Got Talent twice) and local news reports, while a pushy parent hovers just out of shot. To adult audiences this precocious quality is at once adorable, comical and slightly unnerving, as captured by animated series Family Guy (BBC Three, Sunday, 10pm). One minute baby-mastermind Stewie is laughing uncontrollably at a game of peekaboo, the next he’s plotting the murder of his own mother.

Wunderkinds are a wonder to behold, but it seems many would prefer it if they stay at a beholding distance. In shows like Malcolm in The Middle and Doogie Howser, M.D, child geniuses are portrayed as lonely outcasts, who'd happily swap all their PHDs and trophies for someone to sit next to in the school cafeteria.

So while many of the parents on Child Genius keep their eyes on the prize, some seem mindful of this potential for social isolation. Rubaiyat’s dad had even bought him three books on the subject, which he dutifully studied. There followed a slightly cruel montage sequence in which we saw Rubaiyat attempting to engage bewildered children with gambits like “Did you know that 96 per cent of teenagers don’t like their faces or their bodies? It’s staggering, isn’t it.”

When does celebrating intelligence become an invitation to derision? That’s a call only the parents can make, but let the tale of Lauren Harries serve as warning. The 10-year-old James Harries, as she was then known, became famous in the late eighties, when she appeared on chat show Wogan as an antiques expert. It wasn’t so much Harries’ eye for a bargain which entertained; it was the cherubic blonde curls, the bow tie and that incredibly precocious manner. Sadly, after the media appearances dried up the Harries family fell on hard times. According to interviews Harries later gave, her financial worries were compounded by regular verbal and physical attacks from members of the public.

At least in Child Genius, the parents are required to share the limelight with their offspring. This poses interesting questions - is intelligence down to nature or nurture? Is it more important for children to be happy or successful? But most importantly it means the media’s critical glare is directed where it belongs - on the parents. Putting your daughter on the stage is one thing, Mrs Worthington, but did she really have to endure an algebra test to boot?

An honourable exit from Blick

Kudos to writer Hugo Blick who has demonstrated a principled courage that’s all too rare in television; he’s promised that the current series of his BBC Two drama The Honourable Woman will be the first and last: “We're not trying to wink and say 'Maybe there's another one'” Blick told a press conference. “It's got something profoundly engaging to say...because the conclusion it takes is final.”

In sitcom-land the two-series classics Fawlty Towers andThe Office are usually held up as models of admirable restraint. In drama a satisfying conclusion is even more important, yet it’s usual for shows to continue interminably, regardless of quality, until the audience dwindles to nothing. Great stories need a beginning, a middle and an end - so why do we settle for just the first two?

CATCH UP

Utopia, 4oD

Channel’s 4‘s funniest, scariest and weirdest drama got into trouble this week for a plot that skated a little too close to historical fact. The plot references the assassination of real-life Tory MP, Airey Neave (played by Blackadder’s Tim McInnerny) much to the displeasure of his family. Controversy aside, this 1970s-set prequel episode is a stylish, John le Carré-esque opening to Utopia’s second series.

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/utopia/4od

Royal Marines Commando School, 4oD

Fly-on-the-wall docs about “never-before-seen” corners of British life are two-a-penny, but Channel 4’s new eight-parter, Royal Marines Commando School is something special. This episode we meet the excellently named Corporal ‘Froggy’ Chauffour, who is gearing up to give his new recruits the full Full Metal Jacket treatment.

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/royal-marines-commando-school/4od

Lost Lost Family, ITV Player

Here’s your daily cry, as they say on the internet, or, in fact, all your daily cries for a month wrapped up in one hour of factual entertainment. Long Lost Family, the show that reunites estranged family members, must be responsible for at least 25 per cent of all tissues sold in Britain. Davina McCall and Nicky Campbell (himself adopted as a baby) are our impressively compassionate hosts.

https://www.itv.com/itvplayer/long-lost-family

Veep, Sky Go

The bad news is Armando Iannucci says he’s not planning any more episodes of The Thick of It. The good news is his stateside equivallent Veep, just keeps getting better and better. In this first episode of the new series Selina isn’t about to let a little thing like Mike’s wedding get in the way of her presidential ambitions.

http://www.sky.com/tv/show/veep

News

literature

News
Dermot O'Leary attends the X Factor Wembley Arena auditions at Wembley on August 1, 2014 in London, England.

television

News
news
Arts and Entertainment
At this year's SXSW festival in Austin, Texas

Music Why this music festival is still the place to spot the next big thing

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished
tvReview: The latest episode was a smidgen less depressing... but it’s hardly a bonza beach party
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Mexican government reportedly paying Bond producers for positive portrayal in new filmfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Disney’s flying baby elephant is set to return in live-action format
filmWith sequels, prequels and spin-offs, Disney plays it safe... and makes a pachyderm
Arts and Entertainment
Nazrin with Syf, Camden
photography
News
The QI Elves photographed at the Soho Theatre. They are part of a team of researchers who find facts for the television programme 'QI'.
people
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv0-star review: Sean O'Grady gives it his best shot anyway
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss