Extreme World (Sky 1), TV review
Ellen E Jones
Ellen is The Independent's TV critic. She writes a daily review of Last Night's TV and a weekly 'Inside TV' column for the i paper, as well as a column on general topics for the main paper most Wednesdays. Ellen is a former Hollywood correspondent and a contributing editor to Little White Lies, she's written on TV, film, lifestyle, travel and politics for publications including the Guardian, The Times, The Sunday Times, Esquire and Total Film.
Wednesday 29 January 2014
Swimming with hungry sharks is child's play compared to the stunts of the bravest documentary-making hard man of them all. We speak, of course, of Ross Kemp, who, for this third series of Sky 1's Extreme World, was held up at gunpoint by a Papua New Guinea tribal warrior and still managed to conduct his interview calmly.
A lucky thing that hold-up was, too. After traversing "one of the most dangerous roads in the world" without incident, Kemp was clearly chomping at the bit for some action. If it hadn't been for that gun in his face, the only available evidence of his hardness would have been the ident at the start of each advertising break, in which our leather-jacket-clad, cross-armed presenter fixes us with his most intimidating stare.
Extreme World was ostensibly in the troubled state of PNG to investigate a culture of tit-for-tat violence, epidemic-level rape and bizarre witchcraft accusations. The machete-wielding men he interviewed suggested government corruption, societal breakdown and the damaging influence of Western internet pornography as root causes – but this film left those avenues largely unexplored. Kemp concluded instead that the country was "its own worst enemy" and that the solution lay in taking responsibility: "Ultimately, that decision is down to them."
It wasn't a particularly useful conclusion, but Kemp still proved how unfair it is that he's often lumped together with dilettante documantaries like Danny Dyer's Deadliest Men and Shaun Ryder on UFOs. He's a much more sensitive interviewer and approaches his subjects with a more serious interest, even if he does usually come across like an off-duty copper.
Really, someone should make a documentary about Kemp and his trajectory from soap star to Fleet Street widow to a globe-trotting documentary-maker with a string of hits under his dad-jeans belt. At the very least it would provide more insight into the roots and effects of a macho culture that – let's be honest – is hardly confined to the lawless highlands of Papua New Guinea.
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