Last Night's TV: Classroom Secrets/BBC1
Torchwood: Miracle Day/BBC1

Class 4FF, you are LIVE on BBC1, please do not swear!" Davina McCall's foghorn may have been absent but Big Brother loomed large over Classroom Secrets. The idea was to rig up a classroom at Humberstone Junior School in Leicester with fixed cameras, film the pupils and teachers for a week and then show the footage to staff and parents in order to root out the causes of "low-level disruption" and eradicate them together. A lesson in Big Society schooling, if you like.

The unsurprising revelation was that the causes of "low-level disruption" are children, so, short of an Orwellian purge, there's not an awful lot you can do about that. And while the parents and staff seemed to learn something from it, I wonder if anyone asked the children's permission to film them in those precious personality-forming hours away from the family home.

It was quite fun, in any case, to watch their impressive avoidance techniques. Alongside 21st-century tricks involving white boards and Cheryl Cole dance routines, the best distractions proved to be the timeless ones – sprawling and cheek-puffing, bubble-blowing, sharpener-stealing and urgent, whispered requests for tickles. Top marks went to Corey, who, floundering in literacy, pleaded hunger and was duly taken out of class for a piece of toast. After 20 minutes of his assiduous jam-spreading and crumb-clearing, the teaching assistant thought it time to chivvy him back: "You've missed half of class." "That's the whole idea," said Corey, licking his fingers thoughtfully. Clever boy.

There was a serious point to all of this, though. Chastened parents discovered that their little angels were in fact devilishly naughty or that they were struggling academically and socially far more than they let on at home. The school and its motivated young staff came across very well with their well-researched learning techniques and self-esteem booster sessions, if a little Supernanny-ish, in their interactions with parents. "If we could film children once a year and show it to their parents," said steely headteacher Annemarie Williams, "we probably would." The problem is that cameras, like an Ofsted inspection, can't really capture a school. The teachers are all on their best behaviour; the children, spawn of Big Brother, are on their scene-stealing worst. Take Maisie, a bright girl with a penchant for pulling faces. "I'm trying my best not to swear in front of the cameras," she whispered, Diary Room-style – a reality-show veteran, aged eight.

Otherwise, the programme turned up little. Schools will always have behaviour issues – looking to lay the blame at the door of parents or teachers is not all that useful. And spying on pupils is not all that healthy. "You've just got to leave a lot in the teachers' hands," surmised one parent. Well, yes. Schoolteachers shouldn't need fixed-camera footage for parents to trust them. I'm just glad that when I was eight I only had parents' evening once a year to worry about.

Emergency! Call Captain Jack! Somebody's stolen all the aliens from Torchwood! The racy Doctor Who spin-off for grown-ups has returned for a fourth series, this time with an injection of American cash. And so the first episode of this BBC/Starz co-production sees the CIA crash-landing in Cardiff, complete with helicopters, fireballs, a handful of well-known Americans (Bill Pullman, ER 's Mekhi Phifer, Six Feet Under's Lauren Ambrose) – and not a Weevil in sight. Even Jack didn't appear for 20 minutes, though when he did it was amid a hail of gunshots and suicide bombs. For a sci-fi agnostic like me this is no bad thing. The aliens are sure to emerge (from someone's stomach? A phone box? Oh, I don't know) in the next episode – but you can see why the purists might grumble.

For now, the really quite gripping premise of Miracle Day is that across the globe people have stopped dying. DOAs keep on living, death row prisoners can't be killed, even headless bomb victims continue to twitch on the slab. The implications for the planet are unimaginable – a population increasing by three million every two days while a paedophile and murderer who survived lethal injection is hailed as the Messiah. Meanwhile, Torchwood has been disbanded, Jack has disappeared and Gwen is living the quiet, if paranoid, life on a windswept Welsh farm with her new baby. Not for long, of course.

The story, unfolding over 10 episodes, is aimed squarely at the box-set market and while some may find the attempts to appeal to UK and US audiences alike a little trying, I rather enjoyed the fruits of this new special relationship. Russell T Davies's larky writing continues to shine and there are the same silly jokes but the trans-Atlantic locations are better and the special effects bigger (strafing helicopter vs open-top jeep on a Welsh beach? Why not?). As Captain Jack, John Barrowman is as plastic and unearthly as always, while Gwen – the most sympathetic of the gang – is now a dab hand at wielding a semi-automatic and a baby with the same arm. Of the new arrivals, Phifer as Rex Matheson is the one to watch, as his cool CIA persona comes under increasing pressure from the twin alien forces of the Welsh – "Wales is insane!" – and, well, aliens. Whether the story will sustain itself for another nine episodes remains to be seen. In the meantime, any apocalyptic American drama that makes jokes about the Severn Bridge at moments of high tension – "Wait a minute, I've got to pay for this bridge?" – has my vote.

Arts and Entertainment
Howard Mollison, as played by Michael Gambon
tvReview: Too often The Casual Vacancy resembled a jumble of deleted scenes from Hot Fuzz
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David performs in his play ‘Fish in the Dark'
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Jemima West in Channel 4's Indian Summers (Joss Barratt/Channel 4)
tvReview: More questions and plot twists keep viewers guessing
Arts and Entertainment
Kristin Scott Thomas outside the Royal Opera House before the ceremony (Getty)
film
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Channel 4's Indian Summers
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Muscling in: Noah Stewart and Julia Bullock in 'The Indian Queen'

opera
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

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 difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003