Last night's viewing - My Mad Fat Diary, E4; Why the Industrial Revolution Happened Here, BBC2


Obesity is the zeitgeist on TV these days, it seems, with stories of embarrassing bodies becoming ever more telegenic. Teenage obesity was a variation on the theme that fuelled My Mad Fat Diary, a new sixth-form drama of dysfunctionality. "Dear diary," announced the anti-heroine, Rae. "I'm 16, I weigh 16 stones and I live in Lincolnshire. My interests include music, vegging out and finding a fit boy – scratch that – any boy, to quench my ever-growing horn."

With these words, this mad fat comedy, scheduled to fill the end-of-series hole left by reality TV show Made in Chelsea quickly established its central themes – Rae's search for love and her battle with a 16-stone eating disorder. We met her just as she left a "mental ward", returning home with the hope of getting in with the cool kids at school.

The problem, with the first episode at least, lay not in its concept but the uninspired execution of it. The show, it seemed, tried to combine the hormonal angst of The Inbetweeners with the self-deprecation of Bridget Jones's Diary, but with none of the anarchic humour of the former (though it did have the "cringe" factor), or the generation-defining insights of the latter. The script re-cast overfamiliar scenarios that anyone forced to think of "fat nightmares" might have dredged up: Rae got stuck on a slide at a pool party, and found herself on a busy high street wearing just a bikini, with local kids laughing at her. The script's bigger sin, though, was that it just wasn't very funny.

It wasn't that Glaswegian comic Sharon Rooney wasn't efficient in her role. She did a fine job of playing a large girl who gets stuck on a slide. Like Ugly Betty, Rae is society's underdog-turned- unlikely heroine, but just as Ugly Betty doesn't convince us of her ugliness by wearing a pair of braces and silly specs, Rae's anguish also rings hollow.

Adapted from Rae Earl's book, perhaps the nub of the problem lay in its adaptation. In book form, the angst-ridden diary can immediately transport us into a world of introspective torment. On screen, it must be simplified and in this case, it seemed over-simplified. Rae's mental health was tied to her obesity, and was at least part of the reason for her admission to hospital. "There is a difference between snacking and bingeing," she repeated like a mantra to signpost the lessons learnt in therapy. As her resolve weakened, the larder at home glowed to reflect her addiction. It was about as nuanced as a traffic light.

While it is a sign of the times that a teen comedy has a plus-size protagonist, to pay homage to it for this reason alone is to patronise it with political correctness. The judgement should come from whether it works as a coming-of-age comedy, and that remains a moot point.

For those who felt that Danny Boyle's opening ceremony at the Olympics failed to recognise the part that empire played in the Industrial Revolution, Professor Jeremy Black, the historian and presenter of Why the Industrial Revolution Happened Here, righted that wrong. Analysing how and why Britain led the way at the beginning of the 18th century, he dwelt on the ways in which empire, with its many abuses, played a significant role in funding the industrial revolution.

He also highlighted how closely politics, scientific breakthrough and industry were connected. It was both Britain's growing spirit of political liberalism and its entrepreneurship that helped lead the way for James Watt's discovery of steam power. There were several delightful nuggets in this hour, not least a "what if" moment that led Prof Black to wonder if steam power would have been discovered as early as it was if Watt had been French. The answer was "non".

Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl

First look at Oscar winner as transgender artistfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month

TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel

film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island

Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
Arts and Entertainment

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

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

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

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Arts and Entertainment
A life-size sculpture by Nick Reynolds depicting singer Pete Doherty on a crucifix hangs in St Marylebone church
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Escalating tension: Tang Wei and Chris Hemsworth in ‘Blackhat’
filmReview: Chris Hemsworth stars as a convicted hacker in Blackhat
Arts and Entertainment

Oscar voter speaks out

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars race for Best Picture will be the battle between Boyhood and Birdman

Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy), Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)
tvReview: Wolf Hall
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Meighan of Kasabian collects the Best Album Award
Arts and Entertainment
Best supporting stylist: the late L’Wren Scott dressed Nicole Kidman in 1997
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey


Arts and Entertainment
Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) and Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor)
tv occurred in the crucial final scene
Arts and Entertainment
Glasgow wanted to demolish its Red Road flats last year
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower