The weekend's viewing: The Real Thumbelina, ITV1; Young Apprentice, BBC1

 

Lovely little girl..." said Zillah Clift's mum fondly, looking at an old photograph of her daughter as a three-year-old. "And then they grow up," she added meaningfully, though in Zillah's case there wasn't a lot of up about it. Now an adult, with a husband of her own, Zillah is still only four foot two inches high, and still obliged to shop for her shoes in the toddler section. Zillah's taste runs to buzz cuts, piercings and black leather – not a look much catered for in under-fives footwear. She pretty much has a choice of pink, pink, glittery pink or pink.

Real four-year-olds seem happier with those options, and four-year-olds don't have to worry quite so much about being undersized either. In fact, one of the odd things about The Real Thumbelina (a crass title, by the way) was the way its central subjects – young girls with restricted growth – short-circuited some deeply instinctive adult reactions. The very thing we cherish in tiny children is their tininess, and that odd pang many parents get as their children grow out of infancy was here married with the deep pang you would feel if they didn't. Amelie Gledhill, now four but still wearing clothes sold for three- to six-month-olds, was as cute as a doll but just beginning to reach an age at which being doll-like would deprive. And Ollie Mitchell, six years old but still eye-to-eye with her two-year-old brother, has been trapped in dependency by a world that's built for bigger children.

Their story followed a pretty familiar template for ill-children documentaries: visits to specialists, the cruel dilemmas of parenthood, even that regular trope of such films, the trip to an American convention about the condition. It was, variously, touching and heartening. But it was Zillah's experience that really stuck with me, chiming uncomfortably with an increasing doubt over whether Ricky Gervais's Life's Too Short gives a voice to small people or simply exploits them for comic effect. Some of the things that happened to Warwick happened to Zillah here, and she laughed at them. But she did so in a rueful way and one of her misadventures – being taken for a child at a petrol station and having the pump shut down on her – had been so humiliating that she'd never tried to fill her own car again (until this film).

It's easy to imagine that scenario in Life's Too Short, and easy to imagine that Warwick Davis (who has genuine comic talent) could make it funny, but it's hard not to feel that it might cover up something we really should know about the experience. It's one thing to laugh because of an absurd misunderstanding, quite another to laugh because otherwise you might burst into tears. After another episode of Life's Too Short last week in which the main character ended up in a toilet bowl and got a cheap laugh by falling out of his car, my doubts are beginning to resolve themselves. Don't know what Zillah thinks about Life's Too Short, but her philosophical sense of humour about her circumstances helped me make up my mind.

"Nothing's funny unless it offends someone," said James in the last episode of Young Apprentice, taking a Gervais line on comic theory as he prepared a viral ad for the online game he'd devised. His ad offended me (mildly) by being completely unfunny, but it didn't inhibit James's pitch to industry professionals, which was impressively confident and polished. His chief rival, Zara, was equally assured, as she pushed the merits of a rather derivative-looking platform game. Clearly, they're both going places, though at the time of writing I don't know which of them got the nod from Sugar. My money's on Zara, if only because James made the dangerous mistake of admitting that he'd spend his potential winnings on further education.

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • 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.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living