TV Review: Just One Chance

I had some problems with Horizon's second programme about the Antarctic. Some of these may have to do with the howling white-out in my own brain. Then again, the film did seem to buck and dip in a way that might throw off the fittest viewer.

It seems that some principle of balance governs Carol Vorderman's current employment by the BBC - on Tuesday night she contributes to the stupefaction of the nation with her dimwitted show Mysteries and then on Thursday she tries to make amends by presenting Just One Chance (BBC2), a magazine programme about schools which aims to smarten up parents in their duties as educational consumers. Still, though I can't readily forgive her for putting her name to the former programme, the latter offers some evidence that reform might be possible - that her attractions as a presenter can be put to better use than spreading compost on paranoia and superstition. Just One Chance is very sprightly in its manner - it has a vivid day-glo set which looks like the packaging for a child's toy, a big cartoon of a girl in pigtails and an audience who applaud the arrival of the presenters (Vorderman is backed up by Martin Bashir) and then chip in with carefully researched soundbites (they are not really there to discuss anything, you soon discover, but as human bullet points, giving pros and cons and personal testimonials).

This hybrid of two kinds of daytime television - Saturday morning and week day - seems to indicate a certain anxiety about the essential attractions of the subject. If so it is understandable. After all, no one with children is going to watch this programme to wind down after a stressful day. Its entire agenda is one of mobilisation so it isn't surprising that a sense of duty or even dread is never far away. And that said, the series is both watchable and encouraging - offering a blend of straight consumer information and reports on current education issues (I wasn't aware, for instance, that Cherie Blair will shortly be in the High Court acting against David Blunkett, in the case of a child refused a school place solely because of the aggressive behaviour of her parents). If the right sort of parents do watch it - not just those who are already sufficiently conscientious to pass up the rival charms of The Bill and Animal Hospital - then its underlying ethic of parental involvement (stopping some way short of assaulting the teachers, naturally) should do nothing but good. I hope teachers will look in on it occasionally too - last night's report on a way of alleviating unhappiness in the playground by training older children to act as chaperones was a perfect example of the simple schemes of improvement which deserve a wider currency.

It's only fair to note that I watched the second of Horizon's (BBC2) programmes about the Antarctic through a haze of viral grogginess - so some of my problems with the film may have to do with the howling white- out in my own brain, rather than the peculiarly unforgiving nature of that landscape as far as television is concerned (there seemed to be an extraordinary number of sequences in which three brown dots slowly traversed an expanse of white, or a small red dot floated above ditto). Then again Kate O'Sullivan's film did seem to buck and dip in a way that might throw off the fittest viewer. It wasn't just her fondness for overlapping archive and contemporary footage so that you could see neither clearly, but also her taste for the comic non-sequitur. The film told the story of a British geologist's attempt to explain why Antarctica originally separated from Gondwanaland, the super-continent from which Africa, South America and the South Pole were pupped. He thought it was probably to do with something called a mantle-plume, a massive upwelling of molten rock, evidence for which theory he doggedly pursued across the ice-cap. "But the model that a mantle plume created Antarctica will need one more proof" announced the voice-over at one point, a sentence that would ordinarily be followed by the proof in question. Here it was succeeded by footage of a man failing to make radio contact and a sequence in which invisible geologists in a tent debated the merits of different curries. This was part of a running gag about the bathetic grumpiness with which geologists go about their cosmic task and it did make me giggle but it didn't exactly help my enfeebled brain keep its grip on the thread of the argument.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style
tech

Apple has been hit by complaints about the 1.1GB download

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Life and Style
Alexander McQueen A/W 2014
fashionPolitics aside, tartan is on-trend again this season
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Sport
Joel jumps over the board...and into a giant hole
footballFrom joy to despair in a matter of seconds
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife
film

Matt Smith is set to join cast of the Jane Austen classic - with a twist

Life and Style
i100

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    HR Advisor - HR Officer - Employment Law - East London - £25000

    £25000 per annum + 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: *** HR Advisor - HR Office...

    ENGLISH TEACHER, FULL TIME SUPPLY ROLE, DOVER SCHOOL

    Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: TEACHER OF ENGLISH NEEDED for lo...

    Nursery assistants required in Cambridgeshire

    £10000 - £15000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Qualified and unquali...

    PE TEACHER, FULL TIME SUPPLY VACANCY, FOLKESTONE SCHOOL

    Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: The Job We are currently recruit...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week