Man vs Weird, Channel 4 - TV review: Horrible Histories star gives us an eye-popping travelogue

 

Ellen E. Jones
Tuesday 13 May 2014 09:36
Comments

The man in Man vs Weird is Simon Farnaby, perhaps the most recognisable face on Horrible Histories, the best children's TV programme for years, and also a star of Yonderland, Sky1's wonderful Monty Python-meets-Labyrinth fantasy adventure. Here, then, is a man who has brought much joy to us all and thoroughly deserves an all-expenses-paid jolly around the world, whether it results in an entertaining programme or not.

Fortunately, this two-part series has a little more to it than that. Farnaby's travels are motivated by his desire to meet people who claim to have superhuman powers and see these powers for himself. He's like Patrick Stewart in the X-Men movies. Last night's episode, "Force" focused on people who claim to be able to control electricity, magnetism and other non-specific "energies" and eastern Europe is the hot spot for this sort of thing, apparently, so that's where he went. What a shame none of these human magnets live in a luxury Caribbean beach resort, eh Simon?

His first human marvel was Ivan, a portly nine-year-old from rural Croatia, who claims to have magnetic powers. No sooner had Farnaby arrived in the family home than Ivan was proudly attaching spoons to his chest, followed by dumbbells, and whatever other metal objects were to hand. When someone reached for a plastic accordion, Farnaby could contain his polite scepticism no longer. "I can't tell whether it's magnetism or just clammy skin," he whispered to the cameramen.

Most of the people he met were similarly unconvincing, though their levels of showmanship and self-delusion varied. The one exception to this was human lightning-rod Biba Struja from Serbia. He said it was a lack of sweat glands that enabled him to conduct high voltage electricity through his body and he put on one hell of a show for Farnaby – but not without a visible toll on his health.

What emerged from Farnaby's travelogue was not so much a better understanding of unusual physical phenomena, as a picture of these deprived pockets of Europe where superstition and poverty meet to create a depressing kind of magic. Farnaby is too kind a man to deprive people in these circumstances of their source of income, local pride and wonder. Little Ivan may not have been a superhero as such, but he was a nice little boy. After the interview, he turned to Farnaby and asked, "Would you like to play chase and catch?" "Why not?" came the reply, and off they ran, into the Croatian sunset.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in