Monday, 21 December 2009

The Fattest Man in Britain, ITV1

I know the blog is supposed to be on hiatus, but I just thought I'd add a review of The Fattest Man in Britain that I wrote last night for Orange.

(Sometime over the next couple of days I'll also put up a thingy about the Doctor Who preview I went to at the BBC last week.)

At first glance, you might have thought last night's The Fattest Man in Britain was just another bit of knockabout Northern working-class fun. However, with a script co-written by Caroline Aherne and a star performance by Timothy Spall, the truth was far more complex and moving.

Spall played Georgie Godwin, a massively overweight and housebound man who's become a bit of a tourist attraction. This is all thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit of local cabbie Morris (Bobby Ball), who charges visitors to come and enjoy (fairly excruciating) encounters with the fattest man in Britain.

However, the wind of change blows into Georgie's life with the arrival of Amy – a troubled teenager on community service who's set the task of tidying Georgie's long-neglected garden. After he intervenes to save her from her violent drug-addict boyfriend, an unlikely friendship develops between the two.

The pregnant Amy moves into Georgie's house and tries to make him realise he's being exploited by Morris. She also persuades him to open up about the grief and unhappiness that caused him to start over-eating in the first place.

However, it takes the heartbreaking tragedy of Amy losing her unborn child and moving out, saying she can't bear to watch Georgie eat himself to death, to spark him into action. Locking Morris out of his house, Georgie sets out to find Amy again.

Even though it was just a fat bloke struggling down a high street, there was something punch-the-air heroic about Georgie's first expedition out of the house for 23 years. The final 15 minutes of the drama would have brought a tear to a glass eye.

Compassion and warmth may not be the most fashionable traits in TV drama these days, but Aherne and her co-writer Jeff Pope showed how simple human kindness can bring us together and how much nicer the world could be if people looked after each other.

The bitter-sweet script was full of beautifully observed comedy, while not shying away from the stark realities of Georgie's miserable existence. It might have lurched a little too close to sentimentality at times, but the script, the performances and even the music (by Badly Drawn Boy) made The Fattest Man in Britain a cracking early Christmas present.

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