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‘The Choir’ and ‘Gutted’: Must Watch Wednesday TV

posted by Ellen Leventry

I’ve always had a deep abiding love of British television. Back in the day, I supplemented my typical American fare, with vitamin BBC and Thames. In the 80s, that wasn’t the easiest thing to do: scavenging the “Young Ones” from MTV, “Dr. Who” and “All Creatures Great and Small” from PBS, and waiting for my British ex-pat friends to get their VHS shipments from home. But today we have BBC America and numerous channels that feature great programming from across the pond. And Wednesday night is chock-a-block with two of the best in British reality TV: ‘The Choir’ and ‘Gutted.’Admittedly, I’m a little late in talking about ‘The Choir,’ as tonight is actually the finale of the first series, as the Brits say, with the follow-up show next week. (The other two series will follow.) But this documentary-leaning show about Gareth Malone, then London Symphony Orchestra St. Luke’s Community and Youth Choirs director, and his determination to reinvigorate interest in and spread the joy and community of choral singing is inspiring with a dose of realism. And that makes it a don’t miss mix.Gareth’s first challenge is establishing a choir at a school that has no music program, Northolt High School, and taking that group to the World Choir Olympics. He then moves on to an all boys school where sports dominate and then to South Oxhey a school in a decidedly blue collar community.Many media outlets have dubbed the show the “real life ‘Glee’,” but it’s so much more than that. Malone’s enthusiasm for singing is infectious, a la “Glee’s” Mr. Shu, but Malone is also a realist, making tough decisions, such as unexpected second cuts at Northolt and being sternly honest with the students. The show also explores the social and socio-economic forces that have contributed to the recent lack of interest in choral singing. But what makes the show is Malone’s unbridled, contagious passion for the art form. (I have a new TV crush.)Perhaps you’ve noticed the recent glut of shows about hoarding that have appeared on American airwaves. While I think that, in general, they are good, I also think that the genre may have finally jumped the shark with Animal Planet’s new “Confessions: Animal Hoarding.” A serious problem to be sure, but not one I think I want to delve into for an hour through the visual medium of television.So, it was really refreshing to come about Planet Green’s “Gutted,” a show in which relatives and friends of pack-rats allow the ‘Gutted’ crew to remove every single item from the offenders house. When said packrat returns, they are given the opportunity to win back their possessions through various means. In this case “X” really does mark the spot as items will be returned if the owner can remember what the giant red “X” replaced. Whatever is not recalled is then sent to auction.Now, I can’t tell you if this psychologically detrimental to the participant, and I’m assuming there is a ton of legalese they have to sign, but the show is absolutely fascinating and prompts you to think about your own surroundings and what you really need to live. Plus, host Mark Durden-Smith is brilliant at navigating the awkward situations that arise. I hope he has a hazard clause in his contract.”The Choir” airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on BBC America and is available on BBC On Demand.”Gutted” airs Wednesdays at 10:00 p.m. ET on Planet Green.



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