Some­times the se­ri­ous is hi­lar­i­ous, and prime­time TV is deadly de­press­ing...

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - YOUR TV WEEK -

t’s hard to take Scien­tol­ogy all that se­ri­ously, and maybe that’s the way those at the top of the ‘church’ like it.

( Mon­day, Ch4) was os­ten­si­bly a doc­u­men­tary about the de­fec­tors from the orig­i­nal Church of Scien­tol­ogy set up by sci-fi writer L. Ron Hub­bard, es­pe­cially Marty Rath­bun, who has now made it his life’s work to ex­pose the meth­ods used by the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

This was a se­ri­ous sub­ject. Ever since he split with the ‘church’, hav­ing fallen out with supremo David Mis­cav­ige, Rath­bun and his wife, Mo­sey, have suf­fered from the kind of in­tim­i­da­tion Rath­bun him­self once em­ployed against oth­ers. We saw a team of so- called ‘squir­rel busters’ (squir­rels are ‘church’ de­fec­tors) camped out­side their Texas home equipped with sur­veil­lance equip­ment.

The idea seemed to be to tire Rath­bun and his wife into sub­mis­sion and stop them from pub­li­cis­ing the tac­tics the church uses against its en­e­mies. Yet, so much of what we saw on screen pro­duced great belly laughs. It was hard to take th­ese shrill mid­dle-aged men and women in their gaudy ‘squir­rel bust­ing’ T-shirts se­ri­ously. Yet deadly se­ri­ous th­ese in­tim­ida­tory tac­tics un­doubt­edly are. By the end of the pro­gramme, Marty and Mo­sey had had enough. They’d packed up their be­long­ings and were on the move to a more re­mote house. Which could only be re­garded as a vic­tory for their bul­ly­ing pur­suers. On the other hand,

which fol­lowed on Chan­nel 4, was about TV shows that are prime- time en­ter­tain­ment in Brazil, but which are re­ally quite de­press­ing. On the sur­face, this looked to be a typ­i­cal An­glo-Saxon sneer at the tel­ly­watch­ing habits of ‘yer for­eign­ers’, but in fact this was some­thing a lot darker. Pre­sen­ter Daisy Dono­van re­vealed a tele­vi­sion cul­ture that mir­rors the vi­o­lence and misog­yny that its poorly ed­u­cated un­der­class ex­pe­ri­ence in their day-to-day lives. Dono­van, who used to ap­pear on The Eleven O’Clock Show, gamely threw her­self into pro­ceed­ings, ap­pear­ing in a prank on a re­al­ity show, Miss Bum­bum – in which young women try to have their pos­te­ri­ors voted the most shapely in Brazil – and a true-crime show, in which bul­let-rid­dled bod­ies are served up for con­sump­tion af­ter chil­dren’s car­toons. This en­ter­tain­ment was far from comedic. With this two-parter (con­clud­ing next week), ITV ven­tures into Who Do You Think You Are? ter­ri­tory – but with a dif­fer­ence: here, all the celebri­ties have an­ces­tors who ex­pe­ri­enced the work­house sys­tem. Many Bri­tish and Ir­ish peo­ple have a fam­ily con­nec­tion with the no­to­ri­ously harsh Vic­to­rian hell­holes that were the cor­ner­stone of the poor re­lief sys­tem un­til as late as the 1940s. Find­ing out about their an­ces­tors’ ex­pe­ri­ences this week are Belfast-born ac­tress Kiera Chap­lin (grand­daugh­ter of Char­lie), nov­el­ist Bar­bara Tay­lor Brad­ford, broad­caster Fern Brit­ton (all above, left to right) and ac­tor Brian Cox. It makes for in­volv­ing, and of­ten emo­tional, view­ing.

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