Hold the Front Page Review: Comedians Nish Kumar and Josh Widdecombe have news for you... and it's better than you think
As a local news journalist, I was prepared to hate Hold the Front Page (Sky Max, Weds, 9pm, all episodes streaming now), as comedians Josh Widdicombe and Nish Kumar tried to find and write front page stories at local newspapers up and down the country.
Although there were concerns it would be a flippant mickey-take of local news, relegating it to cat-stuck-in-tree status, the two comics actually seemed to take their mission fairly seriously, and are faintly shocked at the idea that they may have to find and file as many as five or six stories a day.
They start off here in Lancashire, at the Blackpool Gazette, on the National World stable of papers which includes the Lancashire Post, Burnley Express and Wigan Post.
Sent on a mission to find human interest stories, they stumble across Bill Beaumont on the prom, and report on Blackpool strongman Steve Stevens’ attempt at breaking a world record.
So impressed is Josh at Stevens’ – literally – eye-watering feats that he exclaims excitedly “this is perfect local news”.
It doesn’t exactly dig deep into the problems facing local news these days, and there isn’t a mention of websites, live blogs, native advertising or monetisation.
But then these are two comics and this is supposed to be a light-hearted romp.
So there are stunts, and dressing up, and silly escapades with Boris Johnson’s motorcade. But it is genuinely funny and it’s refreshing to see local news portrayed as something valuable, exciting and worth being involved in.
Maybe it will spark a revival in local news – and that would be a story worth splashing on.
Crime drama Happy Valley (BBC1, Sun, 9pm) returned on New Year’s Day, and already it’s hard to imagine a better opening to a show in the whole of 2023. Sarah Lancashire returns as Catherine Cawood, a West Yorkshire police sergeant who’s a frontier sherriff and agony aunt rolled into one. It’s funny, coarse and utterly brilliant.
Stonehouse (ITV, Mon-Weds, 9pm) was one of those fact-based dramas ITV loves. This one told the tale of former Labour cabinet minister John Stonehouse, who faked his own death to avoid criminal charges. It made light of the whole weird tale, and seemed to ignore real world consequences.