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TV review: O’Grady’s big love for the little heroes | TV & Radio | Showbiz & TV

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Paul O’Grady

Paul O’Grady is a selfless presenter, not afraid to work with both children and animals (Image: JOHN STEAD GOSH)

In Paul O’Grady’s Little Heroes (ITV, Wednesday) he threw himself among the children of Great Ormond Street Hospital with the same gusto that he did with the dogs of Battersea Dogs’ Home, only it was better because the children involved could answer back.

O’Grady met eight-year-old Emanuel, a smart young lad who showed him around the orthopaedic ward, and 13-year-old Mackenzie, a handsome boy who was having an ear reconstruction, plus sister and brother Emily and Luke who were in for their annual tests for cystic fibrosis (which came back with cheering results, hooray!).

Paul then flew around a teenage ward wearing a fetching blue plastic pinny and surgical mob cap worn at a rakish angle, taking lunch orders.

“Would you like to see the wine list?” he asked one young lady. Enquiring what another girl wanted, she replied: “Lobster thermidor.”

O’Grady played along, dishing up the lunch and telling the patient: “It’s lobster thermidor, only this one has been disguised as sausage.”

Paul also met nine-year-old Lara in the hospital’s chapel, where she was beautifully singing Keane’s Somewhere Only We Know. Lara has a life-threatening blood disease and has also had cancer, “which made me small”, she tells Paul.

It was at that point I started blubbing. The bravery of these young people against adversity would bring tears to a glass eye and O’Grady was their perfect foil. He sensitively asked them and their parents questions and gladly played the fool to make them happy.

O’Grady – who points out he used to be a children’s care worker – is a selfless presenter, not afraid to work with both children and animals.

He’s the most engaged TV presenter we have by miles, spreading a good deal of happiness and goodwill in the most heart-wrenching situations and letting the children on the show shine.

There were more adorable youngsters in Tower Block Kids (Channel 5, Monday), a beautifully-handled new documentary series on a subject that could have been grim social realism about living in horrible council blocks littered with rubbish and drug paraphenalia but – seen from the point of view of children who live in them – was refreshingly positive.

Yes the families in London, Croydon and Stockport knew that where they lived was far from ideal. Children pointed out that lifts were broken, men urinated in the hallways, sometimes it wasn’t safe to go out and that living in a tower block could be dangerous, especially given the Grenfell Tower disaster.

These children have a lot to contend with; in addition to their surroundings being far from ideal, it was pointed out that youngsters from social housing have half the chance of those in privately-owned homes of going to university. but you knew that, because of their loving families, they would be OK.

Practical problems were overcome: exam revision was done at a pal’s house instead of an overcrowded flat; eagle eyes were applied by Mum when children were playing outside, school trips away with the school were encouraged.

It was so lovely to see a documentary showing how families were doing fine in difficult circumstances, rather than helplessly floundering in their own misery.

And whoever found such great families as the Lawries, Baldes and Benfolds deserves credit, as their children were so loveable that I wanted to give them all a squeeze. The youngest Benfolds, brothers Harley and Kyron, were so cheeky and funny I wanted to adopt them, especially as I too am a council house kid.

I’ve had therapy as well (the two aren’t linked), so I was interested to see new sitcom Hang Ups (Channel 4, Wednesday), starring Stephen Mangan (who also co-wrote and produces it) as Richard Pitt, a psychologist trying to start an online therapy business from home. Initially, it gave me a bit of a headache, as it’s got a lot of scenes shot in split screen (showing Richard’s online video conversations), using phone video chat and an opening shot using Richard’s laptop camera as he moves it at all kinds of nauseating angles as he takes it around the house.

Paul O’Grady

He’s the most engaged TV presenter we have by miles (Image: JOHN STEAD GOSH)

But a feeling of slight seasickness was worth it as it’s one of the funniest, rudest, comedies in ages. Uptight client Fiona screams down the line at Richard about her marriage, her body hang-ups, what the Burmese cats are doing on her expensive Wilton rugs, the same as those men were doing in tower block corridors.

He asks millennial entrepreneur Angie what her goals are and she replies: “I guess my goal is by the time I’m 30 to have one million Instagram followers.” This is what Richard has to deal with, in addition to his businesswoman wife and teenage children.

Best moment of all was an online consultation between Pitt and his own therapist Leonard Conrad, played by Richard E Grant, who dispensed advice on how to deal with his overbearing father (Charles Dance), in ways that can’t be referred to in a family newspaper.

Needless to say, it made me laugh a lot, as did the fact that Grant appeared to be enjoying himself hugely. Wouldn’t like to have him as my therapist, though.

The Poundstretcher discount retail chain needs therapy too, and the trials of new CEO Chris Edwards were shown in Saving Poundstretcher (Channel 4, Monday). He had a mountain to climb; one mainly made of unsold Pontefract cakes. Stores had boxes and boxes of them in their stockrooms and huge packets of a thing called “fish dressing”. Nobody in the company knew what it was either, but the owner seemed to think if it was cheap enough, someone would buy it.

I like a bargain but even I’d be pushed to find a use for seven kilos of “fish dressing”, unless it was as a doorstop.

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