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TV review: Switch; Hebburn; VIP People

Lacey Turner (Stella ), Phoebe Fox (Grace), Nina Toussaint-White (Jude) and Hannah Tointon (Hannah) in Switch. Photo: Touchpaper Television /ITV

ITV2’s new comedy drama Switch follows the romantic and magical misadventures of Stella, Jude, Grace and Hannah – four twentysomething, flat sharing female witches in super-trendy Camden Lock, north London.

This self-styled Camden coven shrieks, hugs, banters and occasionally casts spells to help each other out, such as bringing an accidentally microwaved cat back to life, erasing the inconvenient short-term memory of an unpleasant employer or simply placing romantic enchantments on young men they like the look of.

All the coven needs is a makeshift cauldron, a suitable spell, objects representing the four elements, and each other. “We don’t have anything for air,” exclaims one of the girls at an impromptu – and extremely hurried – spell cast.

At which point I have to confess to the uncharitable thought that they could always try sticking their heads into the mixture.

Switch is okay, but it could have been so much more fun if it had featured four diverse and interesting leads, rather than the bland, boring, antiseptic and homogenous refugees from a tampon advert offered up here. The cast is fine, but the script is so thin on characterisation that hardly a single personality can be scraped together between the four of them.

They even share the same body shape, as though any deviation from the supposedly acceptable, attractive norm would send the potential young male audience fleeing in disgust and horror at the deviance of it all. Most disappointing, none of the leads is written to be remotely funny. The most the programme allows them to be is frothy or scatty, which is frankly irritating.

As if to prove the point, Caroline Quentin was introduced halfway through episode one as the overbearing, overprotective mother of youngest witch Grace. The involvement of a character with a bit more flesh, figuratively and literally, lifted the show immediately. The trailer for episode two also promised some added unpleasantness in the form of a rival coven from Kensington – all sneers and snotty attitude – who would appear to offer the interesting edge our Camden quartet is sadly lacking. So Switch might yet be worth persevering with.

The jury is also out on Hebburn, the new sitcom set in the eponymous Tyne and Wear town. The set-up sees recently graduated Jack (Chris Ramsey) returning home to introduce his middle-class, Jewish bride to his unreconstructed, working-class Geordie family.

There are some good lines and the cast is excellent, but Hebburn just seems to be trying too hard, abandoning slow build of character for the more impactful, but far less interesting, ‘loveable low life northerners behaving badly’ school of comedy.

CBBC’s excellent new documentary series VIP People dares to assert the showbusiness heresy that those working behind the scenes are every bit as vital to a screen, sporting or theatrical performance as the glory seekers in front of the audience.

In episode one, the producers went to Northern Ireland to follow the filming of CBBC superstar and Strictly Come Dancing contestant Dani Harmer’s new comedy Dani’s Castle.

The director, his three assistant directors, the costume and set designers and the fight arranger were among those interviewed. The general impression was that filming on location is great fun. Apart from the long hours. And the hard work. And the logistics involved. And the unforgiving attention to detail required. And the rain…

Switch, ITV2, Monday, October 15, 10pm
Hebburn, BBC2, Thursday, October 18, 10pm
VIP People, CBBC, Monday, October 15 to Friday, October 19, 4.30pm

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