Help! Teach is Coming to Stay
CBBC for BBC Two, 19 July 2008 to 29 March 2009 (20 episodes in 1 series)
Each week, Johny Pitts and Kirsten O'Brien help a school pupil turn the tables, by instructing their teacher in some of their hobbies, in the hope of helping them win a prize for their entire class.
We start on a Friday afternoon with the pupil and teacher being surprised at school by either Johny Pitts or Kirsten O'Brien (who alternate on presenting and narration duties each week). In front of their class, the teacher is told they will be spending the next two days over the weekend, living with one of their pupils, and tackling some of their hobbies. The teacher is then provided with a school uniform, which they must wear at all times.
From this point on in the show, the pupil is now referred to as the teacher, and the teacher is the pupil. As such, so will this review. Confused? Don't worry, you will be.
This first task entails the teacher and pupil working together to complete a timed challenge to see how well they can work together. The task varies from week to week, but usually entails the pupil getting the short straw - being the one blindfolded rather than being the ones giving instructions for example. If they succeed in their challenge they have a proper meal, if not they have to consume re-heated school dinners instead. This section is mildly engaging, but ultimately doesn't add anything to the main structure of the show, and as such does feel a little bit like padding.
Chores & The Lessons
On the Saturday morning after an early wake-up call, the pupil is instructed to conduct a menial chore. This is normally something vaguely unpleasant such as mucking out a pet for example.
After the chores have been completed, the teacher proceeds to conduct the day's lessons. The lessons are conducted in two parts of 45 minutes each. One lesson is given over to each hobby which the pupil must master. As the pupil has only just started and therefore isn't very good yet, much hilarity ensues for the teacher and the presenter. A few minutes of the lessons are normally shown, accompanied by some music.
During the course of the day, the teacher and pupil are offered the chance to gain more tuition time. To do this they must worked together on a timed challenge. If they succeed, they win an additional 15 minutes tuition time. If they fail, they are docked 5 minutes tuition time.
On the Sunday, the teacher and pupil travel with the presenter to show off their new skills. As the pupil has at best had an hour to learn one new hobby, and 45 minutes to learn the other, these demonstrations invariably go wrong, causing embarrassment to the pupil. Further to this, although the performance location varies depending on the hobbies being learnt, it is always somewhere like a park or a busy shopping street in order to generate further embarrassment for the pupil. Following this, back at home, we see more lessons as the pupil tries to get to grips with the hobbies chosen for them.
Parents Evening & Secret Challenge
These are two brief inserts, separate from the main challenge in the show. The first sees a parent, friend or someone else otherwise known to the pupil visit the teachers house for a Parents Evening where they can catch up on the pupil's progress. The second sees the presenter giving both the teacher and the pupil three odd words or phrases to drop into the conversation over a meal, without being found out. Neither knows the other has a secret mission. If they succeed they win a prize for themselves.
On the Monday morning, the teacher and pupil return to school where the pupil must pass a final exam based on one of the two hobbies they have been learning. How the decision as to which hobby will be used for the final exam is made, isn't explained. However it isn't always the hobby that the pupil has been struggling at most, which makes it a bit fairer. The final exam takes the basis of five individual challenges, with the pupil having to succeed at three of them in order to pass. The challenges are a mixture of practical and theory tasks, and are judged upon by a special guest. This is usually someone linked to one of the hobbies - a well-known skateboarder (who said Tony Hawk? OK, then) a
well-known skateboarder if the challenge was skateboarding for example. If the pupil succeeds, the whole class wins a prize, usually a day out to a local theme park or similar. If they fail, the teacher and pupil must endure a ritual gunging by the remainder of the class, which does create the odd situation of the class being just as excited by the prospect of losing the task, as they are by it being won.
Overall, this isn't a bad show at all. There are a few sections that could easily be left out because as it stands, the show does feel a little over-long, and with some streamlining would probably work just as well in a 30 minute slot. In terms of concept, while it does use the same 'getting one over on grown-ups' idea that programmes such as Get Your Own Back have brought to children's TV over the years, it still feels new, and not at all derivative. Worth a look.