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TV review: The Beatles: Get Back is a long and winding documentary

The Beatles: Get Back tells the story of the weeks leading up to their final public performance

Can you have too much of a good thing? The monumental new Beatles documentary certainly makes a case for that, clocking in a bum-numbing eight hours.

That doesn’t mean The Beatles: Get Back (Disney+) isn’t utterly fascinating, but it does go on a bit.

It’s easy to see why.

Director Peter Jackson – himself no stranger to knocking out needlessly overlong epics like The Hobbit – had more than 60 hours of footage to draw from, so I’m sure the Beatles nerd in him was loathe to start cutting it down to a more manageable length.

Spread across three episodes, the documentary charts the sometimes joyous, sometimes fractious recording of their Let It Be album and the two-week lead-up to their now-legendary final performance on the rooftop of Apple Corp headquarters in central London.

Although the two remaining Beatles had to give their sign-off, this still feels like a very unvarnished warts-and-all portrait of John, Paul, George and Ringo at the tail-end of their time together.

Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, and John Lennon in the studio

While the arguments and power struggles certainly make for juicy viewing – George quits the band at one point and the simmering tension between bandmates is sometimes palpable – what really makes Get Back a magical experience is the privilege of witnessing how The Beatles put their music together.

That’s where having eight hours to tell the story comes into its own, because the best moments come when we get to see the band creating some of their most famous songs, in almost real-time.

While I have to admit the novelty of those moments slightly wears off as the documentary continues – seeing them rehearse the same song for the umpteenth time can drag a little – if you’re a Beatles uberfan (as Peter Jackson clearly is), you’ll be in absolute heaven.


In My Skin deserves a bigger audience

Some TV critic I am! The first series of In My Skin (BBC Three) completely passed me by so only now am I catching up to its quiet brilliance.

Kayleigh Llewellyn’s drama about a Cardiff teenager growing up with a bipolar mum and alcoholic dad has the perfect balance of light and dark and never feels gruelling, however sad it sometimes gets.

In My Skin

At the centre of the show is 16-year-old Bethan (a star-making turn from Gabrielle Creevy), who is hiding her unhappy home life from even her closest friends.

That makes it sound like a slog, but it never is because Llewellyn’s writing has a deftness that never gets mired in the bleakness. There are some very upsetting scenes but you also smile – a lot.

Both series are now available to watch on iPlayer.


Tasks remastered

I do enjoy I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here (ITV) every year, although I can’t be the only one who is feeling that some of the tasks are getting a little repetitive.

There are only so many things you can do with fish guts, cockroaches, mealworms and snakes.

And if I see one more task where the celebrities have to untie or unscrew stars, I think I might scream.


Christmas confrontation

If you thought Christmas was stressful, spare a thought for the residents of West Hayden Estates in Idaho, who feature in the new Apple TV+ documentary ’Twas The Fight Before Christmas.

When new neighbour Jeremy Morris moves into their sleepy community they learn to their horror that he likes to take his celebrations to the extreme.

Jeremy Morris’ home

His annual Christmas lights displays regularly attract crowds of up to 5,000, so it’s no surprise his new neighbours weren’t so keen.

This breezy documentary charts the subsequent legal actions and we see how it brought out the worst in everyone, not to mention some gun-toting far-right nut-jobs.


Film of the week: Free Guy (Disney+)

Free Guy plays out very much like The Truman Show for the Xbox generation.

In the 1998 film, Jim Carrey’s character, Truman Burbank, discovers his whole life has been a lie and he’s actually the star of his own TV series.

In Free Guy, Ryan Reynolds’ character Guy undergoes a similar grand epiphany, learning that he’s not a timid bank teller after all – he’s a non-playable character in the background of a video game.

Jodie Comer and Ryan Reynolds in Free Guy

How much enjoyment you get out of this will depend very much how much of a gamer you are, as Shawn Levy’s film is wall-to-wall with Easter eggs and references to other video games.

Whereas The Truman Show was a genuinely thoughtful exploration of what makes us human, Free Guy has no such lofty aspirations.

It is, however, a lively time-filler with enough humour and heart to make it worth a watch.

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