Far from the young man we knew in the noughties’ BBC Sunday morning kids’ show Smile, TV presenter Reggie Yates has, essentially, grown. He is into BBC Three documentaries now; and they are not the typical youth programmes the channel usually does – they’re mature, insightful explorations of big topics.
One of the episodes in his new ‘Extreme UK’ series of documentaries – ‘Extreme UK: Gay and Under Attack’ – has sparked a double-pronged raging debate. Firstly, viewers were angry about some of the views expressed by the people Reggie interviewed in the show. Secondly, there is frustration over why Yates’ shows – which many find topical and beneficial – are not on BBC One instead.
Whatever the argument on the street or on Twitter is about, it’s a unanimous declaration that Yates’ latest documentary is his most successful yet.
It is thoughtful, measured, balanced and facing some of our country’s most divided societies. In the first episode of the series, he explored attitudes to homosexuality among black, Afro Caribbean and Asian communities in the UK.
One of the people interviewed in the documentary is Suhil; a Pakistani man who whose dad “believes gay people should be killed, including me [his son]”, whilst his mum told him “If you murdered someone, I’d still accept you, but you being gay, I can’t accept you for that”.
Most people interviewed, young and old, said being gay was “unnatural” or simply, a choice.
Yates’ reasoned, calm and articulate delivery as a presenter, proves just why he is such a watchable documentarian. Whilst he comes across prejudiced views he obviously disagrees with, he never loses his cool.
The public on the other hand, didn’t keep their cool. Many took their rage to social media whilst the show was airing; with many others posting after.
“I’m glad I chose to be straight and chose to be white. Also green eyes was a good call. But wish I chose to be taller #ExtremeUK”, Robert Judd tweeted in response to the idea that homosexuality is a choice.
The focus in Yates’ documentary is not on how awful homophobia is (although this inevitably comes across), but on the experiences of individuals who have faced it, and their continuing struggle with self-acceptance. And it ends on a positive note; one of its final scenes will leave you beaming, if you missed it.
Be quick, however, to catch up or watch it again on BBC iPlayer as the last showing is on 5 January 2016.
TNT Entertainment Yasin Chinembiri