The Choir – Military Wives Review: Sweet Music

THE CHOIR – MILITARY WIVES: Monday 7th November, BBC2, 9pm

The unlikely hero of the disenfranchised and/or downtrodden is back on our screens after a two year absence; Gareth Malone, it’s been far too long.

As well as already having three hugely successful (BAFTA award winning) TV series under his belt, the Malone ranger has inexplicable, unisex appeal. Women are drawn to his boyish good looks and sensitivity. Gay men love him…obviously. And though he may be camp and slightly eccentric – apparently obsessed by music, bow ties and tweed – even the manliest of men cannot deride his dedication and talent.

After watching the first episode of his new series of choral shenanigans, I even think I might be a little bit in love with Mr Malone. It must be the killer combination of freckles and sincerity.

We go back a long way, you see, me and Gaz. Back in 2006 I watched as the young songbird turned his choirmaster day job into a TV phenomenon, taking a newly formed school choir to an international competition in China. Two years later he managed to get state school boys to sing and then in 2009 he convinced “scuzzyâ€? South Oxhey to hit the high notes and sing their way back to self-respect. This time the bespectacled maestro is putting a bunch of military wags through their paces.

Continuing in the South Oxhey vibe, the series focuses on a group who are desperate for a chance to have their voices heard. Living and working on “the patchâ€?, a community built to house the wives and girlfriends of serving British soldiers, Gareth’s attempts to build a choir from scratch will culminate in a grand performance at the Royal Albert Hall to honour our troops.

The Choir’s familiar formula kicks in from the off as Gareth pitches his choir idea to a group of distinctly disinterested WAGs. It wouldn’t be a TV show if there wasn’t some adversity to overcome for our hard working choirmaster. Episode one brought the usual mix of tears, self-doubt and inspirational speeches from Gareth. There will certainly be more doubt to come, perhaps a group revolt and maybe a few drop-outs and obviously, the Albert Hall climax. It might all be getting rather familiar and Gareth’s one-man mission to “give a voiceâ€? (very literally) to unfortunates may be a tad grating at times. But the irregularity of the shows and the transformations which take place are a testament to the work put in by Gareth and the people who take part. This kind of television takes time, effort and dedication from all involved.

These are real people who get things wrong, don’t usually win any prizes and get frustrated by Gareth’s ear bashings. But that is part of the programme’s charm and is what separates The Choir from the trite reality shows which follow mundane idiots as they do the weekly shop or hang out the washing.

Timed perfectly as the nation gets ready to pay its repects to our lost servicemen and women on Rememberence Day, this series promises to be a sensitive and inisghtful look into a unit of society who are easily forgotten. Next week the ladies will be performing for a special broadcast on British Forces radio which will go out to their partners in Afghanistan. With Gareth keen to tease as much pent-up emotion out as possible, it won’t just be the performers who will need to have tissues at the ready.

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