Door-to-door campaigners, well meaning clipboard warriors in the street who ask you for a moment of your time and even an overactive friend who asks you to sponsor them for their latest hair-raising challenge. It seems that wherever we go and whatever we do, the serious, lingering cloud of charity is just around the corner. Television and charity has gone hand in hand ever since the very beginnings of the medium with programmes such as the BBC’s flagship children’s series Blue Peter highlighting world issues of dyer need. Then of course, throughout the seventies the comedy world came together in aid of Amnesty International for The Secret Policeman’s Ball before charities realised the power of television and the BBC spawned Children In Need and Comic Relief. Yet in 2012 Channel Four launched a brand new charity fundraiser which surrounded a national epidemic which affected each and every one of us.
Every two minutes someone in the UK is diagnosed with cancer, with the most common being breast, prostate, lung and bowel. With so many charities focusing on world events or alternative causes, there was a requirement to extend the awareness and aid for people living unimaginable lives in the uk as a result of this awful illness. Stand Up To Cancer was established in 2007 by a group of women who had been affected by cancer and believe that by merging the recourse of the media and entertainment industries it could increase funds for those living with the illness. The first live television appeal came in 2012 and has been broadcast on Channel Four Bi-annually ever since. Growing bigger with each year, last Friday’s appeal raised a whopping £24.6 million on the night.
Instead of reporting on devastating poverty in North Africa or anonymous children being the subject of attack, there’s something very real about the emotional stories featured in the programme. Many of which are instantly relatable to everyone watching as they’ve either experienced firsthand the damage which cancer can have on not just people but generations of families. Celebrities are put to use in a very unique way as not just the face of the appeal but players within the cancer story; Gary Lineker spoke honestly and emotionally about his son’s painstaking battle with Leukaemia while Bill Turnbull opened up about living with terminal prostate cancer. Such touching accounts from such high profile figures brings it home that the disease isn’t selective, nor is it compassionate about who it attacks. Cancer affects everyone and we need to stop it and therefore to have a five hour telethon every two years certainly helps to raise vital funds for people who desperately need it.
So onto the show and in an age where content for charity telethons is rapidly in decline, could SU2C pull out the stops and restore faith in the charity extravaganza? Long time presenters Alan Carr and Adam Hills returned alongside new appointment Maya Jama who replaced charity telethon veteran Davina McCall who had been present at all three previous events. Irrespective of the onstage presence of comics Hills and Carr, without an experienced broadcaster like Davina put the show at risk of becoming chaotic and devoid of structure. Hills’ self righteous attitude leaves the audience in no doubt as to what he’s asking you to do. It seems that the late Terry Wogan’s gentle persuasive tones are long gone and have been replaced with hardline shaming enforcement. If this is going to be the universal stance for charity television then it’s a very poor state of affairs.
Luckily the entertainment went some way to making up for the shameful begging of Hills and wasn’t just limited to the confines of Westminster’s City Hall as we were treated to a whole selection box of delights beginning with Celebrity Gogglebox starring Tottenham team mates Eric Dier and Deli Ali, One Direction’s Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson, Abi and Peter Crouch and father and daughter Danny and Dani Dyer. The unmistakable dulcet tones of Craig Cash once again presided over the action in his own droll way. Of course Gogglebox has its own incentive to get involved with such a worthwhile cause in light of the tragic death of its former narrator Caroline Ahearne who lost her lifelong battle with cancer in 2016 and is a perfect way to preserve her memory.
While celebrities were commenting on the state of television, Jack Whitehall had quite an unusual date with the legendary Miss Piggy which wasn’t either one’s finest hour but it did make light interlude to the charity porn we received. Meanwhile one of the highlights of the night came when James Corden treated us to a very special edition of Carpool Karaoke with Mr Christmas Michael Bublè. Obviously Bublè himself has been personally affected by the disease following his son’s brave and winning battle with cancer in 2016 and he was able to open up to Corden about how he came to terms with it. In a relaxed setting of the interior of a car. Therefore arguably Bublè was able to open up more in this intimate space than he could ever do in a television studio. His story is sad but with a happy ending and let’s hope many families can take some solace and inspiration from his story.
Stand Up To Cancer 2018 was deemed a roaring success, raising over £24 million on the night, thus proving that the viewing nation are still eagerly prepared to put their hands in their pockets in aid of a good cause. Yet there is still a question mark over maintaining standards of entertainment for such events and while these great celebrities are donating their time, they still have a responsibility to ensure a feast of entertainment and let’s hope that they continue to deliver.