In 2012, Channel 4 broadcast the Paralympic Games for the first time. To accompany it was a nightly round-up show that aired in the evenings. It featured guests, comedy, and highlights of the games. It has since become a weekly topical show covering that week’s news while still covering the Paralympics and disability sport.
Channel 4 stumbled on a Friday night satirical comedy show that works.
The personnel make-up is unique in that both the host Adam Hills and co-host Alex Brooker are disabled; Hills was born without a right foot and Brooker had his right leg amputated as a baby. Josh Widdicombe is, therefore, the token able-bodied person.
The Last Leg regularly covers positive (and often negative) stories about disability in the media as a means of raising awareness. The presence of a show like The Last Leg covering disability in such detail on television is a positive move forward for the representation of different disabilities. Adam Hills talks about his involvement in disability rugby league and Alex Brooker talks about his own experience of the benefits system and disabled people who inspire him. In one edition in 2016 Alex spoke of the Italian racing driver Alex Zanardi being his hero.
Being live allows The Last Leg to be interactive and reactive. This is particularly important in this era of increased on-demand viewing; it encourages a shared viewing experience.
Encouraging viewer responses can bring its own hilarity. In 2016 while covering the ‘Boaty McBoatface’ news, they ran a poll to rename the show for the series finale. ‘Your Mum’ was the name the viewers picked and as a result was the name they had to go with.
Similarly, being live and unpredictable is also something that will always have appeal.
I find myself expecting The Last Leg to offer some element of reassurance when a tragedy such as a terror attack or bombing happens. In 2017 there were a string of terror attacks in the UK. The Last Leg always dedicated a good 5-10 minutes talking about them with a level of respect and poignancy, which was important and much needed.
There is a strong level of camaraderie between the three hosts to the point they’re able to joke about each other without it feeling uncomfortable or malicious. Josh Widdicombe’s frequent jokes about Alex Brooker’s disability works, thanks to their genuine friendship which is visible on-screen. Their approach to not taking themselves seriously is crucial, coupled with Alex being a particularly good sport as he is often laughing harder than anyone else.
I give The Last Leg a 9 out of 10. It does the “winding down at the end of the week” job extremely well and I hope it runs and runs.
The current ongoing threat to Channel 4 being privatised only heightens the importance of the network and shows like The Last Leg, which is one of those shows that you can only imagine them doing.
It’s hard to imagine a privatised Channel 4 doing a show like The Last Leg in the same way.