Evil Genius With Russell Kane review – a deeply bewildering and disturbing piece of TV


Ill-informed comedians debate whether Churchill was a good man, then bluff their way through talk of atrocities with nary a gag being cracked. Who thought this was a good idea?

Russell Kane’s comedy historical debate show Evil Genius began on BBC Radio 4 in 2018 and is big on BBC Sounds, doing its bit to ensure that all comedians are on a podcast somewhere at all times. Now it’s become a TV series on Sky History. But on telly, it’s harder to get away with the sort of cheap, contrived concept that so many podcasts and radio shows fall back on – and, thanks to its reckless choice of topic, the debut TV episode of Evil Genius already suggests that the idea should have stayed tucked away in listeners’ earphones, out of sight.

Kane and his guests – in show one we have Judi Love, Charlie Higson and Geoff Norcott – sit around a table assessing a historical figure, with the aim of making a binary decision about whether that person is “evil” or “genius”. First up: Winston Churchill! He was an unabashedly racist oppressor of colonised peoples and a ruthless suppressor of malcontents at home – but he was prime minister when Britain bashed the Nazis, so the jury is out.

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