It seems strange that my first review on here is of the Stand Up To Cancer Telethon, which aired yesterday evening. This was a 7 hour TV extravaganza on Channel 4 meant to raise money for the Stand Up To Cancer, the charity founded in 2008. As with all massive television movements such as Children in Need or Sport Relief, the whole idea behind this is to raise our awareness of cancer and money for charity, whilst promising us a whole slew of celebrities on the program. Much like the recent ALS Ice Bucket Challenge or the #nomakeupselfie, I find it hard to convincingly criticise any movement that raises awareness for charity. However, I do wonder the extent to which the people who watch it do so merely for the celebrities they are fans of whilst letting the important messages pass them by.
By the first ad-break, we’ve seen a nice balance of famous faces, as well as public participation. Watching the personal accounts seem to drive home the message. This is effective documentary storytelling, the kind that attempts to drive home the effects of cancer beyond just illness and dying. I don’t claim to know the science behind the cancer or exactly where the money goes to. I’ve heard arguments for and against how cancer charities operate. During the telethon, they also aired adverts on cancer as well as cancer awareness. Way to hone it home.
The telethon really excels and grabs the most at the human stories, the ones where you know a person truly effected has been sat down and the cameras have started rolling. Their descriptions of cancers that aren’t the common breast or ovarian cancers also contributes a greater meaning to what the telethon means to do. One of the most moving stories of the night focuses on Lloyd, a promising 11 year old child that was scouted by football teams such as Manchester United and Aston Villa. Unfortunately, he was hit by cancer. This nine minute clip is probably one of the most effective moments, seeing how this effects a whole family.
The celebrity cameos range from long interviews, small clips encouraging voting or actual skits (there’s a quality one from Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy). It’s interesting seeing the celebrity accounts of dealing with cancer, and surprisingly as moving as those from the non-celeb folk. This does demonstrate how cancer hits everyone, but I’m sure most of us would have realised that anyway. One of the more informative sections demonstrated the true and false facts of what gives or prevents cancer. This is, after all a telethon and not a documentary – there are no in depth fact findings and for some people this might make them impatient. However the spread of celebrities involved is indicative of how this is meant to cater to the average man, and not solely Brian Cox types.
Whether or not celebrity telethons tire you or not, it was a decent night of entertainment which also managed to balance between the glitzy entertainment attractions and highlighting the real reasons we were meant to watch. After midnight the show began to repeat itself, which was understandably a little disappointing. There were obvious highs and lows in terms of pure entertainment quality but an important thing to remember is that this wasn’t the main purpose of the show. By midnight £14, 222, 112 was raised for vital cancer research. So no matter what you thought of the show, Channel 4 can sleep easy tonight in the belief their job is done.