I fully appreciate that non-UK readers may have no idea of the reasons to watch The Last Leg but, please, if you want to see something totally refreshing, with an attitude you probably never imagined to be aired in such a fashion, please give it a try. Channel 4 has always been regarded as the forerunner of avant-garde television in the UK, and the Paralympics and The Last Leg has a natural home on this channel. It's funny, it's informative, it's sometimes controversial, it's offbeat and in my opinion, it can change attitudes. Here are the reasons to watch The Last Leg.
1. What is It?
The Last Leg came to being as the sister show to the London Paralympic Games of 2012 which were shown in the UK on Channel 4. Fronted by Australian comedian Adam Hills, co-hosted by Alex Brooker and Josh Widdicombe, The Last Leg provided an alternative review of the day's events from the Paralympics and was as a huge hit as the games themselves. Channel 4 and viewers obviously found plenty of reasons to watch The Last Leg because it is now on its fourth series, the latest one coinciding with the Winter Paralympics in Sochi. A testament to the show's success is that two series aired without any sports events to follow. Let's remember too u2013 this is a comedy show about disability!
2. It's Groundbreaking
There are few things that are new in TV these days and while the format isn't new, it is the premise and content that makes it groundbreaking. The most important of all the reasons to watch The Last Leg is that it can seriously alter the way you see disability. Many media moguls questioned whether disability and comedy could mix and work. Watch The Last Leg and you will see it can. This show puts the funny in disability in every which way it can, and let me assure you, the only people who are offended are the people who are INsensitive to the issue in the first place. It puts prejudice firmly in its place, and also kicks into touch the thought that disabled people want to feel pitied and sorry for.
3. Adam Hills
Adam Hills is a great choice as the host of The Last Leg. Adam Hills is a natural comedian and is a fully fledged card carrying member of the disabled community. He shocked UK audiences the first time he revealed he was disabled by actually removing his prosthetic limb on a TV show. Excuse the pun, but he has never let lack of a limb stand in his way, and as the host of The Last Leg, he has been truly embraced by viewers, despite the fact he is an Aussie. (You'll find the Aussie/GB sporting rivalry a common theme throughout The Last Leg). He has a great delivery style of talking fast u2013 you know where it's almost as if he's got so much to say he can't get it out fast enough - and his delivery of this unique and irreverent humor is perfect. There are many moments where you do stop and think, OMG did he really just say that? But, that's what the show is all about. Is it OK is a major tenet of The Last Leg (more on this later).
4. Alex Brooker
Alex Brooker is a refreshing revelation in the world of comedic fall guys. He is the guy who takes the prat falls on the show. He is the guy who will do anything for a laugh. He is never slow in taking the piss out of himself even if that means uttering some shocking things about disability. But that's all ok because essentially, sports journalist Alex is laughing at himself. Alex was born with hand and arm deformities and a twisted right leg which was amputated when he was a baby. He now wears a prosthetic leg. His success on The Last Leg has led him to becoming a de facto spokesperson on disability issues and he is now regularly seen on shows outside The Last Leg.
5. Josh Widdicombe
Josh represents the able-bodied on the hosting team. He's no slouch and earns his place on The Last Leg couch due to his comedic flair and fair intelligence. He brings the guy in the street's attitude to the show but in a way that it is set up to be challenged. He's the one we look toward to lead us in those questions able-bodied people want to know about disabled people but are afraid to ask for fear of causing offense. Josh is also the guy that has to endure the pseudo-disabled experiences and experiments, for example; what's it like to not have the use of an arm to open a can of beans. Josh's regular slot on the show is an irreverent offbeat commentary to events of the past week's news.
6. Is It OK?
I referred to this earlier, and to me, this is one of the main reasons to watch The Last Leg. "Is it Ok" is a common thread throughout all shows and all series." Is it Ok" is the most real and relevant opportunity to understand disability ever. It is basically tweets from the viewers who send in u201cIs it OKu201d questions for the team to answer. They can be silly, funny, outrageous, cringeworthy, tasteless, irreverent, awkward or just plain curious. Obviously, the more controversial or hard-hitting, the better the laugh, the better the response. And sometimes "Is it OKu201d gives the hosts the chance to tackle issues head on. If you want to see the power of u201cIs it OKu201d check out this clip which resulted in mass media attention during the Oscar Pistorius trial in Mid-March.
7. Everything else
From what was born out of a need to address the issue of how to present disability sport on TV, what language was acceptable and what words could be used to describe Paralympic athletes, The Last Leg has become a show loved by disabled and able-bodied alike. Through all the usual features of a magazine show, The Last Leg is teaching the world that disabled people are normal, regular people. They face the same challenges as able-bodied people in living their daily lives u2013 they are just faced with some extra physical challenges. And, it isn't just disability issues that are tackled. Any minority group or section of society that attracts prejudice and criticism can find support at The Last Leg u2013 viewers of the current series will have loved the continuous bashing of Putin and the recent anti-homosexual legislation in Russia. And aside from addressing issues, viewers can look forward to guests, news items, weekly challenges, and weekly poll votes. Guests are a mix from disabled and able-bodied communities and all fully enter into the spirit of the show whether they are former Paralympic basketball star Ade Adepitan or doyenne of British comedy Jennifer Saunders. Finally, a mention must go to Adam's desk. Every week it is a newly created visual feast of funny figurines, photographs and paraphernalia, the likes of which you don't see on other host's sterile desks.
If there is humor to be found in self-deprecation, The Last Leg has nailed it. If we can all learn to be more accepting of disability through humor, I'm all for it. I do hope that you will seek out an episode on Channel 4 if you're in the UK or call up some videos on You Tube if you're elsewhere. I'd love to know if you think The Last Leg is as funny as I find it to be.