Ross Kemp’s (not very) Extreme Tales

Ross Kemp’s Extreme Tales
Logan Campbell Centre, 17 Feb 2018
What happens when the master storyteller decides to make the story about himself? Award-winning documentary star Ross Kemp brought his multi-media show to the Logan Campbell Centre last night, promising the mostly full venue a night of Extreme Tales.

Kemp strolls on stage – big, buff and bald, looking rather like Michael Chiklis. Tough guy in a T-shirt. Don’t mess with him.

He informs us that after ten years on East Enders, he was offered a chance to host a documentary about gangs in the UK. It quickly became a series and Kemp was off – meeting and mingling with gangs around the world, often from the inside, including an episode devoted to our own Mongrel Mob. Ross Kemp on Gangs ran in the UK on Sky 1 from 2004 – 2009. The punters loved the show and it garnered a BAFTA for Best Factual Series in 2007.

Kemp embodying the fierce and fearless journalist out to get the story, Kemp the compassionate listener, Kemp the straight-talking analyst, exposing the ugliest parts of the ugly truth. The formula worked so well, he was sent to make documentaries nearly everywhere in the world, always looking at the unwholesome underbelly of the local culture and its affect on the weakest members of society.

So I was expecting some great stories. And it wasn’t that all the stories weren’t interesting. But he was that boring dude, making it all about himself, taking forever to get to the point, and when he got there, IF he got there, you didn’t care any more. The story about Israel was a fifteen second clip from the documentary – followed by ten minutes of excruciating detail of the eight pints of beer he drank and every item on the hotel breakfast buffet – followed a bit of ‘poo’ humour about the conflict. And it didn’t improve from there.

In Afghanistan he had trouble wearing the blue “Press” helmet and badge. He, like, really clicked with Compton Gangbangers whose lives aren’t like the gangsta videos at all. He lingers on the graphic torture and abuse of women, but it somehow it just feels like a click-bait headline.

Occasionally we’d get a very short clip from the related documentary, but mostly it was just a video of smoke rolling behind him while he’s throwing himself on the ground pretending to dodge bullets, or gasping, or pausing for dramatic effect, the crack in his voiced completely rehearsed. I’m embarrassed for the guy. Who told him this was a good idea? Who wrote this script? 45 minutes into a two-hour show and my brain was numb.

I love watching documentaries. It’s always a thrill to meet the makers afterwards if they do a presentation, and during the film festival I always see five or six but I’ve never seen anything like this. And then it hits me – he’s not a documentary maker – he’s an actor playing a journalist – a bad actor who can’t tell a good  story. Without a script, a director and an editor – he’s got nothing.

My companion couldn’t take it any more and wandered off to find something to drink, go to the loo, anything to avoid watching him another minute. After an hour, I gave up as well. It’s been at least twenty years since I walked out of a show, but this guy was a bone-crushing bore and a total waste of the only Saturday night I’ll get this week.

Veronica McLaughlin

Veronica McLaughlin


  1. Hey I personally don’t all like Ross Kemp but then again I wasn’t reviewing his show!! Why do organisisation send staff who clearly don’t like the act along to write an impartial review. Since reading your review I have read 20-30 other reviews which absolutely love Ross Kemp.

    • I volunteered to review the show because I love documentaries and discussions with film-makers. I watched a few of Ross Kemp’s videos and expected a great show – otherwise, why would I bother? My review reflects my experience of the show as well as my two companions. And also the group of disappointed women in ladies room. I didn’t take an exit poll, but judging from all the people reading Facebook on their phones while he talked, there were a lot of folks there who would agree with me. And sadly, they paid $99/ticket. Your 92-year-old great aunt could tell a better story.

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