It’s always been obvious that there’s something that drives Joe Wicks. Not just the ambition common to successful people, but something more complicated. In Joe Wicks: Facing my childhood (BBC One) we’ve learned he can spend up to eight hours a day – “benders, real marathons” – sending video messages and voice notes to fans who have contacted him, many of whom enter in touch to share their personal problems.
Wicks became ‘the physical education teacher of the country’ when he started daily YouTube workouts for families during the first lockdown. It was a good thing to do, but he admitted here that he felt “really depressed” when it ended. “I’m happiest when I help people, whether on a small scale or on a global scale,” he explained. After 18 weeks of PE with Joe, he was exhausted, but “a few weeks later I started thinking, ‘I’m no longer valid. I am not useful. People don’t need me anymore.
As the show’s title suggests, Wicks had a difficult childhood that shaped the person he is today. Her father was a heroin addict, who cleaned house only to relapse year after year. Her mother suffered from mental health issues, including obsessive-compulsive disorder. “I spent my childhood nervous and worried, and I always wanted to make people around me happy. And I do the exact same thing now,” he said. Wicks came across as a lovely, yet vulnerable guy. .
Programs in which celebrities explore their personal issues and confront their childhoods appear more frequently. This one had something in common with Gemma Collins’ recent documentary for Channel 4, discussing her self-harm. This is public service broadcasting, as many people at home will recognize something of their own situation and may be encouraged to seek help or change their behavior.
According to the scheme, three million children in Britain have a parent with a mental health problem, which equates to six pupils in each class. Wicks’ message was that adults should try to be open with their children. Of course, this is easier said than done; Wicks has a good relationship with both of his parents, but only now is he discussing his childhood with them, years apart.