Joy. Another week, another set of programmes that range from the sublime to the frankly ridiculous. I had the dubious fortune of watching The Great British Bake-Off (BBC 2) on Sunday. Admittedly, some of the history of baking was quite interesting but this is moulded in typical Beeb fashion. Not good.
Sue Perkins is the main host; I say that because she dominates the show in a very creepy way, leering over bakers and waving her arms around when talking VERY LOUDLY, pretty much overshadowing her co-host (so much so that I don’t remember her name. She’s blonde).
The show is essentially a competition in which eight bakers compete to be crowned Champion of the “Bake-Off”, and challenges range from biscuits to bread to choux pastries. It’s all very gentile with some cuddliness thrown in. No-one seems to care about if they get booted out of the competition and everyone is just pleased to be there “having a good time.” Some “dramatic” camera angles and a stately home location add to the horrible feeling that you’re trapped, trapped in Beeb-land. But then any programme that thinks using the Lucida Handwriting font creates “homeliness” is well off the mark.
And so we move on to Location Location Location (C4), one of those shows that I had originally avoided like the plague because I didn’t like the tag-team of Kirsty Allsopp and Phil Spencer. However, it’s become painfully clear that Kirsty and Phil are actually the most likeable element in the show, where couples clash, people fuss over the paint on the door and others are completely unrealistic.
This week there was a likeable if slightly deluded young couple with a dream of living in Crystal Palace and a plastic woman with an increasingly exasperated husband – she cried and went into a strop at one lovely house with potential just because of the windows. Seriously. If I had that opportunity I’d be looking at ways I could turn it into my dream home, not sobbing like a petulant child because it’s that little bit away from the bullseye. Still, Location is great just to spy at houses and enjoy the curiously flirty relationship between Phil and Kirsty.
“Curiously flirty” isn’t a phrase you could use for the eponymous characters in Roger and Val Have Just Got In (BBC2) where a middle-aged married couple plod through mundane small talk. Well that’s all they did until this week, where Roger, played by Alfred Molina, drives Val, Dawn French, up the wall by being ludicrously vague about a revelatory email he’s accidentally sent to everyone he works with.
The humour of Roger and Val lies entirely in the hope that you will recognise the scenarios and conversations it throws up: so it’s more of a drama series for anyone under 35. The fact that it’s set almost entirely in a single room and other characters are only talked about and never seen gives this the feeling of a play in 6 parts rather than a TV show. But somehow that’s where its curious charm lies: it’ll keep you intrigued if only for the “what exactly is this?” factor.
The best of the week’s TV was undoubtedly Storyville: The Winnebago Man (BBC4), a quiet gem that shone some light on the life of Jack Rebney, the hero of the title. If you haven’t seen the clip of the Winnebago man, all you need to know is that it features Rebney failing miserably in an attempt to act in a promotional video. Cue a barrage of swearing and random abuse at the director.
In the hour-long film Rebney is tracked down (he lives in a small house in a Californian forest with a dog called Buddha) and then is persuaded to make a new series of short movies for his legions of adoring fans. Rebney loses his eyesight halfway through the movie, which makes his appearance at a San Francisco viral video festival more touching. It’s was all very lovingly done and while Rebney was determined to come across as an angry old man, it was still hard not to warm to him and his sense of humour.
Not a vintage week of telly then. But next week…. It’s only the return of the completely wonderful Mad Men, far and away the best show on TV at the minute! Wednesday can’t come soon enough!