The TV Week That Was #4

19 Sep

It’s been a week of gorging. Gorging. Hmm, that’s not really a nice word is it? I have to say that I don’t watch a great deal of food programmes (er, other than my secret shame of Come Dine With Me (C4), which thankfully is frequently watched by a whole wealth of other people I know) so I was surprised when I actually sat down to watch three, yes, three whole foodie programmes this week. By choice. You heard me.

First on the menu was Jamie’s American Food Revolution (C4) which, I’m told, won an Emmy. I think this may be because Jamie Oliver cried real tears at the end of this first episode.

He comes across mountains of food in Huntington, West Virginia, officially America’s unhealthiest town – he proudly announces live on radio that it was mesured by the government using a death scale, not a fat scale. Actually, you feel a bit sorry for Jamie. He meets a lot of people who don’t care about his message of healthy eating (this isn’t celery sticks either, this is proper spaghetti bolognese made from fresh) and are downright rude to the poor guy. The local radio presenter says he shouldn’t go around telling people what to do, the dinnerladies at the biggest elementary school are unsympathetic and don’t care that they’re feeding the kids crap and he’s swimming against a barrage of fast food that could clog even the fittest person’s arteries.

It’s all a bit grim actually. Having never tuned in willing to any of Oliver’s programmes before this I didn’t know what to expect but he’s actually a likable chap on a worthwhile mission. He’s even got time to slip in the odd witticism here and there too (“I thought we only had miserable b******s like that in Britain”) so even though it has the distinct air of a semi-cheap US documentary, it’s well worth having a peek at. Next Monday: the kids think a tomato is a potato. Oh dear.

Time for a bleedin’ massive portion of beef wellington and a heck-load of veg. It’s only Ramsay’s Best Restaurant (C4). The premise is simple, take Gordon Ramsay and get him to judge what he thinks is the best restaurant out of a series of categories, analysing both the food and the service.

This week, it’s the turn of the Italian restaurants. Ramsay cruelly buses in thirty guests to each of the two competing restaurants and expects them to able to cope with such a barrage of customers all at once. This was actually a battle of tried-and-tested cuisine (where the service was pretty rubbish) and an avante-garde take on Italian food (where the service was in the “don’t you pick on my boys” style – the chefs were brothers, the waiter and waitress the mum and dad – and the trout was undercooked in a water bath). Ramsay then did the whole thing again with secret diners, then put the chefs to the test with venison. Because Ramsay didn’t feature much at all, I luckily didn’t have to cope too much with his foul mouth and over-active way of talking (he goes on his toes a lot, waves his hands around and raises his eyebrows too much. Notice that?). What was worse was when the final decision came. Watching the previous fifty minutes was pointless, since Ramsay didn’t just summarise the events, he went over them in great detail again. It was worse than those “dramatic” pauses. I think my beef weelington’s a bit dodgy.

Finally, a sickly sweet addition to proceedings. Thank god it’s not a pavlova. Instead it’s a very airy chocolate mousse…

FOOD (C4, again) is a magazine show dedicated to everything you ever wanted to know about your favourite foods, and the parts you didn’t want to know at all. So in this first episode, we witnessed meat rotting, the content of fruit juices (some were more than a small pastry!), if anyone can tell the difference between butter and marg, the reason why we should eat more langoustines and we tracked the journey of green beans from Africa to the supermarket. Oh, and we learned the difference between premium and basic potatoes (other than a bit of easily washed off dirt, there is none) and saw that pigs’ cheeks can be turned into a nice ragu. Phew! That’s a lot for just 40 mintes worth of programming! But it’s all very lovely stuff, and the quickfire nature of the show means that it doesn’t feel preachy/heavy/tedious. It’s all fluffy with quick camera shots and neon title sequences. If you don’t like one thing, there’s something more interesting round the corner. But is it just me or did Anna Richardson not do anything, despite being listed as a presenter? Curious….

Two last things of note (the cheese-board, if you will). First, The Inbetweeners (E4) returned for a third series, and it’s just as hilariously cheeky as ever. The geeky, forever unpopular foursome were embroiled in the sexual politics of the school fashion show, where it turned out the boy they were raising money for turned out to be a complete jerk, even if he was in wheelchair. Simon ended up in an incredibly embarassing scenario while Neil narrowly avoided being molested by the perviest teacher in the school. Jay caught an ear infection from an earring, which he’d got because he thought it’d give him a good chance of being in the show and Will becomes a hypocrite after an old flame asks him to model with her. It was all silly fun, simply because the four lads remind you exactly of boys you knew at school. If they don’t, then you were either lucky or went to private school.

Grand Designs (C4) returned for a new series too, and Kevin McCloud continues to be initially baffled by the “scale of the project” before being bowled over by the end result. His usual, predictable statements are all there, but that’s not why we watch it, really. It’s just an excuse to gawp at what people want to live in, and then feel weirdly sad that we don’t have houses like that. Curse those people!

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