This Week in TV: The Restaurant, Ireland to Sydney: By Any Means and Al Murray’s Happy Hour

For now at least normal service has been resumed as This Week in TV returns to its much-loved weekly format having said that there hasn’t been a lot to talk about in the last seven days.

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I thought I’d start with a bit of class as we the return of the culinary version of The Apprentice in the Raymond Blanc fronted The Restaurant. The show has cast more ‘characters’ this time and also heaped up the spite with Raymond Blanc still sitting pretty as the judge but his two snooty ‘restaurant inspectors’ who are viler than ever picking at every little thing wrong with these people. With those not familiar with the formula basically eight couples come and compete to win a chance to open a restaurant with Raymond Blanc every week Raymond sets them a task and the three he is least impressed with he sticks in ‘The Challenge’ and then out of that challenge one of these gets their restaurant closed down. The cast of characters this year have included ‘Thick Northerners’ Chris and Caroline who I loved so much I wanted them to win. Every week Chris would come up with some classic stupid one-liners or make a prat of himself for example wearing a sombrero on the night he served a cold Mexican buffet at the aptly named Ray Whites but they had to go. Similarly there was ‘The Welsh Wok’ where Peter and Laura wanted to combine his Chinese influences with her Welsh influences however they quickly worked out that there wasn’t much they could do with Welsh cookery and as Peter was a Chinaman who couldn’t cook rice they were recently eliminated. There were also the gay couple and the daughter who really loved cooking but the father who couldn’t be arsed to do a proper front-of-house. At the half-way stage we’re left with four couples three are hard-working husband and wife duos who all have unique concepts, while the fourth are Alistair and James, life-long schoolfriends. However bespectled Alistair and cage fighting James seem to have little in common, Alistair is always getting worried about nothing and getting into a tizzy and when he goes to James to comfort him he gets shouted at, my personal take on their relationship is that at school James was the bully and Alistair was the fat kid behind him showing off. Anyway although not as innovative or fun as it was in its first series, The Restaurant is still good early primetime entertainment and Raymond Blanc is certainly a lot kinder than Siralan Sugar.

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Next up we have Charley Boorman: Ireland to Sydney by any means in which Boorman, Ewan McGregor’s mate from the Long Way Round/Down series, has abandoned his Scottish driving buddy however it may well be the other way around as Ewan was itching to get back to acting. Boorman’s concept in this programme is to start the journey from his family’s home in Ireland and end up in Sydney. His accomplice in this endeavour is the producer from the Long Way… series, Russ Malkin and the third person as always is the cameraman but Russ and Charley have seem to have ditched Claudio for Mungo, unfortunately Mungo’s time on the trip was cut short when he injured his leg on a motorbike and had to go home. Although Boorman and Malkin claim that there’s no-one else on the team whose filming when all three men including the cameraman are on screen? Boorman wants to do the journey using as many forms as transport as possible so classic bikes, The Orient Express, elephants, a Turkish free bus, a Scallop trawler and a dinghy ride across the Channel are just some of the things that have been experienced so far. This is a good and interesting series, Boorman as a narrator has a sensitive tone to his voice while not as calming as McGregor still has a sympathetic twang when describing the hardships some of the countries he visits have faced (such as Slovakia and Iran). Although more egocentric than the past two journeys, I still enjoy this kind of programme it being both interesting in learning facts about new cultures but still keeping an air of boyish fun in the silly games that Russ and Charley play on each other.

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Finally we turn to a comedian whose coming on in leaps and bounds his Al Murray whose Happy Hour is now in its third series. Although I’m guessing people are turning over to watch Jonathan Ross halfway through (as I did this week) it seems to be Murray whose pulling in as many big guests as Wossy recently as he’s already had Ted Danson, Dawn French, Jack Osbourne and Dita Von Teese on the show and John Legend and The Kooks have been among the musical guests covering Queen classics. Murray’s wit goes over some people’s heads as they fail to realise that The Pub Lanlord is a character he plays and not his actual personality. But the style of the show is so different to anything around at the moment that Happy Hour is one of the jewels in the crown of ITV1′s line-up at the moment.

Next Time: Tess of the D’Urbervilles, The Family and Massive

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