Welcome back to a TV Week full of mission shows and rubbish comedy
We all know that Jamie Oliver is our saviour he’s saved our children from obesity he’s saved Street Kids by putting them in restaurants and know he’s going to save the whole of Rotherham. In Jamie’s Ministry of Food, Mr. Oliver travels to Rotherham partly to get them eating healthier and partly to confront his nemesis Julie Critchlow. Julie was famously the woman who tried to boycott Jamie’s School Dinners campaign by passing chips through the school gates to lots of hungry children who didn’t fancy eating monsterella sandwiches and fennel or whatever claptrap Oliver cooked up to replace the might Turkey Twizzler. Critchlow though warms to Jamie rather quickly for someone who called a fat minger on Top Gear. Critchlow also seems to be the only person in Rotherham who can cook her homemade stews handed down from generation to generation, however the rest of Rotherham isn’t so lucky. Channel 4 had asked anyone in Rotherham to apply to be on a healthy cookery show of the 300 that applied Jamie had selected just eight these included Natasha a single mum of two who feeds her children nothing but Kebabs or Claire who uses her vegetable crisper to store bars of chocolate and although she owns an eight hob cooker has never boiled water before.
So along with these two women he shows another six included a guy in his eighties who has never peeled a carrot or a potato and Dan a dreadlocked nightclub doorman how to make meatballs and he asks them to pass the recipe on to two of their friends who will then pass it on to two of their friends and so on. At first they were all doing this but one by one when Jamie went away the pass it on method failed. Jamie determined to go against adversity went onto the pitch during half time at a Rotherham United football match to be called a fat bastard by 3,000 fans. He got one guy hooked who was a miner, the miner then took Jamie down the mines to try and recruit for his cooking school. This being the North though everyone had problems buying the food, Natasha had no money left and had begun to pawn her jewellery meanwhile when Jamie took Claire to show her how damaged her liver was on an ultrasound she discovered she was pregnant. Jamie’s main aim is to set up a Ministry of Food and to teach everyone in England how to cook properly.
Although Jamie has good intentions he seems to come across as a bit of a prat. And although Julie Critchlow shouldn’t get any praise for pushing chips through the school railings she had points to make about how people aren’t as wealthy as Jamie and won’t be able to buy fresh ingredients constantly. Similarly the producers could’ve picked anywhere to do this project but they picked Rotherham which is up North because anyone with a Northern accent will seem more ignorant to the ways of the Oliver even though I’m sure there are a lot of toffs who can’t cook either because they have cooks to do it for them but we never see them either. And although a lot of people turn up to Oliver’s cooking displays it’s mainly to get pictures of him on their camera phones so they can send it in to Heat’s ‘Spotted’ section. People are also wise to Jamie’s emotional blackmail techniques for example when Natasha reveals to Jamie her financial woes she refuses a hug from him because she doesn’t want him to look like her emotional saviour. All in all Oliver is doing a good thing even though he is subtly plugging Sainsbury’s (he carries all of his ingredient in a Sainsbury’s Bag for Life) he is trying to make people cook healthily. Like the School Dinners programme his goodness is improved by the great voiceover work by Timothy Spall, this is a good programme because even if you’re not the biggest Oliver fan you can at least embrace the simple recipes that he teaches his class.
A double bill of rubbish comedy kick off with Coming of Age which once again sees producers trying to produce a comedy for the youth market following the massive hit that was Skins. The success of Skins however was mostly down to its writing and talented young cast, E4 tried to echo the success with a comedic outing called The Inbetweeners which didn’t work because the actors were in their 20s and the writers were well into their 30s so a comedy with younger actors and younger writers about a group of sixth form students has to be a success right? Wrong as anyone who watched the dreadful ‘Coming of Age’ will no doubt be aware. This show was full of knob-gags, blow-job gags, people getting injured and pop-culture references which ranged from obvious gags about Amy Winehouse’s liver to bizarrely Richard Whitely’s death. The characters were all generic there was the slutty girl, the cocky guy, the cutesy girl who couldn’t swear, the wet guy who was in love with the cutesy girl and the weird one who was in love with the token fat ginger bird who got a lot of jokes made at her expense including one in which she was literally showered with chocolate. There was also a horny teacher who was quite willing to swap a blow-job from the slutty student for an A grade on her dreadful coursework assignment. There was nothing of merit here some of the material was just degrading for what I’m guessing could be a talented young cast given some good writing but as it was there was only one gag that made me laugh in which the odd one said, ‘I’m like Jeremy Kyle without the wit and charisma… actually I’m just like Jeremy Kyle.’ It’s just a sad state of affairs but at least this was hidden away on BBC3 where no-one could see it.
The same cannot be said for Beautiful People part of BBC’s Thursdays are Funny line-up. Beautiful People is a flashback comedy recalling the golden age of… 1997. Although from the decor, clothing and general attitude of the characters this could be a flashback to the 1980s or even 1970s if it wasn’t for the use of music from that year (Five, All Saints, M-People) or the odd shot of a T.V. screen showing Live and Kicking or Tony Blair winning the general election we wouldn’t be any the wiser. The story concerns a gay twenty-something looking back at his time growing up in Reading in the late 1990s as he now is a big deal as a window-dresser in New York. This really couldn’t be considered a sitcom but maybe more of observational look at a family with a lot of problems. Mum’s a borderline alcholic, dad likes making home-made wine, Meera Syal’s in it for no apparent reason as a blind woman with a blind guide dog who lives with the family but is in no way related, his best friend Kyle nicknamed Kylie for supposed comedy purposes is just as camp as he is and his sister is just a brat. I’m guessing this is an autobiography about a gay man and written from his perspective about how hard it was coming out. But really do the rest of us have to sit through this drivel and as hard as the adult cast try this is down to the two young cast members and they really don’t pull it off (pun not intended). All in all not a great time for British sitcoms.
Thursdays are funny for one specific reason though, Never Mind the Buzzcocks is back but without Bill Bailey. So in Have I got News for You style they are filling his seat with guest captains I’m thinking in the hope that he may return after he’s finished touring or filming ‘The Story of the Guitar’ or whatever he’s doing at the moment. Filling in week One was Mark Ronson who wasn’t really that effective but in Week Two, Stephen Fry was the booking and he was absolutely wonderful. Putting someone who know little about the subject matter is always great and Fry was just that, its wishful thinking but if Bailey doesn’t return Stephen Fry should take his place. There’s always Simon Amstell though who has settled in beautifully to the role interviewing the contestants at some point and gently taking the piss out of them for example the fact that Dominic Cooper isn’t recognisable in any of his films. Buzzcocks is one of the longest running shows on BBC2 now and the reason is its a simple format even though Phil Jupitus is the only remaining original regular as long as there is two decent team captains and a witty host a panel show will survive.
Next Time: Sunshine and Paul Merton in India