So here we are coming towards the end of August with a bit of a mixed bag today with cooking, music drama and death.
Kicking off with the cooking we have The Great British Bake Off hosted by a pair who rose to prominence hosting food based programming, Mel and Sue. For anyone whose old enough to remember Mel and Sue started by presenting Channel 4′s daytime interview/food show Light Lunch, this soon translated into a teatime version entitled Late Lunch. Since then it is Sue Perkins star who has risen a lot faster starring in everything from The Supersizers to A Band For Britain. Here though she is reunited with old pal Mel who seems to have donned a pair of Blue Suede Shoes for the occasion. The premise of the shows sees ten of Britain’s Best Bakers take part in a series of challenge to see who is actually the country’s best baker. One question I had right off the bat is how do you qualify to be one of the best bakers in the country? Do Mel and Sue come round to every house in the United Kingdom and make you bake them a cake? While I doubt the assertion that these are the country’s ten best they were still pretty good and challenge one involved cakes. The judging panel were Paul Hollywood not just someone with a cool name but apparently a master baker, and if you laughed at the group up, as well as cookbook supremo Mary Berry. T The first challenge was to create their signature cake with some interesting concoctions seemingly working and one guy in particular failing to stop his marmalade loaf from sinking. The second challenge saw Mary Berry give them the ingredients to her famous recipe for a Victoria Sandwich but no other cooking ingredients unfortunately some came out better than others. The third and final challenge was to cook a celebration cake with one special ingredient – chocolate. At the end of the first leg Mary and Paul were asked to eliminate the two worst cake bakers who turned out to be the least emotionally stable of the two, Mel and Sue accompanied the other eight on a plane to Scotland for challenge two which I think involved biscuits. Between the three challenges Mel and Sue looked at the history of the cake, why cakes are associated with women and the history of the multi-tiered wedding cake. I think The Great British Bake-Off was a good idea but again I wonder if it fits on prime-time T.V. as in my opinion it would work better as a 45 minute show on BBC2 in the afternoon. The producers have tried as hard as they could to find a cross-section of bakers from both sexes and a range of ages but the majority are women or over 35, i.e. there’s only one competitor in his 20s. Mel and Sue bring their own style of ‘comedy’ to the presenting gig but I can’t help thinking the only reason they’re on here is because The Hairy Bikers weren’t available.
Next some music as Sky One presents a show which it has dubbed ‘The Anti-X Factor’. Must Be The Music puts more of an emphasis on the actual acts than anything else, the music comes first and the acts can be of any genre, they can sing or simply play an instrument and they can perform a cover or an original composition this final point has seen the show draw comparisons with Fame Academy but that was more about solo acts than anything else. The show has chosen its judges due to their own musical success so we have the red hot Dizzee Rascal (the first UK solo star to have four number 1s from the same album fact fans), the laid back jazz supremo Jamie Cullum and Texas front-woman Sharleen Spiteri. One of the things that’s refreshing about MBTM is that the judge’s aren’t the focus, they simply press yes/no buttons straight after the act and then just give a small amount of praise or criticism which is such a change from the Cowell-based shows. The mixture of acts was also impressive we started out with a gang of school-boy rappers called Flowdem, who were later followed by a young Irish lad on an electric fiddle and a later episode also saw a steel drum ensemble. But the show isn’t above having the odd sob story including the piano player who wrote a song about her drug addiction and then got her friend to sing it while she accompanied her. And also the show does feature precocious brats like 11 year old harp-player Hero, this was a girl by the way, who sung a song about meeting a boy on holiday (SHE’S 11!). The auditionees will then be whittled down to 15 with all of these getting the chance for their music to be downloaded so they start making money and the winner getting £100,000 to start a successful music career. The concept of Must Be The Music is an admirable one and seems to have an authenticity that is lacking in the rest of Britain’s Talent Shows however the one thing that spoils it is the choice of host – Fearne Cotton. Cotton should not be allowed to front a show especially when the camera cuts from the acts singing to her gurning along to the music or making stupid little comments. This works when its Ant and Dec or even Davina McCall but Gurn Cotton is yet to earn this praise, the set also looks cheap as compared to how some of the other shows look. Overall Must Be the Music is a respectable programme which tries to do something new but falls down in its choice of host.
Some comedy drama now with a detective based show which borrows from U.S. shows such as Moonlighting and the more recent Castle but at the same time remaining very British indeed. Vexed casts the handsome Toby Stephens as Jack, a police detective who is totally immoral and often uses his cases as a way to pick up women. He is teamed with Kate a self-involved married police woman who despairs of his antics and it is this relationship which ties the film together. The first episode saw the pair try to find the link between several lonely women who’d shared the same love of ice cream and the film Mama Mia. It turned out that they were all being tracked by their equivalent of a Nectar Card. However both Kate and Jack used the access to the Store Card system for their own personal gain, he to score with a very pretty girl and her to find out if her husband was cheating on her. I quite like Vexed although I do realise it’s not to everyone’s tastes as it very un-PC but at the same time very funny indeed and there is good chemistry between Punch and Stephens. The supporting characters are very underwritten indeed – a zany pathologist, an ex-copper turned restaurant owner and Lucy’s husband, plus sometimes you do wonder how Jack became a cop in the first place but overall it’s good to see an entertaining comedy drama on Sunday nights.
Next up a bit of a strange one as Channel 4′s Dispatches thread looks at the very odd world of the Teen Undertaker. The thirty minute documentary, which was too short by far, followed two teens 18 year old Laura and 19 year old Paul, they didn’t know each other and we followed their separate stories but their one connection was their work in the funeral trade. Laura had been working as an undertaker for three years ever since she had work experience at a funeral parlour preparing the hair and make-up for the corpses. But Laura wasn’t a weird, shy teenager as you would expect a teen undertaker to be instead she was fairly bubbly and very pretty. The documentary followed her dual life as she spoke with bereaved relatives at the same time as preparing herself for her participation in the Miss Norfolk beauty pageant. Paul had also been in the undertaking business for a few years and had recently found love with a female undertaker. Throughout the course of the film the two began their relationship and got engaged fairly quickly presumably because they both knew how short life can be. Paul’s story was rather more morbid than Laura’s however, as the documentary-makers seemed to be waiting for one of Paul’s relatives to die as his grandma and great uncle seemed to both be on their last legs. And indeed quite sadly his great uncle died and Paul was in charge of the funeral preparations and burying one of his relatives. I found Teen Undertaker to be a fully engaging and fascinating documentary and wished it was longer. Indeed I could’ve followed Paul and Laura’s journeys over a six part series and I’m hoping that Channel 4 may agree. I think instead of getting teens to try new things or to see how much their cultures differ, we should follow teens who already know what they want to do and are trying to break down the boundaries and bias that their career paths may entail.
Finally we look at the change in regime of a now-established evening show and whether or not it will last the course with the new team but first a bit of history. A few years ago the BBC1 7pm slot was seen as a bit of wasteland seen as a post-news pre-Eastenders slump it was usually filled by some sort of lifestyle programme such as Holiday. But then along came Adrian Chiles’ podgy little face and a sofa and from that and several factual stories rose The One Show. Once Chiles’ original co-host Mylene Klass sodded off to have a baby, Chiles was joined by the then-unknown Christine Bleakly. In just a short space of time Blakely and Chiles became one of T.V.’s most loved pairings but then Chiles jumped to ITV following the announcement that Chris Evans would be joining Bleakley on Fridays. A replacement was found for Chiles in cheeky podgy-faced Northern comic Jason Manford who gelled well with Bleakley but then she herself joined Chiles on ITV and the BBC had to search for yet another replacement. Names like Lorraine Kelly and Gaby Roslin were touted around before the unknown Alex Jones was cast in the role. Apart from being Welsh, Alex may as well be Bleakley’s twin sister – she has the brunette hair, the toothy smile and the warm glow. The point of this mini-history lesson is a pre-amble to look at Jones and Manford’s new regime. From my perspective they gelled quite well together, with no age gap it was more like watching a brother and sister than a will-they won’t-they generation gap romance. It helped that the duo’s first guest was Whoopi Goldberg who helped lighten the mood throughout the programme. Manford is tried and tested as a panel show contestant and seems to be at home as a TV show host, pleasing all the pensioners who are watching with his genial manner and old-school sense of humour. And Alex is a very proficient presenter, she has hosted most of Wales’ top shows and it more than comes across on screen. The one weak link is the most professional that being Chris Evans. I am a massive fan of Chris Evans and loved his old shows and, from what I’ve heard, his Radio 2 show. However his slightly zany middle-aged man style doesn’t really work in a role which needs a calm mild-mannered hand. Despite the change of faces, The One Show won’t be much different in terms of content stories of wildlife, food and Britain’s weird and wonderful eccentrics means that the older population will be kept happy just before its time for them to totter off to bed.
What do you think to this week’s shows? Leave Your Comments Below
Next Week: A look at this series of Big Brother plus The X-Factor