A dull pot­ter around spuds and shrubs

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If you have a tried and tested recipe that you al­ways turn to, some­times it’s best not to start tam­per­ing with the key in­gre­di­ents.

Take The Big Al­lot­ment Chal­lenge (Thurs­days, 9.30pm, Liv­ing Chan­nel) – here’s a group of am­a­teur gar­den­ers brought to­gether to com­pete for the ti­tle of best al­lot­ment per­son. Con­tes­tants are given an al­lot­ment space each and set about grow­ing their flow­ers and veges. They’re a mixed bunch – there’s a teacher, a project man­ager, a dec­o­ra­tor but they all fancy their hor­ti­cul­tural skills.

Each week, they have to dis­play some nice veges from their gar­den, make some sort of flo­ral dis­play with the flow­ers and cook up some­thing to eat us­ing in­gre­di­ents from their al­lot­ment. There are three ex­pert judges and it’s all over­seen by jolly pre­sen­ter Fern Brit­ton.

I’m guess­ing this idea sounded al­right on pa­per, like The Great

Bri­tish Bake Off with gar­den­ing was prob­a­bly the pitch. But watch­ing con­tes­tants care­fully scrub­bing their newly picked pota­toes with a soft tooth­brush to pre­pare them for dis­play, it quickly be­came ap­par­ent that ac­tu­ally this is verg­ing on the dull.

Watch­ing them stick flow­ers in a bas­ket didn’t im­prove mat­ters and by the time we got to them cook­ing some herbs from the gar­den to make a sauce, well, my at­ten­tion had wan­dered else­where.

The ob­vi­ous prob­lem here is that gar­den­ing is quite a slow process, you have to wait weeks for things to grow be­fore you cook them, it’s why most of us re­sort to su­per­mar­kets. And it means that here the ten­sion is re­ally lack­ing.

Bake Off sees con­tes­tants get­ting flus­tered as they pull col­laps­ing sponge cakes out of hot ovens work­ing against the clock, things can go wrong at the last minute – burnt cakes, dropped cakes, the in­fa­mous ‘‘soggy bot­toms’’.

Whereas if you’ve been grow­ing pota­toes for 10 weeks, it’s un­likely there’s go­ing to be a last minute drama when you pick them – un­less a wild fire swept through the al­lot­ment five min­utes be­fore judg­ing. But I don’t want to give them ideas in case we see a rogue ar­son­ist plagu­ing the walled gar­den in the next se­ries.

This yearn­ing to re­peat the phe­nom­e­nal suc­cess of Bake Off raises its head again with The Great Pot­tery Throw­down (Satur­days, 7.30pm, TV One). Yep, you guessed it, this time they’re look­ing for Bri­tain’s best am­a­teur pot­ter. Each week, the con­tes­tants face a pot­tery-re­lated chal­lenge. There are two ex­pert judges Keith Brymer-Jones and Kate Malone and it’s all over­seen by jolly pre­sen­ter Sara Cox.

So, you know the deal, they make some bowls, the judges look at them. The maker of the worst bowls goes home and then the next week the re­main­ing con­tes­tants make some­thing dif­fer­ent – big­ger bowls, plates, or, in this case, a bath­room basin. To be fair, the re­sults are pretty im­pres­sive and the pot­tery-mak­ing is a bit faster-paced than gar­den­ing.

But ul­ti­mately, this is Bake Off with kilns and pots in­stead of cakes and ovens. And this tam­per­ing with the recipe just doesn’t quite work.

The Big Al­lot­ment Chal­lenge of­fers three ex­pert judges, a jolly host and not much else.

The Great Pot­tery Throw­down is sim­ply

The Great Bri­tish Bake Off with kilns and pots in­stead of cakes and ovens.

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