A dull potter around spuds and shrubs
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.