A cook-off where everyone’s a winner? What a prize fudge!
French and Saunders didn’t want the job. Jamie Oliver didn’t want it. Davina Mccall said no. even food journalist Kate Quilton, who is a fine presenter but hardly a household name, turned it down.
The task of following Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc as hosts of The Great British Bake Off was widely perceived as not so much a challenge, more a poisoned chalice. In desperation, channel 4 bosses — who are paying a ludicrous £75 million for rights to the show — went trawling among panel game regulars, the ones who say yes to every gig, and came up with . . . Sandi Toksvig and noel Fielding.
She’s short and explosive. he’s tall and dozy. Why not go the whole hog, and get cannon and Ball? Instead of, ‘On your marks, get set, bake,’ they can shout: ‘rock on, Tommy!’
The afternoon cookery contest Chopping Block (ITV) relies on the more practical team of chef rosemary Shrager and former Bake Off champ John Whaite to judge the rival amateurs. They set basic tasks, such as jointing a chicken and making mashed potato, as well as introducing slightly more tricky skills — this time, tempering chocolate.
This is a show that can actually teach the average home cook lessons worth knowing, though if rosemary served that puréed mash in a restaurant I’d want to send it back. It looked like white gravy.
On the other hand, she’s got a bellow like a force nine gale. When she shouted instructions at the contestants from close range, she almost blew them off their feet.
I wouldn’t want her storming out of the kitchen to tick me off . . . so I’d probably just say nothing and drink my mashed potato.
The judges failed badly when it came to picking a winner. The novices had to turn their backs, while John and rosemary compared notes, a moment of tension that was at least different from the usual drawn- out pause before the victor is announced.
But they fluffed it. Unable to choose who had started the week best, they gave the prize (a box of real ales) to everyone.
That’s a hopeless fudge. If nobody wins, everybody loses. TV competitions are not like comprehensive schools, where no one is allowed to come top of the class.
It’s a fair bet that comedian
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richard Ayoade was top of his school at everything academic. his intellectual superiority to the world is a running joke on Travel Man (c4).
But as he spent 48 hours in the hungarian capital Budapest with actress Aisling Bea, the joke was wearing thin. he was contemptuous of the local cuisine, such as marrowbone wrapped in gingham napkins, and fish goulash.
he sneered at the steaming spa pools where chess players clustered in clouds of steam around chequered boards. he was even unimpressed by the lifesize bronze statue of Peter Falk ( a new Yorker whose ancestors were hungarian) as Lieutenant columbo.
The first few times he did this, in cities such as Barcelona and Istanbul, it was amusing.
now, it’s mechanical. he doesn’t even bother to invent reasons for disliking the tourist sights, including a railway staffed entirely by children — a youth project dreamed up by the communists in the cold War years.
Just once, it might be fun if richard enjoyed something. At least it would relieve the monotony, because it must be dull to be that clever.
Chopping BlockHHIII LAST NIGHT’S TV CHRISTOPHER STEVENS Travel Man