Tag Archives: Paul

Great British Bake Off: Flour power

I can’t bear to watch the Great British Bake Off in ‘real time’ (not that it’s live of course). Too much tension, too much to go wrong. But I always catch up with it later, on iPlayer, where I can fast forward if it all gets too much. For anyone who hasn’t seen it, it’s a big baking drama, held over many weeks, in a tent in the garden of a fancy manor. The weather outside always seems pleasant. The contestants are nice but very intense and competitive, and the challenges are seriously hard. You’re expected to be super competent, as well as innovative, at all things baking-related, including cake, bun, tart, macaroon, quiche and biscuit making. And last night, bread making. And it doesn’t just have to taste good, it has to look good too. And be consistent. And there are all sorts of ultra tricky extra challenges too, such as making a breadbasket out of DOUGH. I fear madness could lie with too much of that sort of thing. And it does get a little like a Victoria Wood sketch at times.

The two judges are strict but (largely) fair. You have baking wide boy, Paul ‘blue eyes’ Hollywood and top cookery book writer and headmistress type, Mary Berry. Both can be nice, but they are strict markers and don’t coat their comments with sugar sprinkles. Then we have the sweet comedy sidekicks of Mel & Sue. Both women I warm to very much, and like me, get great pleasure from eating baked goods. They are there to provide support and leavening to the harsh marking, and cuddles when things, such as a freshly frosted gateaux, go tits up. They also infill the cooking bits with historical sections, about, for example, where cup cakes originated (cos they were made in cups of course. D’uh!). It’s a vastly more palatable version of a David Starkey monologue. With added sugar and without the snobbery and racism. If Mary & Paul are the scary school examiners, then Mel & Sue are the cool but friendly sixth form prefects.

I do like Mary but I’m slightly prejudiced against her because she keeps describing one contestant, Mary-Anne, who is a large woman, rather patronisingly as ‘clumsy’. Well, actually Mary, she’s not ‘clumsy’. The clumsy one, who has got through by the skin of his teeth is Robert, the skinny, pretty boy photographer, who dropped a whole cake (I do sympathise – I’d have chucked flour over everyone and fallen into a tray of eggs within minutes) and whose pastry cases all stuck to the tin last week. Although Robert also shows flashes of cooking genius, Paul is clearly thoroughly irked by his poor timekeeping, inconsistency and overly-laidback attitude. Mary likes him though, and so far, I suspect it’s her that’s kept him in. Continue reading

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The Big C: Watch (porn) with Mother

I watched the first episode of this a while back, after reading Jo the Hat’s excellent post on it, thought it was wonderful, then weirdly forgot all about it. Then remembered! Thank the lord for Channel 4 OD. I’ve just caught up with all the episodes I’ve missed. Fantastic treat. Like discovering a box of chocolates in a drawer you’d forgotten was there (it’s a terrible analogy since this could not actually happen to me, ever).

By golly it’s brilliant. Still so subversive and amusing. You can tell, I think, that the creator is a woman (Darlene Hunt) because the female characters are all so beautifully observed. I love the way Cathy’s relationship with husband Paul (Oliver Platt) is portrayed. He thinks getting her back is all about grand gestures, like dumping a ton of sand in the living room with deckchairs to recreate their first meeting, which just pisses her off because she knows he’ll never get round to cleaning it up.

What she really wants is a grown up man for a husband, not a needy, irksome child. Someone who doesn’t leave cupboard doors open after getting things out, who picks up his dirty clothes or wet towels from the floor and who changes the toilet roll when it runs out. Ok, some of those were my gripes, but it’s truly the cause of many failed relationships I know.

What we see in Cathy, who of course knows she going to die soon, is a woman who doesn’t want to waste her precious remaining life feeling like house-mother in a frat house.

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Model Agency: “You know, that girl with the really pretty face”

The cast of Model Agency

Welcome to the rather bewildering world of Premier, one of the world’s leading modelling agencies and the subject of Channel 4’s fun new documentary series “Model Agency”. Which on this evidence seems to boil down to minicabs, high-spirited swearing and people in bad knitwear crying a lot. Familiar territory to anybody who’s ever been to a Velocity Girl family wedding, believe me.

Carole runs Premier. She is referred to as “Auntie Carole” and does genuinely seem to care about her staff (“the bookers”) and the models they all represent. However, she’s not above a temper tantrum every now and again, that is to say approximately every 30 seconds. “F***ING CALM DOWN!” shrieks her Managing Director brother Chris at one point, obviously adopting the “do as I do and not as I say” approach.

The funny thing is, for all the supposed glamour, the pressure of organizing models for the various Fashion Weeks, the glossy magazine covers etc, it’s just like any other office. People complain about their contact lenses, pretend to be interested in each other’s drab conversations and have petty vendettas against each other. What keeps it entertaining is the sheer wealth of fun characters who also seem to be pretty natural. Intense, nervy Head of New Faces Annie, the long-suffering Chris, Carole’s languidly beautiful daughter Sissy and lots more. However, an early stand-out is booker Paul, whose uproarious camp has me howling with laughter throughout. If there was a A Little Book Of Paul, I would certainly subscribe. Paul on language –  “Nobody can say “Naff” like a queen can say it!” Paul on his colleague’s proposed tattoo – “It’s so tackyyyyyyy! What’s that?! It’s a load of old s***, it’s horrible!” If we really must live in a world where anybody who’s so much as walked past a telly camera for 3 seconds gets their own chat show, why not this bloke.

There’s drama too. Whilst anybody with half a brain is aware that supposed “reality” documentaries like this are more heavily scripted than any big-budget period drama or soap, it’s refreshing to see it done as well as the Model Agency manages it. The approach is one major “storyline” per episode. Episode 1 centres around the saga of India Farrell, a 16-year old bright young thing who has gone to New York for her big break and promptly broken down. We soon learn that this is most likely attributable to her having been told she was “too fat” by a casting agent on the first day. India is probably the same weight as I was when I was three years old.

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Four in a Bed: Bare knuckle pillow fights

This is a new variant on Three in a Bed, a show where B&B owners go visit each other and reveal themselves to be throughly unpleasant individuals, which I wrote about variously here and here.

I pointed out that, although there are some good people running terrific bed and breakfasts in existence, there are also a bunch of psychologically not- right folk being proudly passive-aggressive towards their guests over poached eggs and laminated ‘Notices’ telling you where to put your shower curtain.

I also said that the voting system in the programme was hugely unfair, because couples going first and second saw how the others scored. It also needed an amusing, wry voiceover à la Dave Lamb.

I should be a telly consultant. Or perhaps not. Because Channel Four have now brought out the weeknightly Four in a Bed at the 5.30pm slot, which as you may have guessed, includes an extra couple. There is also a different, slightly fairer, voting system and a better voiceover. And it’s still a bloody nightmare. The lot on this week are shockers. Sniffing drains. Horribly, unpleasantly competitive. Endless whinging about the temperature of plates, the state of the eggs, sugar on raspberries, the list goes on and on.

Message to you stupid people: you can run your own guesthouses any way you like, and customers can choose to return or not. That’s capitalism in action. But if you go to someone else’s place, have some bloody manners, be a little gracious, behave with decency, humility and the emotional intelligence of a creature higher on the evolutionary scale than a slug.

And hosting B&B owners – your guests will sometimes *be* nitpicking fools. Ignore them politely and they will be gone soon. No need for such puerile bad manners.

Why any of these people put themselves in front of cameras to reveal themselves to be such nasty, bitchy, manipulative rotters I cannot imagine. Gobsmacking lack of self-awareness? Vastly inflated and delusional self belief? The only person I actually warmed to was Lou, partner of Paul, whose bed and breakfast is in Bridlington.

But no one watches these shows to rate B&Bs you say, and you may be right. If you enjoy watching humanity at its shallow worst, this is the programme for you.

It’s hotels or camping for me from now on. I dare not risk running into any of this lot.

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The Archers: Tipping Point

So glad someone's finally applied my theory to something meaningful

Malcolm Gladwell described a ‘tipping point’ as a moment of critical mass. He used it to explain how crime dropped dramatically in New York in the 1990s, but here I will apply it to something far more important: The Archers. I fear my favourite programme is on the verge of a tipping point, from which there is no return.

It’s been flirting with danger for some time, but The Archers has now almost reached the point at which the number of staggeringly irritating plots outweigh the enjoyable story-lines. Soon the whole edifice will come crashing down. It’s not just me who feels this way. Only the other night this comment appeared on The Archers message board: ‘Could someone get my radio back please? It’s in the garden and I’d get it myself but I’m just phoning the glazier.’  This cri de coeur was triggered by the episode in which Helen discovers she is pregnant. Right there with you, glazier-pal. Hell-en is unbearable whether she’s happy or sad, but happy is definitely worse.

Here are eleven pieces of evidence to support my thesis that The Archers is becoming so utterly annoying, it’s only a matter of days before every listener turns off their radio simultaneously at 7.05 pm, producing a surge of power to the National Grid large enough to cause a tsunami or earthquake (or something – haven’t quite sketched this part out properly yet).

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The Archers: Stray pusscats strut

Get real, Lilian. No-one believes in this ‘platonic’ interest in Paul nonsense.  Even Jennifer, never the sharpest nail in the manicure, has seen through your flannel. As will Paul at this rate.

Rather than be judgemental, however, I would like to offer Lilian a handy guide as to how the half-brothers compare.

Matt, I can't believe you've got to wear... trainers

Availability: Matt being banged up, Paul wins hands down. While Paul can happily contrive implausible-sounding work opportunities which bring him within a gnat’s crotchet of Felpersham, Matt’s obviously not at liberty to wine and dine Lilian. Even when Matt comes out, he’ll be on a curfew. Which is kind of mystifying, isn’t it? As Paul himself has pointed out, fraud’s not really the sort of crime that’s only committed outside the home during the hours of darkness. Anyway, the only thing tying Paul down right now is a couple of kids, but they don’t seem too irksome. Less irksome than an electronic tag, in fact. Score: Matt 0, Paul 9 (includes extra point for smart observation regarding ridiculous curfew storyline). Verdict: No contest. Sorry Matt.

Sexiness: There’s obviously a familial resemblance, but I guess Paul is younger. Not that that necessarily has anything to do with sexiness. He doesn’t yet have a bedroom nickname for Lilian in the ‘Pusscat’ mould, but he does have the immense advantage of the thrill of the unknown. And the way he says ‘Lilian’ is rather phwoar-some. Score: Matt 5, Paul 8. Verdict: The younger brother strikes back. It’s the oldest rivalry in history. It’s Cain and Abel, it’s Christopher and Peter Hitchins, it’s Will and Ed Grundy.

Family involvement: Matt famously can’t stand family life. Even when he grudgingly agreed to meet his birth mother, it was only at Lilian’s shrill insistence. Later, on hearing his mother was dead, he said, ‘Oh.’ He’s not much better with Lilian’s family, regarding Jennifer, Brian, Peggy et al as necessary irritants. Hmm. Good point. Paul, meanwhile, has clearly been the good son, doting on his cold-hearted mother and spawning some sprogs of his own. He even asks after the appalling James, which Matt has definitely never done. However, I haven’t forgotten how good Matt was when Jack was at his pre-Laurel’s worst. So it’s not a complete whitewash. Score: Matt 4, Paul 9. Verdict: Gotta say, my sympathies lie with Matt here.

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