Tag Archives: Sue Perkins

Great British Bake Off: Buns ho!

There’s been so much good telly recently, slobbing on the couch has never been so much fun. And a bit educational, in a literary sense, too. There was Tom Stoppard’s adaptation of Ford Madox Ford’s novel Parade’s End (Rebecca Hall, Benedict Cumberbatch magnificent, and the rest of the cast were superb as well). I also enjoyed two ITV productions, which isn’t something I expected to write; The Bletchley Circle (I love Anna Maxwell Martin), and their adaptation of a Daphne du Maurier novel, Scapegoat (starring a most excellent Matthew  Rhys  – who you’ll know as Kevin from Brothers and Sisters). And the Strictly matchmaking show followed by a three-week hiatus, which happens every year, and every year I forget and get cross. Then there’s the return of The Thick of It, which is warming up to be nicely evil.

But in all this loveliness, the beacon of televisual fabulousness  every week  is the fragrant and delectable Great British Bake Off.

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Filed under Cooking shows

Strictly Come Dancing: “Live from a municipal swimming pool”

My father, a secondary school teacher, was a marvellous man in many ways, but he had some mysterious prejudices. Back in the 1984, when Frankie Go To Hollywood released ‘Relax’ and, thanks to DJ Mike  Read, it was banned from Radio 1 and Top of the Pops, dad announced how nonsensical a decision it was. “A harmless song,” he said. The song that he thought was filthy, explicit muck that would cause terrible damage to innocent young minds was ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’ by WHAM.No, I have no idea what he was on about either. But both songs were featured in this week’s Strictly, live from Wembley Arena, and I don’t think any youthful minds were irredeemably corrupted by Dave Arch and his orchestra.

The best way to watch Strictly, other than knocking back a shot every time Brucie makes a crap pun or Tess gives a rictus grin, is to follow the witty comments on Twitter. Despite all the build-up, Wembley is a ghastly place for this week’s show. It all came across as very Saturday Night Special to me, especially the opening group dance number to a Queen medley. I thought the dance floor far too big, and the sound quality dreadful. Sue Perkins tweeted: “Judging by the sound, this week’s Strictly is coming live from a municipal swimming pool”.

But leaving that aside, what of our dancers? Robbie and Ola kicked off quite literally on rather odd podiums that looked like giant drums. Ola sported a big curly hair ‘do and a skintight, blue and silver catsuit which showed off her pierced bellybutton. In fact, other than whiskers and a tail, she looked like a character from Cats. It was certainly an outfit that drew the attention of all heterosexual males (“one for the dads” as a friend put it), although when Robbie ripped his shirt open, it was a pleasant distraction for some of the rest of us. Their routine included a scary leapfrog and some lifts that looked, from my perspective, like his face was buried in her crotch. But then again, I know nothing about dancing. I’ve come to quite like Robbie, but I expect him to be in the bottom two this week, and he might go (either him or Anita is my guess).

Alex and James performed an excellent tango to ‘Relax’ (and I’m sorry, but it’s a belter of a song, and needs a more throbbing bass than Dave Arch and his lovely orchestra can produce. It also needs the fine and filthy voice of Holly Johnson). But Alex and James’ tango was superb, and her confidence in their dance relationship has vastly improved. I liked the use of vast, white floor-to-ceiling ribbons in the routine, it broke up the vast echoey ‘sports hall’ feeling of the place. In terms of their dance, Craig said, it was “sharp, staccato, theatrical and intense” and it was. I like Alex and I want her to do well. Many are suggesting Jason and Harry as potential overall winners, but I’m hoping to see Alex or Chelsee up there myself. Continue reading

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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


Filed under Cooking shows

Strictly: hot night for grand dames & Blue Peter presenters

The kind of slack blogger I am (and because I’ve been sulking about the gap between first and second shows) means I hadn’t realised Strictly was on last night (friday) as well as this evening. With that many couples kicking off, I guess they need to spread the joy. But happily I caught it by fluke, and despite the absence of Doris Karloff in the first show (not kind tweeting Sue Perkins, shame on you. Oh yes, and me for repeating it), it was a jolly fine spectacle. What made me really happy was how hot Felicity Kendal and Pamela Stephenson were (even if the latter was a tad gushy, but hey). I’m younger than them, but can I bend like that? Could I wear those costumes and not look like a drag queen after a month of binge eating pastry goods? No. They were seriously impressive. Every male I know fancied FK in The Good Life. I found her a bit too winsome and perky. But last night, 30 years on and wearing a lemon sherbet dress, she was amazing. And so was Pammy. Both seem to have developed incredible physiques in two weeks. Hot as hell the pair of them. And they danced well too, especially PS. Made me strangely proud, as if somehow, after 2 weeks of laying off the baked goods and dancing for hours every day with an attractive young man would transform me too, rather than ending up in casualty with my dance partner having a nervous breakdown.

And the other surprise of the night was Matt ‘Blue Peter’ Baker. He did not look hot, dressed as he was in a very strange cling-on farmer outfit, which looked like one of those paper costumes with tabs you’d get in girls’ magazines like Tammy to dress up the cut out model in her pants. But by golly, he was very sexy once he got moving. It was an astonishing transformation. Who knew he could do gymnastics? Biddy Baxter would be proud. Or possibly horrified.

The same can’t be said for Paul Daniels. Poor Ola. Dressed like a prawn and dancing with one, she didn’t have a good evening. She knew she drew the short straw, quite literally. No amount of opening their number with a showy magic trick could conjure a decent dancer out of him. No transformational geek-to-god rabbit out of hat moments for him in future shows I fear, unless he’s wearing them.

So looking forward to tonight. Got my eye out for Ann W and Jimi Mistry, for rather different reasons.

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Just a Minute: hesitation, repetition & enjoyable deviation

Jack Dee, in his newish role as chair of I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, recently did a brilliant spoof of Just a Minute, and of Nicholas Parsons, mocking the earnestness and the habit he used to have of taking himself too seriously. But I’m not sure that’s true anymore.

Just a Minute has been broadcasting since not long after Radio 4 began. It started in 1967, and Parsons has been hosting it since then. Back in the day, Kenneth Williams was a regular panel member, as were Clement Freud and Derek Nimmo. What I remember from listening to it years ago was that, for a comedy show, it used to be taken very seriously and panel members were extremely competitive, especially Freud.

But as Nicholas Parsons’ gently ages and his grip on those strict ‘rules’ loosens, his panel members have been becoming more mischievous, and there has been a shift in tone. I’ve noticed particularly in recent weeks, increasingly, and very amusing, anarchy in the ranks. It’s my view that the presence of Paul Merton has helped keep the programme vibrant and alive, because he has always taken the piss out of Parsons and his pomposity. That goddess of radio comedy, Linda Smith, was also well capable of being amusingly absurd, and these days, with the likes of regulars like Graham Norton and Sue Perkins -and even Giles Brandreth -what’s become really good fun is how silly the whole programme has become. It’s the subversion of the rules that makes it great.

The audiences seem to be in on the joke, and I’m increasingly thinking Parsons is too. It’s like watching the most marvellous sinking of a radio Titanic, with the whole crew laughing their heads off and having a splendid party as the ship gently sinks into utter, hilarious chaos.

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Lustbox: look at the wits on that

arialbold in a manful attempt to provide some balance as the female hormones run rampant in the PLA lustbox has been contemplating how to post without being labelled lumpenly sexist.

While male TV stars can be freely drooled over, doing the same in relation to the female equivalent strays dangerously into gratuitous lechery.

Something to do with power imbalances, post-modern feminism, or simply getting away with it since they can. The sensitive middle-class man just can’t position himself safely on this.

Clearly one must avoid anyone who is superficially attractive – no Racquel Welshes, natch. 

But they can’t be too worthily plain either else you’re not really being honest – this is lustbox, not worthyadmirationbox. 

And god forbid you go for the conventional cliched candidates – so Nigella is out.

Perhaps then you need to balance it all up with a goodly amount of wit and/or quirkiness – more Pamela Stephenson than Pamela Anderson.

So here’s my top of the head list:





  • Sue Perkins: mostly for her weirdly named Supersizers Go series with Giles Coren. Anyone who can debauch their way through that many banquets and remain witty and self-deprecating has to rate high.
  • Tamsin Greig: the only voice that made the Archers worth listening too, Black Books a place to work in and Green Wing sexual tension believable.
  • Lois Griffin: you see if Mr Benn can be up there don’t see why we can’t have a female cartoon character.
  • Emily Maitlis: only because in real life I remember her when she was a spotty teenager, and it never fails to entertain me to see her as an intellectual news siren.

Err … you see I can’t even produce more than a short sentence, since my brain goes – “I’ve been trained not to do this, please stop this now”.  A little like HAL in 2001, if I try to keep going my brain will have to take over and kill myself. 

To be honest you can see my heart isn’t really in it. I just can’t playfully kick around the objectification of women on TV, weighed down by years of lack of experience of sexist banter.

Chalk this one up to the wimpbox – I just can’t do it.


Filed under Lustbox