CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: The dentist’s chair awaits after this mouthwatering sugary feast
Bake Off: The Professionals
Just once when I was a schoolboy, we stayed in a really posh hotel – the Grand in Brighton, something to do with my Dad’s job. And there was a sweet trolley.
This must have been 1977, because there were punks in pink polythene and cascades of safety pins promenading on the seafront. I wasn’t interested in them: I couldn’t think of anything but the desserts.
How was a child to choose? Chocolate sponges oozing ganache, eclairs bursting with cream, heaped profiteroles, individual strawberry tarts as big as tea saucers, fruit suspended in jellies like flies trapped in amber, glistening bricks of opera cake . . . so much choice that every teatime became a panic of indecision.
Sugar: Sweet trolleys were the basis of the opening challenge for the final of Bake Off: The Professionals (Ch4)
Sweet trolleys were the basis of the opening challenge for the final of Bake Off: The Professionals (Ch4). Three pairs of expert patissiers raced to create a feast on wheels – baked alaska, jelly and a fancy kind of lemon meringue called chiffon pie.
Presenters Ellie Taylor and Liam Charles decreed this challenge had a 1920s theme, which Ellie described as an escape from ‘the bleak 2020s’ – though why she imagines she’d be happier a century ago is anyone’s guess. She wouldn’t have a job for starters (because television didn’t exist, cinema was silent and anyway most women didn’t work).
Knowing joke of the night
As a U.S. city mayor became a murder suspect, in So Help Me Todd (Alibi), his lawyer explained: ‘If this escalates, there’s a process for charging an elected official with a crime.’
There certainly is … though no one has accused Donald Trump of murder yet.
Still, it’s every comedian’s job these days to insist that everything is awful and we should all be miserable. That’s something else that was different about the 1920s – comics existed to make us laugh, not make us depressed.
It was impossible, fortunately, to feel depressed while watching those mountains of sweetmeats taking shape. To a soundtrack of Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five, the chefs tackled ridiculously ambitious tableaux in sugar and pastry, most of them mouthwatering.
Not everything worked – one duo sculpted a bob-haired flapper in chocolate that looked like an undead Shirley MacLaine. Others attempted shortcuts, such as using too much gelatine in their desserts, to the fury of judge Cherish Finden: ‘I do not want a jelly that is so set, I have to use a chainsaw,’ she warned.
Cherish and new girl Ellie have been at a slightly frosty distance throughout the series. A rapprochement was reached before the final round: after the presenter paid her an exaggerated compliment, Cherish responded loftily, ‘You have won me over.’ Ellie managed a smile so wide and at the same time so pained, she looked like she was in a dentist’s chair. Which, after all those desserts, is probably an inevitability.
The Following Events Are Based On A Pack Of Lies
There’s no lack of ambition about The Following Events Are Based On A Pack of Lies (BBC1), an arty comedy-thriller about a love-rat conman preying on vulnerable women. The sets are lavish, the Oxford backdrop is picturesque and the artiness is evident in every shot.
But like a jelly with too little gelatine, the drama just won’t retain its shape.
New show: There’s no lack of ambition about The Following Events Are Based On A Pack of Lies (BBC1), writes Christopher Stevens
Humour: It is an arty comedy-thriller about a love-rat conman preying on vulnerable women
Rebekah Staton plays Alice, a dress designer shattered after her husband Rob (Alistair Petrie) tricked her out of all her money and faked his own death.Now he’s plotting to defraud local author Cheryl (Marianne Jean-Baptiste). It’s a great set-up, ruined by the inconsistency of the characters.
One minute Alice is too timid to tell anyone her real name, the next she’s ransacking Cheryl’s house for evidence. Her dad, Bill (Karl Johnson), is too diffident even to contact the police – until suddenly he’s posing as a millionaire businessman and befriending a famous explorer (Derek Jacobi).
Worst of all, we’re meant to sympathise with Alice when she dumps a poodle in a wheelie bin. That’s unforgivable under any circumstances.
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