TV COLUMN: Leicester City, Masterchef, Bake Off: Crème de la Crème, Normal for Norfolk

James Waller-Davies
James Waller-Davies

Columnist James Waller-Davies gives his view of some of the recent events on television.

I’ve decided to believe in Father Christmas again. And the tooth-fairy. While I’m at it, I’m also pretty sure there’s a Loch Ness monster; the moon landings were faked and if I ever get into Area 51, I’ll spill the beans on the whole damned lot. Yes, this week, after Leicester City won the Premier League, anything is possible.

The television news went into overdrive, not just in the UK, but seemingly all over the world. Not since VE day in 1945, or the Coronation in 1953, or the Bay of Pigs crisis in 1961, has the country been so unified in awe. Leicester hasn’t had this much attention since Richard III had his last bad day at Bosworth Field.

The country’s national media organisations sent their intrepid reporters and film crews off in search of Leicester – clearly a very unfamiliar destination for many.

(Leicester is in that non-descript part of the Midlands, by the way. It’s where you might get lost if you don’t quite know your way from Nottingham to Birmingham).

Such were the odds against Leicester City winning the league, that anyone who placed a fifty pence bet on them last year has now apparently cashed in and joined the Times’ Rich List. Some bookies made it a thousand time more likely man will walk on Mars by 2025 than Leicester’s success. Elvis returning was more likely.

Indeed, you’d probably need Elvis playing a live gig on the Martian surface to get the same odds.

It is, of course, simply marvellous. The reason why sport endures in the national consciousness. Because sometimes little guys beat big guys. It’s why we cheer for the underdog. Being a sports’ fan is to buy into a lifetime of losing lottery tickets, but every once in while you might just, maybe, get to be a winner.

Two cookery comps come to fruition this week, with Masterchef (BBC1) and Bake Off Crème de la Crème (BBC2) coming to a limp boil.

This series of Masterchef has lost its focus, with the food taking a peripheral role to the reality format and search for new locations. Wednesday’s trip to Mexico was an exorbitant waste of time and money, telling us little about the amateur chefs, other than if your take four people half way round the world to cook with ingredients they don’t know with kit they’ve never seen before, they are likely to be out of their depth.

As for the Mexican food itself, much of it appeared to be various shades of gloop in green, red or brown, looking much like the contents of my smoothie maker poured over a taco. If I’d watched in black and white, I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference. Very uninspiring.

Even more uninspiring was Bake-Off’s professional confectionary spin-off. Poor Tom Kerridge got caught holding the parcel when this one was passed round. It’s the worst food programme since the series when Delia cooked things with frozen ingredients a student wouldn’t have eaten. Bound to be the last series. On the plus side, summer is coming, which means Bake Off proper is drawing near.

Normal For Norfolk (BBC2) is an extraordinarily entertaining exhibition of rural eccentrics and a reminder that the BBC does know where the countryside is, even if it rarely ventures out to get its boots muddy.

This continuing documentary tale of Norfolk farmer, Desmond MacCarthy, and his ongoing travails in keeping his 17th century manor home going is as quirky as it is old-fashioned.

This week’s pheasant shoot was almost a self-parody, with the guns dressed in what appeared to be the debris of a tweed explosion in a charity shop. It was pheasanting in fancy dress; a down-at-heel Downton.

Charm dripped from every barrel. It is a bygone age in an age that has said goodbye to far too much. When I die, I think I want to go to Norfolk.