Friday 30 September 2016

Ian O'Doherty: I'll own up - I'm a convert to 'Bake Off'

TV reviews: Great British Bake Off, BBC One and Off The Ball, Setanta Sports

Published 07/08/2015 | 02:30

Sticky mess: Having added beetroot to a Black Forest Gateau, Stuart Henshall was the first contestant to be sent home from this year's 'Great British Bake Off'
Sticky mess: Having added beetroot to a Black Forest Gateau, Stuart Henshall was the first contestant to be sent home from this year's 'Great British Bake Off'

I must admit, I am partial to the odd cookery show. But saying that you like these programmes is a bit like saying you like eating - it's something which must be done, but you don't want to spend the day doing it.

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I recently realised that I had become a classic cookery show addict, binging on Primal Grill, Bizarre Foods, nearly anything with Adam Richman and even Masterchef.

In fact, I was in danger of becoming the TV viewer equivalent of someone with Prader Willi Syndrome, that condition which results in the patient suffering constant hunger, no matter how much they have managed to shovel down their gobs.

Let's put it this way, my appetite for this kind of programming has led me down such dark roads as even consuming utterly mad homegrown product like The Druid Chef.

There's a part of me which remains convinced that no such programme actually exists and the sight of some bloke in chef's whites cooking nettles in a ditch while the wind keeps putting his fire out must have been the product of some bad mushrooms.

But no, The Druid Chef exists and he even has a name, Rory Morahan. Who knew?

This endless desire for satiation is like every other compulsive quest - it's almost entirely joyless and leaves you full of self-loathing by the end.

I probably shouldn't admit this publicly, but I've watched an entire season of Primal Grill in one late-night sitting. It's not my proudest moment - although at least I walked away with the best tips for spare ribs I've ever seen.

So, I'm Ian and I s'pose I'm a cookery show addict. But even the lowliest, most scurrilous junkie has his limits and knows when to step back from the brink.

Let's face it, someone can do as many illegal drugs as they want, but offer them Krokodil or Yabba and all but the most inveterate high-chaser will run a mile.

That's how I always looked at Great British Bake Off. This was not a programme that would improve my already cluttered and complicated life.

I'd seen grown men struck down by an almost sexual admiration for Mary Berry and openly admit the previously unthinkable - that they would quite like to go for a beer with Paul Hollywood.

These are things no reputable member of society should ever utter in public and I laughed and scoffed at their addiction in the way only another addict can - sure, I might spend eight hours a time watching some bloke marinate pork butt, but at least I've never sunk so low as to get my sick kicks from Bake Off.

Go on, they said. Try it. Just the once. Here's a taste. You never know, you might like it.

So, I tried it and...um, I can certainly see the appeal even though it combined cakes with hipsters.

One of the contestants on this week's opener was called Stu and when it came to making a Black Forest Gateau he decided that hipsters sneer in the face of regular cakes so decided to make his with beetroot.

Yes, someone took that most luxurious of cakes and decided to gruesomely violate it with beetroot because, as he boasted: "I'm not traditional."

That's very true.

He also got kicked out, which actually made me like Berry and Hollywood which, in turn, made me hate hipsters even more than normal. And that's quite the achievement.

Bake Off actually works better as a science programme than a cookery show because pastries and cakes are unforgivingly precise and pernicketty and one wrong factor in your equation turns a delightful little fancy into a culinary monstrosity that even a predatory seagull would refuse.

Although there is a deliciously sly humour at work.

After all, when one of the contestants, Dorret, made a mess of her mousse to the extent that it looked like looked like an inedible mess (as opposed to an Eton mess, I suppose), co-host Sue Perkins sidled over to the sobbing amateur baker and whispered: "Don't worry, it's only a cake."

Only a cake? Only? Frankly, that's a bit like telling someone who has just missed a penalty in a cup final that they shouldn't worry because it's only a game, innit?

To Dorret's eternal credit, she didn't turn on Perkins and attack her with a frosting knife and indeed she even made it through to the next round.

So will I return to the show?

Well, just one little hit can't hurt, can it? Just a taste, as it were.

I suppose airing a radio programme on telly is better than playing a TV show on radio, but I've never been able to warm to the format unless I'm watching Don Imus in the States.

But the simulcast of Newstalk's consistently brilliant Off The Ball on Setanta Sports every evening has become essential viewing for any sports fan who isn't near a radio at the time.

But while the slot is good, and Colm Parkinson's weird rural comedy stylings suggest that he may be a secret serial killer who keeps a necklace made from the ears of his opponents, the thing is too damn short.

In fact, by the time the Newstalk news has finished, they only have about 20 minutes screen time before the whole thing ends and you have to tune into the radio if you want to hear the rest of what they have to say.

Ah, that's what it is - a gateway show, designed to lure people deeper into their thrall.

Which, pretty much, is where I came in...

Irish Independent

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