Nadiya’s British Food Adventure, Monday 17th July, 8:30pm, BBC Two
When the history of our Sceptred Isle is written in years to come, 2016 will be seen as a year of great turmoil, when the nation was torn to shreds by arguably the biggest and most controversial decision of this or any other age. I’m talking, of course, about the Great British Bake Off’s move from the BBC to Channel 4. Now, as with Brexit, half the country is simply willing an abject failure so they can say “I told you so.” And you can bet that there will be some fingers firmly crossed in some of the larger offices in Broadcasting House that Channel 4’s version of the show has a distinctly soggy bottom.
In the meantime, the BBC are doing their best with the leftovers. Sue and, in particular, Mel seem to crop up on a different show every five minutes, and Mary Berry’s picture probably hangs between Sir David Attenborough and Lord Reith in the Director General’s office. And then there is the incandescent and delightful Nadiya Hussain, the most popular of all the Bake Off winners, who has been given her own six-part series.
Let’s get one thing straight from the start: Hussain may be a new talent, and this may be a new series, but heavens above, we’ve seen it a million times before. Nadiya’s British Food Adventure sees her travelling around the UK, looking at where our food comes from and how it is produced, before she uses said produce to rustle up a dish. It’s something we’ve seen done by everyone from Rick Stein to Michel Roux Jr to Jamie Oliver. Pretty soon, we’ll run out of stories to tell about where our food comes from, and we’ll end up having to watch inserts about how they make the lids for tubes of Pringles.
Having said all of that, this is a programme long on charm, thanks in no small part to the enthusiasm and personality of Hussain herself. It’s easy to see why she became such a popular figure on Bake Off. Whether she’s making cheese scones with chive butter, or finding out how to smoke fish in a cardboard box, she seems to be having the time of her life, and such enthusiasm is entirely infectious. There’s also a delightful section where she visits an asparagus farm. Having now seen how much land is required to grow asparagus, and how labour intensive its harvest is, I will never again balk at the price of it. Also, the Heath Robinson-esque vehicle used by the harvesters is worth tuning in for on its own.
After knocking together a pleasingly straightforward asparagus stir-fry, our heroine is off to meet a retired fireman who runs a smoker and smoking school. Introductions over, he suggests: “Shall we go and do some smoking,” which, incidentally, was my chat up line to girls at school. So off they go, albeit, I should add, with absolutely not a hint of romantic frisson between them. Much like when I used the line at school, then…
UEFA Women’s Euro 2017: England v Scotland, Wednesday 19th July, 7pm, Channel 4
Not so long ago, you’d have expected to find a load of different live sporting action on Channel 4 in much the same way as you’d expect to find documentaries about obscure Romanian art collectives on Sky Sports 1. But this week, Channel 4 is showing live action from the Para World Championships every day and evening, the Formula 1 British Grand Prix, and the first of many ties the broadcaster is screening live from the Women’s European Championships. And the match in question happens to be the small matter of England v Scotland, which is a fixture that is rarely short of spice and a degree of mutual antipathy.
In fact, in the safe hands of the consistently brilliant Clare Balding, Channel 4 will be showing all of England and Scotland’s matches from the tournament in Holland live in both the group and knockout stages, as well as at least one quarter-final, one semi-final, and the final on Sunday 6th August. And the remainder of the matches will be shown live either on More4 or All 4.
Now, I appreciate that some of you may be rolling your eyes at the prospect of women’s football. The less enlightened reader might consider football to be a game played only by 23-year-old men who consider Croesus a pauper, own six Bentleys, and have a habit of losing to minnows in major tournaments. But to the uninitiated, I say this: Give it a chance. You will be more than impressed by the level of skill and the quality of the football on display. Oh, and there’s less rolling around like they’ve trodden on an IED when, in fact, someone’s brushed a shinpad.
Indeed, while the names may not be immediately familiar, in many ways, women’s football is preferable to men’s – not least the fact that the English side can go into this tournament with a very real chance of winning it. I mean, sure, Germany have won the last six (SIX!) European Championships, but England, who reached the World Cup semi-final two years ago (and beat Germany), are now ranked fifth in the world (with Germany at 2 and France at 3). After England won the men’s Under 20 World Cup earlier this summer, it may be that the men’s full national team are simply displaying their chivalry by allowing women and children to go first.
Channel 4 have lined up an impressive roster of the great and the good of football for their coverage, including Ian Wright, Michael Owen, Jermaine Jenas, Eni Aluko, Heather O’Reilly and Kelly Smith. (And – rather bizarrely, England hockey gold medallist Sam Quek, last seen on I’m a Celebrity and presumably there to bring in a few extra viewers).
The night before the England v Scotland match, Channel 4 is screening a documentary, When Football Banned Women, in which the tireless Ms Balding looks back to a time, 100 years ago, when women’s football matches would be played in front of crowds of up to 60,000. But then the FA banned women from playing professional matches, and from using its grounds or its officials. Balding, as you can well imagine, is not amused. Perhaps if our forebears had been more open minded, Germany wouldn’t currently be chasing their seventh consecutive title. Mind you, this time it’s by no means a foregone conclusion.
The best and the rest of this week's TV programmes
Saturday 15th July
Wimbledon 2017 – Ladies’ Final, 1pm, BBC One: Sue Barker and the team present live coverage from the hallowed lawns of SW19. At the time of writing, the two favourites for the title have both been dispatched, leaving, extraordinarily, a Brit, Johanna Konta, as the bookies’ choice.
Sunday 16th July
Formula 1 British Grand Prix, 12:35pm, Channel 4: The world’s biggest (and least carbon-neutral) roadshow comes to Britain as Lewis Hamilton continues his (somewhat ill-tempered) duel with Sebastian Vettel at the top of the driver standings.
Wimbledon 2017 – Men’s Final, 1pm, BBC One: Choose one from Federer, Djokovic, Nadal and Murray, I wrote on Monday, entirely certain of the semi-final line up. Pah! Djokovic and Federer are still on course to meet in the semis, though. I would expect the winner of that match to win the tournament, unless they fight each other to a standstill. For what it’s worth, my money’s on Federer.
Monday 17th July
Letterbox, 6:30pm, BBC Two: Mel Giedroyc (told you) presents a new, daily gameshow in which pairs go head-to-head to try and crack passwords and win £2500.
Tuesday 18th July
Addicted Parents: Last Chance to Keep My Children, 9pm, BBC Two: This moving two-part series follows a year at a family rehab centre in Sheffield as parents detox and attempt to learn the skills required to raise a family.
Wednesday 19th July
The Sweet Makers: A Tudor Treat 1/3, 8pm, BBC Two: Four confectioners step back in time (not literally, that would be contrary to the laws of physics) to discover what life was like for their Tudor predecessors.
Sarah Payne: A Mother’s Story, 9pm, Channel 5: Feature-length documentary following the horrific story of the disappearance of eight-year-old schoolgirl Sarah in 2000, and the extraordinary efforts of her mother, Sara, to ensure that other children would be safe in the future.
Thursday 20th July
The Mash Report, 10pm, BBC Two: Comedian Nish Kumar presents a brand new satirical news show, in association with the writers of excellent online satirical newspaper the Daily Mash - www.thedailymash.co.uk.