Celebrity MasterChef, Wednesday 1st July, 9pm, BBC Two
Hurrah. MasterChef is back. It feels like the last series only just finished, but here it is again. I’m very happy with that. You can’t have too much of a good thing.
“But wait,” I hear you say. (Either that, or it’s the voices in my head.) “This isn’t MasterChef, it’s Celebrity MasterChef.” Well, I don’t believe it. I have, and I cannot stress this enough, NEVER HEARD OF ANY OF THEM. And I rather fancy myself as a hip young thing with my finger on the pulse. (Mind you, I also fancy myself as England’s best centre forward since Jimmy Greaves, so this may say more about my self-awareness than anything else).
The celebrities in question are as follows. If you know more than one of them, immediately award yourself six weeks in The Maldives (to be redeemed before the end of July). Judi Love (comedian). Shyko Amos (actor – she plays Ruby in Death in Paradise), Myles Stephenson (he’s in a boy band called Rak-Su, whoever they are) and Thomas Skinner (described as a ‘TV personality’, a phrase that sets alarm bells ringing). Oh, and there’s also John Barnes, one of my favourite ever footballers, but that doesn’t fit with the narrative, so we’ll draw a veil over his considerable fame.
Anyway, on with the show. John Torode opens proceedings. “You’re all celebrities in your own right. What we don’t know is whether you can cook.” Or, indeed, who you are.
But here’s the thing. It really doesn’t matter. I don’t care if it’s Brad Pitt taking on Hillary Clinton. It’s not about the level of celebrity. What I want to see is cookery – and preferably people creating hideous burned monstrosities or potentially lethal raw chicken dishes.
First up it’s the market test. The contestants need to take ingredients that you might ordinarily find at a market, and create a dish. While they’re at it, we find out a little more about them. Thomas, for example, found fame as a contestant on The Apprentice. Possibly the only thing worse than being described as a TV personality is being someone who was on The Apprentice. Meanwhile, Shyko describes herself as being from “a family of women cookers.” I didn’t know they came in genders. I must remember to check the sex of our Rangemaster.
Judi is making her dish using Scotch Bonnet chillis, Sri Racha sauce and chilli powder. I think she may be preparing high explosives rather than food. Thomas and John both serve up dishes that could feed a small army. It turns out you can have too much of a mediocre thing.
Next up, they’re off to work in restaurants. These segments are unbelievably stressful. I find it difficult to keep track of the amount of time a single boiled egg has been cooking, so the idea of monitoring multiple ingredients to be ready at different times brings me out in a cold sweat.
Apparently Shyko, working in Turkish restaurant Yeni, feels the same. She does an awful lot of screaming. Honestly, it’s like the audio from Psycho. Shyko, if you will.
Finally, it’s back to the MasterChef kitchen for a final dish. At the end of all of this, one person will be eliminated. It always strikes me as an awfully long process, just to get rid of one of them, but actually, by the end of the programme, the judges have a tricky decision. All of the cooks are fairly proficient and, as it happens, really rather likeable. As is this programme, as cheerful and entertaining as ever.
Lots and lots of archive stuff, all week, BBC
Right now, all over the country, millions of parents are complaining about having to home educate their children. I should know. I’m one of them. (To clarify: I’m one of the ones complaining. I’m not actually doing the teaching. Lordy, no! That’s my wife’s department, and I thank everything that is holy for it every day). But in about a month, the country will instead be full of parents wondering what the hell to do with their children during the summer holidays. Homes up-and-down the land will be full of children staring, glassy-eyed, at some screen or other, while their parents stress out and frantically look for research that suggests that 21-hours of gaming time every day is actually good for juvenile neurological development.
The problem is, we’ll all be left with vast tracts of time, and without the usual things to fill them: socialising, cinema, shopping trips, swimming, playgrounds and, of course, holidays abroad. This week, the BBC is facing much the same problem. Only for them, the issue isn’t a bored nine-and-twelve-year-old, but a hugely diminished TV schedule.
Back at the beginning of the year, when the thing most exercising us was Brexit, and Coronavirus was a hangover after too much bottled beer, the schedulers at the BBC will have looked ahead to this little patch of early summer and thought to themselves: “Ah, that’s a doddle. Euro 2020, Wimbledon and Glastonbury! Job done.” Then they will have hugged someone, coughed without predicting their own demise, and gone for a post-work pint. Lucky sods.
But now their week is looking emptier than a pub’s interior. (This joke may well be out of date by now).
Fortunately, they have laid on quite the smorgasbord of leftovers for us. And if you’re anything like me, leftovers can sometimes be better than the original meal itself. You get to pick and choose which bits you want with leftovers, and it’s the same here. This week, the BBC will bombard us with some of the best highlights from past Wimbledons. Glastonburies and European Championships, quietly removing all of the crap bits. It’s like piling your plate from the fridge with pork pie and scotch egg, without having to have any of the celery and walnut salad.
This year marks Glastonbury’s 50th anniversary, and the BBC is to mark the occasion by showing some of the greatest sets in the festival’s history. On Saturday and Sunday, the entire evening on BBC Two will be given over to the ghost of Glastonbury past. Clara Amfo, Lauren Laverne. Edith Bowman, Jo Whiley and Mark Radcliffe will present items from the festival’s musical vaults, including Adele’s 2016 set (9:30pm Saturday) and Coldplay’s from the same year (11:05pm). Sunday’s teatime show (6:30pm) looks a belter, with performances by Neil Diamond, Brian Wilson, Shirley Bassey, Lionel Richie and Al Green. Later, at 9:30pm, there’s a chance to see the incomparable David Bowie’s 2000 set, followed by Ed Sheeran’s 2017 appearance.
There will also be plenty of coverage on BBC Four, and iPlayer will have over 60 historic sets to choose from on demand.
Meanwhile, for those who are feeling starved of tennis coverage, BBC Two is also something of an oasis. The BBC will be showing over 50 hours of tennis over the next fortnight, beginning with a look back at last year’s championships on Sunday at 1:05pm. Thereafter, weekdays at 1:45pm will see Clare Balding revisiting classic finals with Wimbledon Rewind. At 8pm on weekday evenings, Sue Barker will present Wimbledon: The Best of the Championships, a look back at some of the tournament’s greatest ever games. Barker will be joined in the studio by Tim Henman and Boris Becker, while John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova will feature via video link. The programme will also speak to various current players about tournaments past and life during COVID-19. The first weekend in July will concentrate on various aspects of Andy Murray’s career, while the following weekend will see a countdown of the greatest ever finals. “Oh I say,” to quote the great Dan Maskell.
Finally, the football-shaped hole on the Beeb will be filled with the (spoiler alert - rather depressing) semi-final of Euro 96 between England and Germany (1:15pm, Saturday) and the (rather good) final of Euro 2012 between Spain and Italy. There’s also live FA Cup football between Norwich City and Manchester United (Saturday, 5:10pm) and Newcastle United and Manchester City (Sunday, 6:10pm).
The best… and the rest
Saturday 27th June
Princess Diana: In Her Own Words, 9pm, Channel 5: Documentary charting the journey of the Princess from nursery school teacher to royal wife to global humanitarian, including rarely-seen archive footage and interviews with friends.
Sunday 28th June
The British Soap Awards Celebrate 21 Years, 9pm, ITV: Good old Pip Schofield looks back over Soap Awards past, including notable winners, spectacular soap scenes and big laughs.
Monday 29th June
Italy’s Frontline: A Doctor’s Diary, 9pm, BBC Two: Three months in the COVID frontline in Italy with A&E doctor Francesca Mangiatordi. Almost certainly a sobering watch.
Thursday 2nd July
Billion Pound Cruises: All at Sea, 9pm, ITV: A report on how the coronavirus pandemic brought the £120billion cruise industry to its knees and 100s of ships around the world to a standstill.
Friday 3rd July
The Pembrokeshire Coast: A Wild Year, 9pm, BBC Two: New series charting a year in the natural life of the welsh coastline, featuring puffins, seagoing sheep, and potatoes. Toby Jones narrates.