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TV reviews: Britain's Top Takeaways and Fergal Keane: Living with PTSD

Benjie Goodhart / 04 May 2022

A new series pits different takeaways against each other in a good-natured competition, and award-winning journalist Fergal Keane opens up about his life with PTSD. Plus the best of the rest.

Fergal Keane reporting from Ukraine
Fergal Keane reporting from Ukraine, 2016. BBC/State of Grace Films

Britain’s Top Takeaways, Monday 9th May, 8pm, BBC Two

I love a takeaway. I mean, who doesn’t? Britain has gone takeaway mad in the last couple of years, with the amount of takeaway food ordered doubling in that time. Of course, that may have had more than a little to do with the pandemic, but whatever the reason, we’re ordering more meals to be delivered than ever before.

And I love it all. Thai, Indian, Chinese, Mexican, burgers, pizza, you name it. In fact, the only one I’m not nuts about is fish and chips. I know that makes me terribly un-British, but it’s all so heavy and greasy and carby and stodgy, it just doesn’t float my boat.

Anyway, this new eight-part series is a cheerful new addition to the competitive cookery roster, as it seeks to find the best takeaway outlets in the country. In each episode, five pairs of contestants, each representing their restaurant, gather in a disused factory in Manchester to cook for some local families, who will have the delicacies sent to their homes. Each programme, presented by Sara Cox and comedian Darren Harriot, is divided along cuisine lines, with later episodes covering oriental food, Indian, pizza, burgers, fried chicken, kebabs and Mexican. But tonight, for the series opener, it’s… (insert drumroll here)… fish and chips.

Sigh.

I mean, how interesting can fish and chips be? You chop up some spuds, batter some fish, bung the whole lot in a deep fat fryer, and Bob’s your uncle.

Well… yes and no. It turns out, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Which, fortunately, is not something that takes place in the programme. (I’m all for inventive cuisine, but deep-fried moggy would be a step too far).

It soon becomes clear that the contestants taking part have been selected because they are very good at what they do, and the levels of inventiveness and skill on display are striking.

The first round sees the cooks sending out fairly bog-standard fish and chip orders – with much emphasis on the right batter and the correct spuds to use. One couple, Strad and Gina, are using prosecco in their batter. Two Scotsmen, Hugh and William, are serving haddock rather than cod, as is the norm north of the border. Meanwhile, father-and-daughter duo Adam and Amber are serving up a posh chip butty, in a toasted brioche, with wild rocket. All of the food gets biked out to the first two families, and their judgements are turned into scores in a blackboard back at the cooking hub.

The next round is a little more daring. Diners are encouraged to order slightly more refined dishes – we’re straying from standard chippy fare here – with options including battered lobster tails, fish cakes, more fish butties, and fish fritters. Again, the scores are collated and marked onto the boards.

The final round sees the chefs cooking their vegetarian options which – in my experience of chip shops, seems largely to be, um, chips. Not so here. We’re promised Thai tofu fritters, tropical kebabs, and a deep fried chip butty with curry sauce (from the Scotsmen, obviously…) And there’s a huge order for a local boxing club, whose scores count double due to the size of the order.

It all moves along at a satisfying lick, and the whole thing is deeply good-natured and fun. Cox and Harriot are charismatic presenters, and the food rolled out looks delicious – even for this avowed chip-shop-phobe. I do, however, draw the line at a deep fried chip butty.

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Fergal Keane: Living with PTSD, Monday 9th May, 9pm, BBC Two

Journalists come in many forms. Some of us sit at home, watching telly and eating biscuits and tap-tapping away at our keyboards before going for a well-earned lie down after another hard day at the coalface. Others go through people’s bins and hack their phones in the hope of finding salacious titbits to sell to scandal rags. And then others still risk their lives every day to bring us the truth from some of the most dangerous places in the world.

Fergal Keane, with whom you are no doubt familiar, falls into the latter category. Over 30 years, he has covered some of the most gruesome and shattering conflicts in recent history from the far flung corners of the world. From Northern Ireland to the Democratic Republic of Congo, from Iraq to Rwanda, time and again he has donned a helmet and flack vest and put himself in harms way to tell the stories that the world needs to hear.

At the start of this film, he is in the Ukraine, warning of the imminent war. But when the prospect of Russian invasion went from worrying prospect to grim inevitability, he left. As he explains on a video diary the night before leaving Ukraine, he’d made a promise to himself and his loved ones: No more wars.

Because Fergal Keane has PTSD. It’s not really surprising – you couldn’t see all the things he has seen and not carry some major scarring as a result. But what is surprising is his openness and honestly in this remarkable documentary, as he delves into his backstory and rummages around his psyche to explain what has happened to him, why, and the steps he is taking to get better.

As a child, Keane was the son of an alcoholic father. It meant growing up in a chaotic household, with a volatile presence at its heart. “As long as I can remember, I’ve been afraid,” he confesses. Intriguingly, his experiences as a kid shaped his decision to become a war correspondent. He was used to chaos, to living on his nerves, and to relying on his wits to judge people’s mood and intentions. “Childhood prepared me for risk.”

Over an extraordinary, award-winning career, Keane has covered stories from some of the most devastating conflicts and disasters the world has seen. But in 1994, as a battle-hardened reporter, he was sent to cover the unfolding genocide in Rwanda. Nothing could have prepared him for what he saw there. More than any other conflict, this was the one that stayed with him. “What I witnessed there changed my life.”

In this extraordinary, hour-long documentary, Keane opens up about what happened to him, psychologically, as a result of his work. First, he drank. He became an alcoholic. He got treatment, and has been sober for 20 years. Rehab, he says, saved his life. But then he needed saving again. In 2008, he was diagnosed with PTSD, and went into the Priory psychiatric hospital. It was the start of a journey that has seen him, slowly but surely, begin to rebuild himself.

Using voiceover, interviews and video diaries, combined with archive footage from a handful of his incredible back catalogue of reports, Keane tells his story. He speaks to the experts who have treated him, the BBC producer who worked with him in Rwanda, and a child refugee who he met when he was working out there. In one particularly raw scene, we see him having EMDR trauma therapy, and weeping at his memories.

This is a film that everybody should see. It is a record of extraordinary courage, sacrifice and duty. It is a source of hope for others who are similarly afflicted by past traumas. But most of all, it is the story of an incredibly brave man, talking openly and honestly about stuff that needs to be aired out in the open. Fergal Keane is a remarkable man, who has dedicated his life to doing an important job, and has the scars to prove it. But bit by bit, those scars are starting to heal.

The best… and the rest:

Sunday 8th May

The British Academy Television Awards, 6pm, BBC One: The star-studded British Academy Television Awards from London’s Royal Festival Hall, with Richard Ayoade on hosting duties. Among the nominated programmes are It’s A Sin, Landscapers, Help, and Time.

Commando - Britain's Ocean Warriors 1/4, 8pm, BBC Two: This unique four-part series goes behind the scenes of one of the world’s most revered military units, revealing the real story behind the green beret and the men and women who continue its legacy to this day.

Afghanistan: No Country for Women, 10:15pm, ITV: British-Iranian correspondent Ramita Navai powerfully exposes the reality of life for women under Taliban rule in this documentary for ITV's Bafta-winning Exposure strand. Navai secretly films in a jail where she discovers women being held by the Taliban without trial or charge, their fate often unknown to their families.

Monday 9th May

The Games 1/5, 9pm, ITV: The Games is brand new to ITV and will see twelve super-fit celebrities (most of whom you will never have heard of) battling it out in a sporting spectacular event across a week of live programmes.

The Spy Who Died Twice, 9pm, Channel 4: Documentary examining the extraordinary case of John Stonehouse MP, who faked his own death in 1974. The film features testimony - shown for the first time - from those who were there, combined with archive, and also uses actors, who voice written testimony from both the Czech security services' files on Stonehouse and the National Archive's government records.

Tuesday 10th May

Will Young: Losing My Twin Rupert, 10:05pm, Channel 4: Singer Will Young lived with his twin brother Rupert's alcoholism for over 20 years, until Rupert's untimely death in July 2020. In this shockingly honest and moving film, Will and his family speak candidly about the pain and drama of coping with a loved one's addiction.

Wednesday 11th May

DNA Family Secrets 1/6, 9pm, BBC Two: The growing popularity of genetic testing has created a network of databases that can answer questions previously impossible to know about our families, ancestry and health.  

Madeleine McCann: The Case Against Christian B, 9pm, Channel 5: Mark Williams-Thomas, a former detective-turned-investigative journalist, carries out the first active, British TV investigation into Madeleine McCann 'prime suspect' Christian B.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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