TV blog: Gino’s Italian Escape

Benjie Goodhart / 06 October 2016

Escape to the sun-kissed bliss of Italy with TV chef Gino D’Acampo. Plus, the best of the rest of the week on TV.

Gino’s Italian Escape: Hidden Italy, Monday 10th October, 8pm, ITV

We could all do with a little bit of sunshine in our lives and, fortunately, Gino D’Acampo is there to deliver this for us. For those of you unfamiliar with him, D’Acampo is an Italian part-Chef, part-excitable-Labrador-puppy. Probably 20:80 in the latter’s favour. He’s just a massively cheerful, excitable and likeable bundle of enthusiasm, and this, combined with his diminutive stature and Italian-English accent, marks him out as a sort of culinary Frankie Dettori.

This series sees him climbing behind the wheel and setting off around Italy on a cultural and culinary exploration. Only this time, he's exploring what he describes as ‘hidden Italy’, the quieter, more out-of-the-way, lesser-known bits. As this includes Umbria and Tuscany, two of the most visited destinations in the world, we’ll work on the basis that Gino knows more about food than he does tourism.

In this series opener, he’s off to Abruzzo, a region on the Adriatic coast. In Pescara, he discovers a unique local pasta. Unique because it is like spaghetti but with, um, square edges. I get that the Italians love their pasta, but does the way the stuff is cut really shape (pun vaguely intended) the gastronomic experience that much?

Next, he visits a fisherman with a unique (and it turns out not very successful) approach to his trade, before he cooks pasta with tomato sauce on the beach (thanks, presumably, to the lack of fish…)  This, he says, is what the Italians really eat. Apparently they don’t eat Bolognese at all. Well, maybe they’ve not found out how easy it can be, when you serve it straight from a tin…

After that, it’s off to some stunning mountains. This is Italy. Everything’s stunning. He meets a shepherd who challenges him to cook a local lamb delicacy. I like the idea of that. I might start challenging famous chefs to cook me dishes, on the basis that I’ll get a whole load of rather fabulous free scran. Gino duly obliges, and the results look as fabulous as the scenery. “You should try this,” he says happily, showing a scant disregard for time, geography, and the concept of television.

The show is an absolute delight. Italy is lovely. Italian people are lovely. The food is lovely. And Gino is especially lovely. Plus there are a couple of very useful and practical tips to be gleaned from his cooking. Normally, cookery show tips are of the “make sure you only use millet that’s been sieved using buffalo hide and rubbed with daffodil stalks” variety, but these are genuinely insightful nuggets of advice I will be using myself. In short, this is great. Belissimo.

Discover Saga's holidays to Italy

The Missing, Wednesday 12th October, 9pm, BBC One

One of the best dramas of last year was BBC One’s The Missing. Part thriller about a lost boy, part rumination on love and grief and loss, it was sad and disturbing and gripping and chilling in equal measures. And, while it may not have been long on laughs (missing kids and levity not being natural bedfellows) it featured a towering central performance from Jimmy Nesbitt as a damaged and desperate father still looking for his son years later.

So, series two. Is it a good idea? Certainly the second run of Broadchurch was a sizeable disappointment, and actor Ken Stott, who starred in the first series of The Missing, has suggested that series two is a cynical exercise in money-making. Unlike Broadchurch, here the writers, Harry and Jack Williams, have sensibly opted to cover an entirely different story, and of the main characters, only Tchécky Karyo’s careworn ex-copper Julien Baptiste makes the cut.

And the plot… well… have you got a few minutes? It’s not all that simple. In the first twenty minutes, we visit three different times, and three different countries, ending up with a French detective coming to Germany to investigate a case involving an English and a French girl, which takes him to Iraq. Thank God I didn’t watch this with my wife, who tends to get confused by the plot of Topsy and Tim.

The grossly simplified version is this: A young woman stumbles into the German town of Eckhausen. She is Alice Webster, the daughter of a family living on the local British military base, and she has been missing for eleven years. She also has information concerning the disappearance of another girl, Sophie Giroux, a case that has haunted Monsieur Baptiste, who comes tout suite from France to see her.

Is it any good? Well, it’s got an excellent cast (Anna’s parents are played by Keeley Hawes and David Morrissey) and is nicely shot, with large, sweeping vistas and leaden skies, as is the fashion these days. But it seems to be trying awfully hard. Along with the programme, I was sent a list of spoilers not to reveal from episode one, and there were six of them. Six big, pretty key plot twists, all in the first episode. It feels like one of those restaurants you go to, where there are 325 dishes on the menu, but nothing is being done quite as well as it could be.

I hope to be proved wrong, because I loved the first series, and the writers are clearly very talented, but this drama needs to slow down a little, take a few deep breaths, and stop throwing plot twists at its audience.

The best… and the rest

Saturday 8th October

Football: England v Malta, 4:30pm, ITV: The glorious reign of the great Sam Allardyce is over. Give him credit, he had a 100 per cent win record in competitive matches (a 1-0 win over Slovakia). Gareth Southgate is the next man to have his entire life raked over the coals by voracious tabloid journalists. On the field, nothing but a comfortable win will do.

Boy George’s 1970s: Save Me From Suburbia, 8pm, BBC Two: I’ll never forget, aged nine, seeing Boy George on Top of the Pops for the first time and arguing with my sisters about his gender. Back in the 80s we’d never seen anything like him! This film looks at the influences that shaped him in the previous decade. Presumably Bernard Manning wasn’t one of them.

Sunday 9th October

Speed with Guy Martin, 8pm, Channel 4: The utterly delightful and quite, quite bonkers speed-freak returns with a new series, starting with an attempt to break the speed record on a motorbike. Which involves going the small matter of 376mph on two wheels.

Trump vs Clinton Live, 1:35am, Channel 4: The end of days is approaching. Start stockpiling Breakfast in a Can, this could go horribly wrong.

Monday 10th October

Britain’s Wealth Gap: Channel 4 Dispatches, 8:30pm, Channel 4: Whatever your politics, there is a disturbing disparity between the haves and have-nots just now, with hundreds of thousands using food banks in one of the richest countries in the world. Dispatches investigates.

Derren Brown: Miracle, 9pm, Channel 4: The extraordinary witch-man brings his spookily brilliant abilities to the screen in this recording of his live stage show from the Palace Theatre. Tuesday 11th October

Football: Slovenia v England, 7:15pm, ITV: After Monday’s untimely sacking of Gareth Southgate following a 1-0 defeat at home to Malta, Lily Savage leads England into their next World Cup qualifier.

Wednesday 12th October

The Aberfan Young Wives’ Club, 9pm, ITV: Fifty years ago, a colliery tip collapsed onto a school in the Welsh village of Aberfan. In that moment, 116 children and 28 adults were killed, and countless more lives were destroyed. The following week, the Aberfan Young Wives’ Club came together for the first time. They are still meeting today. This is their story.

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