The Bad Hat Bandit is no longer the best/worst story I’ve seen on our local TV news programme. This week, the news excelled itself with a report on a middle-aged man who had gone into a shoe shop, stolen some new trainers and returned a few hours later to have the shoes changed. The whole thing was caught on security cameras and the man was promptly arrested. What made the story so special, though, was when it emerged the trainer thief was a headmaster at a middle school. It sounds completely bonkers, so bonkers that it’s hard to believe it happened – but it did.
Bonkers done well is always enjoyable. I think that’s exactly why I enjoy BBC1’s Love Soup so much. Writer David Renwick (One Foot in the Grave and Jonathan Creek) is known for his nothing-is-ever-what-it-seems style and lots was packed in it to the new 30-minute format. In the first series, when the episodes lasted an hour, Alice (the always-fantastic Tamsin Grieg) tried to find her soulmate while Gil (an American who happened to be perfect for Alice) suffered the same struggle. It was a will-they-won’t- they saga and we never did get to see the meeting of the two destined lovebirds.
As it happens, that was a good job as this series doesn’t feature the slightly annoying Michael Landes as Gil and focuses completely on the lovely Alice and her two hopeless colleagues at the cosmetics counter of a London department store.
Renwick’s writing is as sharp as ever and everything has a twist and bonkerness. The scene where learner driver Alice was carjacked was great fun and Millie’s obsession with a mysterious male silhouette was bound to end in tears. it’s a quirky series and might take some getting into for some but, once you know how it works, Love Soup is great fun – and there are 11 episodes to go.
I don’t think enough TV genuinely touches us anymore, but Channel 4’s Cutting Edge: My Street really moved me. It was a simple enough idea – filmmaker Sue Bourne takes her camera and gets to know her neighbours. It got me thinking whether I’d find the same mix if I went knocking.
We were introduced to the unlikely millionaires, the rowdy Kiwis who held parties from dusk till dawn in their small back garden, the family coping with cancer and the voiceover professional who made her living recording the “press one” messages and impersonating Margaret Thatcher and Sharon Osbourne on the side.
The most moving story featured 25-year-old Adam, a recluse as a result of Tourette’s syndrome. He lived alone in his small and cluttered house, struggling to cope with his debilitating condition which often left him unable to eat or sleep. Its not as if Tourettes hasn’t been seen on television before but Adam suffered far worse than I’d ever seen. He was a funny, religious and polite man who kept himself to himself and knew no one on the street. I found Adam’s final scenes quite difficult to watch and was saddened when it was revealed he had been found dead a few days later. The idea of turning the cameras on your neighbourhood is simple enough and I’m of surprised it hasn’t been done before, but often it’s the simple ideas that work the best and this was one of the best documentaries for many months.
Sunday on Channel 4 saw the start of a new series called Willie’s Wonky Chocolate Factory (what came first – the title or the series?). It was billed as one man’s struggle to get his “best chocolate in the world” business to thrive and his products into retailers. He owned a farm in Venezuela where he grew the cocoa beans to sell back home in the UK. I had hoped this would be an interesting documentary and there were the usual amount of “we’re in massive debt” scenes that are compulsory on Channel 4 but Willie’s family life and struggle were overshadowed by unconvincing cookery show elements dotted around.
One scene saw the over-enthusiastic Willie making his three children a special chocolate spread. Fair enough except it was 4.30 in the morning and while he was performing for the camera crew, the rest of the family were frantically packing for their trip to Venezuela later that day. If he wanted his kids to have chocolate for breakfast, he could have got them a Twix at duty free and saved himself the bother. Lots of the later scenes were also just a set up for Wille to start cooking again, chucking chocolate into all of his dishes in such tiny amounts it would be undetectable.
I’ll continue to watch this as the bits that didn’t involve Willie chopping or stirring were entertaining enough but with Jamie, Hugh and Gordon on its books, does Channel 4 really need another show devoted to cookery?
I opted for another new series on Monday, Breaking Into Tesco on Five. I was a bit fed up when I discovered this didn’t feature the getaway cars, dark clothing and crowbars I’d expected. Instead, it followed three home cooks trying to get their bizarre concoctions on to the supermarket’s shelves. These included cherry ravioli (sweetened pasta with cherries), gluten-free muffins (which I can see a market for) and a hot pot pastie which missed the cut (shame really as that’s the one I’d buy).
The programme plodded along and never really got going. It did at times seem like a long advert and I didn’t care too much about the people involved or their creations.
Sadly, BBC2’s The Choir: The Boy’s Don’t Sing has ended. I know the premise may’ve been attempted before in series such as Faking It and the abysmal Ladette to Lady but this take on the transformation format is very well done and everyone involved was so likeable. The series saw choirmaster Gareth Malone struggling to form a 100-strong boy’s choir good enough to perform at London’s Royal Albert Hall from the resistant pupils at a Leicester boys’ school. It wasn’t the slightest bit contrived or over the top and you wanted the boys and Gareth to succeed. They did – in a small way – and everyone was happy, especially me.
This week I must give my CRUMBLETASTIC award to David Renwick’s Love Soup for being something new and different on a Saturday night and my BLACK PUDDING to the awfully disappointing Willie’s Wonky Chocolate Factory.