review

The people who make the Keith Floyd programmes have come up with a brilliant solution to a swaying presenter - they now film him in swaying kitchens, a device that both offers the viewer a rough simulation of what it is like to see life as Keith Floyd must, and which also makes it virtually impossible to gauge his exact state of sobriety. Last week, Floyd on Africa (BBC2) began with a quick recipe involving mussels, South African champagne and the galley of a yacht off Cape Town. As Floyd lurched from side to side, gamely trying to get the wine into the pan, you were given a quick cutaway to the director, heaving wretchedly over the side. A certain early-morning liverishness is presumably an occupational hazard if you work with Floyd - it isn't the cooking sequences that take it out of you, it's the winding down when the work is finished.

This week's moving kitchens were provided by a squid boat in a light swell (culinary farce looked as if it might turn to tragedy after Floyd set fire to the hatch he was using as a preparation surface) and by the galley of a luxury steam train, a hazardous-looking combination of stainless steel, sharp knives and naked flames, which rocked from side to side as Floyd cooked ostrich steaks with a meuniere sauce. The sauce ended up reduced to a kind of mushroom stew, but then cookery is hardly the point anymore - indeed last night's episode included a recipe which sounded like a sly in-joke by the crew about how far they could go before somebody complained - a combination of lobster, pineapple chunks, asparagus tips and cashew nuts, topped with a fried egg and some fried onions. Why not bung in some glace cherries and chopped mint and really finish the dish off? This emetic creation was served up in Sun City, a startling concrete leisure oasis, whose tireless public relations team deserves some kind of award for the amount of free publicity they have squeezed out of the BBC in recent years.

As if to provide a moral sorbet, to cleanse the palate after this shameless hedonism, Floyd always takes care to pop off to a township, where he can enthuse about the cultural benefits of poverty ("you won't see any computer games here") and rattle on about the "great community spirit". These scenes are emetic in a different way, the sort of blithe and condescending slumming which one thought might have expired 30 years ago.

The Works (BBC2) continued a promising series with an unusual film about Vermeer, whose transcendently serene canvasses were perceived through the eyes of the President of the National Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. After a week of listening to evidence about atrocities and ethnic murder, he repairs to the Mauritshaus as a way of "getting some oxygen or moral support". This has the feel of a story so useful to our secular reverence for art that no hard fact would be allowed to sully it. (You half wonder whether the poor man now yearns to spend Saturday afternoon watching Schwarzenegger movies, but has to keep going off to the gallery so as not to disappoint the camera crews who have turned up to record his cleansing ritual.) The fact that Vermeer was painting at a time when "all Europe was Bosnia" only makes the narrative stronger - here are two men, separated by history but linked by a mutual endeavour - to let light spill into gloomy chambers. The achievement of the one strengthens the other in his work, even though their enterprises are also, in a different sense, directly opposed - where Vermeer excluded all evidence of violence from his pictures, the judge bends himself to its forensic depiction.The tale was weakened, if anything, by the introduction of a Dutch war-artist and her military minder, and it didn't know where its own perfect ending was (a wonder-fully chilling visual echo between the gaze of one of Vermeer's women and the glance of one of the suspects), but it left the right sort of residue in the mind.

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