Television: Last Night

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Sophie Grigson's new programme Taste of the Times (C4) begins with a frantically kinetic title sequence which suggests that cooking is really just a kind of clubbing with edible results. It even included some jerky zooms of the sort that used to be associated with "scratching", a house style that always made me feel itchy and hasn't improved with age. And this determined jauntiness is a little strange, given that the programme itself is a straightforward act of proselytising, teaching viewers how to choose and use a range of ingredients "whose potential sometimes gets overlooked". It soon becomes clear that it isn't really for practising foodies, who will already know about cocoa solid percentages and the advantages of fresh Parmesan over the powdered stuff that smells like baby sick, and one wonders in this respect whether it might not fall between two tastes. A viewer who has to be persuaded that salt cod is food and not a building material could be expected to shy a little at the idea of pork glazed with chocolate, honey and chilli.

Even advanced foodies, though, will find the recipes well explained and even better sold. I've commented before on Grigson's expansive repertoire of self-approving noises but this programme demonstrates that she is still the unchallenged champion of the art form, even against the stiff competition offered by the Food and Drink crew. Last night's dishes were respectively described as: "mmhh, mwahh, fabulous", "ummff, absolutely amazing", "Umm oooh that's very good, tcha" and "mmm, mmah wonderful" (inspiration was flagging a little towards the end, but we can hardly hold that against her).

There are strange noises in Nancy Lam (C5) too, though these have to do with the nationality of its presenter, an exuberant Chinese woman who looks as if she's just plugged her hand blender into a badly-earthed socket. "My tongue iss ferry shawt, so my pronounsation iss not ferry good. Doan worry abou' it," she reassured us halfway through Nancy's Nutty Night. We are not likely to and nor will the Channel Five executive who grabbed Nancy off cable television, because her fractured English is the best ingredient in an otherwise standard recipe show. If Grigson is the Callas of vocalised rapture, Nancy's speciality is the glottal stop - "Ge' all the lum' ou' of i'," she instructed you at one point, part of her explanation of how to get your "battle nice an' smooov". In between recipes she goes out into her restaurant to abuse the customers and utter her trademark cackle, which sounds like a wok in a tumble dryer. In the final credits the customers were bravely asked what they thought of their night out. "It's different," said one woman (employing the time-honoured British euphemism for "never again"), "but I'd have enjoyed the meal more if the cook had stayed in the kitchen". I'm sure she's right, but in the safety of your own home, and in small portions, it's rather entertaining.

In The Long Johns Election Specials (C4), John Fortune and John Bird have the task of making us laugh at the General Election, a bit tricky when most politicians already sound like Chris Morris spoofs. The Today programme usually supplies one's daily requirements for political satire and by nine o' clock at night, all you want to do is burst into tears of frustration and disappointment. Last night's sketch took the form of two old buffers in a pub and it suffered a bit from an absence of the adversarial bite which made their spoof interviews so wonderfully sly and funny. They clearly believe (or hope) that we are in for a change of government because all the best jokes were about Labour, as if both satirists are getting their eye in for a new target. Not all the jokes worked but the last one was a stinger, beautifully set up by Bird's suggestion that they should get the Queen Mother to stand on a "Keep Politics Out of the Election" ticket. Fortune gave his trademark puzzled frown. "Isn't that a bit close to the Labour Party?" he replied, after the perfect beat.

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