Television Review

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The Independent Culture
IN THE absence of a stimulating arts show or a chunky documentary - even one in which the entire production crew had been the victims of an extended tabloid deception would have done - I turned last night to a selection of programmes about the everyday business of being alive that contemporary television so dutifully tracks.

There was one about what I might want to have for tea, another about a group of unremarkable people who live a few miles up the road from me, while a third explored how I might want to decorate my living room and/or dining room.

Fresh Food (BBC2) was first up. "Magazine" is, I believe, the correct term for its cut-and-thrust style. Between each bite-sized item an "ff" insignia was branded onto the screen with an impressive sizzle and, while host Rick Stein didn't exactly do that, the snappy format and frequent, meze-sized helpings were appetising enough.

There was an amusing feature about a young man called Steve who, up until a few months ago, was homeless. He had taken charge of his wayward life with a grant from the Prince's Trust and a mobile van, from which he sells fresh baguettes filled with healthy-looking ingredients. His status as "former drug taker" and "young person" was reflected in an unwise choice of camera angle - one of those jaunty, diagonal numbers where it looks as if one of the legs is loose on the tripod.

Later, Steve was chopping artistic diagonals across a celery stick. "How come you're cutting the celery on the slant like that?" Stein had the nerve to ask. "Well, you started it," I wanted Steve to cry.

With his departure from EastEnders imminent, the tone of Ross Kemp's voiceover in Paddington Green (BBC1) is becoming more rounded and actorly. Latterly, Kemp seems to be increasing the number of letters he is attempting to pronounce in any given word, as if in preparation for a role as a minor Shakespearean bounder.

Jackie, the nation's favourite transsexual prostitute, was having a well-deserved night off, so it was over to Claude and Claudia from the scooter shop, who are rapidly becoming the series's comedy turn. Last night, they were trying to organise a celebrity party in honour of the shop being repainted. "Damon from Blur!" Claudia screeched, angling for five minutes alone with her father's bulging contacts book. "We renovated his classic scooter for him." Later, Claude said darkly, "I'm not ringing Harry Enfield now because I do not wish to do it."

Home Front (BBC2) featured the final of the Family Decorators of the Year competition and two couples - the yellow and the Anglo-French purple team - had 24 working hours in which to decorate two rooms. It featured one of the more surreal lines of the week: "Both families are allowed some preparation, so Patrick and Claire are setting willow twigs in a synthetic resin." For a table, you understand. Not to be outdone, their opponents were busy padding paving stones and wrapping them in denim.

"You will finish, won't you?" presenter Tessa Shaw cajoled at one point. "Yez, if you let uz get on wiz it," Patrick responded, with Gallic pith.

Robert Hanks is away

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