Last night's television: Why high society's still a class act

Teens And Tiaras, Channel 4, The Restaurant, BBC 2
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The Independent Culture

Jennie and Patricia want to "preserve standards and traditions". So they throw balls for a lot of well-bred girls wearing wedding dresses and pearls. "We have so many multinationals who are here asserting themselves," they explained. "We should have something to be proud of." Thus began Teens and Tiaras, the latest in Channel 4's Cutting Edge series.

Jennie and Patricia want to "preserve standards and traditions". So they throw balls for a lot of well-bred girls wearing wedding dresses and pearls. "We have so many multinationals who are here asserting themselves," they explained. "We should have something to be proud of." Thus began Teens and Tiaras, the latest in Channel 4's Cutting Edge series.



Hmm, traditions. I wonder what they mean by that? At one stage, they were asked whether a girl from a council estate in Sunderland who wanted to become a deb could do it. They looked horrified: "You would wonder whether at the end of the day, when she goes home... would it do her a disservice or not?" Ah, I get it. Like many fierce traditionalists, there's a whiff of the reactionary about Jennie and Patricia. "Everything we loved about this country is being destroyed," they muttered, regularly. Naturally, the answer to this is to revive Queen Charlotte's Ball, abandoned in 1958 after Princess Margaret complained that "every tart in London" was getting in.



But I'm being rather harsh. Teens and Tiaras was, peculiar views notwithstanding, rather good fun to watch. And the girls themselves seemed pretty switched on, gigglingly comparing Jennie and Patricia to Laurel and Hardy "but without the comedy". It was full of quirky little insights into bygone eras. We got a taste of old-fashioned slang from former debs ("MSC = make skin creep; MTF = must touch flesh) and a look at old-fashioned standards (they all agreed none of them would have curtseyed to Camilla). The actual ball is preceded by a "season", which didn't look so much like a season as a timetable of slightly random events, ranging from a photo shoot for Country Life to a rather mad lesson in table setting ("The placements must be absolutely straight. Really you should do them with a ruler"). The best bit was when they went travelling with Princess Katarina. Contrary to Jennie and Patricia's description, Katarina was a blast. Curtsy? No! You're embarrassing me. At one point, she appeared to slump forward (asleep? drunk? bored?) during dinner. At another – when the debs were given a disco by their mentors – she took to the dance floor alone, dancing wildly to "Car Wash". When it came to the actual event, the spectacle was, unsurprisingly, pretty breathtaking. Every girl got her own car, dress, and several thousand pounds' worth of pearls to wear. "Didn't they do well?" squealed Jennie and Patricia. I suppose they did, if that's your idea of success.



On which point: this year's series of The Restaurant has been less a competition than a spectacle in just how unsuccessful it is possible to be. Throughout there have been just two semi-credible teams – Badger and Barney, who left in episode four after Badger got commitment issues – and Chris and Nathan, who have, thankfully, made it to the final. They're competing with JJ and James, though by competing what I really mean is walking all over them. True, Nathan's not winning many points with his lackadaisical take on maître d'ing, but then JJ can't cook. At all. Somehow, he's managed to get through the entire programme buying posh deli food and arranging it prettily on a plate. Oh, and baking a cake. Once – and even that was a struggle. Until recently, he and James were content mixing cocktails in Covent Garden but for some reason have decided to try and persuade Raymond Blanc to provide them with their very own restaurant. Surely he wouldn't be so stupid?



As it happens, I don't know. Apparently, the winner of The Restaurant is such a sensitive piece of information that the BBC won't provide reviewers with the results. Instead, I got a DVD with the final two minutes edited out. Frustrating? Yes, though not as much as it would be were this particular series not so easy to call.



Last night, the two pairs went to Devon to cater for a banquet. The hostess had designed the menu; the idea was that the cooking duties would alternate between teams with every course. As she read out the various dishes, JJ's jaw inched towards the floor. "I've never made a single one of them," he confided, unsurprisingly. "I'm bricking it." Chris hadn't cooked many of the dishes either, though didn't seem too concerned. While JJ and James set about ordering their vegetables from the local store, he ventured into the garden to pick fresh ones. Soon, JJ had burned his stock, butchered his blinis and served raw risotto. Chris, meanwhile, provided perfectly cooked scallops and fresh vegetable soup. The final showdown was a soufflé, which both teams provided for separate halves of the table. At least they were meant to, but seeing as JJ didn't know how to make one, only Chris and Nathan's half were fed. If they didn't win, I'll eat my hat. Or JJ's soufflé.

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