Last Night&rsquo;s Television - Embarrassing Teenage Bodies, Channel 4, <br>The Restaurant, BBC2

Try to grin and bare it
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The Independent Culture

Give it up for the Embarrassing Bodies doctors, "tackling embarrassment wherever they find it", according to the gung-ho opening for Channel 4's travelling problem page, which appears to have been stalking festivals and beaches recently soliciting teenagers to expose themselves in front of the cameras.

It's the kind of thing that could get you a prison stretch if you didn't have the right credentials, but the Embarrassing Teenage Bodies roadshow can wave the flag of public-health education as it pulls up to seek out fresh specimens of that baffling oxymoron: the shy exhibitionist. Take poor Tom, for example, far too bashful to take his lumpy scrotum to the family doctor and presumably enduring an agony of ill-informed terror as a result. But here he was, manifestly willing to drop his pants and have his bits fingered in front of an attractive female doctor, a camera crew and, if the figures held up from Monday night, close on three million viewers. Or take Martin, so self-conscious about his man boobs that he wouldn't even take his shirt off on the beach at Newquay. Just add a television camera to the mix, though, and he was as insouciant as a pole dancer as his top came off. How does this work exactly? Was Martin planning to print up a T-shirt with the slogan "As seen on TV", and hope that his celebrity would outweigh the moobs? Was he thinking that he could do a kind of mass-mailing revelation, and let everybody know at once? Or is the lure of television so strong that it can overcome any humiliation?

They certainly put the theory to the test in Tom's case. His lump turned out to be a varicocele, a kind of scrotal varicose vein that isn't life threatening but can cause infertility in later life. Tom, the doctor suggested, should have his sperm tested and possibly think about freezing some of the good stuff for later. This led to him capping off the full-frontal genital exam with a public consultancy with the sperm-bank adviser: "How many days' abstinence have you had now?" she asked him, the kind of enquiry that could reduce even the brashest teenager to stammering confusion. "Four," replied Tom. Four? That's like a year in teenage terms, when the hormones are raging. It was hardly surprising that he looked a bit twitchy as she handed over a jar and explained where he could find the magazines.

Curiously, embarrassment, which is rhetorically identified as an enemy to be defeated (and the silent accomplice of untreated disease), was also enlisted as a medical orderly, after the hunky male doctor had braved a group of Newquay surfers in their tented encampment and swabbed them and their dirty laundry down for bacteriological analysis. Top of the pops when it came to adolescent squalor? The cheerful-looking boy who was revealed to have coliform bacteria – shit, to you and me – in his hair. Amazingly, he did manage to look vaguely humiliated, as did the youth whose "Sex God" underpants were so starched by self-abuse that they almost stood up by themselves. And watching this, it occurred to me that it might just stir up a bit of useful embarrassment in some of its viewers, too. I have no idea how Embarrassing Teenage Bodies persuades these children to sacrifice their dignity, but the result is not bad in terms of public-service television. All the target audience have to do now is find a way to get their parents out of the room while they watch.

The Restaurant finally concluded with Russell and Michele scooping the title, as could fairly safely have been predicted from about episode two, when it became clear that Russell was one of the best cooks there. Last time, then, to enjoy that fine moment in the opening montage when Alasdair and James's often febrile working partnership was neatly summed up in 11 short words: "Calm down! Otherwise, I'm going to have to fucking kill you!" Last time, too, to wonder about the exact nature of Alasdair and James's non-working relationship, though some analysts may argue that Alasdair's unexpected description of their London hotel room as "our love hutch" conclusively laid the matter to rest.

The final challenge was ingenious: to cook for 40 high-end diners in a tiny galley kitchen that was being shaken vigorously from side to side. Both teams had to cater for an Orient- Express away day, serving up five courses while the train trundled in a loop around Kent. As Raymond Blanc began the summing up, it looked as if Russell and Michele were going to pay for playing safe, but then James got it in the neck for a chewy lobster thermidor and a "terrible turnip experience", after the vegetables had been left to stew in their own bitter juices. By contrast, it's to The Restaurant and Blanc's credit that the disappointments the format pretty much demands are almost always sweetened with encouragement.

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