Last Night's Television - Jamie's American Road Trip, Channel 4; The Fixer, ITV1

Wrong arm of the law

I can't really see Shami Chakrabarti unwinding with
The Fixer after a hard day at the office. Might just happen, I suppose. Yet another long shift defending the friable borders of due process against tabloid panic-mongering and she might just want to kick off her shoes and luxuriate in a bit of a vigilante fantasy – the kind of crime drama in which a menacing hoodie with an acid bottle has the front wheel of his BMX shot from under him with not so much as a shouted warning. "You police or what?" asked the terrified girl whose facial features had been saved by this intervention. "Or what" is the answer, the Fixers being a group of quasi-official, below-the-radar law-enforcers whose only conceivable use for red tape would be as an impromptu garrotte. "There is of course a quicker solution," said the grittiest of the team members, questioning the softly-softly approach of his boss to a local gang leader suspected of involvement in child-trafficking. The seduction of the "quicker solution" is what The Fixer is all about, though obviously you have to take the long road from time to time, less out of moral compunction than the necessity to stretch the plot over two weeks.

Very few of us are completely immune to the charms of illiberalism. Popular drama knows how to make an audience hate someone for their cruelty and lack of pity, and then yearn to have them punished in a particularly cruel and pitiless way, safe in the knowledge that it's all a fiction anyway. But I don't think Shami would have stuck with The Fixer for long. It doesn't question itself nearly enough to make the guilty pleasure digestible. When John (wounded by childhood trauma or – as the script rather showily put it – "riding a river of repressed emotion") executes two Bulgarian gangsters, the drama doesn't even blink. This is what the rules of engagement should be, runs the unstated subtext. And I don't suppose Shami would much care for the way in which the good guys are all white, while the villains (in this current storyline anyway) are almost exclusively black or Eastern European. Curiously, The Fixer's script isn't nearly as thick-eared as you might expect given its underlying politics. You can often hear it struggling to achieve something a little more nuanced, in between the thoughtless delivery of instant justice. "Does every one of your memories come with a biscuit?" John asked Callum, after the latter had indulged in a Tesco Value version of Proustian recall over a Jammie Dodger. If it struggled a bit harder it might deliver something that the average BNP member would enjoy a good deal less.

You wouldn't conventionally expect a cookery programme to offer a rebuke to racial and social caricature. So all credit to Jamie's American Road Trip for delivering a programme that not only taught you how to make a pretty mean seafood soup but also introduced you to a city that usually lies invisible beneath the television LA we're familiar with. I was impressed enough when Jamie was shown driving down the freeway and the soundtrack didn't feature a roaming montage of local disc jockeys – a combination that for many years appeared to be compulsory on California shoots. And though this sounds so incredible that I can't really believe it's true, I don't recall seeing a single shot of the Hollywood sign in the whole thing, though I may have missed it while I was writing a note about the programme's exemplary aversion to cliché.

But the decision to stick entirely to Los Angeles's Hispanic community (apparently Jamie even rented a house in an upmarket neighbourhood of the barrio, rather than driving in every day from a Beverley Hills hotel) delivered positive virtues too. Naturally, Jamie couldn't really avoid mentioning the Bloods and the Crips, spending time with an ex-member of the former whose uncle (another gang member) had been gunned down in the line of duty. But by learning how to make chicken enchiladas with his temporary friend he got beyond the guns and bloodshed to something a little more complicated. You got a sense of how difficult it can be to get away from gang life – and how much ordinary family life there is squeezed in between the shootouts and the funerals. The cactus plantation was fabulous too – a little patch of rural Mexico squeezed into a side lot between industrial sheds. "It's a little bit like an under-ripe tomato meets cucumber meets a slap of spinach meets a dash of lime," said Jamie, trying to get a fix on this novel ingredient. Then, he went off to cater a christening party for Fabian, who had swapped crystal meth and his AK-47 for work in a local café and bakery run entirely by former gang members (motto: "nothing stops a bullet like a job"). Not sure what any of these people thought about being addressed so casually as "bruv" by the British gringo, but if they minded they were too polite to say.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
Arts and Entertainment
Kate Bush: 'I'm going to miss everyone so much'
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’


Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'


Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from


Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?