Last Night's Television - Raymond Blanc's Kitchen Secrets, BBC2; How to Win an Election: a Panorama Guide, BBC4; Blood and Oil, BBC2

Right in the slick of it

Turn the boat round! Why aren't they turning the boat round!? Poor Claire (Jodhi May). She was only there because Alice (Naomie Harris), the naive and coldly ambitious PR exec working for the oil company, thought a joyful reunion with Claire's kidnapped husband would make a good story. Don't worry, she had said, this happens to oil workers all the time; a ransom will be paid and your husband will be released. What could possibly go wrong?

Everything, of course – we were still only about 10 minutes into BBC2's Blood and Oil (add to that tears, lots of tears) – but the next scene still came as a shock. Claire and Alice rounded a bend deep inside the Niger Delta to find not smiling ex-hostages but four bloodied bodies swinging from a rusty wellhead. Some excuse for not turning back was found and, by boat, helicopter and then ambulance, Claire cradled the rotting corpse of her husband, Jodhi May all the while managing to find new ways to scream, "No, no, no, nooo!"

It was harrowing stuff and there would be no let-up. No sooner had Claire emerged from the shock of that grisly discovery than she was plunged into the high-stakes mystery of her husband's murder. What was the "really bad thing" he had got himself into (and alluded to in one of the usually cheery video messages he emailed home)? And if the AK-toting kidnappers in the balaclavas hadn't killed the men, then who did?

The denouement comes tonight (when we can expect more wailing) but for all May's deftly delivered hysteria, the strength of Blood and Oil, written by Guy Hibbert (Five Minutes of Heaven, Omagh), lay in its exposure of an under-reported world. Sure, the bit with the boat was a dramatic contrivance but the tragedy of this film is that this stuff really goes on in Nigeria's oil-rich yet impoverished Delta region.

The dead oil workers were employed by the fictitious Krielson International and had been kidnapped by armed rebels acting for the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend), a real-life militant group committed to exposing the exploitation, oppression and pollution by a government and Western oil bosses who see the region as nothing more than a wellspring of cash. Mend bombs pipelines and kidnaps oil workers – anything at least to interrupt the rape of the land.

Alice realised she was earning dirty money when she met Tobodo (David Oyelowo), a charismatic civil-rights campaigner. He took her to the gleaming medical centre on the cover of Krielson's propagandist pamphlet, "The Community and Us". Their pay-off for the polluting pipelines, it was, quite literally, an empty gesture, the money for doctors and medicine having been diverted. "Everyone takes a cut, all the way down the line, until the people at the bottom get nothing," Tobodo told Alice, who took her turn to shed a tear.

Anyone flicking to BBC4 after Darling, Osborne and Cable did battle in Ask the Chancellors was taken on a journey down the road that led us to this landmark broadcast. How to Win an Election: a Panorama Guide revealed that things were a bit different when the programme started watching politics in the early Fifties. Elections were ignored by the BBC, disdainful politicians regarded the television as an "idiot's lantern" and archaic legislation prevented broadcasters dealing with issues under debate in parliament.

Of course, that all changed when everyone got tellies and a JKF-inspired Harold Wilson pioneered an age of spin later perfected by Margaret Thatcher and taken to new heights by Tony Blair. Michael Cockerell had the best anecdotes. The always-brilliant Panorama alumnus recalled how Robin Day, the presenter who made Paxman possible, asked him before a showdown with Thatcher if his first question shouldn't be, "What's the answer to my first question?"

It's hard not to think, never mind write, about Raymond Blanc wizout reaching for "ze zeds" and gratuitous expressions françaises. But some of the blame must lie with Blanc, who ladles on the Gallic hamminess by the gallon. But so what when his joie de cuisine (I don't know if you can actually say that) enriches Raymond Blanc's Kitchen Secrets like the massive tub of crème fraîche he adds to his brioche

Turning his enthusiasm and skill to bread in the sixth episode of a series I wish I'd discovered sooner, Blanc shared the brioche with his unfeasibly handsome sons (swooning among at least half of viewers must have reached dangerous levels here) before knocking up some beer-topped pain de campagne, a fougasse and an apple croustade.

It hardly mattered that most of the recipes seemed impossible (two Michelin stars didn't prevent holes appearing in the fiendishly thin croustade pastry); Blanc is delightful enough without me needing to eat his food (though I wish I could). And, crucially, he fortifies everything – his recipes, his unscripted chat, his working kitchen – with honesty. If TV cooking reached a nadir of sickly pretence with last week's debut of The Delicious Miss Dahl, then Blanc offers the perfect savoury antidote.

Arts and Entertainment
Stewart Lee (Gavin Evans)

comedy

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

film
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment

film
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own