Last Night's Television:
My Dream Farm, Channel 4
Material Girl, BBC1
Rab C Nesbitt, BBC2
You can't beat the full Monty
Friday 22 January 2010
Urgh, January. So cold and grey and fat and depressing. Oh, for a rural retreat, full of streams and dappled sunlight and straw-filled barns! Somewhere you could find the perfect life-work balance and eat only organic cheese and home-made honey on stone-baked bread (whatever that may be). I know – so Noughties, right? What with Escape to the Country and Riverside Cottage and Build a New Life in the Country and every other lifestyle programme that's packed our schedules over the past decade, I would have thought we'd rather done all that. But apparently not. Judging from My Dream Farm, our obsession with the good life looks set to continue for rather some time.
Doing the honours for Channel 4 is Monty Don, and what a good job he does too. Much as I'm wearying of TV's obsession with all things posh (Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Kevin McCloud, Kirstie Allsopp et al) it's difficult to dislike old Monty. He always seems to be talking so much sense. Take the incident, last night, where a pig broke free from its pen and settled on the riverbank. While everyone else ran around like (organic) headless chickens, trying to force it back where it belonged, good old Monty just grinned. "I'd leave it if I were you. He's just getting cool on a hot day." Too true.
The point is for Monty to help out various families as they shift from life in the urban rat race to life on a farm. Last night's episode revolved around Dick and Pauline Beijen, who have just moved from the Netherlands to a 44-acre property in Devon.
In his old guise, Dick worked away from home, missing out on his children's upbringing. When he was diagnosed with severe arthritis, the family had to reconsider the viability of continuing with their present lifestyle. So they moved to Dartmoor, in pursuit of the rural ideal. After a few months in their new home, though, things were starting to look rather less ideal. Pauline loved the way of life, but with the credit crunch they lost their savings and they still hadn't figured out a way to make money from their farm, despite investing in bees, piglets, sheep and poultry. So here was Monty, on hand to help them out.
It rapidly became apparent that Dick and Pauline were far from a hopeless case. They may not have been making money, but they've figured out how to make soap from beeswax and duvets from their sheep's wool, the latter an idea that Monty suspects could be the real money-spinner. He took Dick off to meet another farmer (even posher than Monty) who had managed to convert his farm into a sort of multitasking money-spinning enterprise, and introduced Pauline to the duvet buyers at John Lewis and Malmaison luxury hotels. By the end of the programme, they're well on their way to upper-crust tycoonery. Happy endings, eh?
My Dream Farm is certainly nothing new, but it's hard not to enjoy at this time of year, when everything else looks so bleak and punitive. The scenery, for one, is gorgeous, and Monty's charming and... well, who doesn't indulge in the odd daydream of life in the slow lane? I know I do.
Much the same could be said of Material Girl. OK, OK, I admit it, I didn't just "happen to accidentally" catch it again last night. I went out of my way to watch it, crap script, corny premise, awful costumes and all. Honestly, it wasn't much better than last week: it's still budget as anything, and chock-a-bloc with cringey clichés. But it certainly wasn't any worse. And at least Ali's wet boyfriend didn't feature too heavily. This week was dominated by the evil Davina and her plans to sue our heroine. The drama! Perhaps – just perhaps – this is to become my (very) guilty pleasure of 2010.
It's certainly a more realistic prospect than Rab C Nesbitt. I know, I know, television institution and that. But did he really need to make a comeback? It's not Rab himself that's the problem. Gregor Fisher, still in string vest and suit, is just as beguiling as the lazy, lovable drunken Rab. But it's like watching Robert Lindsay in My Family. Yes, he's good. But what about the rest of them?
Last night saw Rab and Mary welcome (if that's the word) their son Gash back to the home after a prolonged stint in a mental institution. Gash, meanwhile, gets to know his daughter, the foul-mouthed, chocolate-pizza-munching Peaches. Aside from that, not much happened, though Rab did manage to leave us with a rather wonderful little truism on romance: "The dreaded R Word! That's the worst thing a woman can give a man – respect!" he told his bemused wife. "You respect Vince Cable, you respect Alex Salmond... but you'd drop your draws for Daniel Craig."
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