To have been a banker in the recent past is to be a sinner, and the only penance is to do a week of community service: that seemed to be the thinking behind Can You Bank On Me?. The producers rounded up a couple of ex-miscreants and sent them out on remedial missions, not just to inspect the ghastly debris of businesses left floundering in the credit-crunch waves, but to do what they could to help. An odd premise (like sending the arsonist round to help clear up after the forest fire), it was decidedly inflammatory.
One banker was Griselda Anderson Wheeler, an English rose with a blonde mane, ropes of pearls and an accent of peaches and cream. Beneath the posh-bimbo carapace lay (you could tell) undergarments of milled steel; this was a woman who'd survived 10 years as a hedge-fund analyst. Good breeding and positive thinking shone from her blue eyes. "The sense of being able to achieve more than one could expect was instilled quite early on," she told us, in tones that suggested one should think twice before judging one.
Her mission was to drag an ailing Blackpool hotel called the Queens into solvency, after its revenues declined by a third. "The bankers have put this country on its backside," complained Pat Mancini, the harassed, 70-year-old owner, whose notions of modern hoteliership seemed unchanged since the days of César Ritz. The other staff didn't radiate friendly welcome. "Griselda?" said the waitress, Ruth, in a voice dripping with contempt. "I want to know what she does all day. I want to know what a hedgerow fund is." Their relationship wasn't improved by the revelation of their contrasting stipends: Griselda used to be on £75,000 a year. Ruth gets by on £150 a week. Nor by Griselda's repeated accusation that the recession was the fault of people who wouldn't save money.
The other banker, Amit Patel, seemed like several cockily plausible contestants on The Apprentice rolled into one. A property wheeler-dealer for a bank, he was a clean-cut, complacent bon vivant ("My most memorable meal? Oh... £10,000?") with sleepy Garfield eyebrows, who was taxed with bringing his City-slicker ways to a dairy farm in Weobley, Herefordshire, which was facing ruin. Despite their vast dairy herd, the owners' machinery was too antiquated to handle demand for their dairy products, their cash flow was clogged and half the staff had been laid off. But look – here came Amit to save the day, with his limited knowledge of dairy farming ("It sounds like fun – I like cheese") and his spikily gelled hair, a look that will probably never catch on in Weobley.
Both encounters made surprisingly good television: it was Troubleshooter meets Faking It, with a side order of cuteness and redemption. Griselda handled waitressing duties without dropping plates, but, as a chambermaid, wrinkled her well-bred nose at the evidence of a hotel-room party ("Every receptacle has been used for some kind of ... libation"). She identified the hotel's moth-eaten conference suite as a future money-spinner and invited local big shots round for a presentation. Amit milked cows at 4am, made cakes and helped the farm's CEO pitch to three investors for a cool £200,000. The Herefordshire farmers and Blackpudlian hotel staff moved from frank hostility to respect and grudging affection for the City smart alecs. Griselda shed a little tear, before decamping to explain capitalism to the Chinese; Amit seemed moved by the hitherto-unheard-of idea that a cash investment might help a community rather than a bank department. It was all smiles, harmony and sweet music at the end, like Shakespearean comedies.
Across the Atlantic, another beneficiary of venture capital, Levi Roots (whose Reggae Reggae hot sauce was picked up by the Dragons' Den team) held forth about his native cuisine. Caribbean Food Made Easy, filmed and directed by Spike Geilinger, did everything it said on the label. Blue skies, dancing girls, translucent seas full of fat snappers – it was no surprise to find the programme thanked the Jamaican Film Commission, which clearly had spent a lot of dough on it. The food was simple – yams, lamb, fish, rice, beans – and the cooking so easy that almost every dish got the same ginger-chilli-and-lime-marinade treatment. Mr Roots is a noisy, ebullient charmer, in his shorts, dreadlocks and costume jewellery. He took the camera team back to the village, named Content, where he was brought up, and visited the home of Usain Bolt's aunt Lily to discover the dish – yam mash, if you want to try it – that makes the world champion run so fast. And 'e hemployed the hannoying trick of emphatically dropping and adding aitches like a Victorian parlourmaid: "Hall you 'ave to do," he told us, "is peel them, mash them and hadd the mayo." He even played guitar over the final credits and sang "Tomorrow His Hanother Day" – a treat that Rick Stein (say) has never inflicted upon us. And he never once yielded to the temptation of saying, "Noooo problem."Reuse content