"Wow, look how posh it is," exclaimed Natasha as she drove into London. "Is this Downing Street? Is this where Gordon Brown lives?"
It's not, obviously, though that pretty much set the tone for the rest of the Nip and Tuck – My Big Decision, as Natasha and Samm, both aged 18, tried to figure out whether or not to have liposuction. Stupid? No, just very, very, naive indeed.
Neither of the girls was fat, really; in fact, by British teen standards, they were just normal sized. Samm, who began comfort eating after she and her mother fled an abusive relationship, seemed the unhappier of the two. She certainly had the weirder eating habits, seemingly consuming nothing but dairy. Natasha, on the other hand, wanted to be a glamour model, a prospect about which her mother seemed remarkably sanguine, at least she was until she realised that glamour models aren't so much "beautiful women in beautiful costumes" as women in no costumes whatsoever. "What," she asked. "Like Jordon?" Erm, yes, mum. Try that one at home, kids, bet it goes down really well.
Natasha, Samm, and their mums were doing one final week's research before they decided what to do. They were driving around the country in a blue Volkswagen van (as one does), meeting various experts: shrinks, surgeons, personal trainers and former patients. At the end of the week, we're told, they would make up their minds. Somehow, it stretched the limits of plausibility. I've only seen two in the My Big Decision series – pregnancy and boob jobs – but no one has yet decided to go through with whatever it is they were considering. In fact, the whole point of the show seems to be disuading the girls, cramming them full of horror stories and disapproval.
Not that that's a bad thing. I don't really understand where this whole culture came from, but I don't think I like it. I'm sure "looking like Jordan" used to be an insult (admittedly, this was the pre-reality show, Page 3 Jordan, long before she had made her millions and assumed some quasi-feminist "icon" status. Still, things can't have changed that much, can they?) Not to mention the small fact that neither girl seemed to have any idea what she's doing. The interviewer aked if they had ever been to the gym. Apparently not. "I'm a princess," said Natasha. "I don't like exercise." Samm's not much better. "We've done some hula-hooping," offered her mum. "And some skipping."
And, sure enough, what do you know? One session with Mark Anthony and one appointment with a psychologist later, they've both changed they're minds. "I'm going to lose weight the natural way," announced Samm. "And instead of glamour modelling, I'm going to do something more elegant," concluded Natasha. Now there's a surprise.
And so to Vito Cataffo and his quest for the dolce vita in Dolce Vito – Dream Restaurant. Actually, I think this might be my dream programme. How could it get better? Cheese, a bit of Italian countryside... and Vito. He's brilliant, a sort of Del Boy-meets-Tony Soprano hybrid, with a bit of Marco Pierre White thrown in for good measure. He's mad, of course, utterly bonkers, but brilliant. I wonder why we haven't seen him before?
At any rate, he's here now, crashing pots and pans and people about. "I'm going to open an English restaurant," he cried, giving a tin-pan drum roll, "... in Italy! Ha ha ha!" Not everyone found it so funny. "English food..." sniffed one compatriot. "Isn't it all fast food?" Still, Vito's not to be deterred: after all, he's a big-shot restaurateur back home, why shouldn't he make it in Italy? He was born in southern Italy, but his parents moved him to Southampton when he was one, which must have been a shock. Ever since, they've been in the food business, and now Vito, at the grand old age of 59, has decided to take British cuisine to the Continent. So here we are, travelling across Italy, trying to find a suitable location, while our host gets barmier by the second. "This is the one," declared his fiancée who, incidentally, is a dead ringer for the woman in the Dolmio ad, at the first place they visited. It was a bar-cum-café in Modena, home of Ferarri and Parma ham. Vito wasn't so sure, but he made an offer anyway, only to back out the next day. Oh, dear. Off to the cheese farm to find some posh cheddar.
The farm in question was an über-foodie place in Somerset. It's all made by hand, with unpasteurised milk ("I could jump right in here and enjoy it," exclaimed Vito, surveying a vat of the stuff souring. "It's so calm!"), and then left to age in big shed. It looked delicious, but try telling that to the Italians. "It sticks to your throat like glue," giggled one punter. "Just like glue!" Ah, continental food snobbery. Don't you just love it? Something tells me Vito's got his work cut out. And I, for one, will be watching.