Last Night's Television: Why Poetry Matters, BBC2
Feasts, BBC4

You just have to hope that Bruce Parry wasn't planning something similar. Think about it: three months doing the research for "Tribe: Let's Party!" and then he finds out that Stefan Gates has beaten him to the concept with Feasts, in which Gates tours the world going to the most extravagant parties he can find. Not hedge-fund manager bashes in Marrakesh with Bruce Springsteen airlifted in for the cabaret (although there were shades of such cash-splashing here) but the kind of parties that have sufficient cultural pedigree to be able to call themselves festivals. Like Parry, Gates specialises in immersive reporting, and the voiceover suggested that he was hoping to pull off a kind of therapy/anthropology double with his new series: "He's hoping that he'll be able to conquer his inhibitions and get under the skin of people and cultures around the world". Quite why the people of the world should be helping a British food writer to loosen up I'm not sure, but they certainly seemed happy to give it a shot last night.

He began in Rajasthan, easing himself into the subject with a party that was an ambiguous hybrid of inherited tradition and private excess. The occasion was a Hindu wedding, but since the wedding was between two extremely wealthy families – the Sonthalias and the Mittals – the resulting reception was so extravagant that they had to have a temporary kitchen built just to feed the people working in the even bigger temporary kitchen that had been built to feed the guests. Though it was a love marriage everyone present was pretending that it wasn't, so as not to scandalise the pious old ladies for whom the helpful amalgamation of the families' steel and manufacturing interests was a far more seemly rationale for lifelong partnership. The whole affair – an elaborate display of generosity and humility on the part of her family – ended with the bride's relations feeding the groom's family by hand, a tradition that might well prove incendiary if adopted at the traditional British wedding.

Gates's next do was an even bigger affair, and a lot less exclusive, part of the point of the Keralan Onam feast being that everyone, whatever their religion or caste, is invited to join in. Apparently, Onam is a Potemkin village kind of affair, a blow-out intended to persuade the legendary King Mahabali – out of the underworld on annual parole – that his people are still living in a paradise of peace and prosperity. And one has to say that it looked a much jollier business than the Rajasthan wedding, lacking the strained terror of imminent social disaster that often accompanies weddings. There was a lot of feasting off banana leaf plates, with local temples competing to outdo each other in generosity. Gates also took part in the Pulikali, or tiger dance, stripping down to a jaunty pair of orange boxers so that his torso could be painted as a tiger's face. He claimed to be the first foreigner ever to take part in this ceremony, and his presence had stirred up a modest media frenzy, since what he lacked in belly and man-boobs (useful for creating the tiger's snout and bulging eyes) he more than made up for with the pallor of his face. I don't know whether he felt he'd got under the skin of the locals, but they came very close to getting under his, after the official paint-stripper got too drunk to perform his duties and Gates's thick coat of emulsion paint had to be rubbed off with kerosene and more friction than looked entirely comfortable. I think Bruce Parry may be muttering as he watches, but it's an amiable kind of travelogue for the rest of us.

Why Poetry Matters was an ambitious kind of title and a quixotic one. People to whom poetry already does matter don't need the fact explaining to them, and those to whom it doesn't aren't very likely, I would have thought, to be converted by Griff Rhys Jones insisting that it isn't "pansy and irrelevant". Indeed, the thought occurred that if poetry really did matter (in terms that television would comprehend) then they wouldn't have had a celeb comedian presenting the programme. It got up my nose very early – when Griff skipped through a patch of daffodils, parodying the Fotherington-Thomas attitude to poetry – and then it stayed there, undislodgeable, for the next 50 minutes. There was a brief flair of resistance to its lowest-common-denominator sugar-coating from Andrew Motion ("So what if it's difficult! Everything that is worth anything in life is difficult") and a touching moment when Rhys Jones read Ben Jonson's poem to his dead son – My First Sonne – and his throat thickened with the emotion of the lines. But about 95 per cent of the energy and invention went on thinking of ways to make us forget that it was about poetry at all, which seemed a curious way to promote the art form's virtues.

Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat

Arts and Entertainment
Fake Banksy stencil given to artist Alex Jakob-Whitworth

art

Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
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.

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee