Last Night's TV - Made in Britain, BBC2; James May’s Things You Need to Know, BBC2; Dinner Date, ITV1

Britain’s still got talent

You can have too much of a good thing, and while most of us probably agree that Evan Davis is a good thing, waking up with him on Radio 4 and winding down with him on BBC2 might be considered excessive. Perhaps he should apply his own economic acuity to the question: is the market flooded with Evan Davis?

Still, with Made in Britain, he continues, as both writer and presenter, to fly the flag for thought-provoking, intelligent programming, though I confess my brain cells could have done with an easier ride at the end of a long day, as what set out as a celebration of Britain’s enduring manufacturing prowess took a long diversion to China and concluded with the observation that, good as we have become at cornering niche markets, we need to do more of it to plug the export gap.

On the whole, he took an optimistic view of the future and even of the present, asserting that as we get better at manufacturing, so we need fewer people to do it, and the job losses that inevitably ensue are a sign of success rather than failure. In the last three decades, Britain has lost three million manufacturing jobs, but that, as Davis sees it, is a symptom of progress, not malaise. I expect there were quite a few households around the country where some issue was taken with all this, and possibly even expletives or slices of pizza hurled at the telly, but he ploughed on benignly, citing a clothing company called Berwin & Berwin, which 10 years ago had to close its factory in Leeds, with many redundancies, but by setting up a manufacturing base in China has seen a tenfold increase in turnover.

This, he asserted, perhaps a little disingenuously assuring us that most of the laid-off employees have since found other jobs, is good not only for Berwins but also for Britain. And he went to China, home of seven of the world’s 10 busiest ports, to explain that we should “never confuse volume with value”. It is helpful for our economy, apparently, for stuff to be made much more cheaply in China and then imported, freeing up our industrialists and entrepreneurs to tackle more sophisticated projects, such as those to produce pilotless planes and driverless cars. Davis then dropped in on the HQ |of the McLaren Formula One operation in Surrey, where the company is making a new road car that retails for almost £170,000, yet can barely keep up with demand.

Coincidentally, I visited McLaren myself last week, and to be sure it is a place to make you proud of that “Made in Britain” label, if also a place to make you embarrassed about your scuffed shoes. The place positively gleams, and it is certainly the only factory I’ve ever visited with a dress code, albeit not the dress code I was initially told about. “No jeans or trousers” came a stern email from the CEO’s secretary a few days beforehand. It turned out she meant no jeans or trainers. Reluctantly, I abandoned my plans to rent a kilt.

Anyway, Made in Britain was an eloquent counterblast to the notion that, economy-wise, we are going to hell in a handcart. If we are going to hell, we can at least expect to travel in an expensive sports car. Which brings me to James May, one of the Top Gear presenters, in whom the BBC seems to think they have a star, although I can’t for the life of me understand why.

In James May’s Things You Need to Know, he sat in what looked very much like Cyril Fletcher’s old leather wing chair from That’s Life!, and, addressing the camera as if it were a class of six-year-olds, ventured a few facts about the human body. For instance, we spend an average of 90 days of our lives “sitting on the lavvy”. And “the brain is a mind-bogglingly complex thing”. Gosh! Equally mind-boggling was the scheduling of this patronising rubbish at 10pm, when the nation’s primary schoolchildren were tucked up in bed. They might have enjoyed the studiedly jaunty animation, school of Terry Gilliam circa 1970, and might also have warmed to May’s Jackanory-style delivery from his wing chair. But as a programme for grown-ups it was sorely lacking.

And so to Dinner Date, which actually is transmitted at a time when the nation’s primary schoolchildren can enjoy it, a clever piece of scheduling for another series that could be |interpreted as an insult to grown-up intelligence. And yet, while I’m not sure how or why it works, somehow it does. In yesterday’s show, this |hybrid of Blind Date and MasterChef had “24-year-old investment banking PA Christina” choosing three from five menus selected by would-be suitors, according to what most |tickled her fancy. She doesn’t like carrots and doesn’t like soup, which didn’t bode well for the carrot soup starter offered by “29-year-old property developer David”, but tempted by his white-chocolate pudding she pressed ahead with the date, only to find that he had a creepy habit of using her name at the end of every sentence, “as if he’s trying to remind me what I’m called”.

As the credits rolled, with me wondering why I had been so engaged by Dinner Date, it occurred to me that Evan Davis could add silly, trivial reality-TV shows to the list of products in which we still lead the world.

Arts and Entertainment
Thomas carried Lady Edith over the flames in her bedroom in Downton Abbey series five

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
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.

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments