Last Night's TV: I can't wait for one last bite of Nigella

Nigella Express, BBC2; David Renwick Night, BBC4
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The Independent Culture

It was rather disorienting that on the night Five showed the mafioso epic GoodFellas, the evening's television produced only one dark-eyed, knife-wielding spaghetti-eater with an unnerving smile, issuing threats about sleeping with the fishes, and it wasn't Ray Liotta but Nigella Lawson.

In the penultimate edition of Nigella Express, which seems to have been going on for years, Nigella had a party. Not content with showing us how to make crab and avocado wraps, she also showed us how to craft a last-minute invitation.

Strictly speaking, the last-minute invitation is unnecessary when you have a producer to find all your guests, none of whom you have ever met before. Of course, I can't be completely sure that Nigella had never met her guests before, only 99 per cent sure. At any rate, the jokey intimacy of her email invitations - which in a weird confluence of Little Italy and Belgravia included that threat about sleeping with the fishes if the summons to the party was ignored - did not seem to correspond with the body language of those milling about consuming the crab and avocado wraps. The agency specialising in young urban professionals, from which they'd clearly been hired, could rename itself "Nigella's Friends".

I confess that I've missed her past few outings, but have been kept up to date by those even more fascinated than I am in what appears to be a determined exercise in preventing anyone from parodying her ever again, on the basis that nobody could do a better pastiche of Nigella than Nigella. Tuning in again, I felt as if I'd never been away. The smile still seemed sutured into position, as Clive James once wrote of Sacha Distel; indeed, she has even mastered the considerable trick of smiling, talking and eating simultaneously.

She's a marvel, a one-woman counterblast to themiserable notion that Britain could, collectively, do with losing a little bit of weight. Where Graham Kerr, the Galloping Gourmet, used to manoeuvre truckloads of clarified butter into his kitchen, Nigella directs pantechnicons of double cream. And every Monday night, after the credits, she sneaks to the fridge and stuffs her face with a few thousand more calories. Maybe she needs them to fuel the everlasting smile.

Meanwhile, her vocabulary is as artery-clogging as her recipes. Last night, her "gloriously burnished" sausages in their "conker-shiny glaze" were "the alpha and omega of the cocktail-sausage world", whatever that means. She also extolled the herbal grassiness of something, and the aromatic nuttiness of something else. Actually, aromatic nuttiness perfectly sums up Nigella herself. She gets more aromatically nutty by the week.

My only regret was that she didn't find time, while preparing and giving a party for 40 strangers - sorry, friends - either to perform her aromatically nutty routine of travelling round London on different modes of public transport, or of tucking her teenage children up in their herbally grassy beds. Those are my favourite bits. I hope she'll return to form next week, giving us some glorious burnish to remember the series by.

My other hope, rekindled last night, is that the second series of Love Soup will be broadcast before I have to watch it from my bathchair. The first series was shown so long ago that the BBC was still a respected organisation, and its creator, David Renwick, who also gave us Victor Meldrew, must have allowed himself the odd refrain of "I don't belieeeve it" as other, infinitely less fine productions were given priority by the numbskulls at White City.

Last night was David Renwick Night on BBC4, although I wasn't able to see any of it in advance, not even the interview with Mark Lawson (no relation to Nigella, as far as I'm aware, although I did once sit near him on a plane coming homefrom somewhere hot, and noticed that he was sporting a conker-shiny brow) in which Renwick apparently admitted using Victor in One Foot in the Grave as a mouthpiece for his own angry bewilderment at the world.

Never mind. Renwick, who started off in comedy writing jokes for The Two Ronnies and also devised the labyrinthine plots of Jonathan Creek, is a gentle, self-effacing genius of a man, who fully deserved his evening in the sun, or even on BBC4. I last met him shortly before the final episode of One Foot in the Grave, on the very day that a national newspaper had published extracts from the script, revealing that Victor would end up perishing in a road accident.

Renwick was uncharacteristically apoplectic, and I remember listening sympathetically, while cheering silently that I was getting an interview with Meldrew's creator that was so Meldrew-like. On a domestic note, I was also feeling pleased with myself because I had in my briefcase a rented video of The Sixth Sense, which my wife and I had been meaning to watch for ages. "It's just incredible," Renwick spluttered. "Why on earth would they give away the ending? What is the point? It's like... it's like... telling someone who's about to watch The Sixth Sense that Bruce Willis is a ghost!"

It was rather disorienting that on the night Five showed the mafioso epic GoodFellas, the evening's television produced only one dark-eyed, knife-wielding spaghetti-eater with an unnerving smile, issuing threats about sleeping with the fishes, and it wasn't Ray Liotta but Nigella Lawson.

In the penultimate edition of Nigella Express, which seems to have been going on for years, Nigella had a party. Not content with showing us how to make crab and avocado wraps, she also showed us how to craft a last-minute invitation.

Strictly speaking, the last-minute invitation is unnecessary when you have a producer to find all your guests, none of whom you have ever met before. Of course, I can't be completely sure that Nigella had never met her guests before, only 99 per cent sure. At any rate, the jokey intimacy of her email invitations - which in a weird confluence of Little Italy and Belgravia included that threat about sleeping with the fishes if the summons to the party was ignored - did not seem to correspond with the body language of those milling about consuming the crab and avocado wraps. The agency specialising in young urban professionals, from which they'd clearly been hired, could rename itself "Nigella's Friends".

I confess that I've missed her past few outings, but have been kept up to date by those even more fascinated than I am in what appears to be a determined exercise in preventing anyone from parodying her ever again, on the basis that nobody could do a better pastiche of Nigella than Nigella. Tuning in again, I felt as if I'd never been away. The smile still seemed sutured into position, as Clive James once wrote of Sacha Distel; indeed, she has even mastered the considerable trick of smiling, talking and eating simultaneously.

She's a marvel, a one-woman counterblast to the miserable notion that Britain could, collectively, do with losing a little bit of weight. Where Graham Kerr, the Galloping Gourmet, used to manoeuvre truckloads of clarified butter into his kitchen, Nigella directs pantechnicons of double cream. And every Monday night, after the credits, she sneaks to the fridge and stuffs her face with a few thousand more calories. Maybe she needs them to fuel the everlasting smile.

Meanwhile, her vocabulary is as artery-clogging as her recipes. Last night, her "gloriously burnished" sausages in their "conker-shiny glaze" were "the alpha and omega of the cocktail-sausage world", whatever that means. She also extolled the herbal grassiness of something, and the aromatic nuttiness of something else. Actually, aromatic nuttiness perfectly sums up Nigella herself. She gets more aromatically nutty by the week.

My only regret was that she didn't find time, while preparing and giving a party for 40 strangers - sorry, friends - either to perform her aromatically nutty routine of travelling round London on different modes of public transport, or of tucking her teenage children up in their herbally grassy beds. Those are my favourite bits. I hope she'll return to form next week, giving us some glorious burnish to remember the series by.

My other hope, rekindled last night, is that the second series of Love Soup will be broadcast before I have to watch it from my bathchair. The first series was shown so long ago that the BBC was still a respected organisation, and its creator, David Renwick, who also gave us Victor Meldrew, must have allowed himself the odd refrain of "I don't belieeeve it" as other, infinitely less fine productions were given priority by the numbskulls at White City.

Last night was David Renwick Night on BBC4, although I wasn't able to see any of it in advance, not even the interview with Mark Lawson (no relation to Nigella, as far as I'm aware, although I did once sit near him on a plane coming home from somewhere hot, and noticed that he was sporting a conker-shiny brow) in which Renwick apparently admitted using Victor in One Foot in the Grave as a mouthpiece for his own angry bewilderment at the world.

Never mind. Renwick, who started off in comedy writing jokes for The Two Ronnies and also devised the labyrinthine plots of Jonathan Creek, is a gentle, self-effacing genius of a man, who fully deserved his evening in the sun, or even on BBC4. I last met him shortly before the final episode of One Foot in the Grave, on the very day that a national newspaper had published extracts from the script, revealing that Victor would end up perishing in a road accident.

Renwick was uncharacteristically apoplectic, and I remember listening sympathetically, while cheering silently that I was getting an interview with Meldrew's creator that was so Meldrew-like. On a domestic note, I was also feeling pleased with myself because I had in my briefcase a rented video of The Sixth Sense, which my wife and I had been meaning to watch for ages. "It's just incredible," Renwick spluttered. "Why on earth would they give away the ending? What is the point? It's like... it's like... telling someone who's about to watch The Sixth Sense that Bruce Willis is a ghost!"

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