Last Night's TV: I wish she'd made a proper meal of it

Delia, BBC2; White Girl, BBC2; The Fixer, ITV1

Those who believe in a wrathful god will find a simple explanation for the ferocious storms that have battered Britain these last 48 hours; indeed, Delia Smith's use of frozen mashed potato, in the first programme of her new series, Delia, might also have propelled the ravens from the Tower of London. The world suddenly seems upside-down.

Delia, I should add, occupies a firm place both on my bookshelf and in my heart. When I assume cooking responsibilities in our house, her Complete Cookery Course, a tome as well thumbed as Dr Billy Graham's bible, is still my first port of call. But now I feel as Dr Graham might if presented with conclusive evidence that there was no virgin birth. Not only frozen mash, but also tinned mince and ready-made cheese sauce! Why, why, why, Delia?

The series accompanies her new book, Delia's How to Cheat at Cooking, and is ostensibly for those who don't have the time to peel, chop or grate. Fair enough. Nigella Lawson, in the widely lampooned but functional Nigella Express, addressed a similar predicament. But by going the extra yard to the tinned-mince counter, Delia risks alienating her loyal constituency.

Maybe it all started with her famous "Let's be 'avin' you!" address to the crowd at Carrow Road, when, if not a little squiffy then certainly a little over-excited, she lapsed into estuary English to exhort the fans of her beloved Norwich City FC to get behind the team. This showed a side to her that was at odds with the prim schoolmarm of popular perception, and she obviously enjoyed the effect, because the clip was shown again last night. So could it be that she has now decided to go the whole hog, and similarly challenge our perception of her as a reliable, discerning cook? Because what she is doing with this series is akin to walking on to the pitch at Carrow Road and exhorting the fans to switch their support to Ipswich Town. Or to find a more culinary metaphor, she is mixing messages with a turbocharged Kenwood Chef. For years, she has encouraged us to reject what she is now preaching as gospel.

Besides, her justification for cheating doesn't stand up. If time is so much of the essence, then why even bother to make a shepherd's pie with tinned mince and frozen mash? Why not simply buy a ready meal and stick it in the microwave, or is she saving that idea for the next series? At any rate, supermarket executives must already be turning cartwheels at the prospect of Delia-enhanced profits, waiting for bags of salad leaves and pre-diced veg, which anyone with the slightest awareness of kitchen economy knows to be among the least cost-effective of foodstuffs, to start walking off the shelves simply because she has endorsed them.

Clearly, she is aware that she is presenting a controversial message, because the food writer Nigel Slater was ushered on to lend his support. He's a polite fellow, and plainly didn't want to upset his hostess, but it seemed to me that his support was on the under-cooked side of equivocal. The only person I know who might properly explain Delia's mission is my friend Rosie, who used to be a fashion writer on Vogue. When I questioned some of the more absurd Vivienne Westwood creations, she explained to me that the likes of Westwood don't expect women to walk down the street with one breast showing and wearing a purple top hat; fashion works by some of these more outré ideas filtering down in a more diluted way. Maybe that's Delia's scheme.

Whatever, having gorged myself on Delia I am left with little room to praise White Girl, a grim yet ultimately hopeful drama about an 11-year-old girl from Bradford who, saddled with an alcoholic mother and an abusive step-father, found solace in Allah. Wonderfully written by Abi Morgan – "Allah 'ad 99 names, were 'e fiddling 'is benefit too?" – and marvellously acted, especially by Holly Kenny as young Leah, it was more effective than any documentary at showing why someone without much of a life might embrace whatever religion happens to be available, which in the terraced streets of West Yorkshire tends to be Islam. Some of the previews dismissed White Girl as unconvincing: to me it seemed all too plausible.

The same cannot be said, alas, of ITV's daft new serial The Fixer, starring Andrew Buchan as John Mercer, an enigmatic killer who is sprung from jail by an enigmatic cop so that he can become a state-sanctioned assassin. Unfortunately, Buchan's way of playing enigmatic was to wear only one expression throughout, a look of slightly puzzled consternation, which in fairness was reproduced on our sofa. We couldn't understand why the enigmatic cop had paired Mercer with an accident-prone small-time crook called Calum (Jody Latham). Why team the Jackal with one half of the Chuckle Brothers? Like much of last night's telly, it made no sense.

b.viner@independent.co.uk

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

TV
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Arts and Entertainment
The audience aimed thousands of Apple’s product units at Taylor Swift throughout the show
musicReview: On stage her manner is natural, her command of space masterful
Arts and Entertainment
Channel 4 is reviving its Chris Evans-hosted Nineties hit TFI Friday

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade (1989)

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
A Glastonbury reveller hides under an umbrella at the festival last year

Glastonbury
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miles Morales is to replace Peter Parker as the new Spider-Man

comics
Arts and Entertainment
The sequel to 1993's Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, has stormed into the global record books to score the highest worldwide opening weekend in history.

film
Arts and Entertainment
Odi (Will Tudor)
tvReview: Humans, episode 2
Arts and Entertainment
Can't cope with a Port-A-loo? We've got the solution for you

FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets

Arts and Entertainment
Some zookeepers have been braver than others in the #jurassiczoo trend

Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant

Arts and Entertainment
An original Miffy illustration
art
Arts and Entertainment
Man of mystery: Ian McKellen as an ageing Sherlock Holmes
film review
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.

    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
    UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

    39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

    There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
    Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

    Computerised cooking is coming

    From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
    Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

    Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

    The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
    Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

    Education: Football Beyond Borders

    Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
    10 best barbecue books

    Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

    We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
    Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most