Last Night's TV: McNab's Tour of Duty, ITV4
The Supersizers Go... Seventies, BBC2

He should let the soldiers call the shots

"Soldiers call it 'the sandpit'," said a fuzzy man in combat gear, over footage of Iraq and Afghanistan, "but it ain't no game." Helpful to have that clarified, I thought, what with us having just reached the baleful waypost of the 100th combat death in Afghanistan. It did seem like a very high casualty rate for a hobby. The thick-eared redundancy of the opening remark of McNab's Tour of Duty – and its implicit preoccupation with the difference between men and boys – did make me wonder whether ITV4's new series would be a seemly tribute to the risks taken by the armed forces. But if not, the soldiers may not mind, since they seem to share Andy McNab's appetite for the gung-ho. "If I was a football player and I trained every week, I'd want to play in the FA Cup final," one soldier had explained to his family, when they expressed disquiet about his deployment. The fixture itself hadn't obviously dimmed his enthusiasm. "It was the best adrenalin buzz I'd ever had in my life," he said later, about coming under fire.

This isn't intended for real soldiers, though. It's intended for the armchair kind, people such as Gareth from The Office, who like to make water-cooler small talk about the tactical advantage an L96 sniper rifle will give you when you're pinned down by the Mahdi army. McNab, a well-established brand when it comes to war-comic machismo, presides as a kind of master of ceremonies, delivering platitudes about military tactics in a Ronseal voice and tying together the real-life war stories that are at the core of the thing. Last night, they reconstructed the siege of Y Company from the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment in a building in downtown al-Amarah, a temptingly prominent target for the supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr.

It looked like a horrible place to do your day job, particularly since the day job had a way of running right through the night and into the following day. Video footage shot by soldiers showed you insurgent mortar rounds falling nearby as well as the craters left by those that had fallen even nearer. And, when McNab got out of the way, there were some real insights into the psychology of combat. "Because it was a peace-keeping tour, I thought, 'I can't fire my weapon, I'm going to get into trouble,'" said one soldier recalling a fire-fight in the street, the fear of disciplinary action somehow defeating the rather more urgent matter of the man firing an AK-47 at him. When McNab says something, it generally sounds slightly ridiculous. "The British Army has a solution to low morale," he said urgently at one point. "Banter." The line conjured an image of fresh boxes of quips being airlifted in when jocularity ran low. But when the soldiers are left to speak for themselves, you get a better sense of what he's on about. "Like a Yorkie bar," said one soldier, showing off his standard-issue grenade to a friend's camcorder. "Once it's open, everyone gets a bit."

Yorkies arrived too late to feature in The Supersizers Go... Seventies, BBC2's history of British gluttony. Instead, Giles Coren and Sue Perkins stuffed their faces with sherbet dabs, chocolate cigarettes and Golden Nuggets, staggering from a retro sweet shop with their cheeks bulging after exploring the confectionery of their youth. Oddly, talking with your mouth full seems to be a crucial element of this series, as if the audience might not grasp that it's about food unless masticated pap is visibly dribbling from the corners of the presenters' mouths. Giles Coren is a particular offender on this front, eating everything he encounters with the same wildly champing jaws, like a dog trying to finish off a particularly resilient frog. After that, he goes back to his study, where he belches and emits intestinal gurgles, all of which would be avoidable if he just slowed down and took slightly smaller portions.

Small portions weren't really a Seventies thing, of course, the headline fact here being that Seventies consumers averaged around 750 more calories a day but still didn't end up obese. X-ray shots of Giles's lower intestine revealed that this might be because a diet heavy in fat, alcohol and whatever blend of chemicals goes into butterscotch Angel Delight results in a much swifter "transit time", as if the bowel couldn't wait to get rid of what the mouth so unwisely took in. And it can't be because they drank less. Len Deighton's Action Cookbook recommended planning for half a bottle of spirits per drinker for every two hours of a good party, rising to three-quarters of a bottle when things get going. You wouldn't have known from this sequence that Len Deighton was actually a rather accomplished cook who did his bit to introduce basic French technique to British readers, but for that you'd have to have been watching a history of food culture, rather than this grease-spattered comedy double act.

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
  • Get to the point
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.

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor