Last Night's TV: Out of the Frying Pan, BBC2
Damages, BBC1

A dish with all the wrong ingredients

We've been missing Raymond Blanc in our house since his recent cookery series came off the menu, so it was good to see him back on screen for the last episode of Out of the Frying Pan, in which James and Ali, recent graduates of The Restaurant, have been demonstrating their ability to get flustered and ratty in a wide variety of social settings.

Monsieur Blanc was notionally the "mystery guest" at a tasting James and Ali were running for two potential clients, an enigma briefly strung out by one of those Question of Sport shots that carefully exclude the face, though you'd have to have been born on Wednesday to actually be surprised by the reveal. Challenged to come up with something innovative in just 30 minutes, James had unwisely decided to deliver a top-end version of surf and turf, serving scallops and venison on a plate dotted rather haphazardly with risotto and caviar. Raymond was on hand to give his verdict. "Ah see no criminess," he protested, pointing accusingly at the grittily unmelted rice. "Ah know you are mush better thzan thzat." Had this been the real world the potential clients would presumably have coughed politely and said "We'll get back to you".

As it was television they naturally persisted, giving James and Ali a budget of £1,500 for a 20-head dinner intended to thank sponsors and friends of a Henley food festival. Surprise us with the nibbles, the clients said – but let's not have conventional canapés. The surprise they got was that there weren't any nibbles at all, James and Ali having encountered another of the "crossed wires" that have been a worryingly consistent feature of their operation. James also proposed to ignore a specific request for an intermediate course, including river fish, on the grounds that he was scared to cook it. Fortunately, a mentoring chef tactfully hinted that doing what the customer actually wanted was something of a business basic.

Terrifyingly, James had also decided to be adventurous with his dessert – producing a tarte tatin made with apples and parsnips, which was to have blue cheese crumbled over the top just before serving. A daring taste combination under any circumstances, the challenge of the dish for the cautious diner was further enhanced by the fact that semi-melted Stilton looks oddly like gangrenous flesh. Wisely he did a test-run first. Unwisely he listened to Ali after he'd done it. "It's bizarre... but in a good way," said his partner, whose dread of offending people is sweet but perhaps not always helpful in a business setting. He very nearly fainted when he had to tell the musician he'd hired to provide entertainment that he'd changed his mind about the style implications of a rack of electronic keyboards. In fact, I suspect that Ali isn't really psychologically suited to the job at all: "I feel the same stress coming to me that's come on the last couple," he muttered, "and I can't stand it." It's a bit as if a chronic claustrophobic had set his heart on making it big in the world of potholing.

There was, fortunately, quite a lot of charitable leeway around when it came to summing up, the tone being set by Raymond Blanc. "Don't think you are regressing," he reassured them, after a bit of a cock-up with serving the rib of beef (James carved as if he was about to feed a husky pack). "You are PRO-gressing." I think I might have taken that as a kindly way of telling me that I still hadn't got to my destination, but James and Ali (for all their fluster) are glass-half-full types and beamed with pleasure. Would you really have wanted to hire them to feed your own guests, though, on the basis of the last six weeks of mishaps and eleventh-hour saves? I doubt it, frankly, however diverting it might be to watch them serve other people.

Damages finally concluded with an episode so complicated that I'm still not sure I can work out who did what to whom. Part of the problem is that the flashbacks and flash-forwards are now so densely interwoven that you need time-codes on individual scenes as a way of establishing that what you're looking at is a consequence and not a cause (or vice versa). Add to that their tendency to have dead characters suddenly crop up and talk to live ones, and a plot that, even in its proper order, is as tangled as a bag of charger cables, and the chances of full comprehension are minimal. The bullet points – if you've been clinging on for revelation – were these. Patty was sideswiped by her own son, just a little miffed that the woman he loves (and who is carrying his child) is facing several years in jail on a child abuse charge. Patty's remorse and grief can be traced back to the miscarriage she deliberately induced back in her youth, when a baby would have put a crimp in her burgeoning legal career. And Tom Shayes was killed by Louis Tobin's son, who arrived to find him already thoroughly pinked through the abdomen by another heavy and finished him off by holding his head in the toilet bowl. Oh, and Lily Tomlin's character took a long drop into the West River in a nicely understated long-shot, which you initially took to be just a bit of television landscape, until you noticed the plummeting dot and the big white splash. Large mysteries remained, including the unsolved crime of how we'd all been persuaded that these factitious enigmas required our weekly attendance.

t.sutcliffe@independent.co.uk

Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
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.

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor