Last Night's TV: The Children, ITV1 <br> What to eat now, BBC2, <br> Amazon with Bruce Parry, BBC2

It was worth holding on to the end
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The Independent Culture

A highly superior whodunnit, The Children did not reveal the killer of eight-year-old Emily until the final frame. Until then, there were plenty of red herrings to keep us floundering, if that's not too many fish for one sentence. Indeed, the writer, Lucy Gannon, likes her red herrings scarlet. She gave us five scenarios of varying plausibility, each of which ended with a different person belting Emily backwards into the patio doors, killing her. The least plausible culprit was Emily's mother, Sue (Geraldine Somerville). Not even the splendid Somerville could make Sue's burst of violent anger look convincing, and I couldn't believe it of the equally splendid Gannon, either.

No, my money was on Sue's partner, Cameron (Kevin Whately), which was hard to believe of the man who played Neville in Auf Wiedersehen, Pet and Lewis in Inspector Morse, but with thrillers, as with horse racing, it helps to be a student of form. Gannon once wrote another superior thriller called Trip Trap, in which Whately played a psychotic wife-beater. That was enough for me to pin the crime on him. It's also why I rarely back a winning horse. Emily's killer turned out to be her father's partner, Natasha (Kate Ashfield), who only had eyes for her own new baby and felt that Emily was stealing too much attention.

Still, I was glad that Cameron's troubled but essentially decent son, Jack (Freddie Boath), wrongly accused by the ever-more manipulative Emily (Sinead Michael) of sexually abusing her, hadn't done the deed. The whisper of paedophilia was another of Gannon's false leads, but it illuminated the problems that can arise for children when adults leave their spouses and set up home with somebody else. In fact, as a study into the disorienting effects on youngsters of marital disharmony and rupture, The Children was at least as effective as it was as a murder mystery.

Despite all the grim ingredients in The Children, however, the person who really spooked me last night was a genial Welsh hill farmer on What to Eat Now, who guilelessly told the presenter, Valentine Warner, that "I always try to pick attractive-looking sheep." A beat. "I'll get into trouble for saying that," he added, although a little later, as they watched a lamb being born, he observed that "it's like having a member of the family giving birth". Really? As someone who lives within sight of the Welsh hills, I should probably refrain from further comment.

Anyway, Warner took it all in his loping stride, and went back to the house that the farmer somewhat predictably shared with his mother, to cook them some lamb. There was a priceless sequence as the old mum looked on in bewilderment while Warner chucked oregano, thyme and camomile into the pot, followed by globs of honey, which elicited a startled "Oh my goodness". Mum was a stranger to garlic cloves, too, although I'll wager that she can still produce a fine-tasting plate of lamb. She clearly wasn't sure about Warner's efforts. "Very nice, very unusual," she said, cautiously tucking in. I'd have given more than a penny for her thoughts.

It was, I confess, my first dose of Warner. Hugely posh and affable, and given to saying "Wow-wee!", he reminds me a little of Tim McInerny's Captain Darling in Blackadder Goes Forth. But a half-hour in his company passed quickly and I liked the fact that he went on a truffle hunt with England's greatest truffle hunter and failed to find anything but a few mushrooms and 5,000 "bits of rotting wood matter". That's what would happen to you and me, but with a bit of jiggery-pokery, televison usually contrives to locate the holy grail.

That said, in the first edition of the six-part travel documentary Amazon with Bruce Parry there came a further and more potent reminder that television crews don't always get it all their own way. Up in the high Andes, at the beginning of an ambitious voyage along the Amazon from its source to its mouth, the director, Matt Brandon, collapsed with what appeared to be cerebral malaria but turned out to be an abscess on the brain. He was helicoptered to hospital in Lima and duly recovered, but the episode was enough to put a tiny dent in even the estimable Parry's otherwise relentless good cheer.

With an hour of Parry hard on the heels of Valentine Warner's wow-weeing, BBC2 seems to be on a Monday-night mission to shake us all out of the credit-crunch blues, and there's nothing wrong with that. Parry even stayed pretty upbeat while visiting the Peruvian coca-growing valleys where the process begins that ends up with cocaine selling on the streets of London and New York for $100 a gram, the sum that coca-growers earn for three months' work. More impressively still, he seemed happy to neck a beer made by the Ashaninka tribe from sweet potato, even once he learned that the sweet potato is chewed by Ashaninka women and spat back into the pot, their saliva causing the fermentation. Nice.

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