Last Night's TV - The Twins of the Twin Towers, BBC1; The Great British Bake Off, BBC2

A family portrait framed with grief

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The Independent Culture

When I saw the title of The Twins of the Twin Towers, I couldn't help but wonder whether it might mark the moment at which 9/11 anniversary programming finally jumped the shark. It surely has to happen at some point, given the months of airtime that, in totality, have now been devoted to that one day. We've had documentaries that focused on single individuals, documentaries about the British victims, documentaries about firefighters and policemen and emergency room doctors and film-makers and politicians. And with every film it gets a little tougher to find something that will justify the claim to novelty. This looked, at first glance, like the result of desperation, a bit of late-night word association turning up one of the few angles not yet covered. "The story of the 9/11 twins has yet to be told," declared the voiceover proudly. True, I thought, but then neither has the story of the 9/11 diabetics or the 9/11 pets. You can make your own exclusivity if you're prepared to be exclusive enough.

It turned out to be a good deal better than that, in part because of the odd connection that twins (and identical twins in particular) felt towards the target of the New York attacks. Many of them had grown up as the buildings themselves grew, a fact gently underlined here by cutting between home movies of childhood and archive footage of the World Trade Centre's construction. Some saw in Manhattan's biggest landmark a mirror of their own doubling. Others, far more poignantly, identified with them after the attack. Greg Hoffman, whose brother Stephen worked on the 104th floor of the North Tower, described feeling in his devastation like "a building on fire". He was the standing twin, he said, alluding to the brief period after the South Tower had collapsed, and the other was left shattered but not yet down.

More obviously all of those who took part implicitly lay claim to a unique kind of grief (and, let's not mince words, a worse kind of grief). I'm not sure how you would feel about this if you'd lost someone on 9/11 yourself, but from an outsider's perspective it didn't seem over-presumptuous. They had, after all, never known an hour of life without the missing person, and their relationships were far closer than most siblings (and quite a few marriages). "Whenever anything bad happened he was the first person to call," said Lisa DaRienzo, whose brother Michael worked as a broker. Then something terrible happened and he wasn't there to talk to anymore. Some claim to have known – with a supernatural kind of knowledge – that their twins were in deep trouble; others sorrowed that they hadn't felt the bond between them tug at the critical moment. And, as is usually the case in these things, there were passing remarks that suddenly crystallised the scale of the horror that day. "You could feel the heat on the ground... and it was 80 stories up," said one man, who'd arrived just too late to be among the many firefighters killed, unlike his twin brother. Archive footage doesn't really convey temperature, but that did. Equally telling was the information that of the 2,753 people who died in the Twin Towers, only 12 bodies could be identified by sight.

You wouldn't really think there would be any connection at all between that film and The Great British Bake Off, but one of the things that puts the air into BBC2's flour-dusted cookery contest are the ties of kinship. Yes, it's all about the technique that goes into a perfect biscotti and tense stand-offs over ginger-nut orthodoxy. But it's also about domestic affections: about recipes learned from much-loved grandmas and family favourites lovingly cooked for children. This week, the remaining contestants were facing "three increasingly more testing challenges", as Mel Giedroyc put it, in a phrase that would have had to be binned if it had been a biscuit. And the final challenge – to bake 120 macaroons – really made them sweat. Ben made up in wishful thinking what he lacked in technical consistency: "You can bake something that's OK and you can present it in a way that people just don't expect and they just go, 'That's fantastic'," he said hopefully, as he assembled his distinctly amoebic macaroons into a modernist flower-arrangement. "It looks very dishevelled," said Paul Hollywood, a man who can make Simon Cowell look tender-hearted. "I can hold my head up high and say I did everything I wanted to do," Ben told us defiantly, despite his macaroon fiasco. If that was really true, he must have wanted to go home.

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