Last night's viewing - Masters of Money, BBC2; Gordon Ramsay's Ultimate Cookery Course, Channel 4; Food Unwrapped Channel 4

 

Stephanie Flanders' Masters of Money is a clever, responsive bit of commissioning. It ticks off two of the Reithian obligations to inform, educate and entertain (with the best will in the world, you can't really imagine it seducing away the die-hard fans of New Tricks). Unfortunately, it also finds itself in a bit of Corporation Catch 22, given the subject matter.

The problem is this. In the middle of an economic crisis the like of which hasn't been seen in decades, there's no question that an explanation of the contending economic theories will be useful to viewers. Flanders' three-part series offers a beginner's guide to Marx, Hayek and Keynes, all three of whom, she explained at the beginning, recognised the immense power of capital and trade in the world and had ideas about the best way to control it to produce a better society. "Can they help us find a way out?" she asked, a question we'd all like to know the answer to.

Unfortunately, as the BBC's economics editor, Flanders is also committed to a certain impartiality of approach. And since all three of her masters of money are still closely identified with party political approaches to the current crisis, she can't really tell us whether she thinks they were right or wrong. She can hint a bit, but any contribution from an expert saying a particular theory has just been vindicated will have to be balanced by another one saying exactly the opposite.

This was particularly conspicuous with last night's programme on Keynes, because he's very much a Plan B hero at a time when Plan A isn't looking as if it's working very well. Cue Joseph Stiglitz to make the case that current government austerity measures fly in the face of Keynesian wisdom and will cause "an enormous amount of unnecessary suffering". And then cue Philip Booth of the Institute of Economic Affairs to argue almost exactly the opposite. Which leaves us pretty much where we were before.

Still, allowing for the frustrating fact that Flanders can't come off the leash and tell us which of her pundits she actually thinks is making sense, her film was interesting enough, providing plenty of raw material for those who want to argue that government has a role in adjusting the levers of the economy. It wasn't just that Keynes got his first big prediction right (that beggaring Germany after the First World War was the best way of ensuring that you'd get another one). It was also that his insertion of "animal spirits" (social morale, essentially) into the dismal science chimed closely with one's intuition about the connection between psychological and economic depression. Or not, depending on your politics. Most viewers will have ended more knowledgeable but just as confused as before.

Not sure why Gordon Ramsay's Ultimate Cookery Course is going out at 5pm while Food Unwrapped, which seems to be aimed at eight-year-olds, has taken the 8pm slot, but that's how Channel 4 has decided to play it. The former is a perfectly serviceable basic cookery programme, in which Ramsay does his trademark thing of dispensing with as many verbs as he can get away with ("Flour IN....Butter IN") while the latter is an exploration of what goes into processed foods.

There's a quite funny bit where they ring up the consumer helplines of the products in question, usually revealing that the consumer helpline is a clueless person Googling for answers. But the explanation sections are a combination of laboriously over-stretched travelogue and boastfully dim-witted consumer tests. Would a traditionally cured ham taste better than the "formed ham" product that had had brine massaged into its fibres, wondered one presenter. "I think the only way to determine that is to eat a slice of both of them at the same time," he concluded. An eight-year-old might have found it funny, but it left me baffled.

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
  • 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.

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence