Last Night's Viewing: Kelly and Her Sisters Grow Up, ITV1 Great British Menu, BBC2


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The Independent Culture

When ITV first visited Kelly and her sisters, in 2000, Britain had survived the millennium bug and the deflation of the dotcom bubble.

House prices and consumer spending were soaring and "Teflon" Tony Blair had pledged to eradicate child poverty. But there were no popping corks or self-satisfied grins in a soon-to-be condemned estate in Birmingham. Kelly Hogan was 10 and shared a box room with two of her five sisters, sleeping on damp bunks made of salvaged doors. Fungus grew from the walls, a single gas fire heated the house and Kelly's occasionally suicidal mother, Maxine, could barely afford to feed her daughters.

One almost hesitated to discover what had become of the Hogans after 12 years in which poverty has risen to afflict almost three million children. Kelly and Her Sisters Grow Up followed the now extended family as Christmas approached last year. More than four million people watched the original documentary, which went on to win a Bafta and shame Birmingham into finding the family a watertight house. Life has improved, at least a bit. "I look back now and it's like watching a documentary about someone else's life," Maxine said. "Because it was that dark and that dim in that place."

But as we followed Kelly, who had endeared viewers with her heartbreakingly grown-up bunk-side commentary 12 years ago, it became clear the trap of poverty has rarely been harder to escape. She was living alone and earning a little above the minimum wage at a care home. Her relationship with Maxine was fraught. After skipping a big family Christmas she delivered one of the programme's most moving passages. "I would say to myself, back in the other the film, 'Be a kid. Go and play, stop worrying, stop being so grown up, go and play, get dirty, go and swing from trees'." Now, she said, "At 21, I should be partying all the time, that's what 21-year-olds do. Me, no, I'm an old lady. I work, sleep, eat, work, sleep, eat."

The new year brought a "wobble" for Maxine, too, and she was back on anti-depressants. But there was a note of hope on which to end. A surprise 65th birthday party for Kelly's grandmother provided the setting for reconciliation. "If you have such an amazing family like I have," Maxine said, "you don't need money. I'm the richest girl alive." You only hoped that, against the odds and economic predictions (a quarter of Britain's children are expected to live below the breadline come 2020), the toughest challenges for the Hogans are behind them.

The makers of Great British Menu were served a dilemma this year when selecting a great British event as the theme for the cook-off in a summer in which Britain risks becoming so "great" it will collapse, soufflé-like, in the heat of such expectation: Jubilee or Olympics? The Queen was the prize in the first series, as Britain's top chefs competed to cook her an 80th-birthday banquet feast. But she lost out this time to sporting royalty. Each week, three cooks representing a region prepare dishes they hope to serve to Steve Redgrave and other athletes at a dinner after the 2012 Games.

The sporting theme suited the adversarial format last night, as three Scottish chefs watched one another plating up their starters like discus throwers on the bench. But what the cooks failed to appreciate was that athletes tend to have big appetites for simple food. When an Olympic marathon runner friend of Michelin-starred chef Alan Murchison road-tested his dainty duck and pineapple dish ("It has four textures of duck and five textures of pineapple), saying, "Wow, that's melt-in-your-mouth stuff, that", you wondered if she was quietly hankering for a giant plate of pasta.