Last Night's Viewing: London's Burning Chanel 4<br />Lorraine's Last Minute Christmas BBC2


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The Independent Culture

What with it being nearly New Year and all, we're almost at the stage where we can safely start assessing the highs and lows of the Year That Was. We are approaching the end of the risky pre-emptive period, where the combination of major world events and celebrity deaths threaten, perilously, to render us redundant. Soon, tantalisingly soon, we will be able to write our Hundred Best lists with confidence.

So what did we watch on TV? Any guesses are slightly complicated by the unwieldy prospect of Christmas Day. This year, that means both Absolutely Fabulous and a special edition of Downton Abbey, both of which I will be absolutely GLUED TO, despite the fact that they are airing simultaneously and thus permitting only the most practised of remote-control wielders to tune in (this is not public-service broadcasting, BBC. Will you never learn?)

Anyway, Downton and Ab Fab excepting, I think I can already say what was, for me, the Most Gripping Television Moment of 2011. It was, unexpectedly, at about 4pm on Monday 8 August, when I looked up from my computer screen to see my high street assuming a starring role on Sky News. It was just about recognisable, though, to be honest – even I had a little difficulty given that Tesco was on fire and an army of hooded youths seemed to be doing battle with approximately three policemen.

In fact, my corner of east London wasn't that badly hit. But it was impossible to stop watching, eyes like saucers, as somewhere so familiar was transformed into somewhere so unfamiliar. So, really, it shouldn't come as a surprise that London's Burning was also utterly, Killingesquely compelling. Based on witness testimonies, it saw David Morrissey and Samantha Bond star in a dramatisation of the days during which the capital seemed to go mad. Whether or not it was very good is a different question. But for a Londoner, it was riot porn. You couldn't help but be fascinated.


Actually, on balance, I think it probably was rather good. Certainly, Morrissey was very good as the bureaucracy-hit Gerry Campbell, acting borough commander for Wandsworth. It had that thing, where drama is interspersed with real news footage, which always bestows a hint of the Crimewatch reconstruction. And some of it was a little hammy, the performances that weren't Bond or Morrissey a little corny, the script a little clichéd: a middle-class family eating artichoke-heart sandwiches, the grey-haired oldies sneering at Twitter ("it's twatter"). But still you couldn't help but watch. And it reminded us of a few things too: the lawlessness of streets where 350 rioters came up against just eight policemen, the astonishing, staggering refusal of David Cameron to return for his holiday. I found myself wondering whether this really did happen. But, yes, unbelievably, it did.

Evidently, Lorraine Pascale has graduated. She is now so sufficiently recognised, enough of a household name, that she's Lorraine. Just Lorraine (what of Kelly?). And so it was that we were treated to Lorraine's Last Minute Christmas, complete with mince pie stars, stained-glass cookies and Lorraine in reindeer slippers. And if you can possibly bear to pay attention to any more Christmas cooking shows, this one had some useful tips.

There was a nice segment on affordable wines, and a moderately informative chat with a butcher about what to cook for two, and whether you can still find turkey on Christmas Eve. There was also a truly horrendous-looking winter wonderland Christmas tray bake. In fact, if you are in the market for festive advice, here's mine. Don't, for the love of God, make that.