The BBC has recently started parking their tanks on Channel 4's front lawn – or rather on Channel 4's building lot and raised vegetable bed. First, The House That 100K Built took aim at Grand Designs, with its more affordable version of Kevin McCloud's construction-site TV classic.
And now Nigel and Adam's Farm Kitchen, which began on BBC1 last night, had a bearded Nigel Slater and Countryfile's Adam Henson swivelling their gun turret towards Channel 4's River Cottage franchise. Coincidentally or not, Slater had even grown out his hair in the style of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, before Fearnley-Whittingstall became respectably barbered so that he could sell his no-discards fisheries policy to the EC and Westminster grown-ups.
Slater and Henson's equivalent of River Cottage HQ was a working farm in the Cotswolds – the sort of honey-stoned, wisteria-clad edifice that would be beyond the reach of most British farmers if marketed through Country Life but which had been in this family for generations.
Henson himself is a working agriculturalist, and the idea is that he does the husbandry and heavy lifting and Slater does the cooking. So while Henson dragged a life-sized cow statue around Aberdeen to see how many shoppers could identify various beef cuts, Slater turned the cheaper bits into a stew – the general idea being to "re-connect the British public with where their food comes from". And he didn't mean Iceland.
Worth it alone for the site of Slater being driven on the back of a pick-up truck while nervously cradling a piglet, there is a winning if slightly obvious double-act in the making here with Henson as the bluff, horny-handed son of the soil and Slater as the fish-out-of-water townie. Not that Slater was sentimental about the animals; in fact, he couldn't pass a baa-lamb without muttered asides of "shepherd's pie" or "Irish stew". "I'm not naming anything we have to eat," he declared, before promptly christening three pigs "Breakfast", "Sunday Lunch" and "All Day".
The duo had been given reams of statistics to spout, an educational pill to be swallowed with the foodie/rural escapism, although you wonder whether shows like this have any effect on an increasingly cash and time-poor population, or whether it simply makes for comforting wallpaper as we chow down on our ready meals.