The Weekend's Television: Celebrity Come Dine With Me, Sun, Channel 4<br/>Tropic Of Cancer, Sun, BBC2

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The Independent Culture

“My whole life has been faeces, faeces, faeces, dear,” said Kim Woodburn, a self-styled Queen of Clean who, on the evidence of Celebrity Come Dine with Me, is now making a bid to become Empress of Embarrassment too.

Kim wasn’t complaining when she said this, incidentally, merely explaining that she has developed a more robustly hands-on attitude to the brown stuff than most of us can muster. She had just treated her fellow diners to some fond memories of celebrity skid-marks – the legacy of time spent as a cleaner to the stars – and was responding to the suggestion that it wasn’t the most tasteful accompaniment to Claire Sweeney’s lobster linguine.

Woodburn appears to be rebranding herself as a kind of female Frankie Howerd, innuendo and fake affront rippling through her conversation in a very “ooh err missus” kind of way. I think it was the topless butler that got her going, but once underway – like an old diesel engine – there seemed to be no stopping her. She flirted with Darren Day (“where’s your other hand, dear?”), boasted about her sexual history (“I worked on a cruise ship for a year... there wasn’t a man safe”) and confessed that every television appearance brought her fresh offers from the lovestruck. And then she started drinking.

Very few of us are immune to the pleasures of watching a runaway vehicle go over a cliff, and once Kim’s handbrake had been released by a couple of glasses of champagne she picked up momentum with a gratifying speed. One moment she was playing her personality and the next minute it was playing her. “Thish mascarponyony... ish rubbish!” she spluttered, after ordering Claire to show her one of the ingredients for the semifreddo all’amaretti. It wasn’t clear whether Kim had taken against mascarpone in general, or just this brand, but I don’t think a follow-up question would have helped since she was now swigging vodka direct from the bottle.

She didn’t drink the following night, and restricted the excrement talk to an over-generously detailed account of the lavatorial aftermath of her excesses. “My back end, dear, was going all day... I couldn’t wear a thong... my bum was too chafed.” Darren Day then further depressed appetites by serving up a roasted pepper and onion soup garnished with mysterious flecks of shredded plastic. He was baffled but I suspect that he’d simply forgotten to remove the blade covers from his new liquidiser. At least he’d started with raw ingredients, unlike Kim, whose principal culinary tools appeared to be a can-opener and a pair of scissors. Being celebrities, they’re all too canny to deliver the back-room character assassination that is generally Come Dine with Me’s chief selling point, but it was noticeable that the teasing was beginning to get a little brittle by the time Tom O’ Connor invited them all round for a Liverpool theme night. He won the cash but it was Kim’s guzzling dependency on the camera’s attention that will stick in the mind.

In Tropic of Cancer, Simon Reeve completes a trilogy of circumnavigations, this time following an imaginary line that links up some of the more hazardous places on the planet. He started in Baja California, exploring the obscene discrepancy between one of the tourist hotels on the coast and the shanty towns that house the poor Mexicans who build and service them. Then he crossed the Sea of Cortez to discover an even more bizarre contrast with those subsistence communities, a narco-traffickers’ cemetery in which the two- story mausoleums were like miniature palaces, complete with air conditioning and three-piece suites. It looks like a boy’s own travel adventure but it’s far better than that, full of unexpected details and striking departures from a standard tourist itinerary.

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