Sport on TV: Sheep steal the show before Gatting gets round to cooking

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The Independent Online

Tis the season for Christmas specials; no 'Katie & Peter' this year, obviously, but One Man and His Dog (BBC2, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday) got its annual fresh-airing. It was axed as a regular series 10 years ago, a casualty of TV's yoof culture, but on this evidence the Beeb's executives missed a trick, because in the Young Handlers category, three teenaged female competitors out of four – maybe they should change the programme's name – belied the tweedy, bewhiskered image of yore.

As the presenter, Kate Humble, observed, the sheep were "very perky". Refusing to be, well, sheeplike, they frequently displayed a mind of their own, rebelling against the idea of being fetched, driven, shedded or penned. The competition's format, a four-way tourney between the home nations, injected a bit of drama into the proceedings too, while hardly on a par with the tension of an England-Scotland international.

What it lacked was spectators ringing the course in Co Antrim, cheering on their team. In the continued absence of the home nations football championship, perhaps they should hold these trials in national stadiums. They might not sell out Wembley, but it's unlikely drunken supporters would invade the course and pull down the sheep pens. And the sheep would keep the mowing bill down as well.

More sheep on Ready Steady Cook (BBC2, Tuesday), or bits of one anyway, as Mike Gatting produced some lamb's liver as his offering. He was up against another English Ashes-winning captain in Charlotte Edwards, but there the resemblance ended – it looked like a rerun of the war between the Fattypuffs and the Thinifers as Gatting and the equally rotund Brian Turner, every button doing its job on his chef's tunic, faced the sylph-like pairing of Edwards and Nick Nairn.

"I'm basic – not too many sauces," said Gatting about his style in the kitchen, but he was soon persuaded into essaying exotica such as roast cabbage with curry powder. "Losing isn't an option," challenged Edwards, fresh from winning just about everything on offer in women's cricket this year, and so it proved, her concoction of chicken thighs and rice getting the audience vote. And, Ashes captains or not, nothing was burnt to a crisp.

* "It makes you depressed when you're continually hungry," said the former jump jockey John Francome, one of the witnesses called to the defence of Flat racing's perennial bad boy Kieren Fallon in Inside Story: the Ride to Redemption (BBC1, Monday). And a remarkably easy ride for him it was too; the programme revealed nothing new except the fact that Fallon is obviously good chums with Clare Balding, whose interviewing technique brought to mind Denis Healey's remark that being grilled by Geoffrey Howe was "like being savaged by a dead sheep". Meagre fare indeed.