It’s been a brilliant week for television, starting with Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney’s hilarious Catastrophe on Monday, then majestic Wolf Hall, and the saucy new Russell T Davies dramas about varying degrees of firmness. And then the brilliance totally runs out. I struggled to find anything interesting on Friday, and ended up with The Great British Rake Off, or The Big Allotment Challenge (BBC2) as it’s officially called.
“With the clock ticking down to show day, Alan is pinching out side shoots on his tomatoes,” says Fern Britton, doing her best to crank up the tension. I have tried unsuccessfully to grow tomatoes in the past; maybe I’ll learn something. Alan is using the cordon method. That’s perhaps where I went wrong, never having heard of the cordon method.
But then it goes wrong for Alan: he gets blossom end rot, which is a kind of tomato VD. Cordon method not looking so clever now, is it Alan? (Or is it the Corden method perhaps, invented by James, a loud and in-your-face way to grow tomatoes?)
When it comes to show day, Alan’s produce has yellow blotches and is easily beaten by Jo Jo’s Sungold variety, all nine of which are exactly the same colour and the same size: 35mm, in diameter. Jo Jo measured.
Hang on, judge Jim “flying” Buttress isn’t even tasting them – it’s only about the look. That’s ridiculous. The point of growing tomatoes is to eat them isn’t it? A competition should reflect that. Some of the most delicious tomatoes are the knobbly ones. I don’t care if that’s the way it goes in the world of competitive veg growing, it’s a bloody stupid way.
It’s also mind-numbingly boring. The Great British Bake-Off is to blame, of course; now they think any old hobby or craft makes for good television. But there’s more to Bake-Off than baking and buns: Mel and Sue’s interminable punning, Paul and Mary’s gentle teasing, dropped cakes, tears, squirrels. This has none of that; it’s just growing tomatoes on television. And flower arranging. And jam making. Zzzzz.
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