Couch Potato: Great British Budget Menu - James Martin features in ‘patronising and pointless’ show ‘

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CELEBRITIES. They think they can change the world. Which would be fine if they were selflessly making a difference away from the limelight.

But that’s the problem, isn’t it? Most of them need at least one TV crew in tow. You know, to keep us in the loop.

Call it a need-to-know basis (they need us to know).

It’s why, in the recent past, we’ve had BBC1’s Famous, Rich and Homeless (five celebs spend 10 days living rough with down-and-outs), Famous, Rich and Jobless (four celebs spend eight days living as down-and-outs), ITV’s Seven Days on the Breadline (four celebs spend seven days living with council tenants) and C4’s Tower Block of Commons (four MPs spend eight days living with the lower classes).

Not one of them achieved a damn thing.

So how radical must this game-changing programme idea have sounded to the commissioning monkeys at the Beeb?

Three TV chefs spend a few days living with poor families to show them how to shop for and cook a nutritious meal on the tightest of purse strings.

And voila! We have the steaming pile that is BBC1’s Great British Budget Menu.

A deeply patronising and pointless hour that did precious little to help the

celebrities’ hosts but did gain some Brownie points for James Martin, Richard Corrigan and Angela Hartnett, who were parachuted in like Red Adair behind burning Kuwaiti oil wells during the First Gulf War.

It began, as is always the way, with the famous faces demonstrating they’re hopelessly out of touch.

Hartnett couldn’t believe she’d meet anyone in Surrey in the grip of food poverty, while Corrigan was imagining staying with Shameless’s Frank Gallagher.

Instead he was assigned to the Miller family, who survive on £1.66 a day to feed each of them, and asked: “Do you manage to get a bit of Parmesan on your pasta?” (They didn’t.)

And from this starting position, like every previous show of its ilk, it became more about the celebrities than the people they were supposed to help.

It was THEIR journey, THEIR eyes being opened to hardship.

If that sounds harsh, consider this.

The whole purpose of the exercise was to keep within their host family’s daily food budget on ingredients.

All three failed, thereby defeating the object spectacularly.

The only time they did stick to their allotted money, £1 a portion, was for some bizarre event at the end, the “budget banquet”, held apparently to make politicians and supermarkets aware of the country’s food crisis.

Which is why, I’m guessing, the guest list included such culinary and social-policy giants as Natasha Kaplinsky, Channel 5’s Hotel Inspector Alex Polizzi and Maggie Philbin.

It was the most pointless endeavour of all.

You see, it’s relatively simple for a professional cook to stick to a budget for mass catering at a banquet, but that’s of no use whatsoever to Hartnett’s single mum or James Martin’s sheltered-housing state pensioner living on half a cup-a-soup for dinner.

And it’s of even less use when you consider the narrator’s final fatal blow: “The chefs have shown that cooking healthy food on a tiny budget is possible.

“But having the skills to do it is essential.”

That’s right. You need the skills of a TV chef.

And preferably the presence of a TV crew.


This week’s Couch Potato Spudulikes...

* Andy Murray’s Wimbledon triumph. The BBC disproving Bafta’s idiotic theory that Clare Balding is solely responsible for excellent sports coverage.

* BBC2’s Burma, My Father and the Forgotten Army, and Piper Alpha: Fire in the Night.

* Auntie axing Ben Elton’s The Wright Way and Sue Perkins’ Heading Out, admittedly one series too late.

* Claude Littner’s honest (I think) assessment of Matt Baker on The One Show: “You’ve done a few bits of presenting. Let’s put it down to what it really is. You’re just reading an autocue.”

* And TLC’s barmy I Think I’m An Animal which can be summarised by this narration: “Steve, who believes he’s a leopard, has met hundreds of people who believe they are also animals.

“He now lives with one, Timothy, a raccoon.”


This week’s Couch Potato Spuduhates...

* The One Show’s Matt Baker and Alex Jones trying to interview Andy Murray over the sound of a reversing lorry when it wasn’t even live.

* Alesha Dixon losing patience with the Your Face Sounds Familiar contestants and pressing the Randomiser button for them.

* Lord Sugar showing off to his mates, like he’d been told The Apprentice interviewers’ feedback session was a comedy club open-mike evening.

* Lisa Snowden failing to give the honest answer of: “For the money,” to this shopping-channel question: “You’ve produced your own jewellery range for QVC. What made you decide to do that?”

* And Gok Wan, on Gok Live: Stripping For Summer, with this fashion tip: “Add a pair of heels. That raises your height up.”

It does? Where would half the population be without him?


Lord Sugar’s four Horsemen of the Apocalypse rode into town for The Apprentice interviews round with the customary mercy of the Spanish Inquisition.

Highlights included...

* Margaret Mountford’s glares.

* Claude Littner’s brutal crucifixion of Jordan Poulton: “You’re a parasite. This interview is terminated.”

* Francesca’s £5m turnover being: “A number that just came into my head.”

* Mike Soutar’s Rubik’s cube bait, the best stitch-up at this stage since the words: “Show me your Reverse Pterodactyl.”

* And Littner at loggerheads with Neil Clough over his business plan, like Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck’s duck season/wabbit season dispute in the gun-toting presence of Elmer Fudd.

“You’ve got no chance.”

“I have.”

“No you don’t.”

“I definitely have.”

BANG! You’re fired.


Female insecurities vampire Gok Wan overseeing a makeover on C4’s Stripping For Summer: “I want prints, I want beautiful fabrics, I want it concentrated around the waist, I want a plunging neckline, I want statement jewellery, I want anything which is big, I want it on one rail...”

I want one week watching C4 without Gok Wan.

Can’t have everything we want, can we?


Count Arthur Strong?

Joke count zero.


Aled Jones to Greg Rusedski on Daybreak: “What’s it like when you’re 40-love up to win Wimbledon?”

I think the bigger question, Aled, is why are you asking Greg Rusedski?


The tennis is over, which meant the welcome return of BBC1’s Pointless, albeit repeats, which I’ll take gladly if only for a reminder of one of Richard Osman’s finest hours.

Contestant Nadia: “I quite like karaoke.”

Alexander Armstrong: “Do you have a particular song?”

“I tend to start with I Will Survive, by Gloria Gaynor.”

“What tends to be your last song?”

Osman: “I Will Survive, by Gloria Gaynor.”

Game, set and match, Osman.


Full-moon madness over on TLC channel documentary I Think I’m An Animal, where the narrator outlined the misery for a lad who insists he’s really a wolf, goes around wearing a bushy tail and furry hat and even changed his name by deed poll to Shiro Wolf.

“Growing up believing something that no one else could see meant Matthew had a tough time at school.”

I can imagine. It’s almost impossible to hold a pen with a paw.

And hardly any of the school uniform fits.


John Barrowman subconsciously switched between Scottish and American accents on Tuesday’s Daybreak and said: “Someone will give me grief about that in the papers.”

Not at all, John. Speak in any accent you like.

It’s the whole acting, singing and generally being on television I have an issue with.


This week’s Tennis Commentator Paying Full Attention award goes to...

Andrew Castle, on hearing Tim Henman say: “Djokovic wanted to challenge the call but he doesn’t have any challenges left.”

Castle: “So why didn’t he challenge?”

Henman: “Because he doesn’t have any challenges left?”