CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: Charm that can make any choc horror sound like a sweet treat
Defending The Guilty
There’s not many men could look good in a pink hair net and with a blue face mask, but Fred Sirieix, the maitre d’ from First Dates, carries it off.
This chap could look stylish in anything, even one of those tinfoil blankets that paramedics wrap around shock victims. He’d probably wear it as a cape.
Fred’s beard and bald head were all netted up as he toured the Nestle factory to discover how KitKats are made on Snackmasters (C4), his new culinary contest where cordon bleu chefs are challenged to create perfect replicas of corner shop confectionery.
It’s a neat twist on BBC2’s Inside The Factory format. Instead of simply gawping at the production line and marvelling at the volume of choccie bars produced every hour, Fred and co-presenter Jayde Adams revealed how the KitKats are made . . . but shared none of this information with the chefs.
Vivek Singh, Fred Sirieix and Daniel Clifford cooked up a treat for viewers on Channel 4’s Snackmasters
In their Michelin-starred kitchens, Daniel Clifford and Vivek Singh were left to puzzle out the right blend of wafer and milk chocolate, without any clues to the recipe.
This proved to be an engaging way to teach us about the production process.
I’d never thought about how tricky it must be to keep the middle of a KitKat from going gooey like a Mars Bar. The original recipe was perfected in the mid-Thirties — creating, as Fred put it with his customary flourish, ‘a four-fingered salute to Britishness that’s been around for longer than the Queen has been on the throne’.
His Gallic charm is ideal for a lightweight show like this. He can say, ‘This is the contest of a lifetime,’ and ‘The judges have a monumental decision,’ with perfect sincerity, knowing full well that no one will believe for a moment that he really means it.
That’s a technique he has perfected in the restaurant, purring over every customer as if they mean more to him than his own family.
Fred’s been busy on telly lately, on everything from ITV road trips with Gordon Ramsay to fast food start-ups and foodie travelogues on the BBC, but his style is best suited to this type of tongue-in-cheek gameshow.
How much he is sending himself up is never quite clear. At the end, when Vivek’s rock-hard KitKat just trumped Daniel’s sticky mess, Fred declared: ‘It was a waffer-finn result.’ He sounded exactly like John Cleese playing the obseqious head waiter in Monty Python’s Meaning Of Life, urging a bloated diner to cram down just one more ‘waffer-finn mint’.
THRILLER OF THE WEEK:
The paranoid concept that CCTV cameras can project fake news into our lives is crackpot, but I’m gripped by the mix of slow-burning tension and violent action in The Capture (BBC1). Roll on next week’s finale.
The Monty Python diner explodes, but surely Fred could never wish such a fate on one of his own beloved customers.
The fate of the inept, self-obsessed barristers and their lowlife clients didn’t seem to matter much when the six-part comedy Defending The Guilty (BBC2) started a couple of weeks ago.
Who cared which of the four trainees landed the coveted post in chambers? They were all as selfish and shallow as each other. But after three episodes, a more compelling story has started to take shape as shy student barrister Will (Will Sharpe), who wanders around in a millennial daydream with his headphones on, has accidentally fallen in love with a juror.
Katherine Parkinson is especially good as his needy pupil-master Caroline, ordering him to call her ‘Mummy’ and fetch her sticky pastries.
The show is based on the autobiography of a real-life legal trainee, Alex McBride, and although some of the incidents do feel too closely cribbed from real life, it is all shaping up to be much better than it originally seemed.
Worth a second look.