CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: Lust, blasphemy — and Bob The Builder as an unfaithful husband!
The Great Celebrity Bake Off
Not so long ago, the sheer blasphemy would have been unthinkable. Julie Graham played Rosalie, a grieving middle-aged mum, who is overcome by erotic fantasies about her daughter’s boyfriend… while kneeling at the church altar and saying the Lord’s Prayer.
Film directors who made their names by being maliciously provocative, Luis Bunuel or Roman Polanski perhaps, might once have sought to stir up outrage with such deliberate contempt for religion. Now it’s the stuff of primetime TV.
It’s only possible with Christianity, though. You won’t see any channel defame Islam or Hinduism this way — partly for fear of reprisals, but also because it might be construed as racism.
Penance marks another in Channel 5’s homegrown dramas but feels rushed in comparison to the excellent Cold Call
The distasteful scene came at the end of the first episode of Penance (C5) and spoiled what was building into a menacing domestic drama, riddled with guilt and recriminations. Neil Morrissey was just right as Rosalie’s unfaithful husband, Luke, bewildered by his wife’s all-consuming grief after their son died on holiday in Thailand.
Whether it’s in The Good Karma Hospital, Line Of Duty or Unforgotten, he plays the hangdog midlife failure to perfection. It must be strange, though, if you grew up with him as the voice of endlessly upbeat Bob The Builder.
The shyly awkward gardener Jed who slides into Luke and Rosalie’s family is played by Nico Mirallegro. (If you sort of recognise him, it might be because he was Maxine Peake’s son Joe, in the short-lived BBC epic The Village . . . the 2014 drama that was supposed to span a century but ran out of steam after World War I.)
Rosalie’s daughter is besotted with Jed but he seems more interested in older women, and has apparently honed his seduction technique by watching ads for Levis and Coca Cola.
After a playful incident with a garden hose, he was obliged to peel off his shirt — at which point Rosalie had a bit of a Desperate Housewives turn. There was no Marvin Gaye on the soundtrack, but it wasn’t hard to guess what was on her mind.
Penance, which continues tonight before ending tomorrow, is adapted by Kate O’Riordan from her own novel. It marks another in Channel 5’s homegrown dramas, following the excellent Cold Call. That, though, was a four-parter — and Penance feels rushed in comparison, with sudden jumps in the story to save time.
Aphrodisiac of the night:
Baker Fedieu gave Joanna Lumley a slice of his cassava bread, on Hidden Caribbean (ITV), and said hopefully: ‘After you eat this, you feel like making love.’ La Lumley told him it tasted of Weetabix and mince pies. That’s a no, Fedieu.
It might have been better an hour longer, and definitely better without the crass sexual visions under the crucifix.
Nobody could be offended by The Great Celebrity Bake Off (C4), despite Inbetweeners star James Buckley baking a cake in the shape of a toilet and Paul Hollywood making crude double entendres about ‘cracks’.
This show is so well tuned that every episode is a joy, which is why it can attract increasingly stellar contestants. This time, Oscar-winner Richard Dreyfuss manned one of the food blenders. Co-host Noel Fielding was so star-struck that he dressed as a shark, in homage to Jaws.
The series, which is in aid of Stand Up To Cancer, is unmissable for another reason: it will be Sandi Toksvig’s last. She wants to spend more time on other acting jobs — ones that don’t carry the risk of gorging yourself to death on cream scones and profiteroles, probably.
There was no hint of her departure in the tent, other than her pullover which was embroidered with a broken heart.
Later this year, she will be replaced by Matt Lucas from Little Britain. There’s a man who knows what to do with a double entendre.