CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: We may be doomed, but at least Chris has his Hoover collection
7.7 Billion People And Counting
Good job there was no BBC in the Middle Ages. Imagine what a peasant would have for his evening’s entertainment after a long day tilling in the fields.
At 9pm, after Strictly Come Wassailing, best-selling poet Geoff Chaucer presents a hard-hitting investigation into the Black Death and asks: ‘Are we all doomed?’
At 10pm, a special edition of Ye Olde Question Time confronts the immigration crisis, as husband-and-wife political power couple Henry Plantagenet and Eleanor of Aquitaine tackle the vexed problem of Mongol hordes and ask: ‘Are we all doomed?’
Television will always find something to fret about. Chris Packham was worrying himself sick about population growth on 7.7 Billion People And Counting (BBC2) as he predicted that the planet might soon be unable to sustain its burgeoning human numbers.
Chris Packham in Lagos, Nigeria, where the population is expanding so fast that countless thousands have to live in houses on stilts on flooded rubbish tips
The documentary was crammed with alarmist images. In Sao Paolo, a Brazilian megacity bigger than London, well-off families are digging their own wells to ensure they have a water supply, while thirsty slum-dwellers riot.
In Lagos, Nigeria, the population is expanding so fast that countless thousands have to live in houses on stilts on flooded rubbish tips.
The implication was that, if we don’t stop breeding, the whole of humanity will be driven to these extremes — you and your family, squashed onto a raft made from discarded plastic bottles, drinking seawater through a straw.
What made the show forgivable was Chris’s passion. Whatever he says, he fervently believes, as he did the other week on BBC4 when he declared punk music saved his life. This time, he went off on a tangent about vacuum cleaners, showing us his treasured collection of Hoovers and Dysons — irrelevant, yes, but heartfelt.
Because everything about the topic of population fascinated him, he ended up arguing against himself. Apparently, in many countries including Britain, the birth-rate has dropped. Places such as Sweden, France and Japan are desperate for more babies.
That pattern is expected to follow in Africa and Asia, as living standards rise. Our best hope lies in global prosperity and international trade deals. Handy for Brexit, then.
Big kid of the night:
Ben Fogle spent most of his visit playing with the children when he stayed with eco-activists in New Zealand on New Lives In The Wild (C5). They went exploring, and he even let the girls dye his hair. He’s a Peter Pan at heart.
By the end of the hour, he’d left me feeling quite reassured: the sky isn’t falling in. That’s just the sunshine. Sunny blue skies were the theme in Crazy Delicious (C4), a ludicrous cookery contest starring Heston Blumenthal as head judge in a studio dressed up to look like heaven.
Trees dripped with maple syrup, the earth underfoot was chocolate and prosecco bubbled in streams. Heston and his fellow ‘food gods’ wore white robes and sat on clouds.
None of the dishes cooked by the three amateur contestants looked remotely appetising, but it was fun to see them frantically pushing their skills to the limit in pursuit of the inedible.
One produced a trifle flavoured with hay. Another made a birthday cake from macaroni cheese and raw meat, and decorated it with monster prawns.
Swedish judge Niklas Ekstedt urged us to try slicing unripe strawberries dipped in salt and vinegar.
Why is it that people who claim to love food end up inventing such gruesome concoctions?
Niklas sported such a bizarre accent that I thought for a moment he’d come up with his own population solution.
Tasting some sausage meat, he guessed at the flavour: ‘Human?’
Surely cannibalism is too much, even on Channel 4. I listened again: it wasn’t ‘human’ but ‘cumin’.