Monday, 12 November 2007

Guilty Pleasures, Part 1 - Nigella Express.

Nigella Lawson - phwoar! I mean, er, yes, right, where was I? Oh, I remember – cookery programmes....

I guess I should be spending my hard won ‘leisure time’ watching BBC Event Drama such as Stephen Poliakoff’s Joe’s Palace or Capturing Mary. However, I can’t be bothered (like Charlie Brooker, I really can’t work out if anything I’ve seen written by Stephen Poliakoff is actually any good or not. That said, I haven’t gone out of my way to catch anything by the great man ever since I was subjected to Close My Eyes at the cinema some years ago. Like much of Poliakoff’s oeuvre, it seemed to waft by on a huge cloud made out of National Trust properties, the ambience of Last of the Summer Wine and a big pile of fifty pound notes). What I really want to watch most of the time is something that is going to ease my brain into neutral and bring me to a dead stop.

Enter Nigella Express.

What is it about cookery programmes that I find so relentlessly, pointlessly watchable? Is it the way in which nothing very much ever happens? Is it the weirdly voyeuristic sense that you are somehow intruding upon someone’s (supposed) personal life? Or is there some kind of vicarious pleasure by proxy that is to be gained by watching the famously wealthy entertain their many and varied guests (in Nigella’s case, her bizarrely shrunken father; in Jamie Oliver’s case, blandly good looking actors from Central Casting). At its worst, I suppose it’s aspirational, lifestyle television – at its best, it’s... well, what is it exactly? I’ve never leapt from my lumpy sofa in order to whip up the latest Nigella or Gordon Ramsay recipe and I’m not in the slightest bit interested in how they spend their time or their money, so what’s the draw?

I think in Nigella’s case, it’s simply, well... Nigella herself. I can almost forgive the way she’s shaping her eyebrows these days (memo to all TV celebrities: this practice makes you all look as if you’ve just stepped from the mothership), and the dubious near-pornographic way she has with a foody phrase (hang on, maybe that’s why I like it). She’s just so likeable, which is obviously important in TeeVeeLand for a show like this: to film Nigella in her (fake) kitchen provocatively rubbing a marbled side of ham doesn't cost a huge amount, so the personality fronting it needs to charismatic (or agreeable at the very least).

And I don’t mean to be rude, but isn’t Nigella getting a little, uh, how should I put this? - weighty? It’s probably a lot to do with the little sign-off that most episodes in the new series contain: Nigella sneaks down to the kitchen whilst everyone else is in bed and sticks her face in a great big bowl of leftover tiramisu/ice cream/Monster Munch. She’s certainly looking a lot bonnier these days as a result. Bless.

4 comments:

Elinor said...

Chip - run, save yourself!

Cookery programmes offer us the dubious spectacle of a culture (literally) devouring itself.

Chip Smith said...

I am a sick man, Elinor, there's no denying it (just wait 'til you read my post on Katie and Peter Unleashed).

Jon Peacey said...

I too like Nigella... but then she starts to speak... and I start to scream. I don't know whether it's the plumminess of the vowels, her ever so friendly yet ever so slightly condescending manner or some sort of pennies envy. I really want to like her and she is dashed attractive...

However, when you mentioned 'watching the famously wealthy entertain their many and varied guests' it reminded me that she got told off by the Beeb for not having ethnically diverse enough friends... which struck me as a bit of a problem because, even with the best will in the world, I've found that people like people because they like them not because they are ethnically diverse!

...and I am so glad that there are others out there who are slightly bemused by the point of Poliakoff.

Chip Smith said...

Jamie Oliver got round the problem of ethnic diversity (allegedly) by getting all his 'friends' from central casting: there's no-one ugly or old in Jamie's world!

I was going to post something on Poliakoff but it occurred to me that I hadn't really seen a great deal of his work - so I sat down down the other night and watched Friends and Crocodiles. I'm still none the wiser. He seems to have a peculiar obsession with wealth that seems just a little bit weird to me. The trailer for Capturing Mary put me off instantly, and as for Joe's Palace - I lasted ten minutes. Maybe I'm just not intelligent enough, but I don't just get it...