Belfast Telegraph

Baz, a presenter that only a mum could love

The programmes to watch... and the ones you really want to miss

By Joe Nawaz

What bond could be more sacred, more affecting, more profound than that between an Irish man and his mammy? Or to put it another way, what cloying, pathetic vaguely oedipal dynamic is at play between grown Irish males and the sickly exploitative dependency they show women who gave birth to them?

To be fair, it's a trait Irish men share with cockneys, Italians and, ooooh, let's just narrow it down to men the world over, shall we? It's the kind of treacly sentimentality that could enable the Krays to be admired for "laavin' their ole mum".

In the same manner, our own homegrown psychos might have nipped home for a bit of a reassuring feed and a hug after a little light machine-gunning in pub full of people or whatnot. But let's, unlike bearded baking clown Iain Watters' soufflés, keep this light.

In much the same way people suffering from rhotacism are condemned to never be able to name their condition (clue: Jonathan Ross suffers from it) most blokes don't realise they're at the old mammy cloy. I don't demand that my mum feed me when I call over feeling peckish, but I know she will.

It's reflexive, and more to do with men being rather rubbish when pitted against their female siblings than any kind of crushing patriarchal ascendancy – at least in Mrs Nawaz's household.

But let's also admit that most men want to kill their mammies for the self same sub-Freudian reasons; the subconscious resentment of the dependency, the attendant emasculation present when you go back home for an afternoon and revert to being 17.

Like most annoying TV people, however, presenter Baz Ashmawy is simply tickled by the idea of turning this stereotype into a series on Sky 1.

In a somewhat creepy Freudian nod to the old Paul Simon song, 50 Ways To Kill Your Mammy (Sky 1) finds old Baz, last seen haring about the world looking for hijinx, haring about the world looking for hijinx with his mother Nancy, a redoubtable, no-nonsense former nurse and the classic wee old Irish woman.

Playing on that hallowed bond betwixt Irish mammy and overgrown ape-child, Baz explains how the idea came to him after Nancy expressed an interest in sky-diving. "I thought, 'That could kill her'. Then I thought, 'I wonder what else could kill her?'" It's the light-bulb pitch moment you suspect UTV would consider then change to 50 Ways to Take Your Mammy In A Caravan To Visit Some Nice Places In Ulster.

What ensued in this high-octane travelogue was Nancy returning to North Africa, where she lived 40 years ago, to tackle snakes, rally cars and, the biggest challenge of all, her hyperactive son, who has the attention span of a goldfish on cocaine.

Mammy tackled whatever was put in front of her with little fuss, while Baz flailed, whooped and goaded in her direction, trying to stir something approaching tension. But she just did what Irish mammies do and got on with it.

When she handled the big scary snakes, Baz sounded disappointed: "I didn't think she'd actually do that." When she ran clean over a German biker in the desert, she handled it calmly and was glad the guy wasn't dead. When they had to hitch a camel ride, Baz was fuming he had to walk. But what good Irish manboy-buffoon wouldn't offer up his camel ride to his poor mammy, especially if she was getting the spuds on at the other end?

"It's no fun killing your mammy when everybody's in your crosshairs," lamented Baz after the German biker took little more than a pratfall. But Baz forgot the most important fact about Irish mammies. They may look hilariously incongruous in the desert, but unlike their whining male progeny, they can go without water, or complaining, for days.

Poignant reminder of journey to whatever is it we have now

BBC's ceasefire programme, marking 20 years of "whatever it is we have here now", had a suitably sombre tone.

Making the victims on the path to peace the focal point of this programme provoked, for me at least, a keen anger, rather than any sense of gratitude for "whatever it is we have here now". There's profundity in the margins – and the last batch of the pre-ceasefire butchered who had made it alive to the periphery of ceasefire simply didn't make it to "whatever it is we have here now" thanks to many self-important, and often self-appointed agencies. That thought somehow chilled me more than the stats of murdered in the year before and the year after 1994, just like the young men murdered on the day of armistice in 1918, because the communique didn't make it to them in time.

More chilling even than Eamonn Mallie's "eccentric" way around a multiple of syllables ("Waash-een-tawn") was the footage from the aftermath of the Loughinisland massacre – or loyalists "returning the serve", as David Ervine almost flippantly described it at the time.

This was a very measured and considered documentary on a pivotal moment that leaves us with "whatever it is we have now". In a rare moment of quiet reflection, Mallie actually put it best: "So many among us know somebody who's been killed. So many, many empty chairs there still."

Nu-Gregg is dancing to different tune

Who's excited about the line-up for Strictly Come Dancing?

If you answered "yes", then you're obviously a fan of pleasingly silly sequins 'n' shimmy froth. If you answered "no", I can only assume that you're a hard-bitten Cromwellian sourpuss.

If you answered "What's Strictly Come Dancing?", then I fear you shouldn't be reading a page about television. And no – it's not a hardcore S&M website, no matter what the promo pictures suggest.

Speaking of which, what's up with nu-Gregg Wallace? He used to be that portly bald chap with English teeth who knew a little more about cooking than I did. Nu-Gregg is shiny, emaciated, with gnashers that, when he smiles, suggest he's trying to act naturally having just eaten something he shouldn't have. Not a good look in a dance partner.

Switch on...

New Tricks (BBC1 ): Bloody hell! Reopen the old TV cliché casebook! New Tricks is STILL going. And the reassuringly antediluvian and unsurprising retirement home for 80s TV actors is actually rather enjoyable, in a very silly sort of way. Except for Dennis Waterman. He still gives me the creeps.

Switch off...

Great British Bake Off (BBC 1): Switch off your TV set and do something less boring instead. But failing that, create your own domestic incident by switching over the steaming pudding that is Great British Bake Off. Go on. I dare you...

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