TV View: I'll not pan Paul and Nick's culinary efforts
The programmes to watch... and the ones you really want to miss
I'm always getting invited to shindigs that I can't attend. The fates (or cunning event planners as they're known on Earth) conspire to ensure that free canapés and polite small talk are always just beyond my diarised reach. This usually proves lucky for all concerned. Anyway, the latest "I'm washing my hair" moment came last week, from UTV.
There was to be no squabbling over the cheesy nibbles at this do, mind, as the very fancy James Street South had been booked to launch Paul Rankin and Nick Nairn's Big American Food Trip. Yes, the Bert and Ernie of the travel food formula are back with a new series that takes them stateside.
It's been one of the bigger rated shows round these parts in recent years. And in spite of the programme often trying to make it seem like the pair of them mix less well than out-of-date kaolin and morphine, there is a genuine bromance fuelling the Paul and Nick prandial paddy-wagon. And hey, you wouldn't get Brazilian chicken giants Moy Park and Northern Ireland Screen's Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund get behind any old cooking and Ulster-Scots related show now, would you?
But wait! How do I know so much if I missed the launch screening, I don't hear you cry? Well, UTV, distressed at my missing yet another glittering do, kindly brought the party to me: a preview DVD and a maxi-bag of Pringles (well, a preview DVD at any rate). 'Pringles model's own', as they used to say in 1970s menswear catalogues.
On your screens tonight at 8pm, I found myself warming to Paul and Nick's Big American Food Trip. The conceit of telling the "untold story of the Ulster-Scots trail" was a tad tenuous, though. I mean, untold by whom? Am I the only person who spent more wet weekends at the Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh than the original Ulster-Scots settlers?
The "top chefs and great pals for over 20 years" did their usual thing where they have rather contrived scripted conversations to ram home for those who still weren't aware just what great pals they are.
Nick is obviously the more sensible, while Paul displays a kind of barely controlled mania.
"I'm from Ballywalter you crazy cat!" he jive-spasmed, when Scotsman Nairn suggested he'd be familiar with the town of Londonderry, New Hampshire.
There was also the obligatory Alan Partridge moment where Rankin was looking at the gravestone of one Hugh Rankin - his father's namesake - in a manner that suggested spirits of some kind or other had taken hold of him. "Maybe he looked like me. Maybe he had my wandering spirit." Nairn just stared on like a kindly uncle. The Rankin waggle was also threatened at one point, but luckily there was cooking and hosting to be done instead. And this is where the show picked up.
Eighth generation Ulster-Scots apple farmers don't just feed themselves for the cameras, you know. Nick and Paul sourced the finest local ingredients and laid on a feast of Derry duck in maple syrup, local trout and Derry spuds. He got X-rated orgiastic groans from the table of elderly diners every time a new dish was served by our Bing 'n' Bob of the hob, doing nothing to alleviate the sense of watching top notch food porn. All in all, Paul and Nick's Big American Food Trip is superior, heartwarming fluff. Just don't force the bonhomie quite so much chaps. It's already there. And nobody needs a hernia on a road trip.
Can it get any Better? Saul puts it up to terrestrial trash
I've waited for a couple of weeks to be absolutely sure - because you know what premature hype's like these days. But I can confirm that after four episodes, it's true: Better Call Saul is the best TV drama you probably won't see on a TV this year.
As screen dramas go, the Breaking Bad prequel starring the remarkable Bob Odenkirk is a clever, beautiful, mature show that exudes startling confidence. But that's where its similarity to that old stager Madonna ends. Because the chances of BCS falling on its ass any time soon are way slimmer than the odds of Madge not sacking her whole production team. And maybe having their first-born roughed up a bit.
Is streaming on the likes of Netflix and Amazon the future of TV viewing? Not necessarily. It's just another way of us getting our fix of quality programming. I like checking out the latest Better Call Saul on the iPad before flicking on the box for Corrie then Tivo-ing my way through Toast Of London and a bumper bag of Maltesers. While the streaming services keep making drama of this quality, though, it'll be more of a struggle to put up with mostly second rate dramatic offerings from our terrestrial TV providers (cough... Broadchurch series 2...).
This week, Jimmy McGill set up a televised scam to win business and continues to live at the Korean Beauty Salon. Why is Better Call Saul so bloody good? It lets the story gently unfold in its own sweet time. Unlike Madonna's Versace Cape...
Murder mystery in East End sent me round bend
Even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day. That's approximately two times righter than I was about Lucy Beale's killer last week on EastEnders.
The sharper-eyed and more unforgiving amongst you will have noticed that I was banging on that it was Jane "whatdunnit" when in fact it was pipsqueak Bobby Beale who offed his horrible half-sister.
By way of meagre explanation for this travesty of justice, amidst the billowing smoke and distorted mirrors that made up last Thursday's climax, Jane was the last and most convincing of a conveyer belt of red herrings.
It was unfortunate that Ian's chubby accusatory index happened to level itself at his angrily blushing bride just as I was wrapping up.
They say someone who doesn't own up to making a mistake, makes a mistake twice. But I say I'm already spared a pure reddener - and you can't be scundered twice for the same thing, right?
Next week: read all about Dot Cotton's years of secret sexual depravity about Albert Square.
I've said you Better Call Saul, haven't I? And now that Wolf Hall is over, I'm bereft of nuanced emotion and delicately poised power structures in the court of King Henry VIII. I recommend a six episode binge on iPlayer. And while you're at it, check out the equally nuanced but infinitely more Scottish Bob Servant. Heart-warming and funny.
Kanye West, Ed Sheeran, Madonna's Cape-r, endless hair and teeth thanking PR and management. The Brit Awards have depressingly little to do with music or good TV. It Made Kasabian at the BAFTAs look cutting edge. Have I mentioned Ed Sheeran?