GORDON Ramsay’s nipples are back, and they’ve got a lot to prove. The telly chef who no one can really be bothered to love to hate any more has had a bad couple of years (financial woes, tabloid scandals, family rifts) and Gordon Behind Bars is the big, glossy PR solution.
Gordon Behind Bars
Channel 4, Tuesday, 9pm
7/7: One Day In London
BBC2, Monday, 9pm
BBC1, Monday, 9pm
There’s plenty of the old Ramsay in there – naked torso, shouty stuff, sweary stuff – but this time there’s a twist; he’s doing Something Good. He’s turning lives around. At least that’s the idea, but it’s quite clear that the only thing this programme is particularly interested in turning around is big Gordy’s career.
We’re into the second episode of the series, which sees him setting up a bakery in Brixton Prison, staffed by inmates. “I’ve chosen 12 bad boys for my brigade” says Gordon, proudly.
It’s time to choose a name for the bakery. Prisoners submit their ideas on pieces of paper. They’re all gash. “Bad Boys’ Bakery?” suggests one inmate. It’s a name clearly conjured up long before Ramsay set foot in the prison kitchen. Alpha Chef likes it.
Time to get the knives out! Is someone going to get chibbed? The ominous music certainly suggests so. Only all they do is chop a few onions then put the knives back. How dull. But then there is some drama. A potato peeler goes missing. After an unsuccessful three-hour hunt the prisoners are all strip-searched. Has one of them hidden the peeler in his pants? No, as it turns out. Ramsay’s team miscounted and there were only ever 11 peelers to begin with.
Now Gordon is So Frustrated. All this strip searching and X-raying of fairy cakes. All these locked doors. I mean, what do they think this is, a high-security prison?
His always-furrowed brow furrows a little more deeply. He looks like a neep lantern that’s been left out too long and collapsed in on itself, a flickering flame of bitterness burning at its centre.
At every turn, I can hear the pitch for this programme: “like Jamie Oliver but with nipples and knives”. The reality is that Ramsay, before and after tabloid scandals, has never had the charm or the warmth of Oliver, and he just can’t pull this stuff off.
In spraffing on about getting prisoners “off their arses”, whining about how well they’re treated and how much they cost the taxpayer and giving a prisoner who eats some cake because he’s “hungry” a stern ticking off, it’s clear the kind of shrill viewer Ramsay is appealing to.
His heroism seems to be less about giving 12 bad boys a chance at something new, practical and meaningful and more about making them work to earn their keep. Watching him shout at celebrities was fun for a while; seeing him bear down on recovering drug addicts is not.
7/7: One Day In London was a poignant and restrained look at the people affected by the bombings on the London transport system in July 2005. The simplicity of the storytelling was disarmingly effective; interviews with survivors interspersed with scenes of the families of the people who lost their lives discussing their loved ones.
There was no soaring music, no manipulative editing; just a group of people talking candidly and eloquently about their experiences, ahead of the seventh anniversary of the attacks. From the woman who saw her new trainer lying some distance away without realising that her severed leg was attached to it, to the passenger who closed the eyes of a dead man whose lower body had been blown off – “it felt incongruous to me for him to be looking at a world he was no longer part of” – these were deeply moving stories.
How many films and television programmes have opened with the camera hovering behind a solitary figure standing atop a skyscraper, staring into the neon-flecked abyss below? This was one of a string of tired clichés in the first episode of Blackout, which sees Daniel – played by Christopher Eccleston – waking from an alcohol-induced blackout to discover that he’s put a business associate in a coma.
The opening credits had barely disappeared before the second cliché – an unreliable father missing his daughter’s ballet performance. Then there’s the plain brown envelope handed over in a back alley during a monsoon, the fumble with a mysterious, brassy blonde up against a wall and the constant, dramatic swigging from a bottle of vodka while driving.
By the time Daniel was shot in the shoulder this viewer felt like reaching for the bottle. It was as much of a certainty that we’d see him coming round in a hospital bed to the soundtrack of beeping machinery as it is that any Gordon Ramsay programme will feature his nipples. «
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