TV REVIEW: Back To The Land with Kate Humble, Top Gear, Mary Berry Everyday, 6 Nations Rugby.

Columnist James Waller-Davies gives his view of some of the recent events on television.
James Waller-DaviesJames Waller-Davies
James Waller-Davies

Rural Britain, the real bit, the bit where real countryside people live, doesn’t get a good deal from television, so Back to the Land with Kate Humble (BBC2) is a refreshing change.

The three-part series follows small businesses endeavouring to make a go of modern food and farming in a world where agriculture is increasing the preserve of big business and global corporations.

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The first episode focused on Pembrokeshire, the little country hidden away on the west of Wales, with wagyn beef, handmade chocolate, meadow seeds and seaweed amongst the produce.

The enterprise, charm and sense of adventure was inspiring. One, The Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company set up from no more than the owner’s three favourite things in life: family, the beach and food. How happy would the world be if everyone built their lives on the same principles?

Back to the Land combines great rural affairs journalism, genuinely interesting life stories and realistic focus on what it means to live in rural Britain and make a living.

The BBC gave it an hour slot, rather than usual rushed half-sized offering. Twitter loved it. The next morning, not a single national paper reviewed it, confirming the trend that to most of the press, the countryside is just somewhere you go on holiday and if you don’t see it, it doesn’t exist. One of the best rural affairs programmes of recent years passed by unnoticed.

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For a bit of trivia, the eagle-eyed may have noticed the beach in question, Freshwater West, is the same beach on which Dobby died in the Harry Potter movie.

Top Gear (BBC2) is back again and it certainly didn’t go unnoticed, even if it was generally unwatched. The flagging motoring flagship programme opened the latest series to an audience of less than three million – almost two million down on last season’s opener.

It’s patently clear to everyone except the BBC that Top Gear is only Top Gear with Clarkson, May and Hammond. It’s hard to see the latest rebrand, now fronted by Matt Le Blanc, continuing in its current form.

You can’t get away from the fact that the three new presenters just have no spark individually and no collective chemistry. It’s three dull guys driving cars, more reminiscent of the original 1977 ‘car programme’ rather than a 2017 ‘entertainment programme’.

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And that it’s problem. Top Gear is now a car programme. And really, who’s that interested in cars? It costs a lot to make and somewhere an accountant and a producer are probably sitting down wondering what better use can be made of the money.

Mary Berry Everyday (BBC2) caused division across the land this week. Lovely grandma Mary sent the internet spinning and had Radio 5 Live doing a taste test all for the culinary crime of putting white wine and double cream in her Bolognese sauce.

Poor Mary. Criticised twice in as many weeks for her new cookery show. After week one, she was accused of being too posh for using venison and prawns and now for adding the ingredients for trifle into her pasta.

One of the best 6 Nations Rugby (BBC/ITV) in years continues. This week had England fans banging their TV sets at half-time as the Italy threatened to spoil the party.

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They were already spoiling the match through a cunning trick of knowing the rules, while a floundering England were left to ask the referee what was going on. Unhelpfully, but clearly enjoying himself, the ref refused to play ball, telling them “I’m the referee, not your coach”.

Alas, in our house the telly broke. It showed Scotland beating Wales. It’s not done that before, so I’m taking it back to the shop.

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