MasterChef, Paul O’Grady and Burt Bacharach: TV highlights this week
Burt Bacharach: A Tribute from Ronnie Scott’s (Saturday 08/04/23, BBC2, 7.45pm)
Words by Sarah Morgan
Lennon and McCartney, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Elton John and Bernie Taupin…
The list of great songwriting duos is a long one, but only a handful produced quite so many classic tracks over so long a period of time as Burt Bacharach and Hal David.
The pair first met in the late-1950s at the legendary Brill Building in New York, with Bacharach penning the music to go with David’s lyrics. They collaborated for more than 15 years before going their separate ways, but in the meantime, gave us some of the greatest easy listening classics ever made, including I’ll Never Fall in Love Again, I Say a Little Prayer, Alfie and the Oscar-winning Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head.
Both went on to work with others, and with some success too, but their names remain linked with each other, so much so that it was their songs that instantly sprang to mind when news of Bacharach’s death at the age of 94 broke in February (David passed away in 2012).
Although they worked with many talented singers over the years, including Dusty Springfield, Tom Jones and Aretha Franklin, it’s Dionne Warwick who remains synonymous with the duo thanks to a string of hits she enjoyed during the 1960s. It came as no surprise when she issued a heartfelt tribute to Bacharach following the news of his passing.
“Burt’s transition is like losing a family member,” she revealed. “These words I’ve been asked to write are being written with sadness over the loss of my dear friend and my musical partner. On the lighter side we laughed a lot and had our run ins but always found a way to let each other know our family-like roots were the most important part of our relationship.
“My heartfelt condolences go out to his family, letting them know he is now peacefully resting and I too will miss him.”
Now the Beeb is paying tribute to him by dedicating its Saturday night BBC Two schedule to his life and work.
The evening begins with a concert recorded at the famous Ronnie Scott’s club in Soho, during which the resident quintet, accompanied by a string section, percussionist and singers Elaine Delmar and Iain Mackenzie, perform a selection of Bacharach’s most famous works, which have been given a jazz-infused flavour by the venue’s artistic director, James Pearson. Listen out for such classics as Do You Know the Way to San Jose, The Look of Love and That’s What Friends Are For, among others.
That’s followed at 9pm by archive footage in Burt Bacharach at the BBC. At 10pm, the likes of Adele, Beth Rowley and Jamie Cullum, accompanied by the BBC Concert Orchestra, can be seen performing some of his hits in Burt Bacharach at the Electric Proms, recorded at the Roundhouse in 2008.
If you still want more, at 11pm, there’s a chance to see the man himself in action during his 2015 Glastonbury set. The evening then draws to a close with Burt Bacharach: A Life in Song (12am), a unique concert at London’s Royal Festival Hall in which Bacharach himself performs and discusses his life and career.
Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? (Sunday 09/04/23, ITV1, 9pm)
Words by Sarah Morgan
If you’re having a deja vu moment, don’t worry – you’re not going mad.
Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? received heaps of publicity when it premiered on the streaming service BritBox last year, and now it’s doing the same thing all over again as it makes its regular TV debut this week.
One of the reasons it garnered so much column space first time around is because Hugh Laurie wrote the screenplay, based on Agatha Christie’s novel of the same name, and directed all three episodes. He also managed to attract a wonderful cast to bring the Queen of Crime’s characters to life, including his old friend Emma Thompson, who pops up in the opener as Lady Marcham; Jim Broadbent makes a brief appearance as her husband.
They’re the parents of central character Frankie, played by Lucy Boynton, an adventurous young woman who joins forces with her ex-naval officer friend Bobby (Will Poulter) to investigate the titular dying words of a man who fell from a cliff.
“I’m deeply honoured to have been given the opportunity to co-lead this project with Lucy,” said Poulter, whose previous credits include The Revenant and Midsommer, while promoting the programme last year. “Agatha Christie’s such a well-loved name in literature, so you’re off to a good start anyway, but Hugh captures the spirit of the book and delivers on the things that people love. “There’s the thrill of the chase, but it’s peppered with jokes throughout and that was fun to play.”
Laurie was just as pleased, if not more so, about his cast, describing them as “an extraordinary bunch” in an interview with the website Deadline.
He went on to say: “If I had to vote for the top department in production, it would be the actors and that’s quite rare. I wouldn’t say it’s common, because actors can be a bit of a handful at times.
“But, this lot, absolutely every single one of them came to the set knowing what the scene required, what the character required, having some idea of how they were going to do it. And they just came with such good humour and energy, and they were on time and they knew their lines, and all of those things that directors dream of.”
What’s particularly refreshing about the series is that it’s based on one of Christie’s lesser-known works; Laurie opted to do something different rather than go down the well-trodden path of either a Poirot or a Miss Marple tale. It has, however, been adapted for the screen before, most notably in 1980, when it became the first Christie novel to appear on TV since her death in 1976 – the show’s success led directly to further productions based on her work.
These days Christie’s work pops up on TV so regularly, it’s hard to imagine a time when it wasn’t a staple part of our viewing – and in Laurie (who also has a small role as Dr Nicholson), it now has an excellent new adaptor. Here’s hoping he returns to do more in the future.
MasterChef (Monday 10/04/23, BBC1, 8pm)
Words by Rachael Popow
British TV is hardly lacking in cooking contests – so far this year, we’ve had Great British Menu, Next Level Chef and The Great Celebrity Bake Off for Stand Up to Cancer, not to mention Gordon Ramsay’s hunt for his Future Food Star.
But MasterChef clearly still holds a special place in the viewers’ affections – it even has royal fans.
Hosts Gregg Wallace and John Torode were both awarded MBEs in the late Queen’s 2022 birthday honours, and it turns out her grandson watches the show too.
After having the honour bestowed upin him by the Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace earlier this year, Torode said: “I’ve been given this MBE for my contributions to food, TV and charity work and I feel very privileged. The Prince of Wales was absolutely lovely. I’ve cooked for him before, many years ago, but I had never got the chance to actually speak to him.”
He added: “The good thing is he’s a MasterChef fan. He said that he and his wife watch it quite a lot and that last time he tuned in I hadn’t been presenting and he was worried that I wasn’t doing it anymore. I reassured him that I was still going.”
So, the Prince of Wales should be very relieved to find Torode and Wallace are both back for a new series, ready to find the nation’s best amateur chef.
It begins with the first heat as nine home cooks arrive, armed with their own ingredients, ready for the audition round. To ease them in gently (or at least, that’s the idea), they have been asked to whip up a family favourite, albeit one that’s been elevated to MasterChef status.
The judges won’t watch them cook, which should take some pressure off. Instead, Wallace and Torode will sample each dish in the Tasting Room, meaning they are judging the contestants on the quality of the food alone.
They are looking for dishes that tell them who the chefs are, but also show potential for how good they could become – and the three that impress them most will be rewarded with a MasterChef apron and immunity from cooking in the next round.
The remaining six contestants will then get another chance to wow the judges as they take on the invention test. They can whip up either a sweet or a savoury concoction, but this time the presenters will be in the kitchen with them, so the stakes are high.
At the end of the round, the hosts will announce who has got one of the four remaining aprons and a place in the next stage, and which two chefs are already heading home.
The series continues tomorrow as the remaining cooks are challenged by one of the country’s toughest food critics, William Sitwell, to whip up a dish inspired by their favourite celebrity chef.
They are also asked to cook up a dish with layers, after which four of them will go through to Friday’s quarter-final, where they serve two courses to last year’s finalists and champion – Eddie Scott, Pookie Tredell and Radha Kaushal-Bolland.
Colin from Accounts (Tuesday 11/04/23, BBC Two, 10pm)
Words by Richard Jones
Every successful romcom needs a pair of believable and likeable leads.
And in husband-and-wife duo Patrick Brammall and Harriet Dyer, the quirky Australian series Colin from Accounts has hit the nail on the head.
Glitch star Brammall plays Gordon, who is driving to work one morning when what turns out to be somewhat of an extreme sliding doors moment occurs.
He stops at an intersection for Ashley (Dyer), who decides to flash at him.
Unfortunately, Gordon gets distracted by the attractive stranger, and takes off without noticing a stray dog has run in front of his car.
Before long, the the two complete strangers are at a vet, (who happens to be Gordon’s ex), trying to decide if a dog they didn’t know existed an hour ago is worth $12,000 and a (dog’s) lifetime of care. Animal lovers – don’t worry, they’re not going to let the dog die!
Despite their unequal financial situations and personalities – he’s a successful businessman who owns a trendy microbrewery, she’s an all-over-the-shop medical student whose tendency to act without thinking lands her in all sorts of bother – neither of them can figure out an easy exit from the injured dog and massive vets’ bill situation.
Over the next few weeks, we will see the complex pair navigate life together with the permanently injured hound, who they later name Colin From Accounts, and trying to summon up brave enough to show their true self, scars and all.
The acclaimed comedy first came about when The Invisible Man and Love Child star Dyer got bored one day in lockdown and put pen to paper to write a TV show.
A short week later, she had an earnest, bitingly witty comedy series on her hands that would eventually be snapped up by Australian streaming service, Binge.
“I was like, mate, this is actually really good,” her husband Brammall told news.com.au of reading the draft script for the first time.
“She had never written before, this was her first go at it. And we’re so proud of what we’ve done with it.”
The two characters’ stinging one-liners and awkward interactions feel entirely off the cuff, and given their close relationship off-screen, it would be fair to assume a large chunk of this painfully affecting relationship portrait was improvised.
But that’s not the case, as Brammall explains.
“I think 95 per cent of it is scripted actually,” he says.
“We would sometimes do a few takes before they’d let us improvise a bit, but most of what you see was in the script.
“We wanted it to feel natural but there was a lot of effort put into the script to make it seem that way, so that’s really the biggest compliment we could receive.
“It was definitely a lot of work, but we just had so much fun. We really were laughing every day.
“I think, honestly, the dog was the most professional actor on set.”
Designing the Hebrides (Wednesday 12/04/23, BBC2, 8pm)
Words by Rachael Popow
If you want to open your curtains to stunning views each morning, there are worse places to live than the Hebrides.
But if you want the inside of your property to look equally eye-catching, it could be a little trickier. Luckily that’s where interior design guru Banjo Beale and his team come in, as in this new series they are travelling across the Scottish islands, ready to perform stunning makeovers with a limited budget and tight deadline.
As Banjo puts it: “My hometown of Tobermory is one of the most colourful in the UK but on the inside, some of the spaces are crying out for character. Thankfully, some brave locals are handing me the keys to their places, from a bothy two hours’ walk from the nearest road to a remote lighthouse, castle turret and beloved community rugby club. They’re dream properties to design but logistical nightmares to deliver.
“The weather is unpredictable, the locals are straight talking, the budgets are lean and you can’t just run to the shops to buy supplies – you have to be resourceful!”
If Australian-born Banjo’s name sounds familiar (and let’s face it, it is memorable) that’s probably because he won BBC’s Interior Design Masters in 2021. Since then, he’s launched his own interior design business from the Isle of Mull, where he has made his home with husband Ro for the last eight years.
However, it wasn’t just his design skills that made an impression on viewers and the TV producers, as his personality also won him plenty of fans.
Clare Mottershead, Lead Commissioning Editor, Factual Entertainment and Events, says: “Banjo’s originality, warmth and wit made him a favourite with our Interior Design Masters audience so it’s great to be able to share the next chapter of his story as he brings his infectious passion for design to his adopted Hebridean home.”
Over the next few weeks, we’ll see him tackle everything from a bothy (a term for a basic form of accommodation that is traditionally left unlocked) on the remote island of Ulva to a bookshop and café on Skye.
He begins though in Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, where Banjo’s friend Sally wants to modernise her family’s traditional fish shop.
She’s come to the right designer, as Banjo creates some bold plans that will transform the shop inside and out. However, while Sally may be the manager, it’s still very much a family business, and she’s worried that the rest of her clan won’t approve of anything too radical.
With his band of trusty locals, including Eoghan the carpenter and handyman Tom, Banjo pushes ahead with his ambitious and somewhat risky plans. Can he overcome the challenges posed by the shop’s location to deliver something that meets Sally’s brief, shows off his own creativity, and still gets the family’s seal of approval?
Let’s hope so, because if anyone is unhappy, the premise of this series suggests they’ll struggle to get another designer in to make the changes…
Paul O’Grady: For the Love of Dogs (Thursday 13/04/23, ITV1, 8.30pm)
Words by Rachael Popow
There are many reasons why Paul O’Grady, who died suddenly on March 28, was one of Britain’s best-loved TV presenters.
His sharp wit and outspokenness won him plenty of fans, but there was also his natural warmth, and the latter quality were always on display in For the Love of Dogs.
The award-winning documentary series, which began in 2012, followed the presenter as he met with the staff and animals of Battersea Cats & Dogs Home. It was a natural fit for the canine-mad comedian – in fact, it often seemed like the biggest challenge was resisting his urge to adopt all the pooches himself.
During the first series, he took a shine to Eddie, a chihuahua-Jack Russell cross puppy. Shih-tzu Boycie, Maltese Conchita, mongrel puppies Arfur, and Nancy, and Sausage, a wire-haired Dachshund, would also find new homes on Paul’s Kent Farm.
Following his death, Battersea Chief Executive, Peter Laurie made it clear just how much Paul had done for the rescue centre.
He said: “Battersea will forever remember Paul as a devoted animal lover with the biggest heart, who fell head over heels in love with every dog he met at our centres. Paul will always be associated with Battersea and we are truly saddened to have lost such a true friend and huge part of our charity.”
He added: “Paul had an extremely hands on approach as a Battersea Ambassador and has been fundamental in helping our charity to communicate important campaign messages. He was a champion for the underdog and would do anything to ensure all animals live a healthy and happy life. He will be dearly missed.”
The series was also special for Paul, who said during the first run: “Hand on heart. This has been one of the nicest jobs I’ve ever had. Battersea is a magical place. People think it’s all doom and gloom but it’s not, it’s such a happy place. I’ve had a ball.”
So, it seems only fitting that ITV1 has decided to go ahead with showing the 11th series, which was initially scheduled before news of Paul’s death broke.
It finds the presenter falling for a new set of four-legged friends, including a gorgeous Newfoundland who needs major life changing surgery on her back legs. He also meets a lab cross with a water obsession, and helps an anxious bichon frise, who was found wandering a forest, to be a little less scared of the world.
Battersea’s Ali Taylor, who appeared alongside Paul in the series, paid her own tribute, saying: “During filming of the series Paul met hundreds, if not thousands of dogs but never lost that infectious enthusiasm and interest in getting to know them all individually…
“Viewers could see how genuinely he became attached to each and every dog. One minute he’d be fighting back tears at a desperately sad case, the next he’d be laughing while covered in dog slobber or mischievous puppies, but one thing is for certain, he’d deeply care about them all.”
So, while this series will undoubtedly be bittersweet, it will also be as moving and entertaining as its predecessors.
Have I Got News for You (Friday 14/04/23, BBC One, 9pm)
Words by Richard Jones
Since Angus Deayton got caught up in his own front-page scandal in 2002 – for which he was mercilessly ridiculed – HIGNFY has had 124 guest hosts, beginning with longstanding team captain Paul Merton, who stood in at the last minute following his colleague’s departure.
Among the most memorable was Brian Blessed, whose stint has gone into TV folklore.
Bellowing out “Gordon’s Alive!”, the larger-than-life actor made sure he was the centre of attention, with Merton and Ian Hislop having little choice but to ride out the storm.
Meanwhile, during his first appearance in 2003, Bruce Forsyth sang and danced his way through the show, occasionally shouting out one of his famous catchphrases.
His performance went some way to resurrecting his career at the BBC.
Then there was Piers Morgan, who clearly wasn’t on the show to make friends.
He clashed with Ian repeatedly, asking the audience if anybody actually liked him, with panellist Clive Anderson also getting involved.
“What do you know about editing newspapers?” asked Morgan.
“About as much as you,” Clive replied.
Another big personality to clash with Hislop was Jeremy Clarkson.
In response to the team captain’s jibe about Clarkson not writing his newspaper column, the mock-outraged presenter threw a pen at him.
Boris Johnson first appeared on HIGNFY back in the Deayton days, and over the years, the show gave the then largely unknown MP some much-needed exposure, as he bumbled along, shamelessly promoting his book.
The most memorable guest host from the past few years has arguably been Gary Neville.
Ian was praised for his comments to the retired footballer and Sky Sports pundit on the subject of the World Cup in Qatar.
When Neville asked Hislop if “it’s coming home”, he replied: “What, your reputation?”
Now, astonishingly, in its 65th series, HIGNFY shows no sign of slowing down, and they have a familiar face sitting in the hosts’ chair to kick it off.
TV presenter, satirist and Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker will be making his 10th appearance on the show, and his fifth as host.
In Brooker’s previous outing in 2020, Ian jokingly blamed him for the coronavirus pandemic
He said: “Well, I’m very thrilled to have you on as host, obviously… the purveyor of apocalyptic vision.
“Presumably we’ll get Nostradamus next week, and after that the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are going to sit there and fire some jolly questions at us… I blame you.”
Meanwhile, Brooker likened preparations for the show’s filming to “having a breakdown”.
He said: “There was a test earlier on, where there were people sitting in all four of your houses and I was talking to four people in face masks.
“It was the most Black Mirror thing I’ve ever seen… and I’ve sat in the edit for that show.”
Thankfully, all those Covid restrictions are a distant memory, although with everything going on the world, don’t be surprised if Ian and Paul make reference to the end of the world or something similar in the studio tonight.
Although Deayton was a massive loss to the show at the time, his departure almost 21 years ago not only provided us with the most celebrated episode in its history, it also opened the door for the guest hosts that we have come to know and love.
The BBC’s satirical standard-bearer continues to be in good hands.