Wednesday, June 11, 2008

In praise of "The Supersizers..."

Somebody told me that the BBC now name their programmes with search engine optimization in mind. Maybe that's how they ended up with "The Supersizers Go....", a terrible name that undersells the only appointment TV in our house at the moment.

It's the standard approach - a spoonful of celebrity sugar makes the medicine go down - except Sue Perkins and Giles Coren aren't quite red carpet material, probably by their own choice. In each show they travel back to some bygone era and live with its diet for a week. This provides ample opportunities for kitchen gore. We've seen chefs attempt to hold back the bilious tide while trying to recreate recipes for which their forebears won medals. We've seen how during the Restoration dining was a gross display of wealth and power. We've seen how long an eel continues objecting after it's been chopped in two.

Last night they went back to the 70s, to the land of Black Tower hock, half a bottle of spirits for each guest, food covered in gelatine and cigars on Concorde. The learning was that despite the apparent heaviness and fattiness of the fare, people were actually slimmer in those days. This could be, as Coren pointed out, because in those days there was something called manual labour.

Perkins and Coren are a brilliant team, as charming and funny as anyone on British TV. They're both fast talkers but they manage not to step on each other's lines or upstage each other. Presumably they don't need a scriptwriter to come up with observations like "Advocaat. A drink made from lawyers." Whatever they're presented with they attack with relish and aren't afraid to enjoy things that are bad for you.

And I know they send themselves up but am I alone in detecting a distinct strain of what breakfast TV producers call sexual chemistry? And I know they're both spoken for in different ways but there are some people who turn into flirts as soon as they hear the words "turn over".

You can watch it here.


  1. Isn't it great.

    There are almost no shows in telly at the moment that have us tuning in, with the exception of Doctor Who, Peep Show (sadly now finished), and the brilliant Battlestar Galactica.

  2. I love this show. I've just done a critique on my own blog, I enjoyed it so much.

    If I don't have crinkle-cut chips today, I shall die.

  3. Agreed. I watched this last night and felt utterly at ease in the Coren/Perkins company. It's nice to see funny, sexy people on telly who are over 30, isn't it?

  4. Anonymous11:01 am

    Oddly enough, I know loads of blokes who've had a crush on Sue Perkins over the past decade, even though she subscribes to the salmon sisterhood. Few women seem to swoon over Giles though. Perhaps his attempt at primal consumption just looks like bad table manners.

  5. The 70s one is the only one I've watched but my wife and I enjoyed the programme immensely last night. There is a distinct chemistry between the two and if you didn't know about their respective arrangements you could think that they were up to something offscreen. Perhaps they are!

  6. Anonymous2:01 pm

    Love the Supersizers, but was disappointed to see the format resorting to nostalgia tv cliches. Did advertising executives really keep fit using spacehoppers and skateboards? And the Rubik cube on Concorde was desperate – I didn't hear about one til 1981.
    I know it's supposed to be played for laughs, but bits of it were plain lazy. I would have liked to see the list of additives on the back of those 70s Angel Delight packets, or see them spend a day eating a 70s 'health store' diet (alfalfa sprouts and a plate of mashed yeast, anyone?).
    I'd say the 70s are still a bit close for proper reappraisal and most of us - tv producers included, apparently - are still of the 'ooh, look at the funny clothes/clackers/Osmonds' mindset.
    Can't wait for the Tudors next week, though.


  7. Very much appointment viewing in our household as well and you're not the only one to spot the spark between the presenters. We were discussing it at work today and a colleague was regaling us with his tales of working in London at the time and going to discos in his lunchbreak (one of which was in an Italian restaurant). He was genuinely shocked when I told him that Sue Perkins is a lesbian. He'd assumed they were a couple in real life.

  8. It is appointment TV in our house too, along with Dr Who. Our children (12 and 10) are now insisting on crinkle cut chips, prawn cocktail and BF gateau this weekend. And I am tempted to oblige.

    Sadly we missed the wartime one - hope it is repeated.

  9. After years of wishing him ill, I'd started to mellow on the Giles Coren front. I'd rationalised that no child of Alan Coren - whom I'd met once or twice and been utterly charmed by, quite apart from his astonishing humorous output - could be all bad. Shortly after old man C died, I bumped into Giles at a do and offered my condolences. He was very nice and pleased that so many people thought so well of his dad. So, proof conclusive that Giles wasn't an arse.

    Then I opened a copy of the 'Oldie' and found a nasty, snotty, sweary letter from Coren threatening police action if they persisted in sending him their "vile, humourless, bag of shit publication" free. Even if I weren't a weren't an 'Oldie' contributor, I'd think it rude and unpleasant. As I rely on that nice Mr Ingrams for a proportion of my income, I think Coren should be clapped in irons.

    But then 'The Supersizers Go' comes along and is flipping great (I laughed at the very good advocaat joke through gritted teeth), buggering up my Excel spreadsheet of good and evil. Bah.

    As for the anachronistic elements, like the Rubik's cube, I'd be happy to accept that they're taking the piss out of lazy research.

  10. A message for Mr. Barfe: If you were a fan of my father's - and thank you so much for your kind comments about him - then I think you would not have been shocked by Giles's letter to The Oldie if you had seen the article that they printed about my father when he died. An opportunity was taken, within days of his death (and of his becoming beyond libel) to print a cheap, sleazy, insulting, untrue assassination of his character, with a sarcastic joke about cancer at the end. This article was then put in an envelope and sent to my mother. My father was a kind, warm, loyal, brilliant man that we loved very much. My mother was in the depths of grief. I think, if you had read it, you would understand why Giles felt so strongly about them not sending him the magazine any more.
    Best wishes, and thanks again for your remarks about my dad,
    Victoria Coren

  11. I'm heading back to the 70s. Sod the veg and the oven chips, I'm going to get back on the crispy pancakes and crispy fried chips!

    The 70s Supersize programme was fab!