I am very proud to say that among other mega-popular programmes which I have never watched is The Great British Bake-off. Now, before you ask how do I know I wouldn’t like it? I may add that I have seen fairly long snippets of it when my daughter lived at home and was watching it on her lap-top, so I have an idea. In any case I don’t like the premise that everything must be a competition: you can’t just have a show where people sing or dance or cook or fish or dive or – well, anything at all, it seems, without it has to be competitive. Baking, as far as I’m concerned, is something you do for pleasure; the pleasure of cooking and the pleasure of eating. It’s not eye-candy or concept-heavy, it’s food, for god’s sake. But on ‘Bake-off’ people come up with more and more outlandish ways of doing basic things (what the hell is a ganache, for example?) just to catch the attention of the judges – and while this year’s winner appears to be self-effacing and engaging, I am heartily sick of the sight of Sue Perkins. I used to find her funny, but now all she ever seems to do is pop up everywhere wearing a blazer and grinning cheekily at the camera.
But sometimes a little voice nags at me. What if I’m wrong in not giving all these other mega-popular programmes a go? Should I give the One Show a go? (here’s a clue: the answer is no.) But other things are so popular there must be something in them? I won’t watch stuff like The Apprentice because it’s basically bullying dressed up as entertainment – and if I have to see one more image of Alan Sugar’s seamed, deeply unattractive and grumpy-looking visage I’ll puke. But should I continue to avoid Strictly? Maybe not. So last night I bit the bullet and put it on. And then turned it off again. I mean, there’s only so much spangly-jangly, smiley-sparkly, twisty-tangoiness I can take – and after two minutes I was over the limit.
So I turned instead to a film; and it proved a wise move. ‘A Song for Marion’ starring Vanessa Redgrave and Terence Stamp (he of the high collars in the 1960’s, now reinvented as the guru in ‘Yes Man’ and, here, a grumpy old man) tells the story of a woman dying of cancer whose passion is singing in an amateur choir. More Mike Leigh than Hollywood, this is a charming and moving story of how a woman dies and her husband eventually performs the solo she was going to do. There’s a nice cameo too from Christopher Ecclestone. So give the relentless baking and dancing a miss and watch this instead: