Verily, Christmas on TV is now officially all about food. There’s too much trouble and strife in the religion side of things, so let’s just eat and be merry. This is a winter festival, after all. We have Nigella on BBC 2; Hugh Fearnley-Whatshisname on Channel 4; followed by Jamie Oliver tonight, also on C4.
Last night, after River Cottage Christmas, we got Willie Harcourt-Cooze. You’re right. He’s a bit posh. Lives in a Georgian mansion somewhere in Devon. But here’s the great bit: he’s a bit hopeless. He has all these plans (like setting up his own chocolate factory in Devon, which he did in his first C4 series) but they invariably go a bit tits up. His long-suffering wife Tania stands by calmly, perhaps waiting for him to disappear off to Venezuela again to source some more ‘cacao’.
Willie’s Perfect Chocolate Christmas (that P word again) saw him digging a hole in the middle of the lawn, right in front of the big house, in which to bake half a lamb in hay. Wifey Tania watched with arms crossed, wondering why it had to be done right in front of house (she was good enough not to demand, on camera, why this had to be done at all). Later, in a piece to camera, she admitted life was unpredicatable with Willie around.
But Willie was determined to be around, to spend quality time with the family instead of slaving away in the chocolate factory. His idea of spending time with the kids involved waving them off as mum took them to choose a Christmas tree and racing around outside the house stringing up lights while mum entertained the kids inside. In other words, he made a great display of being with the family but was in fact just doing what all men do, getting his own fun while mum and kids were expected to coo appreciatively once it was all finished.
And so to the Christmas feast, with 30 friends for lunch. As lunch was cooking slowly under the turf it was naturally dark by the time it was ready to eat. Still, everyone seemed to enjoy it. I expect producers Liberty Bell and Doris Productions edited out scenes of the children branding each other with sparklers as they hit a blood sugar wall while waiting for the food to appear. If only that had been included, we would indeed have had a ‘perfect’ Christmas programme: aspirational and a bit flawed.