Monday, 21 January 2013

Well, Butter My Bum, it's The Great Comic Relief Bake Off!

Put four comedians in the Great British Bake Off tent, overseen by the usual dough-some twosome, Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, and what do we get?

We get the Great British Bake Off Comic Relief Special!  Or The Great Comic Relief Bake Off.  We've only got Mel Giedroyc though, Sue Perkins was too scared she might be out-comedied.

"Branded" butter on the Beeb...
Obviously, Jo Brand is featured.  And her preferred method of making sure the butter for her shortbread is room temperature is to sit on it.  Yes, really.  She's making rhubarb and custard shortbread.

Stephen K Amos has missed out his nuts.  Shame.

Ingrid Oliver (one half of comedy duo Watson & Oliver) is using Lady Grey tea in her shortbread, but Hollywood would seemingly have preferred she used poppy seeds.  Shame on HER.

Lorna Watson is doing everything slowly, including making very sticky shortbread dough.  Dough?  Batter?  There's a reason I'm not on this programme.  I'd end up making pancakes by mistake.  FLIP!

Jo Brand's shortbread has suffered from "shrink-back".  It sounds like an Asda initiative, but apparently it means it's just shrunk a bit.  Or something.  Brand wishes it would happen to her.

Stephen K Amos (what does the K stand for?) has baked something with non-existent lavender in it.  And something citrussy that is described as "terrible" by Hollywood.  Plaudits abound!

Oliver is using a Mary Berry recipe, the crawly-crawly bumlick.  But she's worked the dough a bit too much.  Horrors!  The lavender overpowers the tea.  Mel Giedroyc has eaten them all by the time anyone has a chance to go back for seconds.

Watson has baked squillions of biscuits.  To be precise, she's over-baked squillions and put enormous walnuts on them.  But they were quite nice biscuits.  So that's good.

Brand was just delighted Hollywood swallowed, instead of spitting.  This is PRE watershed, right?  Hmm, maybe it's just my brain that isn't.  Yes, that'll be it.

The Technical Challenge recipe is a surprise, so they can't fake it.  They just have to bake it.  Ha!'s a custard slice.  Paul Hollywood's recipe.  Mary Berry calls Hollywood on how tricky the recipe is - he knows it's tough.  But he doesn't care, because that's how the Hollywood rolls.

The pastry proves interesting, as does the custard vanilla-ing from Brand - she pulls it all out of the pod with her thumbnail and then scrapes it into the custard.  Let's hope she didn't scrape the butter out of her bum with the same nail earlier.  She puts what looks like quite nice pastry in the oven.

Watson puts another sticky mess in the oven.  And then it catches fire.  Amazingly, her pastry has risen beautifully, but unfortunately, it tastes of meaty barbecue.  Just what you want in a custard slice.  Hey ho, maybe Berry/Hollywood won't notice.

Oliver splats chocolate on the top of hers, only marginally better than Watson.  Brand is actually surprisingly competent at this and makes a well decent job of her feathered chocolate.  Unfortunately, she then ballses up cutting them and makes them look shit.  

The squashed, sticky offerings are laid on the sacrificial gingham altar.  Hollywood pisses himself laughing when he sees them - always a good start.  Still, it's Comic Relief.  And fucking hell, these custard slices are jokes.  They're just missing the red noses.

But noooo, we have a soggy bottom!  Stephen K Amos maybe sat on Brand's butter too...

Oliver's is "not bad".

Brand can't count (not the right number of slices) - and she has another soggy bottom (still sitting on the butter?  I am so not over that image - can you tell? #brainbleach).

And Watson's isn't just soggy, it's raw.  It makes Paul Hollywood have to think nice thoughts to avoid coughing up a furball.

Watson's in fourth place.

Brand's in third place.

K Amos is second.

And Oliver wins and is "genuinely gobsmacked".  Nobody's ever said that when they've won something on reality television.  She'll be on about her journey next.

Watson, bless her, still thinks she can be Star Baker.  Oh, dear.  She seems a nice girl, but baking ain't her forte.

Being a Comic Relief programme, there's now a short film about the brilliant stuff that Comic Relief does in Africa.  And there's a bakery they support - how awesome is that?!  Women baking, their children being looked after and educated at the same time - it's called the Virtuous Women's Bakery!  To send a lovely chunk of cash to this fine cause, simply text BAKE to 70005.  Do it.  Do it now.

Have you done it?  GO ON!

Right, on with the show.  WHO is going to be Star Baker?  The third and final test is the Showstopper Challenge.  They have to bake a novelty chocolate portrait cake, featuring a picture of someone they all know and recognise.

Personally, I'd do Mr Uppity.  He's just the right colour for a chocolate cake.  What about you?

Brand's gone for the Archbishop Desmond Tutu, which is probably a better, more inspiring choice.  One of the reasons is she doesn't think she has ever seen him on a cake before.  She should get out more - he's a common enough feature on tea tables round my way.

Oliver's doing Paul Hollywood.  Not ACTUALLY.  Well, she may be, but not on camera.  There's comedy and there's Just Too Far.  But she's putting Paul Hollywood's face on the cake.  It's a SECRET though; she doesn't tell him.

Stephen K Amos is putting a glitter picture of himself on the top.  The giant narcissist.

Watson - well, it's going to be sticky, isn't it?  She's using white chocolate and fresh raspberries.  And Sue Perkins will feature - ahhh.  Hollywood points out her cake has split, so she uses a beater instead of her hand to mix the next version.

Into the oven now, with Brand imploring her cake to "be good".  She's gone for a cup of tea in the sunshine, relaxed as fuck.

Stephen K Amos is cooking his chocolate to death.  It's gone as grainy as a filthy pap long-distance telephoto picture of Kate Middleton topless.

Oliver's having a mare.  She forgot to put raising agent in the orange sponge.  She has to start again, with one hour to go.  Whoops.  It takes 45 minutes to bake...  It'll be tight!
Sue looking ironic, eyebrow-wise

Watson is doing an ironic eyebrow in icing.  I love that sentence.  I think I will always ice ironic eyebrows on EVERY cake I ever make from now on.  It may end up being my epitaph.  "Here lies the tetchiest pedant we ever knew. She iced a mean ironic eyebrow."  What better way to be remembered?

Ten minutes left.  Watson seems to be pulling it out of the bag, with her raspberry buttercream looking only slightly like the product of liposuction.

Stephen K Amos has de-grained his chocolate somehow.  Brand holds the stencil of his face over the cake and Stephen K Amos shakes glittery brown dust through it.  The resulting picture looks...well, it looks shit.

Amazingly, they've all finished in time.

Brand's isn't overdone.  And her freestyle Tutu has gone down well.  Berry says she's made a very good cake.

Amos's is bitter.  And dense.  I wouldn't want a picture of myself on a bitter, dense cake, would you?

Paul Hollywood then cuts into his own face as they try Oliver's cake.  He declares it "lovely".  And the orange sponge that went so horribly wrong first time round was light and nice.  Hurrah!

Watson's Sue cake with the ironic eyebrow is soon sliced up.  The buttercream (lipo residue) has curdled.  And Sue tastes scrummy, but the cake is a bit wonky.  Paul Hollywood declares it " tastes perfect".

Brand's biscuits were the best.  And her cake was the best.  Will she win?

Amos's cake was burnt and bitter.  He thinks it went well, having made Berry pull a face with so much "expression" which is a devastatingly self-confident delusion.

Oliver - lovely cake, a good all-rounder.

Watson's cake was "perfect" - but was it enough to win her the competition, given her sticky messes earlier?

This person's journey (always with the sodding journey!) started with humble shortbread dreams, via custard slices, ending up in the foothills of - oh, I lost the will to live, sorry, Giedroyc!

Anyway, Ingrid Oliver won and receives the Apron of Glory.  And some flowers.  She was the all-round best.  I think it was just because she put La Hollywood on the top of her cake, don't you?  And didn't set fire to her pastry, make a dense, bitter cake or sit on her butter.  There you go - top tips for winning Bake Off.

So, let's have a bake sale for Comic Relief.  GO ON!  And ice ironic eyebrows on every last damn cake.  GO ON!

"The Queen? She'll have to take me as she finds me"

None of this sort of going-on for Marjorie
Royal watchers were outraged today as Marjorie Lighthouse, chosen by village ballot to receive Her Majesty the Queen during her 2013 Jubilee reprise tour of Little Wallop, said, "I shan't be making any special preparations.  The Queen will have to take me as she finds me. I can't be doing with fuss and faddle."

This dramatic protocol swerve came hot on the heels of two other breaks with royal tradition:
  • the news that Prince Andrew was going to take a job in McDonald's, having always hankered for a role where he can earn Actual Stars (he hasn't yet, but we've everything crossed that he gets his "top patty-flipper" award later this month)
  • Kate Middleton saying to a Daily Mail reporter, "It's fine, you can criticise my nude-shoe-wearing preference, I know you're only doing it to make up for having a really small penis".
Royal staff were said to be concerned that Her Maj will find the smell of the commoner's house offensive, since she is used to the scent of freshly-slapped-on Farrow & Ball (Dulux at a push), but they've developed an emergency "paint-scent sprayer" which a specially-trained Corgi will activate at set intervals with his tongue.
When interviewed, Miss Lighthouse, 82, said, "I didn't realise I'd entered the ballot.  I thought I was sending back a coupon to get 5p off mutton.  I was surprised to win and there's been some jealousy in the village, especially as I haven't gone all out to crochet doilies in the shape of Prince Charles's ears to welcome the Queen into my home, like Elsie Mucklethwaite has.  But, really, the Queen's an old lady, I'm an old lady.  I'm sure we'll have a lot in common.  I've asked Elsie if she'll lend me the ears in return for a prime spot on my fence to watch the Queen's visit, but she hasn't replied to my text yet."

We'll bring you more as we get it.  Whether you like it or not.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Rolling News. Or The Obviouses. Or Just Shut Up Already.

Be a discerning news consumer, fgs

Back in the olden days...

..when we had three channels, no recording devices and no remote controls, television watching was a serious business.  You had to plan what you were going to watch, then make sure you paid attention to it, because there was no going back and seeing it again.  There was a specific slot for children's television, another for family viewing and yet another for being informed about the important happenings of the day (known as "The News").  And television had a closedown - it wasn't on all night (astonishing though that may seem now!).

Whilst the children's television has been shifted onto whole dedicated channels since the explosion of multichannel telly and the rest of it is now an all-night festival of televisual feasting, the one thing that hasn't changed is "The News" - well, it's still called that, anyway.

But has it changed?

Well, yes, I think so.  And is that change better?  Well, no, I don't think so.  Why?  I'll explain.

When you had your news diet in the limited sort of six o'clock, nine o'clock and ten o'clock varieties, as well as newspapers (for which you parted with actual hard-earned cash) and the radio (which was the newsiest thing out), you took consuming it seriously and expected the providers to treat it in a similarly solemn fashion.  News understood that the word "new" needed to be the basis of all they conveyed.

And then - and I honestly believe you can pinpoint the downfall of news as a serious thing to this one event - Angela Rippon proved that newsreaders had legs on Morecambe & Wise.

After that, they were all at it.  Children in Need became an excuse for newsreaders to prove that they were fun too.  Honest.

But then news started to creep into every moment of every day (and this is by no means a history lesson, so don't come crying to me if I get stuff in the wrong order!) and soon it was inescapable.  From free papers on the Tube to talk radio stations endlessly churning out comment on the day's stories (often fronted by ex-tabloid journos, who are well known for thoughtful and evidence based journalism with nary a shock tactic in sight) - and one of the most pointless and soul-destroying things, rolling news on dedicated news channels.

Never has this been so patently obvious as with the recent helicopter crash in London.  Before I go on, I think we can all agree that this was a terrible thing to happen - so please don't think I am being in any way flippant or disrespectful to the two who died (I'm not) - but it highlighted very neatly the way rolling news is so useless (and, in fact, trivialises the very thing upon which it reports), thus:

- "Can you describe what you saw?"
- "Yes, a helicopter crashed."
- "What did it look like?"
- "A...helicopter crashing?"

Why, thank you, "The News" for this insight.

Continuing, we had pearls such as (and I may paraphrase here, but only slightly):

- "What did it sound like?"
- "A loud bang."

Really?  A helicopter crashing makes a loud bang?  You think?!  Not like an angel playing a harp or fairies sprinkling glitter?  FFS, stop trivialising, just stop talking!  Stop the endless churning banging on, the incessant need to fill 24 hours' worth of airwaves every fucking day with total bullshit news coverage, repeated ad nauseum, so that people can feel "fully informed" when, actually, they're just being told things they already know over and over and over again by people with serious voices.  It's not news.  It's "obviouses".

And then there is the wheeling out of experts who say, when asked what they think happened, "Well, we just don't know.  Anything could have happened.  There'll be an investigation and the results of that will be made public and then we'll be able to comment more fully."  But still they probe.  "But in your experience, what do you think happened?" - and just once, wouldn't it be nice if one of them said, "I haven't got a fucking clue and this is such a waste of time. Now piss off!"? But they don't, because they want to be on telly.  The wankers.

And, of course, we take a trip, as we always do, to Spurious Analogy Land, which is populated by journalists from rolling news.  They say things like, "It was like a war zone".  No, it was like a helicopter had crashed.  That's it.  We can imagine that well enough, thanks to the footage of the aftermath, the fire, the crane it hit, the fire engines and other emergency services on the ground - but it doesn't look like a war zone.  Just ask people who live in one.  There aren't any tanks, for instance.  Or napalm.  And there are considerably more branches of Tesco Metro.

But, mostly, just shut up.  Stop skewing the events of the day by being there, with your microphone and your lunatic wide-eyed questioning of members of the public.  Just let things happen, then report on them in strictly-timed limited slots - perhaps six, nine and ten o'clock and I'll let you do a breakfast round-up of things that happened overnight.  OK?