Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Twin Bores ...

Just when you thought it was safe to switch on the tube, reality sits bolt upright and slaps you squarely in the chops; "Idiot! You know better than that! What on earth were you thinking?!" The French, in case you haven't noticed, have a veritable pole up their backsides when it comes to cuisine. Apart from being the home of excellent cheese, broken marriages and quite unbelievable bureaucracy, they defend their kitchen skills with outlandish veracity. Quite right too. They know how to whip up a decent meal with easy to prepare, simple ingredients. However, when it comes to celebrity chefs and television, their spot on the winners podium slips away, disputed and de-bagged like a recent winner of the Tour de France.

During the summer I was asked this question by a Frenchwoman, "why is our TV so bad yet yours is so creative?" Good question. Apparently, British television is known as the most ground-breaking where other countries have simply copied. It is also true that the minds who developed British classics have gone on to sell the global rights to others; 'Steptoe & Son' (Sandford* and Son in the US), 'Who Wants To be A Millionaire' and 'The Weakest Link' ... the list goes on. The one format the Brits have recently exported is the mighty cookery programme. Some may laugh, citing British food as bad, but that's only because they're ignorant and listen to 3rd hand dissatisfied opinions. It is possible to eat badly all over the world, by the way, even in France.

The other night I was channel-hopping with my beloved, she was pushing the 'advance' button on the cable remote, bypassing reams of crap allegedly deemed fit for human consumption, when she landed on cuisine.tv. I don't need to spell out this particular gem, do I? We settled down to watch a French-made cookery programme, and mindful of the phrase 'French Women Don't Get Fat' ($14.30 from Amazon), we were treated to a delicious 'moulles bouillabaisse', cooked by someone-or-other but assisted by a whale of a woman who did nothing but squeal and make facial expressions at the camera(s). If the chef asked his 'assistant' to prepare something, she squealed away and only got half the job done, leaving him to finish off and get whatever it was into the pot. Whenever he explained a tricky process, the over-modulating 'baleine' broke in, making some flippant remark after which she giggled like a schoolgirl while he did his best to act over it.

It, being a multi-camera French production, meant that no tripods were used and that the cameras were perched on their operator's shoulders, giving the impression that we were watching something shot on the high seas. For the less knowledgeable of television techniques, there were 3 cameras in use; 1 master shot framing the chef, the whale and the work surfaces while the other 2 concentrated on the close-up action in the pots. Ordinarily, all cameras would have recorded the sound from the kitchen. But not this production. It was fairly obvious that in order to cut costs, the master sound was coming from the main camera and the cut-away shots of cutting, peeling and mixing, were simply 'popped in' over the top. It became evident, even to my beloved who knows nothing of production, that the sounds accompanying such cutting, peeling and mixing were not in synch, but were a fraction of a second too late. I was now distracted about what was actually being cooked but more concerned about 'how the @£*& they get away with producing this shite'. My beloved will fiercely defend anything French and normally poo-poo's my criticisms. On this particular occasion, she was tight-lipped and in total agreement.

The show gave the impression that French cooking was 'oh so easy' but they spoke in a patronising manner, as if to newly arrived immigrants. Over all, it was badly made, full of cringe-making camera angles, lame set pieces and a presenter who wasn't entirely suitable in her role of $14.30. It is interesting to note that both British chefs, Ainsley Harriet and Jamie Oliver have their shows (dubbed) on the same channel. Can you believe it? Our Ainsley, a black fella on French TV teaching them how to cook!? So, although the French bought the original British shows, they haven't the cheek copy them. Jamie Oliver (I admit to hating the common lisping wanker) has become so popular with the French that his books disappear from shelves with a speed approaching record proportions.

So, to anyone who says that the Brits can't cook, think again and experience a new revolution ... or are you too attached to your double cheeseburger in a sesame patty and cholesterol fries?

Is that to go?

* I am indebted to a reader in the UK who corrected my factual mistake. Sorry Debbie, someone got there before you.


Blogger Debbie said...

That would be "Sanford and Son".

Happy Sunday, Stu.

Sunday, September 17, 2006 7:43:00 pm  

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