Daytime TV: Waffle's all the rage

Gary Day watches Jamie at boiling point while Schama remains calm, but Indian men prove sadly delusional

October 30, 2008

There is a lot of swearing in Jamie's Ministry of Food (Channel 4, Tuesday, 9pm). Is it because Jamie Oliver comes from Essex? Because he's trying to be like Gordon Ramsay? Because he's frustrated by trying to teach the inhabitants of Rotherham how to cook?

That's certainly not easy when one of your students doesn't even know how to boil water. Jamie doesn't get much encouragement from Julie Critchlow, the woman who famously fed her kids junk food through the school railings. "You fucking waffle on Jamie. It'll never work."

"It" was Jamie's plan for a street party to get the town involved in "pass it on". One person teaches two others a recipe, they each pass it on to two more and so on. Natasha, who before the series started had never made a meal for her children, told Jamie she was "fucking fuming" about Julie who always "makes everyone feel shit".

Julie walked out. She was angry. "I had to leave," she explained, cigarette smouldering, "or I would have ended up slapping that bloody sulky Natasha."

The street party was hard work. "I've never sweated so much in all my fucking life," announced Natasha. Willy, described only as a football supporter, pointed to a spot where people will "nibble each other".

As it turned out, most of them preferred burgers. The party was a success. Julie warned Jamie not to "fucking smirk" just because she was going to have to eat her words. What, when there were all those other dishes on offer?

Jamie was delighted. He organised a food festival in a field and invited council representatives from all over Yorkshire and Humberside. God had other plans and made it rain.

But He hadn't reckoned on Jamie's resourcefulness. Herringthorpe Leisure Centre hosted the event. The representatives were impressed. They would support Ministries of Food in their town. And there was nothing Julie or God could do about it.

The most touching moment of the series was Natasha trying not to cry because the dignitaries of Hull praised her cooking. "I'm not used to people saying nice things to me," she choked. "I thought I'd fucked my life up by having a kid at 15. I didn't think I could do anything; but I can."

Jamie has never read a book in his life. That's obviously where I went wrong. Or it could be I haven't read enough. Simon Schama has obviously read loads, and look at him. He didn't say "fuck" once in The American Future: A History (BBC Two, Friday, 9pm).

Simon had a hard job controlling his hands as he explained the relationship between religion and politics in the land of the free. The left seemed very annoyed by the right, at one point gripping it mercilessly.

Eventually Simon used his pockets to separate them.

The same could not be done for God and the government. Thomas Jefferson tried, but the story of American history is of their coming together. There is a direct link between Andrew Bryan, who helped found the first African Baptist Church, and the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

A key figure was Fannie Lou Hamer, "the lady who sings the hymns". Her courage - she was once nearly beaten to death but still carried on the fight for equality - should be remembered. We study history to see how far we have come, and to see how much farther we have yet to go.

Religion may inspire liberty, but it also inspires lunacy. Jenny Kleeman, presenter of Unreported World: "India: God's Own Country" (Channel 4, Friday, 7.35pm), tried to interview a number of men who claimed to have divine powers, a common delusion among my sex.

Their bodyguards, though, wouldn't let them. There are apparently 3,000 "godmen" in the south Indian tourist destination of Kerala. Jenny managed a few words with one, who said that all the problems of the modern world were caused by evil spirits.

I wish Gordon Brown had known that. Then he wouldn't have given all our money to the banks, but to people who really knew what they were doing.

All we need to sort out our economic problems is to get rid of Alistair Darling and install a family of "chatan" swamis at No 11. They would sacrifice a chicken, chant, shake their breastplate of bells and, hey presto, house prices would rise again.

Some rationalists showed how these godmen did their tricks. The crowd drifted away unimpressed. They didn't want to know the truth. But then again, who does?

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