Film and Television Features

Slack-Jawed and Square-Eyed #10

After what feels like too long, Slack-Jawed and Square-Eyed is finally back! And after what has definitely been too long, this year's run of Masterchef is finally over!

Not that this series has been any longer than usual, I think, but it certainly felt like it was, with the run of final episodes in which not very much seems to happen seeming particularly egregious. It's probably fair to say that 2012 won't go down as a vintage year; even if the line-up of finalists did make for a fairly close-run match. There wasn't much separating plasterer/would-be Jon Richardson look-a-like if there was any demand for that sort of thing Tom; eyelash-less and overly-emotional Andrew; and Shelina, who seemed pretty normal (other than her apparent obsession with mangos), but that was kind of the problem, as there was a definite lack of an exciting, near-insane genius like last year's victor Tim.

It was still entertaining in a cosy sort of way. Which is not the sort of description that would normally be invited by a show that's billed as a fiercely fought competition (even if it was only for a fairly tacky perspex trophy), in which the contestants spend most of their time in kitchens being yelled at, but if you're struggling to remember what things were like before recession and austerity measures just look at the ridiculous, pernickity excess on show here, or the comforting presence of Moon Safari on the soundtrack (oddly creating a sense of nostalgia for something that was nostalgic in the first place). Although with all the jelly and blancmange, mostly offered in a variety of shellfish flavours, or the disastrous black forest gateau and lemon meringue served during the series, perhaps haute cuisine is as the latest art-form to succumb to infantilisation and now finds itself yearning for the 1970s.

Early on it looked like that there might be a contender to rival Tim in hyperactive, chipmunk-y Aki and for me it all went a bit downhill after she came a cropper with her smoking (fish, not fags). She might have been ever-so-irritating, but she was arguably a more interesting, memorable chef than those who stayed in. I'll let Andrew pass, if only for his inadvertently introducing the phrase “oaty fish biscuit” into the modern lexicon (a disgusting combination of flavours, but as a combination of words it inspires an almost “cellar door” level of delight), but quite why the burly Eamon and his clone, whose name I've forgotten (he looked like a Dan, or a Dave, something like that), got so far is genuinely perplexing. I'm tempted to question whether Masterchef, like The Apprentice (which is, unfortunately, back for a new run next week) has a bit of a problem with its female contestants, viewing them as not being capable of taking the heat of the Michelin-starred kitchen; although that would mean conveniently over-looking the fact that the decidedly female Shelina won, for making a curry no less (a delicious one I'm sure, but still a curry, no matter which way you look at it).

Women were having a much better time in My Phone Sex Secrets (Monday, C4), surprisingly. With a title (and a late evening scheduling) suggesting grubbiness and shame, what we were instead presented with were a bunch of women who seemed to be having a whale of time, while making a fairly decent living (with a little bit of grubbiness on the side). Although the question does arise as to whether this was down to an editorial decision; not wanting to patronise the ladies (he said, borderline patronisingly) it was significant as to how many questions weren't asked, and how many omissions were made – such as Jenny's whirlwind romance with a guy that she met on the line, the sketchiness of the details didn't really serve to erase any of the ickiness. To be fair to them it did seem to be a fairly happy, functional relationship, but, considering we had only just seen Jenny play the roles of both little girl and kindly grandmother for her clients, anything she did afterwards would come across as being a bit icky.

It would be tempting to describe the documentary as being quintessentially British, which proved to be both the source of its charms and its biggest flaw. On the one hand we were introduced to the eccentric likes of Marnie (who staked her claim to be the new queen of the manic pixie dream girls by both taking to walking her pet rabbit around on a garish pink leash and describing her hastily thought up photography business as a proper career move) and the yummy mummy type who happily conducted her business while perusing the fruit and veg section at Waitrose, and then mysteriously didn't feature again, and in the giddy glee seen in the sweet, innocent maths student Rosa as she steadily overcame her inhibitions (her faked orgasm was a bit much though). On the other hand, it's a shame the production crew had to let the side down, shoving in as much sniggering innuendo, mostly in the form of carefully angled street signs or close ups of sausages, as if the programme had been directed by Eric Idle's character from the Nudge Nudge sketch. Still, even though most of those attempts inspired nothing more than stony faced silence, there were more than enough knowing hi-jinx from the women to make for a surprisingly amusing show; with Jenny's enthusiastic grunting and groaning while she painted her kitchen a particular comic highlight, even if it does sound like more innuendo (once you start noticing it, it's really difficult to stop).