Television review: The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Thursday, 17 January 2013

The Great Comic Relief Bake Off

Michael Moran’s antidote to the January blues

Written by Michael Moran
In the main, I try to preview in these pages television programmes that might otherwise escape your notice. It might seem slightly redundant to trumpet the return of the all-conquering Call The Midwife (Sunday at 9pm on BBC One).

But this first episode in the new run is atypical enough to warrant a bit of a chat about it. Part of the magic of Call The Midwife is the way that it weaves together quite serious storylines with light comic strands, without undermining either.

This time there are significantly fewer chuckles to be had. That may simply be because levity isn’t altogether compatible with the two central storylines. In our house we generally let the 10-year-old stay up late to watch Call The Midwife as a treat, but I’m not sure that the two rather sombre stories this week, both of which address the exploitation and mistreatment of young women, are quite suitable for the smaller viewer.

This caveat aside, it’s an absolutely cracking episode. There’s plenty to do for two of the more minor characters. The always immaculately turned out junior midwife Trixie (Helen George) gets a problematic case of her own to manage, and some light is shed on the secret heartache of Doctor Handsome (Stephen McGann). The latter thread, I suspect, is liable to develop interestingly as this series progresses.

And there are still a few lighter moments. Although we see rather less of ‘21st-century Joyce Grenfell’ Miranda Hart in this episode, she’s still on hand for some priceless ‘gas and air’ clowning.

But if it’s clowning you want, how about a nightly episode of Bake Off? As part of the run-up to Sport Relief, there’s a special mini-series of The Great British Bake Off this week, in which comedians and Olympians vie to create the perfect cake. (The Great Comic Relief Bake Off, Monday at 8.30pm, then Tuesday to Thursday at 8pm on BBC Two).

For me, the best parts of The Great British Bake Off are when immaculately crafted gateaus slide off baking trays and splatter on the marquee floor. That is, I concede, a shade cruel and I have always tried to keep that particular vice a secret.

So it’s something of a relief that it’s comedians scattering scones across the tiles and I can guffaw guiltlessly at their misfortune. There are four different aspiring bakers on each show, with quite widely varying abilities. I must say I suspect Jo Brand of being a secret bakery genius. The results will, as usual, be examined by the four bluest eyes in the business as Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood judge the best celebrity bakes on each day, to decide who goes through to Thursday’s grand final.

I think we can safely let the 10-year-old stay up for that.

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