TV Review: Gary Cooke got the wooden spoon but he served up some top-notch humour
By insisting it’s all about the food, ‘Celebrity Masterchef’ judges have starved us of the funniest contestant
The comedian Gary Cooke was the first to be relieved of his Celebrity MasterChef Ireland (RTÉ One, Sunday) apron, and as he went out the door he took with him my pet conspiracy theory about the celebrity versions of these types of shows. He was hilarious, top entertainment, so surely the producers would want to keep him in? Maybe they would even get the judges to turn a blind eye to his inability to dish up anything vaguely edible?
But Nick Munier and Dylan McGrath are tough: they stick with the idea that this celebrity version of the catchy cook-off is about the food, while the rest of us know it’s about serving up light entertainment of a Sunday night. Celebrity MasterChef Ireland does just that, and it’s thanks to the producer’s lateral approach to casting. (It’s pointless sneering at the word “celebrity” in the title. What do people expect: Bono and Enya to cooking a bit of salmon while Colin Farrell and Pierce Brosnan flambé a pancake?) It’s an elastic term and the producers have gone for an unexpected crew, people who are mostly sort of well-known if you watch the telly (although one comes from the print world: Conor Pope from this newspaper).
None come across as desperate for the oxygen of publicity and it’s fun to see some of them out of context – though maybe it’s a little startling to see that newscaster Aengus Mac Grianna has legs and David Gillick owns proper clothes and not just shorts and running vests. And I’ll be amazed if model Yvonne Keating doesn’t get more TV work out of this.
Nice judge Munier thought Gary Cooke’s salmon dish “very rustic, to say the least”; panto-villain judge McGrath said “it looked like it fell from the roof”. Cooke, in his Aprés Match Eamon Dunphy-mode, commented on McGrath’s “scary 50-yard stare. Like Roy Keane. I find it strangely attractive.” I’ll miss him next week.
Cooke fell to the ground in a pretend faint when he was told he was the first to be kicked out – even his last few minutes were funny – which raises the bar for the other exiting contestants: they could clutch Munier’s knees or tickle McGrath into submission. It’s worth a look.
The cast list of well-known names encouraged me to watch Top of the Lake (BBC 1, Saturday). There’s Elisabeth Moss from Mad Men; Holly Hunter, quite unrecognisable with grey hair like a pair of curtains; and the show’s writer, Jane Campion (The Piano). Even the trailers captured the wondrous beauty of New Zealand and infused it with menace.
But cut through the many layers of weirdness and this series is a run-of-the-mill police procedural. A 12-year-old girl goes missing – she’s pregnant – and an out-of-town cop, Det Robin Griffin (Moss), is called in to investigate. From the off she meets opposition from the sexist, belligerent local force. There are hints of her backstory to do with the hick town that will be revealed over the six episodes, which might prove interesting.
The girl’s father (Peter Mullan) is a backwoods psycho, training his vicious sons to follow suit. The men in Top of the Lake are on the Neanderthal spectrum, while the women, Griffen excepted, are dippy semi-comic victims. GJ (Hunter) and her cliché-ridden women’s commune have moved their rusting shipping containers to a field by the lake. One woman explained she joined the commune over a failed relationship: “I had a monkey called Brad. We slept together.” Each woman has a story more bizarre than the next. It was amusing for a while but there’s only so many times you can watch a mute naked woman carrying a plastic chair through the fields before it looks like wackiness so overcooked it’s turned to tedious mush.