Monday, February 25

Television review: Masterchef, University Challenge and Transexuals in Iran

Paxman might be scary, but he's not nearly as terrifying as a pork mousse, says Mark Lewis

Won’t there just be a giant hole in BBC2’s evening schedules when Masterchef (Monday-Thursday) finally concludes this week? Do the hosts Greg and John just love talking to each other in rhetorical questions? And just how curious are the hosts’ various other verbal ticks?

When not rhetorical questions: Short sentences. No verbs.

One bald: Desserts good. One sartorially challenged: A bit Australian. Both orally identical.

Their bizarre delivery gives the pair a Phil-and-Grantish gruff masculinity. But because the few verbs they do employ are mostly to express terror (and then, terror of food) their hard-man image is rather compromised. They are like a couple of effete bouncers – just tough enough to prevent pissed-up 16 year olds from getting into nightclubs in white trainers. Just gay enough to find the prospect of an 18-year-old who plates up a dish of pork mousse “truly frightening.”

“The cream scared me,” said Greg or John.

“It’s the mousse which scares me,” said the other.

Both are equally terrified of the prodigious Emily who has fought her way through to this week-long final with bouts of culinary alchemy so appreciated by Greg and John, that you begin to wonder whether Jesus’s water-into-wine miracle wasn’t just some first century party trick.

Even so, should Emily fall at this fearsome final hurdle, she does have a fall back prize. The voiceover lady who gives us occasional relief from Greg and John’s peculiar vernacular tells us she has a place at Oxford University.

Whether that turns out to be a booby prize is a question worthy of an ask on University Challenge (Monday, 8pm BBC2). “Are you happy to hang out exclusively with brilliant nerds?”

Perhaps it is the steeples of that ancient city, perhaps it is the history seeping out of the walls, most likely it is the perpetuation of fop-like donishness at the application stage which prevents oiks from making it into those hallowed halls. But prevented they are.

The captain of the Magdelene College, Oxford team in this semi-final looked like a cross between Andy Warhol and a young Richard Whitely. The captain from Sheffield looked like the kind of four-eyed psycho who talks to you unbidden in kebab shop toilets.

But this psycho was sharper than a bully’s compass and Oxford were thoroughly thrashed.

A thrashing would be the least of the worries of some of the unfortunates in Transexuals in Iran (Monday, 9pm, BBC2). In Iran, we learn, homosexuality is illegal and sex changes are not. Homosexuals could end up getting stoned. Transexuals are ten times more likely to get their operations in Tehran than they would be in a European capital

They have an illness which has a cure. The illness is homosexuality.

Finally, something for Greg and John to get truly scared of.

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