The term ‘national treasure’ is much over-used these days. Take Mary Berry, for example. Before Bake-Off, she had been largely forgotten, but a stint in a pastel tent and she has now been elevated to a place at the top table alongside Nigella, Delia and Jamie.
Her decision to turn down Bake-Off’s move to Channel 4 meant she was at a bit of a loose end, and a quick brainstorm at the BBC came up with Mary Berry’s Country House Secrets (BBC1, Wednesdays, 8pm).
You can almost hear the gears whirring in the commissioning editor’s head – “A national treasure looking at the nation’s national treasures. Trebles all round!”
The trouble is, much like Mary herself, this whole concept seems to come preserved in aspic.
“This is your invitation to dine at some of Britain’s grandest tables in some of the most beautiful houses in the land,” gushed Mary.
Well, no Bezza, it isn’t.
The viewer was reduced to the status of grubby urchin, nose pressed against the window, as Mary toured Highclere Castle –set for another national treasure, Downton Abbey.
A bit of food was cooked, the staff were wheeled out to tug their forelocks, and there was lots of breathless Mary informing us about the grand shooting parties and how the fate of nations was decided by the governing classes over port and cigars.
The was much emphasis on how ‘normal’ Highclere’s mistress, the Countess of Caernarvon, is – “Steve the roofer’s a great friend” – but no secrets were revealed, no real history came out –it was as if the National Trust had wheeled Mary out for a corporate advertising gig.
Yes, it was beautifully shot, but like many national treasures, this show should have remained buried.
I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here (ITV, daily, 9pm) is back, with much comment about how unstarry the ‘cast’ is. But it’s all about the format – they could grab folk off the street and it would be the same.
999: What’s Your Emergency (Channel 4, Mondays, 9pm) continues to raise urgent questions for government about health and social care and how we are failing the most vulnerable. Watch it.