Has Jimmy Doherty really got the meatballs to take on Tesco?
The Tesco meatball: nearly 25% fat, just over 75% meat (including sinew) from 179 different cattle and selling 35m a year at £1.60 for 20. It is capitalism – if absolutely nothing else – in its purest form.
It was dissected, in another of the retch-making set pieces for which he became famous in one of his previous series Jimmy’s Food Factory, by ethical pig farmer Jimmy Doherty as part of his quest to produce for Tesco a higher welfare version of some of their bestselling products for the same price. Such is the raison d’etre of Jimmy and the Giant Supermarket (Channel 4).
Ranged along a table to sample his various experimental wares – Jimmy adulterated his meatballs with rusk, veal (on the grounds that British bull calves are reared to decent standards and otherwise shot as waste product in dairy herds) and sauce fillings – were the high priests of Tesco. They were so unblinking, so unyielding, so unrepentantly dismissive of his efforts that you had to admire them. “If it was easy, Jimmy,” said one of them with a basilisk stare, “we’d have done it already.” It was the kindest comment he got.
Jimmy’s balls eventually succeeded on taste but not on price. He got them to agree to investigate using British rather than German veal in other products (“You’ve got our commitment to look at this. Don’t push us on the scheduling”) and hailed it as a victory. I have a sneaking suspicion that the Tesco raptors will be feasting on Jimmy’s own entrails rather than ethically sourced calf before the end of the series, but we’ll see.
This week’s Silk (BBC1) put the British class system in the dock. And found it guilty, m’lud! Martha defends Ricky, a young man whose abusive childhood and resultant anger issues have manifested themselves in his smashing up a local supermarket with a baseball bat and terrorising the owner and his 12-year-old daughter. Alas, although prosecuting counsel is amenable to a deal and Martha is given a lovely speech by writer Peter Moffat about the need to keep love and hope alive rather than putting a homemade shiv through its heart in prison, the judge – Martha’s head of chambers and a man who, if you cut him, bleeds patrician privilege – comes down hard with a sentence of eight years. Patricians 1, proles 0.
Meanwhile, Clive (Rupert Penry-Jones) has returned to his alma mater, Oxford, to prosecute three students accused of smashing up a restaurant and tearing the knickers off a waitress as part of an initiation rite into a secret college society. As it’s his first time out as a prosecuting counsel, he makes one or two embarrassing missteps before an old college roommate, now Professor Deus Ex Machina at Balliol, hands him a photo of the society’s secret trophy case in which said knickers have pride of place and secures him a guilty verdict.
In between, however, Clive is consoled by bumping briefs at last with lady solicitor George, first in the pub’s disabled loo and then in his Oxford lodgings. He probably won’t get a third chance because senior clerk Billy is going to rip his gonads off before he allows him to jeopardise chambers’ income further. On the upside, he’ll probably put them in his pigeonhole with a nice red ribbon round them.
I remain to be convinced that the brilliant Maxine Peake is not essentially miscast as barrister-and-now-QC Martha Costello, or that her part is not strangely underwritten. Either the actor or the character seemed slightly overawed by the job they have to do, but I can’t tell which. But the show as a whole zips along nicely and the addition of Frances Barber (as barrister Caroline Warwick) to proceedings can only be good, good news.
More class-based absurdities were to be found in Prince Charles: The Royal Restoration (ITV1). Despite the promising title (what were they going to do first, you wondered? Sort out his ears, loosen his jaw so he can speak normally or move his eyes further apart at last?) it turned out to be a documentary charting the regeneration of Dumfries House and its Ayrshire environs, for the funding of which Prince Charles arranged a £20m loan that will cripple his charity if it is not repaid on time.
Any real sense of jeopardy was largely banished by the knowledge that the sale of a single Chippendale bespoke bookcase from the house’s collection would cover it. At the same time, without impractical romantics like Prince Charles and Jimmy Doherty, we’d be living in a pure Tescopolis. A world of fat-and-sinew balls instead of vegetable gardens, dead calves instead of Chippendale glories. At least they keep the hope alive.