Aren’t there enough celebrity TV chefs in the world? Ainsley Harriot, Delia smith, Gordon Ramsey, Gary Rhodes, Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver, Jean-Christophe Novelli, Anthony Worrall-Thompson, the list goes excruciatingly on.
Among the population of TV cooking arses, there stirs James Martin, of ‘Sweet Baby James’ on BBC 2.
As much as I don’t like Ainsley Harriot, at least he’s passionate. At least Ramsey swears. At least Worrall-Thompson is untrustworthy. At least Oliver has a speech impediment. Martin has no outstanding features whatsoever other than that he could be described as a fairly tall man.
This episode sees Martin return to his old secondary school to perform a food-based facelift on the canteen menu. A highly original idea other than the fact that Jamie Oliver did it yonks ago. Besides which, Oliver clearly already has his grubby mitts all over the whole school dinners issue.
In fact, Martin is like a no-frills charisma-less Jamie Oliver in more ways than one, which is saying something as Oliver himself is as bland as post-modern architecture.
While working out the point of Martin, it is difficult to avoid drawing certain comparisons. I couldn’t help thinking of him as the kind of cooking equivalent of Steve Leonard (The boring nature-twat). Leonard’s programmes frustrate me because he seems to think that his blank face is as interesting to the viewers as the wildlife he is meant to be exploring. Martin is guilty of the same. If I tuned in merely to learn some cooking tips I would be disappointed as ¾ of the programme is just Martin poncing about like the self indulgent bore-monger he patently is.
He also seems to be the masculine interpretation of Nigella Lawson (at least she has colossal thighs) in TV’s bid to present food as ‘sexy’.
I say this because Martin clearly fancies himself as quite the ladies choice. The start of the show sees him roll up to his old headmaster’s house in a sports car. I couldn’t tell you which type - cars bore me - but the point is that he seems to be eagerly putting himself forward as some type of TV lothario. The style of the shows production also betrays the programme-maker’s intentions to drum home the ‘food is sexy, honest!’ concept. The editing is sleek and vigorous and furnished with a funk/soul soundtrack giving the impression that food preparation qualifies as sexy action, with Martin being clumsily misplaced within as some sort of culinary action-man.
Let’s get this straight now – food is not sexy, and food is not art. I plan to eat it and shit it, not fuck it or frame it.
James Martin has been around for a while, but what is all this ‘Sweet baby James’ bullshit out of the clear blue sky? I can only think that it is a sickly and transparent attempt to endear an audience to a man who is the pinnacle of TV dreariness. He has no wit whatsoever and is merely a drone who can cook a bit.
The thoroughly tedious nature of the show is reinforced by a sequence late on in which he teaches a bunch of yuppie-types how to cook a crumble. How quaint. How extremely mind-numbing.
“It’s all in the marshmallows mate!” seemed to be his wittiest quip in the whole show. Laughing yet? Me neither. I do understand that he’s not a comedian, but where is the justification in his existence as yet another TV chef? Entertain me dammit!
He is simply a non-entity. He brings nothing new to the table, other than his claims to be a sweet baby who drives around in a sports car.
So why doesn’t he find his own niche? Perhaps cooking with drugs, or how to introduce untraceable poisons into a dish in order to get away with a murder?
That, I would watch enthusiastically…