BEFORE watching The Secret World of Chocolate (Sunday, C4, 8pm) in which Dawn French turns choc detective, questions popped into m brain like Aero bubbles.
Would this be one of these terrible shows in which the celebrity, when faced with a tasty food product, has to go all gooey and declare they can’t wait to shove a large slice/portion/block of product into the space between their desperate cheeks?
French has lots of form in this regard. A plus-size woman, she’s built a career partly out of selling us large lumps of self-deprecation, tackling her bigness head on by declaring she’d eat a rats eyeball if it happened to be smeared in extract of cocoa. To underline that her affiliation with the sweet stuff was borne out of physiological and emotional necessity, she made that awful ad for Terry’s Chocolate Oranges, that had half a nation shout out, “Type 2 diabetes, Dawn. Don’t do it!”
But then again, French, at one point decided it wasn’t good to shove sweeties into your face if you expect to live much beyond three score and ten, and decided to start counting the calories and dieting hard.
Now, here she is in a programme about chocolate. Would she reveal secrets? Would she share her – and our – conflict with chocolate?
Did French’s paradoxical relationship with the cocoa product make her the idea person to front this show? Sadly, the programme didn’t answer that question at all. French didn’t appear on camera. She simply offered the voiceover. And if we had hoped to find the documentary laced with delicious comic insight we were to be disappointed.
What the programme did offer up was a series of middle-aged men talking about the rivalry between the likes of Cadbury and Rowntree. Immediately, a line from Sir Dominic Cadbury caused eyebrows to lift. “Cadburys is the Queen Mother of chocolate,” he declared. “You don’t insult it.”
Well, you do if you’re Private Eye magazine which spent years describing the late royal as “a gin-sodden old relic”.
But that was the most controversial moment. The rest of the documentary was about revealing the (unsurprising) one-upmanship between these companies as they sought to control the market. Mars Bars were a huge success, so Cadbury came up with the Aztec Bar, which failed. Well, where is the secret? Every child in the UK knew that.
When Cadbury made their choccy bars a bit thinner, Rowntree came up with the chunky Yorkie, which didn’t have any more chocolate, it just looked like it did. Well, every child in the UK knew that. And we learned that Cadbury, determined to beat Aero’s bubble appeal, came up with the Wispa.
What was clearly lacking about this Secrets documentary were actual tasty secrets. What was missing was a sense of fun, which could have been had with a look back at lots of chocolate ads and how the products were sold, such as the semi-erotic Flake ad. The result wasn’t sweet. It wasn’t quite an hour with toothache either. It was interesting to know that the UK chocolate industry is worth a tasty £4bn a year.
Like the Milk Tray man himself, the reasons why producers thought this could be passed of as decent product will remain a mystery.
Rab C. Nesbitt once uttered the memorable line: “I dream of a good night’s sleep.” And so does Daisy Maskell, (Insomnia And Me, Tuesday BBC1, 11.05pm) the UK’s youngest ever breakfast radio host.
The presenter has lived with insomnia since childhood. For as long as she can remember, she has survived on as little as a couple of hours of sleep each night and is wide awake until the early hours of the morning. Yet, while the world used to laugh off the loss of sleep as being a simple trick of nature – Margaret Thatcher made a virtue of the fact she could survive on four hours a night – now we’ve come to realise that sleep deprivation can be a killer.
It can lead to dementia (it could have contributed to the death of Thatcher). It has been established that waking early is an indicator of depression. Maskell conveyed just how lack of sleep can wreck your physical being, as well as affecting your mental health. She underlined why we need a treatment that allows us to sleep, to nourish the brain and the body, but without leaving us feel like a zombie the next day.
It’s funny. We struggle to come to terms with the reality of death, but we have no problem in laughing at the inevitable, when presented to us in comedy form.
Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) offered lots of detective fun and Ricky Gervais’s After Life, featuring conversations with his late partner, was the most poignant – and funny. (Ghosts, BBC1, Mondays, 8.30pm) is a lot sillier. It allies the money pit concept of a young couple struggling to keep a vast ancestral wreck from falling down with the generation gap, where the older generation just happen to be spooks.
This week it covered the ground that is the antagonism between the ghosts and the young owners, Alison and Mike (Charlotte Ritchie and Kiell Smith-Bynoe ) and their plans to bring money into Button Hall, this time in the form of a documentary team’s arrival.
And we learned the backstory of Headless Humphrey, which offered great opportunity for shocked faces.