AS THE 70th anniversary of the Normandy Landings approaches, BBC2 has handed responsibility of marking the occasion in a dignified manner to one of its safest programmes.
It must have looked good on paper – Great British Menu throwing a banquet at St Paul’s Cathedral for D-Day veterans to honour the great sacrifice.
After all, the show has a solid track record of eight series with chefs cooking for the Queen’s 80th birthday, London 2012, street parties and even British service personnel returning from Afghanistan.
It was a shock, then, to witness one of the most crass, glib weeks of TV imaginable, not least because it began so well on Monday’s opening Northern Ireland heat.
In fact, my initial reaction was that the D-Day theme was bordering on genius.
Ray McArdle’s starter was carrier pigeon (“because they were used from Dover to France”) with the added touch of a message in its claw.
Will Brown called his Fighting Food and included a Scotch egg for no clear reason.
And Chris McGowan paid homage to the Government’s Dig For Victory drive with a beetroot-based dish.
Which sounds sensible enough.
That is until the narrator announced: “His starter is based on the wartime initiative of growing your own vegetables but contains camomile tea-smoked mackerel.”
You know, like they used to eat out of billycans on the beach at Arromanches.
As judge Tom Kerridge pointed out: “The problem is I’ve never known anyone dig for mackerel. I’ve not seen many people go mackerel fishing with a shovel.”
So far, so good.
The tide turned, however, on Tuesday, by which time the terrible puns (“With cooking under way, Chris is quick to draw battle lines,”) had started to grate.
And then Will Brown unveiled his fish course and the wheels fell off: “Smoke on the Shore. It’s a vision of what it might have been like on the beaches in them days.”
Kerridge: “The Normandy invasion?”
You wouldn’t believe it. He’d made an edible beach pumped with dry ice to represent the gunfire that cut down thousands of Allied troops.
Just what a D-Day veteran who saw his comrades fall in the most brutal manner would want to be reminded of in ham-fisted detail.
I’m yet to hear anyone announce they need to “go out all guns blazing” to ensure their soufflé rises but I fear it’s coming.
Especially when you consider McArdle’s face-palming response to Kerridge asking for the thinking behind his halibut, cider and camembert creation: “Our troops, when they hit Normandy, came across cheese.”
Which was almost as bad as McGowan insisting: “These are British ingredients that these people fought for,” and Brown’s main course “Run, Rabbit, Run” on Wednesday which came with this commentary...
“First on the plate is his rabbit loin stuffed with truffle mousse and his rabbit croustillant.”
“Next it’s his quirky rabbit lollipop, carrot puree followed by a celeriac foam.”
Well, if you must.
“Then it’s his rabbit sauce decanted into wartime flasks.”
Hmmm, bit gimmicky but just about on the right side of good taste. At least you’re not serving it in a soldier’s helmet.
“It’s all served up in a helmet.”
BBC2, dishonouring the fallen.
This week’s Couch Potato Spudulikes...
BBC2’s The Trip To Italy.
University Challenge final’s relentless buzzer presser Filip Drnovšek Zorko sending the announcer into pronunciation meltdown.
Off Their Rockers’ zebra crossing prank, plus the old dear’s tweet to Harry Styles: “Roses are red, violets are blue, you like older women, well I’m 82.”
ITV preceding This Morning’s interview with “the woman who smells of fish” with an advert for Young’s pollock to the tune of When The Boat Comes In. (I’ll just have the chips, thanks.)
And EastEnders’ Lola receiving flowers from her boyfriend: “Ah, they’re from Peter. He wants to take me up The Shard.” It’ll take more than flowers, Pete.
This week’s Couch Potato Spuduhates...
The ludicrous Game of Thrones fanfare. (It’s quite a good TV show. Get over it.)
ITV2 making a real version of Alan Partridge’s Youth Hostelling With Chris Eubank idea with six-week backpacking trip Tom Daley Goes Global.
BBC2 failing to name The Big Allotment Challenge as Great British Rake Off.
Marvin Humes introducing The Voice judges as: “The class of 2004.”
Clare Balding claiming: “There is no second place,” in the Boat Race.
Limelight hogger Michael McIntyre spending more time performing moronic fake magic tricks than his chat show guest Dynamo.
And John Barrowman emerging among the favourites to replace Brucie on Strictly. Dara O’Briain, if you’ve any dance experience whatsoever, now’s the time to mention it.