Friday, January 30, 2009

January is panto month...

... and the thing about pantomime is the comfort of repetition, the safety of a story we already know inside out, having fun with storytelling cliches.  It's perfect recession fodder - it takes us back to childhood, makes us feel wrapped up and warm in the bleak mid-winter, puts us in a place where the world makes sense.

So combine panto with something as heartwarming and life-affirming as a good meal, and you're really onto a winner.

Image: Gregg and John
Which must be why the BBC has decided to schedule Masterchef four nights a week through January and February.  Every night you can get in from work, close the curtains, have your tea and snuggle on the sofa to watch the same story being played out again and again with minor variations, the same lines in a slightly different order.  There are even bits where you can join in and shout along with the shouty, larger than life, panto-perfect characters.  "COOKING DOESN'T GET ANY TOUGHER THAN THIS!!!" we yell along with Panto Greg, the tragi-comic Widow Twanky of the piece.  We stage whisper "It's good, simple food, but is it good enough to win a place in the quarter-final?  Everything on that plate has to be perfect," with John 'Prince Charming' Torode each time someone cooks something you think you might be able to do at home.  We hoot with derision every time lazy-voiced India Knight tells us in the drawling voiceover that's now compulsory in everything from documentaries to hair conditioner ads that someone is an 'experimental cook', wondering how we can work this phrase into conversation as a euphemistic insult, or maybe even sneak it into the Viz Profanisaurus.

My only regret about finally finishing my new book over the last few weeks is that I've only been able to watch about half the episodes, but with the book now done I'm delighted that we've got two weeks of heats left.  I've had to rely on my mate BLTP for a daily update - it's the first thing I read each morning.  Through his eyes, there's not just panto here, but a microcosm of social and class relationships within British society.  His blog only makes the programme itself more compulsive, if that's even possible.

I don't want the winter to end - I'll be heartbroken when this series finishes - but in the meantime, the flavours are good, the meat's cooked wonderfully.  Yeah, I like it.  

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