Following one of the most exciting MasterChef finals ever is the celebrity version of the series. Which I think is best enjoyed by guessing, before anybody has so much as picked up a saucepan, which celebs are going to impress and which are going to depress.
So in this first heat you might reckon that the presentation of former model Jodie Kidd and fashionista Susannah Constantine is going to be stylish, while Russell Grant’s food will be flamboyant. You may imagine actress Sophie Thompson to be scatty and Todd Carty to be skating on even thinner ice than he did in Dancing on Ice. Actually he thinks so, too. “With a fair wind behind me, I could be out by Thursday,” he snorts.
But as a little amuse bouche to the show, see whether you can predict who serves John Torode and Gregg Wallace the unusual combination of pan-fried duck with couscous, capers, feta, roasted broccoli stems… and gravy.
No team has illuminated the World Cup with as much flamboyant flair as Brazil. And who better to explore their love affair with the game than the host with the most (England goals, that is), Gary Lineker?
Eschewing the usual bombardment of misty-eyed reminiscences, the programme aims to explore the sociological roots of football’s place in Brazil’s national identity. We hear how music and culture have influenced the team’s languid, fluid playing style – exquisitely epitomised by Pele’s nonchalant assist for Carlos Alberto’s famous goal against Italy in 1970.
“They’ve always had the players everyone aspires to be,” says Rio Ferdinand about the likes of Ronaldo, whom Gary grills about the pressures of samba stardom. And we meet the grandson of Victorian Brit Charles Miller, who first brought football to Brazil. Within a few decades of his arrival, the sport had become ingrained in the national psyche.
There are tears, tiffs and world-class levels of whingeing as a group of London girls visit Brazil to play in a football tournament for teenagers from broken homes. Their hard lives have left most of them emotionally volatile and difficult to manage, but candid one-to-ones with the camera (away from the security of the group) soon unveil a more sensitive, articulate layer beneath the bolshy façades.
They’re not so tough when they’re introduced to South America’s insect population. “I was Usain Bolting out of that room,” says captain Sam after spotting a cockroach. Perhaps an athletics career might beckon if the football falls through.
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