There’s simply too much hugging on The Big Family Cooking Showdown

Kisses are fine on TV competitions, but let’s cut out the cuddles, says Alison Graham


I can vividly remember receiving my very first double-cheek showbiz kiss. I’d been at RT for only a few weeks and had interviewed an actor from a longrunning series. We’d got on well and he was good fun, but as he got up to leave after the interview he leaned towards me.


What the hell is he doing, I wondered. Has he dropped something? Do I have food in my hair? Then, appalled, I realised he was going to kiss my cheek. And he WASN’T EVEN A RELATIVE.

I froze, stricken. I’m northern and at that time I had an inbuilt issued-at-birth resistance to showing any kind of emotion or affection in public towards family and friends, let alone strangers. Kissing on the cheek is what your granny did on your birthday, accompanied by a £1 note (I am very old), then possibly a clip round the ear.

So that poor actor might just as well have bitten the head off a goldfish and asked me to eat it. But in taking his leave with a peck, he was just being nice, not weird. It’s what actors do.

Now, of course, many decades later, I’m a thermo-nuclear luvvie. Yes, total stranger who happens to be on telly, by all means kiss my cheeks! That’s what they are for! We’re not kin, but what the hell. I don’t even expect a £1 note OR a clip round the ear. Oh, and person who makes a comedy I once said I liked, by all means go in for a hug!

Aidan Turner, of course you can fling your arms around me, just so long as you make sure that everyone can see you doing it. Because if they don’t you’ll have to do it again. Then again. Just for luck. And a photo.

Hugging. It’s a funny one. When did we all start snuggling up to one another? When did it become fine for total strangers to share a platonic squeeze? When I was that young northern lass, before I was transfixed by fancy London ways, I thought hugging strangers was something you did on mountainsides as you waited for rescue after you’d walked up Annapurna in flip flops. Or if your aeroplane crashed in the Andes, just before you had to eat each other.

But everyone hugs on the telly, family, friends, strangers… everyone… even reporters do it when they make people cry (hello Victoria Derbyshire). They do it all the time on the raucous Big Family Cooking Showdown (Tuesday BBC2). Gosh, it’s exhausting. Families give each other congratulatory cuddles when a dish goes well, or when it doesn’t, they crowd in for the inevitable tears.

Yes, of course, there MUST be tears. And in this week’s episode a courting couple (what a lovely old-fashioned phrase) even get in a few quick snogs. For goodness’ sake, you’re on telly. Behave!

Presenters Nadiya Hussain and Zoë Ball, who are both brilliant in very different ways yet have so little to do apart from cheerlead, join in too. It’s a massive great hugathon.

Cooking Showdown is such a full-on noisy family-fest it’s like being in the supermarket, an unwilling eavesdropper as parents pantomime-yell at their kids, expecting us, the hapless hostages, to smile indulgently.

I never do, obviously. Maybe Showdown is simply trying too hard to be fun and lively because it’s a format that doesn’t quite work – it’s like watching the neighbours cook tea. And I know anything goes on telly now (Love Island/hell/handcart) but can we all just have a bit more decorum? Thank you.


Big Family Cooking Showdown is on 8pm Tuesday, BBC2