My favourite bit in every Eat Well for Less?, my most beloved television show, is the geezer pincer-movement when a gurning Gregg Wallace and Chris Bavin ambush grocery-shopping couples as they reach the supermarket checkout.
Remarkably, none of the participants is stunned by the rapid-fire mateyness as Gregg and Chris analyse the shockingly unhealthy contents of their trolleys.
This is after the couples have very gamely pretended that having Gregg Wallace and Chris Bavin jump out at them during a supermarket trip is absolutely the last thing they were expecting.
Oddly, though, they have signed up for the show, they are appearing on the show and have been followed throughout their shopping trip by a camera crew. For the show. What did they expect? Why did they think the camera was there? Some kind of performance art?
I love BBC1’s Eat Well for Less? (sadly ended but thankfully available on iPlayer), despite its redundant question mark, because it combines my two great loves: shopping and judging people, more specifically judging people and finding them wanting.
But that’s the point. Eat Well for Less? allows us to scoff heartily at anyone who doesn’t recognise vegetables, let alone cook with them, and who eats doughnuts for breakfast. And, memorably, that man who drank more than three and a half litres of cola every day. Surely his burps would power the National Grid?
Gregg and Chris are kindness itself as they deal gently with almost thermo-nuclear levels of witlessness. THEY don’t judge, whereas you and I can sit at home on our lofty plateaux and say, “Why is that woman crying because she doesn’t recognise a tomato? This is a savage indictment of the British educational system. We are a nation that doesn’t cook any more but no one cares, we just watch TV shows where people bake cakes.”
The idea of EWFL? is that Gregg and Chris take away the rubbish food and replace it with healthy stuff, or they try to cut shopping bills by replacing expensive items with cheaper models.
What’s great about the show is that it brilliantly encapsulates what it is to live in mimsy Britain in 2018. Never seen an avocado before? Well go on telly and cry about it till someone gives you a hug. No one will tell you you’re a halfwit who shouldn’t parade his or her ignorance in public.
I love this about British people: they go on things like EWFL? without any kind of self-awareness. They are happy to show the world they eat only chocolate cake and they don’t use the kitchen: it’s just there “because it came with the house”.
They don’t mind laughing with Gregg and Chris as they discuss how they spend hundreds of pounds on takeaways every month, yet one of them works as a chef but doesn’t cook at home because he “doesn’t know where anything is”.
Or discussing their dream of chopping something, “then putting something else on it” and “I’ve never really used a chopping board before”, while attacking a mushroom with a knife as if she’s trying to behead a python.
Part of me admires everyone who takes part in EWFL? because we live in an unforgiving world where the social-media artillery takes aim and fires abuse. No one can get away with anything and your faults and weaknesses and the judgements of potentially millions of strangers are trapped for ever in the ether.