TV COLUMN: SAS: Who Dares Wins, Who’s Spending Britain’s Billions? Great British Bake Off

James Waller-Davies
James Waller-Davies
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Columnist James Waller-Davies gives his view of some of the recent events on television.

SAS: Who Dares Wins (Channel 4), the much-trailed latest reality show kicked off this week. A strange affair, mainly consisting of people doing things they didn’t want to do, for a prize they can’t actually win.

Audiences were astounded to find out that if you take a general cross-section of blokes, most of them won’t be up to being an elite special forces operative. Staggering.

Never has the complaint of ‘sod this for a game of soldiers’ had such resonance, as one after another decided that jumping off bridges, rolling around in mud, or cultivating one’s own personal crotch-rot garden wasn’t for them. It was ‘I’m a Celebrity…’ without the ‘celebrity’, just the ‘get me out of here’.

The only moment of interest was so poignant, it was jarringly out of place. One of the contestants, Efrem, revealed he was taking part in order to help assuage his grief over the loss of his son, who died whilst on active service in Afghanistan. Allowing him to play out his own private catharsis on reality TV seemed a rather crass choice by the producers.

It was a week for staggering revelations. Who’s Spending Britain’s Billions? (BBC2) broke one of the nation’s biggest open secrets: the public sector wastes our money. Shock.

And when the ‘amateurs’ of local government, the NHS or military procurement get stuck on how to waste it fast enough, they call in ‘professional’ consultants to help fritter it a bit more.

Presenter, Jacques Peretti, reeled off a list of corporate consultant and service providers, the names of which are all too familiar to anyone who’s worked in the public sector.

Unfortunately, Peretti failed to go the one step further to question just what it is in our political administrative infrastructure that means, as a country, we are consistently inept in getting public sector projects done on time and to budget.

But maybe ignorance is bliss. Yes, Minister’s Sir Humphrey once pointed out in response to the public’s ‘right to know’, is that ‘the public have the right not to know’. It’s much easier to focus our ire on a few wasted council quid, than the systematic squandering of billions.

Semi-final week on The Great British Bake Off (BBC1) saw the charming Salasi bow out. Though Sue Perkins probably took enough sweat swabs to clone a whole legion of him.

And so the final – the final ‘final’ even – comes down to Andrew, Candice and Jane. One last bake. One last Paddington Bear stare from Mary. One last barbed complement from Paul. One last whipping, stuffing and creaming from the Innuendo Sisters, Mel and Sue.

Bake Off has become a modern British institution. It’s developed a socialising function way beyond the baking. It is public service broadcasting at its best. It was a mistake to let it go. Someone at the Beeb burned the cakes on this one. It won’t be the same on Channel 4 – nothing ever is.