TV COLUMN: Great British Bake Off, Shakespeare Lives, Poldark

James Waller-Davies
James Waller-Davies

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

Only in its fourth week, Bake Off has managed to hit the sort of headlines it usually only manages in final’s week.

Going by the general tone of social media this week, no act of treachery since Judas has quite lived down to the betrayal of Bake Off’s production company, Love Productions, jumping ship from the BBC to Channel 4.

Another hashtag set the week’s interweb ablaze as #Breadxit, trended on Twitter, no less remarkable for despite its clear intimation, it is a remarkably difficult hashtag to pronounce at first glance.

The Telegraph’s cartoonist, Matt, assured us not to worry as “Bake Off can’t actually leave the BBC till Theresa May has triggered Article 50”.

Though one of the sharpest barbs came again from social media with the suggestion that if judges Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry join the quitting queue of Mel and Sue, then “Channel 4 have essentially paid £25m for a tent”.

Buying Bake Off is a curious move for Channel 4, the potential advertising revenues notwithstanding. The broadcasters remit is to develop “new and minority audiences” and somehow Bake Off, with its overtly white, middle-class, front of screen team and a mainstream audience of 11 million viewers, seems a bit off its patch. Cynics might suggest – and heaven forbid I’m a cynic – that Channel 4 is gearing up for privatisation and is getting its cash-flow ducks in a row.

Navigating BBC iPlayer is becoming a bit of a lucky dip. The amount of content available is steadily growing and amongst the repeats and iPlayer’s Top 10, or 20, or 40, there are some hidden gems to be found, none more so than Sunday’s Shakespeare Lives (iPlayer live stream).

Live steaming from the National Theatre Live team has become pretty mainstream in cinemas and theatres, but this was a novelty for iPlayer and its live stream from The Globe theatre and the hugely acclaimed production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was a pleasant find.

Shakespeare’s ‘Dream’ is one of the Bard’s lighter and more accessible plays and this live stream proved that you can make all the movie adaptations of Shakespeare you want, but nothing beats the vibrancy and immediacy of theatre.

Live streaming has the potential to break theatre out of its somewhat minority cage. A good local rep company has its place, but large scale theatre is a different thing all together.

Alas, most of us live too far away for this to be anything other than an occasional treat. Ironically, modern digital technology might bring theatre back to the sort of prominence it held when Shakespeare was knocking his stuff out first time around.

Poldark (BBC1) is well into its second season. We’ve already had the obligatory ‘Aiden Turner gets his shirt off’ shot. Cue a blizzard of ladies’ underwear being hurled at TV screens nationwide in scenes reminiscent of Tom Jones’ concerts from the 1980s.

Meanwhile the Poldark ladies have suddenly become so adorned with hats, that eighteenth century Cornwall had taken on the hue of Ladies’ Day at Royal Ascot.

The most surprising thing about this second season of super-sexy, over-hyped Poldark is that it’s being outgunned by ITV’s Victoria, where former Doctor Who girl, Jenna Coleman, is stealing the show as the prim, but not always so privately proper, young Victoria. It’s most definitely been a TV week won by its ladies.