TV review: James Martin's Food Map of Britain and The Fried Chicken Shop

One show has no right to work, but does, writes Carl Jones. The other has all the ingredients to be a success, but sags like a punctured souffle.

TV review: James Martin's Food Map of Britain and The Fried Chicken Shop

It was a deep fried TV double act. A light starter of Dover sole, cooked on the beach, followed by deep fried chicken in Clapham's most celebrated takeaway.

First up was the opening salvo in a 10-part series called James Martin's Food Map of Britain (BBC2), a watery casserole of other cookery and countryside shows' ideas.

The concept? Our man takes to the skies in a nifty two-seater aeroplane (very environmentally friendly, I don't think) to explore how the beautiful and unique landscape of the British Isles produces distinct and delicious regional ingredients.

It's a sort of cross between Challenge Anneka, without rear views of that famous jumpsuit, and the beautiful aerial photography of the BBC's history programme Coast, with a couple of plates of food thrown in for good measure.

And all rather shallow and pointless.

Last night's whistle-stop tour took in Kent's inland orchards, and the coastal town of Hastings.

Mr Martin spent approximately seven minutes cooking. First, pan-fried fish with shrimp and lemon, then cherry trifle with custard straight out of a packet, during which time he moaned about the lack of facilities in his makeshift outdoor kitchen.

Tip to Mr Martin. If it's so inconvenient, go back into your Saturday Kitchen studio. No-one's going to miss this schedule-filling puff pastry.

The main course was far more meaty, in every sense.

Earlier this year, a one-off documentary called The Fried Chicken Shop (Channel 4) was an overnight cult sensation.

It was a bargain bucket of a production; the director simply set up cameras in the Roosters Spot takeaway, filmed the comings and goings 24/7, and edited it down into a family-sized box of nuggets.

The hilariously off-the-wall customers, talking about nonsensical nothingness, were the real stars. Brilliantly simple, and bonkers.

So we were always going to get another helping.

In last night's show – the first of three parts – staff pair Imran and Harris warbled and bickered. But once again, it was the juvenile behaviour of the dim-witted customers which stole the show.

It's got precious little to do with chicken. The show is simply a window on contemporary life in London; the type of people who live there, the kind of lives they choose to lead, and the hilariously daft things they talk about with their mates.

Even before the opening credits had finished rolling, we'd had a Cap'n Jack Sparrow lookalike, a 60-year-old cross-dresser and a mass punch-up over the counter. Action? Eat your heart out James Martin.

February's one-off episode of The Fried Chicken Shop was good old fashioned Candid Camera entertainment, with minimal, low-budget production values.

This time, the crew had clearly been given a bit more cash to play with. There were mini cameras in the takeaway boxes, and more cutaway interviews with customers in their own environments.

And that's a bit of a pity, because the simplicity of the first programme was its strength. This one didn't have quite the same degree of fly-on-the-wall innocence. Too many people seemed to be playing up to the cameras.

But there were some gems, like the Italian busker playing Monty Python's Always Look on the Bright Side of Life (after a quick rendition of the French national anthem!)

And the bunch of sozzled blokes who started beat-boxing to a home-made tune called "I just want some chicken in my face, my face." It was soon trending on Twitter.

Puerile, pointless and stupid? You bet. But it's fast food's answer to the X Factor auditions. A brilliantly simple idea which will once again be a flame grilled success.

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