CHRISTOPHER STEVENS Watches Last Night’s TV: It’s Full Speed Ahead For This Casual Celebrity Friendship
The great steam adventure
Wherever you go this summer and however you get there, you’re likely to run into clusters of celebs making travel shows — and they’ll all claim to be lifelong best friends.
Often these couplings are palpably forced. Was anyone even a little shocked when Gino D’Acampo announced last month that he would no longer be touring the world with his ‘bosom friends’ Fred Sirieix and Gordon Ramsay?
But when a natural rapport develops, there’s no need for exotic locations or expensive set pieces. Former political journalist John Sergeant and actor Peter Davison thoroughly enjoy each other’s company on The Big Steam Adventure (Ch5), and their sense of fun takes us along.
Calling this an “adventure” is stretching the term. So far they’ve traveled from Greenwich to Peterborough via Stevenage – all perfectly pleasant places, but no destinations to get the heart racing.
However, there is no doubt about the correctness of the word “steam”. They embarked on the Challenge, London’s last working steam tugboat, chugging under Tower Bridge and transferring to a 1909 Stanley steam car.
Friends: Journalist John Sergeant (right) and actor Peter Davison (center)
At King’s Cross, they boarded the Duchess of Sutherland’s steam train, before hopping on a steam omnibus called Puffing Billy for the final, nerve-racking part of the first leg, bound for Scotland.
Accompanied by Paul ‘Piglet’ Middleton of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, they were eager like schoolboys for a holiday treat. 79-year-old John beamed every time he was allowed to pull a cable to whistle. On tugboat and train, ‘poop-poo’ he went, just like Mr. Toad.
Peter pretended to be grumpy, but once he got behind the wheel of the Foden bus, he didn’t let anyone else take the wheel, at any cost. The former Doctor Who star boasted about his time in the Tardis, pointing to an East End wharf: “There I defeated the Daleks, banished them from the earth.” John refrained from asking how many times they’d had to be banished since then.
But he did get annoyed when Peter kept pointing out that they were supposed to travel north and not stop in pubs. “Don’t try to be a compass person,” John suggested. Peter snorted, “I thought he was going to say something rude” – and they all burst out laughing, unfeigned.
Inside The Factory
Gregg Wallace, on Inside The Factory (BBC2), was just as boyishly excited as John. But he always is. “Nothing turns me on on these programs more than pushing a button,” he bellowed, setting up a machine that made vegan sausages. His cheerful mood momentarily faded when he asked a supervisor if she liked watching him on MasterChef. Not only had she never heard of him, but instead was a fan of the Romanian version. Ouch.
He recovered quickly, however, and was thrilled to discover a guillotine that tested sausage casings, making sure they weren’t too thin and not too chewy. The blade did its job at a leisurely pace. “Really slow,” Gregg growled. “You would never have decapitated Marie Antoinette like that.
Inside The Factory: Gregg Wallace visits a vegan sausage factory in Yorkshire
It seems unwise for a man with a head like an egg to joke about being decapitated in a vegan food factory. He was on safer ground in the “vertical farm,” a shipping container filled with shelves of spinach and basil growing under artificial light.
“Here Star Wars meets salad,” Gregg declared before becoming frantically overstimulated as the LED lights changed color. Shades of mauve, red, green and blue mimicked various properties of sunlight.
‘Like a discotheque from the seventies,’ he marveled. I bet he would be content for hours just staring at a mirror ball.