Finally there is a reality television show that doesn’t resort to cheap tricks. That’s what I thought to myself as I stumbled into the barren wasteland of the TV listings, far beyond ITV4+1, and emerged upon DigiTele’s latest reality fare, Celebrity Make Me A Sandwich. I’ll be honest with you, I missed the original series – but I soon found that this was a show that needed no introduction; it was pure gold.
Its unlikely presenter and star is Rowland Rivron, who in his new role as sandwich-making arbiter relives his glory years, conjuring up long-lost memories of the wit and magnetism that made him a household name during his time on BBC travel show Holiday, a show in which he was paid to go on holiday. Well let me tell you, his stock may have fallen in the TV world, but his scathing humour will never wilt. Picture the scene: Dean Macy is preparing his piéce de resistance, what he calls “the South of the Border,” a sandwich which comprises Sausalito turkey, Monterey jack cheese and half an ounce of jalapeños – only Macy didn’t read his instructions properly and included half a pound of jalapeños. While a devastated Macy attempts to correct his mistake, Rivron turns to his challenger, a decidedly more relaxed Diane Yudale, and says, “It looks like he’s a sandwich short of picnic.” Well I don’t need to tell you that it wasn’t just Yudale who was in stitches.
What makes CMMAS work is its simplicity. The structure of the show is one which is so simple that it doesn’t require the ploys and marketing schemes that these so-called “big name shows” feel the need to include; there is no-one humiliating themselves (except for Macy and his jalapeños, of course), there is no audience vote, and there is certainly no cornucopia of bright lights and lavish set designs. In fact, the whole thing looks as if it has been filmed in someone’s own kitchen. The production even included the delightful touch of allowing a small child to walk on to the set and call out “Daddy” to an ever-professional Rivron, who pats the child on the head, while a woman feigning to be the Mrs. Rivron carries the child away.
For you see, this isn’t a show about anything – there are no stories or rivalries. Even the celebrities pitted against each other are polite, and on occasion even helpful. Jimmy Corr, guitarist of The Corrs struggled to find the perfect segue between spring onion and Parma ham on his sandwich, “the Italian Scallion,” until his rival, fellow musician Hannah Spearritt suggested a thin layer of lightly toasted rye bread – a decision which ultimately cost her a place in the semi-finals.
The only winner is the humble sandwich.
If only this were sentiment people could unite by. Radio Times TV critic Alison Graham labelled the show as “laborious and pointless,” while when asked about it in a recent interview BBC director-General David Thompson hailed it as “unwatchable.”
Well, I guess you’ll have to excuse me then, Mr. Thompson and Mrs. Graham, when I say that nothing will stop me from tuning in for next week’s semi-final. I don’t need a public vote and big name stars; I’ve got my bread, mozzarella and lettuce at the ready and I have a feeling Dean Macy vs. Neil Buchanan is going to be a cracker.
Celebrity Make Me A Sandwich airs on DigiTele at 8pm on Thursday 29th December.