CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night's 'perfect parcel' of TV

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: Party hats and boozy puds – it’s a perfect parcel of Christmas telly

Celebrity MasterChef Christmas Cook-Off


The Great British Truck Up 


Three days to go and the telly schedules have officially hit Christmas overload — 24 shows with the C-word in their title across the six main channels in one day.

It started at 8.20am on BBC2 with A Very Country Christmas, followed by Dancing Through Christmas and, on BBC1, Morning Live At Christmas. And the fairy lights were still flashing as we passed midnight on BBC4 with The Truth About Christmas Carols.

In between, there was Christmas University Challenge on BBC2 and Jamie’s Quick And Easy Christmas on C4, ITV’s The Savoy At Christmas and C5’s Harrods At Christmas, as well as Christmas editions with Kirstie Allsopp, Paul Whitehouse and Bob Mortimer, Lucy Worsley, Sarah Beeny, Nigella Lawson and many more, all in party hats.

But the most festive extravaganza of the lot was Celebrity MasterChef Christmas Cook-Off (BBC1). That had Strictly’s Oti Mabuse dressed as an elf-on-the-shelf and actress Su Pollard with shiny red baubles swinging from her outsize specs.

Fake snow falls on Celebrity MasterChef Christmas Cook-Off after Judi Love (pictured) was presented with her Golden Whisk trophy

Judges Gregg Wallace and John Torode dressed for the occasion — one in red and green with sprigs of holly, like a badly wrapped present; the other in a jumper showing a turkey disguised as Santa.

Joey Essex cooked a giant Yorkshire pudding, inspired by the menu at his local Toby Carvery. He filled it with sausages, roast turkey and stuffing, and dubbed it the ‘Essexmas dinner’. Then he drowned a bowl of fruit in brandy.

Judi Love made a West Indian version of Christmas pud called a Jamaican black cake, so steeped in booze that it was probably a fire hazard, with Guinness ice cream.

Gregg and John loved it. In fact, they loved everything. Perhaps it was the alcohol fumes pervading the studio that filled their hearts with cheer. Any criticism was so gentle, it was practically a cuddle.

Neil ‘Razor’ Ruddock got the gentlest reproof for mashing up his Christmas dinner and serving it as meatballs; and Su was scolded with a smile for serving a fruit salad that involved no cookery at all.

It was all so exaggerated that, when winner Judi was presented with her Golden Whisk trophy (not a real whisk and definitely not real gold), there was fake snow falling.

The whole thing felt like being pelted into submission with a surfeit of mince pies. Which is just how Christmas is meant to feel.

We wouldn’t be having Christmas at all without lorry drivers, as The Great British Truck Up (C4) was keen to remind us.

This one-off documentary followed a group of trainee truckers through a week’s course in handling a heavy goods vehicle, before a demanding test in which the smallest mistake could mean failure. The problem with learner driver docs, as similar shows have discovered, is that footage of motorists staying in their lanes is rather dull.

Thanks to YouTube, what we have really come to expect from footage of an 18-wheel articulated lorry is to see it scatter traffic across six lanes and then plough into a snow bank. Luckily, such films are usually shot on motorways in Kazakhstan and certainly not in Croydon, where these training courses were taking place.

The Great British Truck Up follows a group of trainee truckers through a week’s course in handling a heavy goods vehicle. One of the trainees was vicar John Hayhoe (pictured), who felt he could serve his fellow man better as a delivery driver than by giving sermons on Sunday

A pilot and a car driving instructor, both looking for a lockdown-proof new career, were among the apprentices.

The most unlikely of them was a vicar from Exeter, who felt he could serve his fellow man better as a delivery driver than by giving sermons on Sunday. He admitted he would miss the weddings, though.

The grace of God passeth all understanding, but the Rev Hayhoe passeth his test first time, which was good going. 

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