Sir Terry Wogan is living the good life, and he knows it. He’s worked his way up the tv and radio schedules to the lofty status of national treasure and jolly decent chap. He’s the sort of presenter it’s absolutely categorically impossible to dislike, with his warm tones, his charming manner and his often repeated jokes. He’s perfect for happy little interviews with the general public and asking tradesmen and restauranteurs “What is it that you do?”. Over the years he’s perfected his jovial, warm, interested style. He’s happy for you to know he’s on easy street and in this series he doesn’t even have to worry about the driving. Mason McQueen (sadly not called June) is a London cabbie and adventurer, thanks to A Cabbie Abroad which was shown on BBC2 last year. He’s not afraid to leave the confines of the M25 and, like Terry, seems genuinely interested in meeting people and learning about their trade.
It helps very much that this is a show about travel and about food; two topics that work very well on tv and especially favoured by the BBC. This trip is a little tour around beautiful honey-glazed market towns with cobbled streets, half-timbered buildings and cathedrals investigating family run businesses, traditional recipes and glorious looking food. There may be no leaves on the trees in some episodes and yet the show still gives off a gentle summertime glow. They try Gurkha curry, dim sum and pizza, along side pies and chips, and yet it’s all terribly British and very Auntie Beeb.
I like this advert for Britain in 20 parts. It’s nice and works perfectly in the tea-time slot. I allowed myself one sulky comment on behalf of the city in which I live – “I bet they won’t be coming here”. You can say a lot about Birmingham but I doubt you’d ever use the word lovely. A city of any description would be a strange departure for this show about market towns. Well imagine my surprise that Episode 19 was all about Birmingham. It didn’t quite work as they did little in the way of eating, but Mason making a mess with dim sum at Chung Ying in the Chinese Quarter was a highlight. Birmingham is a grey concrete city centre constantly evolving. I wish they’d filmed a few months later as we’ve had major changes recently, but the fact we made the grade at all is impressive.
If the Beeb commission another series I hope the rest of the UK gets a look in. Or perhaps Mason’s wanderings might encourage Terry to some far-flung corners of the globe before he puts his slippered feet up in front of the fire in retirement.