Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

No Marx out of 10 for Ben

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

No Marx out of 10 for Ben

Article excerpt

Byline: VICTOR LEWIS-SMITH

AND we welcome viewers now to the final stages of the 2004 100 Greatest Moments of TV Hypocrisy awards.

Ex- Marxist Alexei Sayle is still at number three for doing voiceovers for banks, while in at number two is anti-bullying campaigner Craig Charles, who once threatened to push me "straight through a plate-glass window" after I'd reviewed one of his programmes.

But this year, the judges (me) have decided there can only be one winner: Gordon Ramsay, who used to berate celebrity chefs for demeaning their art, but has now turned into the PT Barnum of gastronomy, force-feeding his audience with rancid entertainment that's hard to swallow.

Last week's Kitchen Nightmares may have fooled the more credulous critics, but here's what Sue Ray (owner of Bonaparte's restaurant in Silsden) told her local newspaper, the Craven Herald, about what really happened: "The programme was contrived to make us look bad... [chef] Tim Gray was sacked before filming began... the film makers persuaded me to take him back just for the filming ...the rotting veg was outside waiting to be thrown out and Gordon brought it in to be filmed...

"The rotten scallop scene was -contrived ... the kitchen wasn't filthy or grimy, they filmed after we had served 50 meals and hadn't had a chance to clean it ... the 'month later' scene was filmed at the same time as the rest of the programme..." and so on.

So unless C4 can refute her account, Ramsay's series seems to be about as principled as his policy of not including a compulsory service charge in his restaurant bills, as though that somehow justifies his other policy of charging almost [pounds sterling]100 per person for dinner.

Unfortunately, Ben Elton ruled himself ineligible for a lifetime achievement award during an interview on BBC News 24's excellent Hardtalk Extra over the Bank Holiday weekend.

"I'm irritated about charges of hypocrisy which I don't think I deserve," the king of all hippos told Mishal Husain as he tried unconvincingly to justify his transformation from self-styled angry young git in a glittery suit to purveyor of West End pop-pap-schlock.

Who can forget how the son of Professor Lewis Elton (who's so refined he makes Brian Sewell sound like Dirty Den) underwent a complete manual evacuation of the vowels at university, going from Oxford don to Basildon in a bid to disguise his background?

I can't, and no matter how many years his witless musicals may play to packed houses, there's no doubt what the man's number one sell-out will always be. Himself.

Being the BBC's most consistently incisive and compelling interview strand, Hardtalk is naturally scheduled in the middle of the night on a digital channel, but it's invariably well worth the bother of recording. …

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