The BBC is much maligned, but it remains capable of delivering excellent TV. Back in Time for Dinner (BBC2, 9pm, 7 April) is a fine example.
Erudite and curious, presenter Giles Coren is perfect for the show, but it’s producers Alison Kirkham and Emily Shields who deserve the credit. It’s one thing to do exhaustive research and perfectly cast a lively family as the guinea pigs eating their way through the food fads of the past 50 years, but what’s really interesting is to examine how these food trends influenced cultural shifts at home and work.
Not shying away from this to spend a disproportionate amount of time on everyone’s reaction to a Pot Noodle or a Vesta curry (fun as it is) has given the series depth and historical interest, emphasised by its careful attention to mise-en-scène, the soundtrack and the family wardrobe.
The real star of this show has been the food, however. The series has laid bare how rapidly our diet shifted from home cooked classics in the 1950s and 1960s to “ersatz” convenience replacements, summed up by the 1980s microwave boom and the arrival of the now ubiquitous ready meal, which found a happy home in the new-fangled oven. Less happy was a roast chicken, which was pulsed with red-hot radiation before being painted with Marmite to improve its appearance. It might have only taken 30 minutes, but no one enjoyed eating it.
Next week it’s the 1990s, and everything from bagged salad to cook-in sauces is on the menu. I’m looking forward to it already.