It’s amazing what passes for a documentary these days, isn’t it? “Tonight the Barry-Powers household would normally be enjoying a takeaway,” said the voiceover on The Kitchen (BBC2, 9pm, 20 October). “But this evening, they are forgoing their weekly treat.”
If a family from Cardiff deciding not to phone for a takeaway because they are feeling a bit skint is prime time TV, that feels a bit depressing. But then it turned out that the first few minutes were just a dodgy starter. The main course was quite tasty.
Once it got going, this documentary, billed as the story of “Britain at the dinner table, who we are, what we cook and what matters to us, as we eat, laugh, love and share our lives,” stayed true to the principle of cinéma vérité: to show life at the kitchen sink in all its fascinating mundanity. And certainly some of the food being cooked was both fascinating (the curry cooked by Mr Barry-Powers to replace the takeaway was a jaw-dropper for its sheer hideousness) and mundane (pasty and chips).
Elsewhere, the show succeeded thanks to expensive production values, inventive camera angles, and a carefully chosen variety of subjects to appear on camera. Even better, they all seemed blissfully unaware there was a camera in the room, so their resulting behaviour was natural.
At 60 minutes it might be long, but it also gave the show time to pace itself gently. And as the show went on, it became quite endearing. No Michelin stars, perhaps - but a satisfying midweek supper nonetheless.