TV COLUMN: Luther, Masterchef: The Professionals, Love Actually

James Waller-Davies
James Waller-Davies

Columnist James Waller-Davies gives his views on some of the recent events on television.

The problem with Idris Elba being so talented is that everyone wants a piece of him.

As a result it’s taken five years to get to series 4 of the highly-acclaimed Luther (BBC1).

Elba has spent the intervening years mopping up awards around the globe in everything from the ground-breaking US hit The Wire, to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe.

Luther, the detective who has walked so far down the dark side of crime that he’s well on his way to being the first Sith Lord of the Met, seems to borrow more and more from Will Graham, the tortured FBI hunter of Hannibal Lecter.

As a further Lecter link, the latest series of Luther kicked off with a cannibal serial killer slicing, dicing and dining out in London.

The best of British TV remains amongst the best in the world, but American movie finance has a habit of out-bidding the BBC and whisking the likes of Elba, Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman off to far more glamorous projects. We’re left picking up the occasional TV scraps whenever they get a spare five minutes. Enjoy Luther while you can, it’ll be a good while before we get to series 5.

Masterchef: The Professionals (BBC2) is simmering nicely ready for next week’s final’s week. Gone are the clueless food manglers of the early rounds, the so-called ‘professional chefs’ who could barely be trusted to boil an egg, let alone make the buttered soldiers to go with it.

It’s all got a bit more serious now. Co-presenter Greg Wallace has departed with his comic range of gurning and gawping taken right out of Carry On handbook and it’s left to the Marcus Wareing and Monica Galetti to make or break the nation’s next chef superstar.

Unfortunately, for this version of Masterchef, the more competent the chefs, the less entertaining the programme. A culinary car-crash is far more entertaining than watching a serenely faultless plate of food arrive without a hitch. The last two weeks of Masterchef: The Professionals is a bit like flicking through the food section of the Sunday papers. Hmm, that’s nice. Turn the page. Move on. Instantly forgettable.

The festive season is the perfect time for TV secret pleasures and what’s not to like about the gooey, fluffy and sickly sweet Love Actually (ITV2)? It’s the film equivalent of eating and entire tub of marshmallows.

You need to get through a lot of Christmas movies before you get to a good one.

Every year sees the release of at least half a dozen, yet a genuine Christmas hit is as rare on screen as it is on the radio.

It doesn’t bode well for this season’s Christmas telly as many of the Christmas big-hitters, It’s A Wonderful Life, Home Alone, The Holiday and Love Actually have been on already.

Christmas telly, just like the rest of Christmas, starts earlier every year, clearing the schedules for the inevitable tsunami of wall-to-wall, real-time coverage of Christmas in the world of soaps. Thank heavens – and Father Christmas – for the escape to box-sets.

Enjoy your Christmas telly!