Great British Village Show



Alan Titchmarsh


Angellica Bell and James Martin

Head judge: Medwyn Williams


12 Yard for BBC One, 3 June to 29 July 2007 (7 episodes in 1 series)


The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines twee as "excessively or affectedly quaint, pretty, or sentimental". Twee is a word we may have cause to use in the course of this review.

The premise is simple enough: each week 12 Yard pitches a marquee somewhere in Great Britain, and invites people to come along and show off their handiwork in fifteen categories. All the things you would expect to see at a typical village show are represented: flower arranging, jam making, growing enormous leeks, that sort of thing. A series of regional heats lead up to a national final held at Highgrove House.

All of this is presided over by the country pursuits equivalent of Theakston's quiz gods. Alan Titchmarsh is there because this is his world - and besides, what he doesn't know about root vegetables ain't worth knowing. James Martin is there because he's an expert on country cooking with fresh ingredients. And Angellica Bell is there because Myleene Klass is already busy at weekends.

Image:Great british village show hosts.jpg
Coming to a village near you: Titchmarsh, Bell and Martin

Before we get to the judging, there are filmed inserts following chosen competitors as they prepare their food/garments/craft things for the contest. Usually they have a friendly rivalry with one of the other competitors, whom they tend to discuss with mock-malice ("he's just a loser, basically") while some suitably jolly music plays in the background.

Meanwhile, back at the show the judges do their thing. Their credentials come up on screen - 30 years judging cakes for the WI, 50 years flower arranging for the RHS - and it becomes clear that time has turned their hearts cold as stone. Ruthlessly they point out every minor imperfection: a cake presented on a plate inside of the prescribed tray, or a perfectly good woolly jumper declared more suitable for "a long cold winter" than the required "cooler winter evening". In the end they do declare a winner. When it's one of the categories where we've previously seen film of contestants, one of the presenters has the task of reading out the judges' comments and announcing the third, second and first places, and given their presenting experience, it's quite remarkable how bad all three of them are at this. If the first episode is anything to go by, being in one of the short films is the kiss of death to your chances in the actual contest. Often as not, people who have been rivals for twenty years, jostling for first and second place in countless non-televised village shows, have to look on as a first-timer comes in and takes the prize. They put on a brave, though obviously crestfallen, face, and generously praise the winner, but we're not fooled. After all, we've seen Midsomer Murders, and we're just waiting for the bodycount to start racking up.

All in all then, it's as twee as a whole box of easter chicks, but then not everything on telly has to be dark and edgy. We were ready to hate this show, but even we're not that churlish. It's low-key, it does what it does and does it reasonably well, and it's such a departure from the usual 12 Yard template that we had to double and triple-check to make sure. Even Paul Farrer's theme music is well against type. A qualified success, then. But twee. Ever so very twee.


Sam Pollard

Theme music

Paul Farrer

Web links

BBC programme page


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