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TV: Mark Smith on the Big Allotment Challenge

There was a scene in W1A, the recent comedy about the BBC, that satirised the process of commissioning programmes.

It featured some producers coming up with an idea called Britain's Tastiest Village which was "kind of Britain's Got Talent meets Countryfile with a bit of The One Show thrown in just in case."

The Big Allotment Challenge (Tuesday, BBC2, 8pm) is a product of the same process and is kind of The Great British Bake Off meets Gardener's World with a bit of This Morning thrown in just in case.

It is about making jam, flower arranging and growing vegetables and is presented by Fern Britton, to whom no one can object on any basis, no matter how hard you look.

This leaves The Big Allotment Challenge with a problem, which is that making jam, flower arranging and growing vegetables are not dramatic subjects. In an attempt to counter this problem, The Big Allotment Challenge featured dramatic footage of one of the vegetable growers running, although it was unclear whether she was running towards or away from the vegetables.

The set-up of the show is relatively simple. Nine pairs of vegetable growers are given allotments in Oxfordshire.

They have to grow vegetables and flowers, arrange them in bouquets for no apparent reason and also make things from their produce, such as jams and curds.

Their work is judged by three experts: Jim Buttress, who looks like his surname, and judges the vegetables; Thane Prince, who sounds like a character from Shakespeare and judges the cooking; and Jonathan Moseley, a flower arranger who says "flowers are my life" and judges the bouquets.

The contestants themselves are a varied bunch and reveal something I didn't know about allotments which is that, like owners who end up looking like their dogs, gardeners end up looking like their vegetables. Shaun, for instance, is round, bald and red and resembles one of his radishes, while Gary and Pete appear to be just as enthusiastic about growing hair on their faces as growing vegetables in the ground and look like a couple of leeks: long, lanky with straggly hair at one end.

All of the contestants clearly love vegetables and allotments but the problem is the programme lacks the same certainty.

It is trying to be a bit like other shows so ends up with a confused identity.

For more than 20 minutes, it is like Bake Off, for another 20, it is like Gardener's World but never is it as good as either of those programmes.

It is like the last vegetable in the box: a little withered, malnourished and not as tasty as the alternatives.

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