LIKE Christmas and Easter, it feels as though Comic Relief starts a little earlier this year.
In my local Tesco, I can still buy discounted Christmas tree chocolates. They’re right next to the Easter eggs.
The irony appears to have been lost on the floorplanners at Britain’s biggest supermarket.
But at least Tesco has a reason for going to town on Christmas and Easter so early: It wants to make money. That’s why you can buy mince pies which pass their sell by date before December 25.
And it’s pretty hard to dodge December 25 or Easter Sunday, regardless of how much you want to opt out.
For the BBC and Comic Relief, it’s very different.
For a start, it’s optional, and easy to avoid in the sense that you can switch off the telly and make a point of dodging anyone who looks like they are about to sit in a bath of baked beans at the entrance to your local supermarket.
Then there’s the fact that, unlike the two festive festivals, it relies on our goodwill – or rather the likelihood of us texting ‘comic’ or some other word to a donation text line – to be a success.
And that’s why it feels like overkill to get to the end of the third week of January and already find the BBC hasn’t just started its first Comic Relief celebrity spin-off series, but actually completed it. And Comic Relief isn’t until March 15.
Last week, BBC2 treated us to a ‘celebrity’ special of the Great British Bake Off, that oh-so-middle-class cookery show set in a marquee in what appears to be the middle of a very posh park.
For Mary Berry, Bake Off has clearly been a dream come true. It’s made Wirral’s Paul Hollywood the George Clooney of biscuit lovers world. For Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins, the allegedly comedic presenters, it’s been a new lease of life they could probably never have expected.
And the regular series is quite good fun.
The intensity of the contestants when making some macaroons is remarkable. But the celebrity series irritated me.
Not just because they were celebrities, but because of the premise.
Comic Relief is about doing fun stuff to raise money for people less fortunate than ourselves, most notably in Africa. It’s impossible not to be moved by the reports of poverty, hunger and famine presented by well-meaning celebrities like Lenny Henry.
But there’s something which jars with me when I watch a bunch of well-paid celebrities – some of who clearly spent little time ever cooking, as shown by presenter Simon Reeve’s use of a cheese grater to remove burnt bits of chocolate cake – whipping up opulent puddings, before we’re shown how our money from Comic Relief is spent.
The tenuous link to Comic Relief here is that it’s supposed to inspire us to hold bake sales to raise money for Comic Relief, something last tried on Blue Peter in the early 1990s during their various appeals.
It might work for teenagers, but if anything is going to make me less likely to raise money for charity, it’s a clip of Jo Brand telling me to bake cakes for a good cause.
Comic Relief does amazing work. The actual main night can be very good too.
But filling the TV schedules with celebrities having fun with chocolate while encouraging us to raise money for the world’s starving has left a very bad taste in the mouth.
What I’ll be watching next week: Splash, (ITV, 7pm, Saturday): Enjoy the final of this comedically bad diving competition.