TV Highlights

What's on Thursday 5th February

The Great British Sewing Bee

BBC Two - 8pm

Who's in it?

It’s the return of the show that proves that yes, the nation CAN get almost as excited about needles, threads and thimbles as it can about perfect icing, red velvet sponges and soggy bottoms. And Claudia Winkleman’s back on hosting duties.

In a nutshell

The Great British Bake-Off has become dearer to the nation than Judi Dench, Big Ben, roast dinners and our own family members. Which is pretty good going for a show about baking. We put it down to its perfect storm of outstanding attributes – its relaxed pastoral vibe, Mel and Sue's wit, Paul Hollywood playing a kind of sexy Bond villain. Clearly desperate to repeat the success with another pastime just quaint enough to appeal to grannies and vintage-loving hipsters equally, the Beeb has given us a few Bake Off rip-offs.

One’s the Big Allotment Challenge (yawn) and the other is this, which is rather more fun. Partly because judge Patrick Grant is a serviceable Paul Hollywood stand-in, and partly because there’s lots of angsting over sewing machines, which is very much like angsting over floppy pastry. We also get the usual cross section of unlikely types – this series features a sewing soldier who took his sewing machine to Kosovo and Bosnia, and a big-handed IT consultant who’s dying to be more delicate.

What's the verdict?

Kicking off with a testing trio of challenges (including making a pair of trousers, and swanking up a dull denim skirt), this should be a fine start to proceedings. Even if their creations chafe a bit, Sewing Bee is mighty comfy viewing.

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