Niki Lauda and James Hunt. BEST IMAGE
Niki Lauda and James Hunt. BEST IMAGE
Trevor Noah
Trevor Noah

Celebrated comedian Trevor Noah performs in Live at the Apollo, TV chef Jamie Oliver partners childhood friend Jimmy Doherty for a cooking series, while Indian spices and cuisine feature in two shows. Debashine Thangevelo caught up with Kully Kaur-Bains, head of programming, Africa, during the recent BBC Showcase to find out more…

VIEWERS are spoilt for choice when it comes to content on the small screen – be it on the free-to-air or pay channels.

In light of the competition out there, BBC Worldwide manages to impress with its catalogue of shows across its mainstream channels in South Africa – BBC Lifestyle, BBC Entertainment, BBC Knowledge, Cbeebies and BBC World News. Last week’s showcase was indicative of this.

Aside from the return of favourite series, Kully Kaur-Bains, the head of programming, Africa, shed light on the standouts in the coming line-up.

On BBC Lifestyle, Jamie Oliver serves up two shows: Save with Jamie and Jamie and Jimmy’s Food Fight.

“I think it (Jamie and Jimmy’s Food Fight) was a pet project of his. They have been childhood friends and it was a nice way to get them together – in terms of their passion. Jimmy (Doherty) is a presenter and he farms. The idea came through conversation, from what I understand. Southend is a seaside town like Brighton. They grew up there and decided to do something.

“They go up against the Germans in a sausage-making competition. Gwyneth Paltrow is also in an episode (this was before the public break-up). She says, in the series, ‘In our entire marriage he only cooked twice. And, I kid you not, on those two occasions, I have had to call the fire brigade.’ It’s a jovial, informative and beautiful series.”

Keeping with the food theme, Rick Stein’s India and The Incredible Spice Men are other flavourful offerings.

Kaur-Bains notes: “He (Stein) brings a little history into the series. He goes to Lucknow to find out how the breyani originated.

“He looks at how it has become street food and how the country, culture and palates have moved on. And he explores the use of saffron and the use of the silver leaf.”

She adds that The Incredible Spice Men, especially with the growing interest in spices, slots in nicely as a complementary show.

With Brazil on everyone’s radar with the World Cup, BBC Knowledge’s Wild Brazil and Secrets of South America capitalises on the frenzy.

The head of programming notes: “When we had the World Cup in South Africa, I brought the History of Football, a 13-part series, leading into the World Cup.

“It did remarkably well. We have an audience with that sport knowledge, who are predominantly men. So it is a case of: How do we serve them? We want to be relevant and topical. The BBC catalogue has opened up its sports documentaries category. I spent the last year buying one-offs like End it like Beckham. We also have other documentaries like Andy Murray: The Man Behind the Racket. We have another piece with Beckham coming up. We cover cricket, football, F1 (with Hunt vs Lauda) and tennis.

Going big on the laughter, BBC Entertainment has two big comedies – Big School and Moone Boy – debuting on the channel.

And our very own Trevor Noah makes a big entry in Live at the Apollo.

Kaur-Bains adds: “We were trying to get him here for the showcase, but he was very busy. He is very funny and he is a talent we have earmarked.”

To date, The Graham Norton Show has been a flagship talk show for the BBC. But our irreverent host is about to get stiff competition from comedian Michael McIntyre, who has bagged his own chat show.

Of course, mum is the word on it until all the Is are dotted and the Ts are crossed.