If ‘Man v Food’ and ‘The Great Outdoors’ have taught us anything, it’s that watching someone eat ridiculously large quantities of food is both disgusting and incredibly entertaining. But when the setting is a British burger van and the competitive eater in question is a sweet and kindhearted girl who’s been pressured into it, it feels far less celebratory.
This latest ‘Coming Up’ episode tells the story of Denise, a young and lovable speed eating prodigy who feels trapped by her unattractive and unhealthy gift. With a lazy, vindictive and exploitative mum, a crush who barely remembers her name and an unglamorous job, she’s living the life that other people want her to. It all sounds rather depressing, but ‘Burger Van Champion’ is successful precisely because it isn’t.
Charming and filled with some genuine laugh-out-loud moments, it’s funny, touching, superbly written and well-acted. Jessie Cave is particularly brilliant as Denise, a character who you’re rooting for from the first minute. The denouement feels slightly rushed, and it could certainly have benefited from being slightly longer, but this is another very strong offering from the ‘Coming Up’ strand.