Sunday 20 March 2016

Another mixed bag

People sometimes ask me if I’d like to have a job as a proper TV critic. No way. One of the reasons I don’t blog more frequently, or tackle a broader range of programmes is that I don’t watch all that much TV - apart from the News Channel and, say, a Scandi Noir or two on BBC Four. 
After its shaky start I’m now enjoying The Night Manager, too. I never listen to radio 5 live, which BBC bias-watchers often cite as the source of much frustration.
On Sunday mornings, if I’m not doing lunch, I do like to binge on Andrew Marr, The Big Questions and Sunday Politics.

This morning,  after Marr’s lament about the demise of the Independent - he says he especially enjoyed reading ‘Fisk’  - I thought Iain Duncan Smith was treated fairly. 
This was one time when interruptions would have been intrusive, and for whatever reason Andrew held back and allowed his victim to speak. It could have been purely because Marr was enjoying the spectacle of the tory “Ant and Dec” being slowly and agonizingly undermined, but let’s say the end justified the means, if that’s the appropriate saying.

It does seem that IDS had specific reasons for the untimeliness of his resignation, and it leaves us wondering what he proposes to do about moderating the chancellor’s soulless, purely mercenary policies now, from outside the government, rather than from inside lobbying for his particular, more humanitarian, cause. There’s an obvious analogy there. It’s the In / Out dilemma again. 

Anyway I’m not in the business of analysing politicians or telling people what to think. I’m just saying what I think. I reserve the right to change my mind at any time.

I admit my thoughts are often really shallow. When it comes to The Big Questions, my shallowness blossoms.
When the shot pans out to reveal the front row, my first instinct is spot the regulars. After that, spot the weirdos, the headscarves, the gurners and the fidgeters. Today I spotted a lad in the audience with a massive pale candy-floss afro. I wish he’d spoken so that we could have had a closer look. That’s how shallow I am. 

I’m  distracted by people waving their arms around, being expressive and animated all the time. People don’t do that in real life. I’m told they’re taught to do that in ‘presenter school’, but not everyone who does it on TV has gone to presenter school, whatever that is. 
So, today the front row contained Owen Jones. He doesn’t wave his arms around, only his mouth, which he talks out of - one side at time. Sometimes he seems proper bright; next minute he’s on a forum with Hsiao-Hung Pai and someone called Ash with yellow comedy talons, and he seems as dopey as ever. 

Also present was the other Owen Jones, the hippy vicar called “Peter” with the dog collar and the hair. He’s weird, isn’t he?  Best of all, they had Piers Corbyn. It was mad.

Sorry for overlapping, but Craig’s post actually describes the content of the show, whereas mine’s purely facetious. As usual.


One series I did watch with pleasure was Happy Valley. I came to the party late, but for me it was outstanding in that it had a proper ending. Dramas frequently start well and fizzle out towards the end as though the writer has run out of steam or has merely lost interest. This time the ending was just right. No car chase, no shoot-out. The only quibble was the poor audibility, which I’ve mentioned before.   I must say James Norton is a versatile actor. At least, his appearance can change radically, along with the character. Most luvvies these days remain stubbornly ‘themselves’ playing this or that role. But James is the character. I liked him as a baddie.

Some James Nortons
Another topic, a teeny bit on the shallow side perhaps, concerns Theresa May’s cleavage. What was she thinking? Cleavage on budget day? Bad judgment.


Andrew Neil’s reviewers made a good job of discussing Iain Duncan Smith. I do like it when The Sunday Politics discusses The Andrew Marr Show. It’s incest, but not as we know it.
Isabel Oakeshott, Janan Ganesh and your new BBC Newsnight editor made some interesting observations. 
They speculated on the future of the  Conservative party (in the event of either outcome of the EU referendum) and whether Iain Duncan Smith’s resignation would help the Brexit campaign (they thought it would) and whether it would irretrievably damage the PM’s and the Chancellor’s credibility.  (They thought not) Those were the questions I wanted them to discuss, though who’s to say whether their answers were particularly definitive or authoritative. Heidi Allen was jolly, don’t you think?


I’m sorry that so many of you loathe Jo Brand by the way. I’ve seen that opinion expressed often enough on Biased-BBC so it wasn't a surprise. I can definitely understand that someone’s politics can completely pollute everything about them. Turn them toxic, as Isabel Oakeshott might say.
I feel that way about Ken Loach, Vanessa Redgrave, Emma Thompson, Jeremy Hardy and Alexie Sayle, to name but a few. But Jo, no.


Oh yes, and I do wish our anonymouses would include some identifying marker somewhere in their comments. I had hoped that we could eventually achieve a little community, with regular contributors establishing their own comment personalities.  

But we’ve been here for ages, and that doesn’t seem to be happening.

The best blogs have lively comments sections, so what does that make this blog? 


  1. I too don’t really watch that much television. But the biggest disappointment for me has been Radio 4, which for most of my working life has always been in the background. Now I find myself, more often than not, turning it off within a few minutes of turning it on. I sometimes like to imagine that there is some sort of meter at BBC House that records the number of listeners at any one time. I imagine the needle suddenly spinning round the dial to zero as Marcus Brigstocke takes to the microphone to start yet another sanctimonious “comedy” routine. A vain hope, alas.

  2. Marr's heart didn't quite seem into tripping up IDS. It could also be that he didn't do his usual interrupting and squabbling because he loves the Tory Splits! narrative going on and wanted to give him every chance to run down Osborne and Cameron and their whole way of running the country. His questioning approached that from about four different angles, I think. It would have been a bonus to get IDS to admit wanting to take them down, but that was never going to happen.

    Is it just me, or does he speak much more confidently and incisively these days than when he was party leader?

    Andrew Neil's show took more or less the same angle. Why isn't anyone blaming Osborne and Cameron for pushing him out over all this? As Nick Watt pointed out, it's not like they didn't know how IDS felt all along. Then they turn around and pull back on the key cuts as some kind of FU to him.

    Osborne's own biographer admitted he never had much of a chance to become leader anyway, which will disappoint the BBC no end. They see Osborne as the only one Corbyn can beat, and even if Corbyn is replaced, it would be by an establishment Labour figure who could also beat him. As much as the BBC loves the Tory Splits! narrative, I'd say getting new leadership sooner rather than later would be their best chance of staying in government at the next election. Which the Beeboids would hate, so they better start thinking twice about what they're pushing.


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