REVIEW / Who comes over all soppy about sows?

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The Independent Culture
AND WE welcome to the chair our first contestant. Your name, please? 'Jonathan Meades.' And your profession? 'Jonathan Meades.' Your specialist subject, please? 'Jonathan Meades.' Jonathan Meades, you have two minutes on the subject of Jonathan Meades starting . . . now.

Who writes and presents a quirky series called Further Abroad on BBC2? 'Jonathan Meades.' Correct. Although the series deals with topics that go to the core of Britishness, what is its real subject? 'Jonathan Meades.' Correct. In last night's programme, 'The Truth About Porkies', you argued that 'we find it difficult to respect an animal that so surely reminds us of ourselves'. Was the viewer reminded of any self in particular? 'Jonathan Meades.' Correct.

You started an entertaining essay by stating that 'the finest, fondest way to show affection for an animal is to eat it', and ended it by tucking into a sizzling roast suckling pig: name the television personality least likely to be named Vegetarian of the Year. 'Jonathan Meades.' Correct. Until he came over all soppy about sows, which rigorously intellectual television presenter would you have presumed to be all head and no heart? 'Jonathan Meades.' Correct.

Who originated the amusing though sometimes also infuriating technique of saying a sentence to camera and then marching out of shot? 'Jonathan Meades.' Correct. Who of the following would you back to win a general knowledge quiz: Peter Scissorhands, Gloria Honey Word, Anne Dire Mons, or Jonathan Meades? 'Jonathan Meades.' Correct.

Which of the following presenters with their own programme on last night is least likely to become a much loved household name: Louise Doughty (First Reaction, C4), Kate Bellingham and Howard Stableford (Tomorrow's World, BBC1), Ruth Langsford (The Great British Garden Show, BBC2), or Jonathan Meades? 'Jonathan Meades.' Correct. For his ability to stimulate and infuriate in equal measure, which restaurant reviewer for a cut-price paper should there always be a pew for in television's broad church? 'Jonathan Meades.' Correct.

If the BBC - 'Beep, beep, beep' - I've started so I'll finish: if the BBC asked you to present an infomercial series about road safety, what should your answer be? 'Pass.' Correct.

Alexei Sayle now has two shows on the go. On Thursday, in his comedy vehicle, the aim is to be dangerous; on Friday, in a new infomercial series about road safety, the aim is to be safe. Someone once said that Clive James, when he had concurrently running shows on the two BBC channels, one highbrow and the other low, was television's first split personality. Sayle must be the second.

At least he's finally landed his own series on BBC1, the moment most alternative comedians know they've made it; he may have to spout stacks of statistics about deaths from road accidents, but with stats it's the way you tell 'em.

Sayle is probably a perfect choice for this punchy 10-minute slot. It isn't aimed at young drivers who any minute now will be wrapping their parents' motor round a lamppost, because that audience group is never watching just before The Nine O'Clock News. So getting a teen idol like David Baddiel to do it was out. Middle- aged to old drivers tend to know how to avoid running over innocent, three-foot- tall pedestrians, so the fogies' choice, Bob Monkhouse, was no good.

What was needed was a comedian who has grown up in tandem with the company-car drivers you see in the ads for German suavemobiles. He may be a suedehead, but Sayle becomes less of a leftie every time he's spotted by a camera crew. He leavens this sermon with levity, and it may well be that this series will even save a few lives: the highest art, lest we forget, entertains and educates at the same time. If he gets any safer, he'll be fronting Crime Monthly (ITV). And Jonathan Meades might fly.