Even those of us so mired in the past that any mention of the BBC's Film programme evokes Barry Norman presenting Film 84, not even Film 85, should raise three cheers for the decision to send a venerable institution out live, interactive and even Twitter-active, and to give the presenting job to Claudia Winkleman, who succeeds some fellow called Ross and is only the third full-time presenter since the 1970s, although not the first woman. Joan Bakewell was an occasional presenter in the early years, before Norman got the gig full-time.
Winkleman handles live telly well; her natural kookiness is in perfect step with its unpredictability. Also, she's plainly a genuine film nut, which helps. It might even be a topic at the family breakfast table. Dear old Bazza was the son of a film producer, Les Norman, and she's married to one, Kris Thykier. She might not know her best boy from her key grip, but she certainly knows her Cukor from her Coppola.
Even so, we might have expected some first-night nerves, and they were doubtless there, but she kept them well hidden, sitting in super-casual fashion on the big red sofa with one leg tucked under the other. And why not, as Bazza never actually said. Nor would he, and still less Jonathan Ross, ever have said "I will be SHITE," which was Winkleman's prediction about her debut, tweeted earlier in the day.
Happily, she was completely wrong. She was terrific, and word-perfect with the autocue, no mean achievement when you speak as quickly as she does. As for the format of the thing, her double-act with the film critic Danny Leigh worked well. Back in Norman times, and then in the age of Ross, the presenter was king. He gave us his views on the film and that was that. But this is more consensual, indeed Winkleman might just be the woman who put the "sensual" in consensual; there's something knowingly sexy about her looks to camera. If there was a bum note last night it was Chris Hewitt's interview, live from the London Film Festival, with Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield, the three stars of Never Let Me Go, the feature which opened the festival. It was an utterly excruciating exercise in luvviedom. But back in the studio Winkleman took it perfectly in her stride.
She recently lamented Ross's decision to part company with the BBC. "If I had been the BBC I would have chased him down the corridor and held on to his leg and begged him to stay with all my might," she said. Some of us are delighted that she didn't.