Review: They jabbed and poked, but Black emerged unscathed unharmed

3.00

Last Night: Have I Got News For You,  BBC 1

“I don’t normally do too badly exchanging acerbities” Conrad Black said the other day, when Adam Boulton questioned the wisdom of his decision to appear on Have I Got News For You.

Back then his confidence was understandable. There’s a lot that’s bull-like about Black on the rampage – eyes narrowed as he contemplates the outrageous presumption that a conviction for criminal fraud might impugn his reputation, nostrils flaring at the scent of liberal prejudice.

Two of current affairs’ foremost toreadors had come at him waving their clipboards and he’d flicked them aside without breaking sweat. Last night though it was the turn of the picadors, taking it in turns to jab and goad from a distance. And the question was whether the treatment would leave Black weakened or spectacularly enraged. He was never going to be defeated – you can’t shame the shameless. But there was at least the possibility that he might end up looking foolish.

In the event it was something of an anti-climax. Black started reasonably well, with the only strategy available to such a guest: answer back smartly. “I salute your balls”, said Alexander Armstrong, acknowledging his nerve in taking the pillory seat. “I will give you the opportunity to do just that”, replied Black and got a laugh that was with him not at him.

But if you feared that he was going to master this format as brazenly as he’d controlled his one-to-one interviews earlier in the week, reassurance came quite quickly. He unrolled a laboured joke about badgers which didn’t get a laugh at all, and as the scriptwriters took every opportunity available to remind the audience of exactly why he was there, he could only occasionally find a snappy line back.

“I said I could live on $80 million”, he said at one point, correcting a line in Armstrong’s script. “That’s the spirit! Chin up”, replied Armstrong drily.

Ian Hislop had a crack at a frontal assault and had wisely opted for condescension rather than indignation as the best tactic: “You’ve come here to say you’re innocent. Which is sweet. But not true”, he said concluding one of the few rattlier exchanges. That got a big laugh but it was also followed by one of those sharp swerves of tone that tell you a lot has disappeared in the edit.

Whatever happened in the gap it wasn’t funny enough or interesting enough to retain. And after that there wasn’t a lot of action. Black was teased and tickled but never really wounded.

In the end the most forensic moment was supplied by an on-screen picture. “My wife didn’t even have a costume” Black insisted, recalling a notorious occasion when he’d gone to a fancy dress party as a cardinal. The image we saw next showed his wife in full fig as a French countess. If that was representative of the accuracy of his memory, you found yourself thinking, it’s really no wonder he was convicted.

Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May

film

Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama

TV

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before