Jeremy Paxman's final Newsnight - TV review

He was box office. BBC's news will be duller without him

How we shall miss that sneer, that raised eyebrow, the quiet menace of that voice, the implied assumption that the interviewee is a rogue with something to hide. Jeremy Paxman, prince of the disrespectful tendency among interviewers, has presented Newsnight for the last time, after a run of 25 years.

The 64-year-old broadcaster’s last hurrah began soberly with a report on the Iraq crisis. The first demonstration of vintage Paxman came 13 minutes in, as he interviewed Iraq’s ambassador to the USA, about Baghdad’s ability to deal with Sunni insurgency.

“So you can’t cope?” was one scornful question. Another was, “So your military was inept?” He asked whether the Iraqi government wants Iran’s help, suggesting that Iran is already involved. “I’m not aware of that,” the ambassador replied. “You’re not aware of that,” Paxman repeated disdainfully.

On to the next item: an interview with the old spin master, Peter Mandelson, on Ed Miliband’s leadership, currently going through a bad patch. “Why is he so much worse a leader than Tony Blair?” Lord Mandelson was asked. “He is a different leader, Jeremy,” is a short version of his answer.

Soon, the interview was no longer about Ed Miliband, but about whether Lord Mandelson was in any way responsible for the low opinion that people now have of politicians. “I don’t know what you’re accusing me of,” Mandelson responded at one point.

Then came the highlight – a ride on a tandem with Boris Johnson, whose natural exhibitionism makes him one of few politicians who could handle Paxman with confidence. They talked across each other as they pedalled past bemused pedestrians, Johnson in front, Paxman behind.

After the credits, viewers were treated to the sight of Paxman presenting the weather After the credits, viewers were treated to the sight of Paxman presenting the weather “This is the most stupid assignment I have ever…” Paxman complained, He was interrupted by the Mayor, who said: “This was your idea.”

“I’ve done war zones, Boris, that were easier than this.”

The interview that followed was a sparring match between two well matched big beasts “This is Jeremy’s valedictory programme,” the Mayor said to camera, as he embarked on a mocking tribute which Paxman cut short by bopping the Mayor on his helmet.

These were, presumably, the biggest name the BBC could pull in to grace the occasion. David Cameron has never risked a Paxman interview. The last prime minister to do so was Tony Blair, who had reason to regret it.

He was political journalism’s greatest showman. He did not have that talent of the late Sir David Frost for getting the subject of his interviews to let slip revealing information. In one of his best remembered conversations, he asked the then Home Secretary Michael Howard the same question 12 times – an occasion referenced in a brief cameo from Howard – without adding anything much to the sum of human knowledge.

But whatever his faults, this man was box office: the BBC’s news output will be duller without him. His final words were “Thank you for watching Newsnight, I hope you continue to enjoy it, goodnight and goodbye.” And goodbye to you too.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman stars as the Time Lord's companion Clara in Doctor Who

TV
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.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week