Matthew Norman's Media Diary: Deference is not the sharpest tool
Monday 26 November 2007
ANYONE WHO shares with the Daily Mail and myself a special nostalgic bond to the age of deference (1952-1964 according to social historians) will have relished last week. First, a word of praise for The Times's David Aaronovitch for the first episode of BBC1's The Blair Years, in which he interviewed Mr Tony B with all the controlled but discernible rigour of Michael Parkinson (see below) invited by a topless Sophia Loren into her on-set trailer. Rousing as this verbal sparring was, the disappointment is that in all the excitement David forgot to ask the former PM if he had anything further to impart to a grateful nation, although he may well have come to this in last night's second episode when the chat moved on to Iran. And yet, remarkably, enough, the Most Ameliorative über-Blairite of the Week award went elsewhere, to Martin Kettle of The Guardian ...and he wasn't even talking about Mr Blair.
In an impressive display of even-handedness, it was around the trembling shoulders of the current regime and its leaders that the avuncular Martin sought to throw a protective arm. "There can hardly be a person alive who hasn't lost something important – keys, wallet, passport, watch, car, even children – at some time or another through their own inadvertence or stupidity," Martin confided to The Guardian's web site. "We've all done it ... So, in that sense, today's announcement that the Revenue and Customs have lost some CDs full of data is actually a very human story. We've all been there. It's incredibly annoying, but it's life. We ought to feel sympathetic." We ought to, Martin, of course we should. Yet in this age of cynics and sneerers, so few of us have the simple humanity. All we can really do is fantasise about nicking the Tardis, stopping off at Wapping to collect David on the way, and slipping through space-time back to 1956.
WITH DEFERENCE still in mind, to Michael Parkinson (Good Old Parky!), the Dame Nellie Melba of chat whose latest final show goes out on ITV1; and whose next comeback is scheduled for the spring of 2009. But that's always been the way with a career which, for all its rich promise, has tended towards the stop-start. It may seem as if Parky's been giggling like the victim of an explosion in a nitrous oxide factory at witless anecdotes for an unbroken 72 years. But when it comes to continuous service, he is quite the arriviste. He did 11 years from 1971-82 on the BBC, not returning until 1998. Then he quickly flounced out in a huff over scheduling times, turning up at ITV four years ago. If you add up his years he's probably done less time than Jonathan Ross, the granddaddy of chat to Parky's cocky young kid on the block. He'll be back, though, once he's learnt his trade.
A TRULY shocking week for BBC2's Eggheads. The quintet of smart arses of varying degrees of psychosis-inducing smugness (that Daphne ... I'm sorry, I can't discuss it; I'd only end up in court) lost twice running to members of the public. Further evidence that the bleating about dumbing down is false as well as tired came on the show that precedes it. On Wednesday's Weakest Link, one contestant, asked by our most adored Annie Robinson, which ex-Labour leader became an EU Commissioner, replied "Margaret Thatcher". Meanwhile, the next question (and these were the two who reached the final) requested the name of Noah's grandfather who died at 967. "God," he said. Dumbing down? With arch Nietzchean references like that one on teatime telly? Cobblers.
CONGRATULATIONS TO Evan Davis, the genital jewellery-clad outgoing BBC economics editor, on his forthcoming berth as a presenter of Radio 4's Today Programme. He's a real talent and will no doubt be excellent at the job. No doubt his new colleagues will welcome him with the usual generosity of spirit with which BBC staff are known. In fact, we gather that Jim Naughtie plans to go that extra mile to make Evan feel part of the gang. According to friends, Jim has made an appointment to be pierced, and plans to wear a gold ring on the first morning they co-present just in case they find themselves standing alongside each other in the urinals during Thought For The Day.
APOLOGIES FOR last week's incomplete reference to GMTV's Fiona Phillips, who in the Daily Mirror identified the genesis for Frank Lampard's Toryism as brain damage, caused by heading footballs. Our item, which mused on the convention that political interviewers such as Fiona keep their political allegiances private, was written before Sunday's revelation that Gordon Brown wanted to ennoble her and appoint her a junior health minister. Sometimes there are no words. This is such a time.
EXCITING NEWS for Jon Gaunt fans. Gaunty's Sun column has been moved from Wednesday to the prestigious Friday slot. So far Gaunty seems oddly fatigued by the transfer – he couldn't be bothered, he reported three days ago, to write of England's defeat to Croatia – but it's very early days and I'm sure he'll bed in soon.
SPEAKING OF that memorable match, lastly, hats off to Kent News for covering ensuing developments with none of the parochialism that can afflict the local press. Kent FA Member Helped Sack Steve McClaren ran the main headline on its web site on Thursday. Indeed, but for Barry Bright, Mr McClaren would still be in his job today.
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