George Lamb – roaring on to a television screen near you
Love him or loathe him, there’s no keeping the laddish 6 Music DJ from live TV.
Sunday 13 June 2010
Next weekend will be George Lamb's last show on 6 Music, and for some it can't come too soon.
The 30-year-old presenter has consistently divided opinion since he replaced Gideon Coe on the week-day breakfast show more than three years ago – later moving to the weekend – and he was once described by this newspaper's former radio critic Nicholas Lezard as "possibly the worst DJ [I have] ever heard".
Those in the anti-Lamb camp deplore his brand of laddish banter, which they say jars with the alternative, vinyl-gazing, vibe of 6 Music. A Facebook group, "Get George Lamb off 6 Music" notoriously drew a few thousand members.
And yet, for all those who carp at his (self-confessed) lack of musical knowledge and his fondness for honking klaxons on air, there is little doubt that whatever George Lamb does, like it or not, he does well. The BBC does not release figures for individual shows, but 6 Music has almost doubled its listeners since Lamb's arrival, and in the flesh he is possessed of that indefinable confidence of someone whose star is in the ascendant. Over six-foot tall, good looking, and with deep reserves of self-belief, he was really always destined for telly.
Since 2008, he has presented Big Brother's Little Brother, and his schedule is so tight that we meet in his limo as he travels from the BBC to the Big Brother house, a journey that symbolises his career trajectory.
"As soon as I did a bit of live telly I knew it was what I wanted to do," he says, admitting this is one of the reasons he quit 6 Music. That, and money. "It doesn't pay particularly well, and telly pays a lot of money," he says frankly, after initially referring coyly to "the professional economic balance".
"Coming from a family where dad was in a very transient career, I suppose I have got an internal default setting that I want money, and I do want to be secure."
Lamb's father is the actor Larry Lamb, who recently played the villainous character of Archie Mitchell in EastEnders and has appeared in dozens of TV series, including The New Avengers, Lovejoy and Gavin and Stacey. Although George has never acted, he shares his Dad's passion for television. "As much as I love radio, you cannot compare the buzz to live television. I don't like driving cars very fast, I don't jump out of airplanes, but I do love being live on television. It's hooked me."
Fans of his radio show have no reason to grow despondent though, as there is a plan to transfer it into a television format. "The radio show is basically TFI Friday, which is basically the Letterman show, which is a bit of Toothbrush and a bit of Big Breakfast: there's no such thing as original thought, we're just nicking the best bits and pushing them on."
It's revealing that of the four shows that have influenced him, three were devised by Chris Evans. "There's not been destination telly for my generation since TFI Friday," he says, "that was really the last time I watched telly and loved it."
It's a startling admission from one of the faces of Big Brother, but Lamb agrees that the format has had its day. "Big Brother can't get any bigger than it was. It has been as important as any TV show has been, and it launched a whole new genre of telly. But where do you go from now? There's an argument that you just keep rolling it out forever and rake in the money, but that's hardly pushing things on."
Lamb frequently talks of "pushing things on", and, like his father, he enjoys the transience of his work.
"I love new projects, and knowing that nothing is forever. Going into a job, I like to know that this isn't going to be it for the rest of my life, things are always coming to an end and moving on."
Despite his enthusiasm for progress, his ambition is to bring back a reinvented version of TFI Friday, Chris Evans's hit Friday-night chat show.
"The format is still sitting there, crying out to be redone. I would love to make some kind of anarchic, fun, boisterous television." He is, he reveals, already in talks with production companies, and there even may be a pilot series out by Christmas.
For now, he is fully occupied with Big Brother, which provides the perfect hit for his live TV addiction. "I feel lucky that I have found something I love and am good at, and hopefully people like it a bit too," he says. He is careful to temper his evident enthusiasm for life with some modesty, and is self-consciously aware of the traps of stardom.
His was a privileged, Bohemian background in Fulham, south-west London, and he would have voted for David Cameron, had he voted, though he occasionally quotes Chomsky and talks animatedly about the injustice of Britain's wealth gap. In the end he settles on calling himself a champagne socialist.
"To quote that famous prophet Jay-Z," he laughs, "how can I help the poor if I'm one of them?"
As the TV riches start to roll in, we'll have to wait and see.
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