The BBC is taking a firmer line on taste and decency, according to the trustees. If so, it can kiss goodbye to retaining its audience, because, whether the middle-class gentry likes it or not, everyday life in Britain is pretty vulgar – just as it always was. We're the nation of bawdy hits such as Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Fielding's Tom Jones, Joe Orton's farces, Shakespeare's smutty romps. We haven't got more foul-mouthed or crude: we always have been. From Max Wall to Bernard Manning to Harry Enfield – British humour at its best is filthy and tasteless.
The Sachs débacle proves that the best broadcasting organisation in the world is run by a bunch of headless chickens – bonus-heavy top executives – dictated to by a bunch of second-division unelected trustees who couldn't run a quiz night down at my local. Fact: this row blew up during half-term, and every exec with a child at the Beeb was on holiday.
Lesley Douglas might be the queen of "edgy" innovation at Radio 2, but what kind of regime disintegrates when the boss is away? Answer: a station where one of Britain's most uninhibited comedians, Russell Brand, is allowed to make his own show with his own company and employ his own (very junior) producer. All the BBC does is check the end result for "taste", and that's where it, not Brand, cocked up. The people who should be sacked for ineptitude are the director-general and his deputy, who then failed to control how the ensuing story was reported on their own airwaves. By Wednesday, lead item on the 10pm news was not the human disaster in DR Congo, but a BBC cock-up. By the end of the week everyone was fed up with the corporation.
I'm not impressed that over 30,000 people claim to be shocked about an incident that originally attracted only two complaints. Every evangelical group in the country has probably spent hours manning the phones. The same right-wing mob wanted the BBC to ban the Jerry Springer musical. The same people will complain over and over again. Get over it! The BBC said sorry. The people concerned said sorry – what do these complainers want, public floggings?
There's a hidden agenda at work. The complainers are cross that blokes who look as silly as Russell Brand are popular with a younger generation, and have tremendous success with women while wearing tight trousers, girly jewellery and make-up. They're mad that a 47-year-old self-important man with a speech impediment can earn millions of pounds for delivering unsubtle innuendo, clad in vulgar suits. But millions of people make a date with this bloke more than once a week.
Critics also forget the BBC has given us the best comedy. Would The Young Ones, The Goon Show, Absolutely Fabulous, and Round the Horne ever have emerged from a commercial broadcaster? Of course not. The BBC has taken risks for years. After all, when Kenneth Horne came up with the outrageously gay Julian and Sandy on his BBC radio series, homosexuality was still illegal. Kenneth Williams would mince through the show, sprouting Polari, and the BBC turned a blind eye. Adrian Edmondson and Rik Mayall's Bottom was lewd from start to finish, and hugely popular.
As a BBC executive I was charged with trying to capture the "youth" audience, spending weeks in airless rooms at comedy festivals hoping to discover the next big talent. Most were 30-something white men obsessed with their knobs, anal sex, sport and telly programmes. Then along came shag monster Russell Brand who is to comedy what Alain de Botton is to documentaries: a breath of fresh air. Here's a brain at work, a man with a helter-skelter delivery, a massive vocabulary, a surreal take on a conversation.
Earlier this year we spent a couple of hours talking, and what an inspiring range of ideas, potty concepts and fantasies he came up with. Russell Brand is ruthlessly self-analytical, and works very hard. He's given up heroin. Yes, he's bonked loads of women, and even went to a clinic for sex addicts. To use his words, his behaviour is compulsive but not illegal, and women adore him because he's not blokey. Now a comedy genius has been sacrificed to baying reactionaries by the BBC's terminal incompetence. As he told me, "I've only got a haircut! Calm down!" The BBC should do its job properly and reinstate Russell Brand. Or would the complainers prefer we brought back stoning for blasphemy?
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Out and about: Modern debs are launched into society
While self-styled man of the people John Prescott fails to understand or bond with the upper classes on our television screens (second instalment is on BBC2 tomorrow), nouveau riche Yanks have no such hang-ups. Debutantes vanished here years ago, but the tradition lives on in Paris where the Crillon Ball launches rich young ladies into posh society each year. Later this month, Scout, the 17-year-old daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, will be parading her charms at the ball, watched by her family including stepdad Ashton Kutcher (30) and Bruce's 28-year-old girlfriend. The Willis clan exhibits a light social touch Prezza should learn from.
For better, for worse...
A Christian group claims that Labour funding towards marriage guidance and support services has been cut to just £3.2m from £5m, and that the word 'marriage' has been dropped from all government literature, at a time when the number of people marrying has declined to the lowest level for 150 years.
The author of Care's report says the annual cost to the nation of family breakdown through failed marriage is £20bn.
John Cleese, who is divorcing his third wife, thinks you should have to renew your marriage licence every five years, like a dog licence. His last wife was a psychotherapist – you get the impression it wasn't exactly a meeting of minds.Reuse content