Mr Naughty bows out

'Whoever had created the character of Angus Deayton couldn't see a future for him. There was only one answer. Deayton had to go'

Share
Related Topics

I have read somewhere that the already large audience gained by Have I Got News For You increased every time that Angus Deayton got on to the tabloid front pages. This does not suggest to me that people are interested in Angus Deayton's discomfiture. What it suggests very strongly to me is that there is more truth than I thought in Kington's First Law of Radio and Television: "Every chat show develops sooner or later into a soap opera."

I first noticed this strongly with The Moral Maze on Radio 4. This programme was ostensibly a moral and ethical debate about things in the news, about everything from slavery to chequebook journalism. Nothing there, you would think, that would tempt a programme to become like The Archers or EastEnders, where nobody ever debates anything. But you would reckon without David Starkey. Starkey was an argumentative historian who tended to browbeat witnesses, and bash a point over the head until it was dead. He was the Mr Nasty of the programme, and other members of the panel used to argue back, or defend the witnesses, or get cross themselves, while chairman Michael Buerk, as peacemaker, tried to pour common sense on logically troubled waters.

It got so that people would tune into the programme as much as anything to hear the by-play between Starkey and the others, much as, many years ago, people tuned in to What's My Line? to hear Gilbert Harding being grumpy. What was happening was that a bit of real life drama, a bit of genuine characterisation, was creeping into what was otherwise a bloodless discussion. A chat show was tending towards the state of a soap.

I don't think this ever happens intentionally. I am sure that when the News Quiz was first aired on Radio 4, no one had intended that there would be a real-life contrast between the editor of Punch, Alan Coren, who was always desperate to win, and the then editor of Private Eye, Richard Ingrams, who had a wonderfully lordly insouciance about the scores, and to many ears was desperate to lose. But there it was, and half the fun of the programme was in the tension and contrast between the fast-talking funny swot, and the slow-talking funny gent.

This doesn't happen so much in the current News Quiz because there are fewer permanent characters. Alan Coren is still there, still snappy, still keen to win, but he is an elder statesman now, and when younger people like Linda Smith appear they sometimes find themselves playing the apposite part. "You'll get some fresh air and a walk later, Alan," she will gaily cry when Coren half-forgets something, or, "I'm sure the nurses aren't stealing your flowers." When Jeremy Hardy does one of his brilliant left-wing rants, Andy Hamilton will as like as not say: "Have you ever thought about going to Rage Management Classes, Jeremy?" and for a moment you get the inkling of some latent character development and conflict.

But Have I Got News For You is where my theory came gloriously good. There was always a friendly though barbed rivalry between Ian Hislop and Paul Merton. Then they would unite against Deayton, as football players unite against the ref, and they would also unite against guests that they didn't like or wanted to take the mickey out of.

And then they both decided to give black sheep Angus Deayton a hard time in a way that distracts one's attention from the week's news, but which makes great soap opera. Three weeks ago, I gather, Christine Hamilton also gave Deayton a hard time. That hasn't happened before – the guests turning on the errant chairman. Indeed, on Deayton's last-ever edition even the audience got involved. As Hislop and Merton were baiting Deayton in his role as Mr Naughty, a female spectator shouted: "Leave him alone!"

Quick as a flash Merton turned to the audience and shouted: "Are you a friend of his? Don't worry, the show's nearly over. You'll have him back in 20 minutes...." And Hislop followed up wickedly: "Have you got a friend with you? She might be in luck as well...."

The plot line was clearly getting out of hand here. Whoever had created the character of Angus Deayton couldn't see how future developments could go. There was only one answer. Deayton had to go. The scriptwriters clearly hoped there would be a monster audience for the next show, the first one without him, to see how the other characters would cope. So don't forget: Angus Deayton was not fired from the show. He was not sacked. It was an artistic decision. He was written out of the script.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron's 'compassionate conservatism' is now lying on its back  

Tory modernisation has failed under David Cameron

Michael Dugher
Russian President Vladimir Putin 'hits his foes where it hurts'  

Dominic Raab: If Western politicians’ vested interests protect Putin, take punishment out of their hands

Dominic Raab
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game