Well, it seems to have happened… with yet another “aha!” moment, inveterate broadcaster Richard Madeley has finally morphed into Alan Partridge. I’m sure that a kind of morbid fascination motivates viewers to switch on Good Morning Britain (GMB) in the mornings just to see what cringe-quip Madeley will come out with next.
After all, the “Who Said it? Richard Madeley or Alan Partridge?” quiz has already become a party-game classic. Madeley has become television’s equivalent to prodding a sore gum after losing a tooth: you know you shouldn’t but you just can’t leave it alone because the pain is somehow pleasurable.
If you’ve been watching through your fingers as he co-hosts GMB, then, like me, you’ll already be aware that his responses to serious news items have gone beyond parody.
Earlier this year, following a piece on former Isis teen bride Shamima Begum, Madeley mused upon the Nuremberg trials… and offered this pearl of wisdom: “…we hanged quite a few Nazis and imprisoned a lot of others and we let them out eventually. But we didn’t go after the Hitler Youth as far as I’m aware… we only went after adults who served in the Hitler regime and that’s something to reflect on, I think.”
Susanna Reid’s bemused facial expression was priceless. Long-suffering Reid, a presenter who seems doomed to spend her career co-hosting with cartoonishly over-confident, gobby and overbearingly mediocre blokes, is a martyr to saving Madeley from his own comments.
She steadfastly steers good ship GMB back on course even when Madeley, whose foot is surely needs to be surgically removed from his mouth by now, threatens to drown the show in chaos.
From what I have seen, it’s always Reid’s capable hand that prevents the show from descending further into farce. I don’t know about you, but I’m always half-expecting Madeley to exclaim: “Calm down, Susanna! You are suffering from minor women’s whiplash!” when she attempts to cover for his latest gaffe.
I think Madeley would be comedy gold if he weren’t… well… real. His flawless segues between segments: [speaking to a man whose life was saved by a paramedic] “Stop crying! This is supposed to make you happy! Anyway after the break, the biggest dog in the UK. And he really is big. Don’t miss it!” and his tan-tastic appearance after mistaking fake tan for moisturiser are one thing, but for me many of his other comments are – or should be – beyond the pale.
Take a few of his most recent Partridge-esque observations, for example. After a segment in the environmental Earthshot Prize awards, did Madeley turn his incisive journalist’s mind to climate change? Maybe a thoughtful commentary on Cop26? Nope. He commented on attendee Kate Middleton’s “tiny, tiny waist.”
During an interview with Jemma Wolstenholme, a woman who was spiked during a night out, Madeley thought the discussion would be improved by a bit of apparent victim-blaming: “But had you been taking precautions? … Had you been trying to protect your drink? Had you kept your hand over it? Had you kept it with you, do you remember that?”
In a debate about Squid Game, Madeley interrupted parenting expert Jade Evans, to patronise her: ‘‘Hang on, hang on,” Richard interrupted. “Darling, let me finish the question. We’ve done the debate about video nasties.”
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Today’s Madeley howler involved him asking Keir Starmer whether Angela Rayner was still his “best girl”. In my opinion, his comments are tipping over from benign absurdity to serial misogyny.
So I have to question, why is he still on our screen? For entertainment value? For comedy gold? Because audiences are fond of the veteran broadcaster despite, or even because of, his constant slips, blunders and disrespect for women? Are we so used to having Madeley in our living rooms that we excuse even his more dire comments because he’s “such a legend”, “a national treasure”, “he’s harmless” or “he doesn’t mean it”?
In my view, our fondness for Madeley shouldn’t make us indifferent to casual misogyny – he’s an experienced journalist and broadcaster, not a fictional comedy character. After all these years, perhaps it’s finally time for us to say “Smell my cheese!” to Richard Madeley and (what seems to me, at least) his blase attitude to women.
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