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Martin Kelner, Journalist, Author and Radio Presenter.
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Bits and Pieces

Strictly, McCririck, and I back a winner
By Martin "No pasa doble for me, mate" Kelner on Oct 18, 2013 - 12:14:08 PM

Why do we love the BBC?   For Desert Island Discs, Fawlty Towers, The World At One, its fine children's programmes, indisputably the best in the world - I grew up with Rag, Tag, and Bobtail (not literally, obviously), my kids with the Teletubbies, we all grew up with Blue Peter - and for its doughty independence.   Despite clearly being a hotbed of raving lefties who make Enver Hoxha look like a Liberal Democrat, the Corporation rarely lets the mask slip - although it did a little during the Daily Mail bashing orgy this week.


We also appreciate the lack of commercials on the BBC.   Or at least that's what I thought until my enforced idleness confined me to barracks and inevitably more TV than is good for anyone.  


I'm reading a lot as well, but there are days when I am too exhausted to take in the complex ideas in Harry Potter, so I turn to the telly, and consequently I had seen the advert for the new series of Have I Got News For You approximately 36 times by last Thursday.  


You'll have seen it yourself.   It's the monumentally unfunny Dr Who spoof where Ian Hislop and Paul Merton emerge from the time machine/police box and do some stuff about bonnets.   It's always on at the same time as well, just before news bulletins, and usually alongside a promo for the dismal Strictly Come Dancing.


(Am I, by the way, alone in feeling Strictly has run its course?   I probably am, if the audience figures are anything to go by, but I fail to see the point.   It's the same story every year.   The older, fat ones can't really do it, but we sometimes vote them in for a week or two because they're funny or endearing, before one of the young slim ones we've never heard of wins it.   My view is that if I want to see fat people dancing, I'll book a week at Butlins in Skegness.)


The danger for the BBC in this monotonous drum-beating for what I suppose we have to call its signature programmes - nothing wrong with a little self-promotion, but the ads have to be better, and there has to be more variety - is that it leads respected media commentators like me (yeah, right) to question whether the BBC, instead of advertising itself all the time might - carefully, scrupulously - unbend just a teensy bit in its attitude to commercials and sponsorship.  


New books, films, and albums are already granted extended plugs on BBC Breakfast and The One Show, in the light of which what is the objection to the occasional simple sponsorship announcement on the lines of: "Homes Under The Hammer is brought to you by Toilet Duck, keeping Britain's khazis clean, turning the water blue." (I'm still working on the campaign)?  


At least it might bring extra income to the BBC, so that its executives can be given a decent pay-off to supplement their meagre pensions.     


You're right.   I need to get out more, and frankly I wish I could.   I even found myself watching The Fried Chicken Shop on Channel 4, a reality show set in a fried chicken shop, where people go to, er, buy fried chicken.   The most intriguing seekers of battered poultry in last week's episode were the two chaps who came in for a large bucketful and a mountain of chips to take back to the office for a "working lunch," presumably because the flow charts and monthly sales figures look that much more authoritative flecked with grease and barbecue sauce.


I have, of course, been following the McCririck hearing, expertly filleted by David Ashforth in these pages on Friday.   I can't help feeling the case should be presided over by Mr Justice Cocklecarrot (Google it, kids, a reference to an old newspaper column) as a succession of TV executives are dragged away from their personal trainers and therapy sessions to testify that the pundit got the boot not because of his age, but because he made them feel queasy walking round in his underwear on Celebrity Wife Swap.


I'm conflicted about the case.   As an ageing broadcaster thrown on the scrap heap several times by useless management types, I agree with the plaintiff that people of my vintage need a champion.   I'd just rather it was David Attenborough, that's all.  


In fairness to McCririck, though, one aspect of Channel 4's coverage I felt was more enjoyable under the ancien regime, was the Morning Line, when a whole bunch of pundits sat round in a circle as the bejewelled one went through the morning papers.  There was a shambolic rough edge to it, which seemed to chime in perfectly with those of us shuffling off in our slippers for the first cuppa/gasper of the day, marking down the afternoon's winners - or in my case, losers.


My new policy on that, you may recall, is to be more selective, and I am proud to say that I restricted myself to just one horse on Saturday afternoon, actually recommended on the Morning Line.   I liked the way Tanya Stevenson and Paul Kealey, the betting editor of this fine paper, were talking about Heaven's Guest, and so lumped on it at 14-1.  


It went off at nines, which I counted as a victory in itself, and when the brilliant Ryan Moore hung on to give me my first winner for a fortnight in a thrilling finish, I leapt off the sofa - or would have if it weren't for my ileostomy bag.



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