Over the course of the past couple of days, I’ve seen two TV programmes that show two very different sorts of Britishness. One great, the other less so.
I managed to tape Sunday’s South Bank Show about Jarvis Cocker. What a hero that man is, and quintessentially British. Note, I didn’t say English. There’s a sensibility to him that I’m sure people in places like Glasgow or South Wales could identify with. The man is from the north of England, which puts him in that same zone. It’s a good thing he’s back, because we’ve missed someone who is at once witty and poignant and perceptive.
And then there was last night where, by chance, I happened to watch an Apprentice side show, describing how each of the contenders had been “fired”. It was an appalling, depressing experience that illustrates exactly what is wrong with this country. A bunch of egotists and sociopaths spend their time being yelled at by a chippy, truculent Ewok. The worst part came when Sugar tears into a contestant for daring to have scruples in not trying to persuade children into to pester their parents into buying sweets at London Zoo. Sugar’s clear implication afterwards was that it doesn’t matter what you do, you must make a profit at any cost. Depressingly, all the contestants are sitting their eagerly nodding their heads, convinced that the only way to succeed in life is to routinely fuck everyone else over while you clamber over the bodies. Not only that, but they spend most of the time being utterly useless and then running around desperately trying to blame everyone, anyone, else for their own shortcomings. I respect Alan Sugar. Just not very much, that’s all.
As I said, two visions of Britishness, guess which one I think is better.