As I get older I find myself becoming ever more cynical and less likely to take at face value things said in the media. This week is a perfect case in point, with all the clamour and furore surrounding Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand. First though, let’s get something out of the way: I am not not a fan of either.
I happen to think that Russell Brand is the most hugely overrated, self-congratulatory, whinnying, preening bell-end imaginable. I’m rather more ambivalent about Ross, who has flashes of genuine talent and warmth in what he does. Over the past couple of years, however, he has been starting to try just a bit too hard to be outrageous. It gives him the rather desperate air of the middle-aged uncle still trying to be down wit’ da kids. And the less said about his awful Film 2008 efforts the better. Wooden, stilted and pompously self-important all fairly accurately describe the experience. One episode in particular irked me. He reviewed Kevin Smith’s Clerks II (caveat: I am a Kevin Smith fan). The review wasn’t good, fair enough. But that wasn’t enough for him. Oh no. Rather unnecessarily, i thought, he then felt the need to launch a single-handed assault of Kevin Smith’s entire career to date. All it did was make Ross look like a bit of a smug cock as far as I was concerned. But perhaps that’s just me. In the end, however, that is not important. There is a space for them on Radio 2 and that’s where they should be. If we don’t want our broadcasting to become risk-free and enjoyment free in the process, sometimes these things will happen. Those who take risks should be allowed to do so.
Anyway, at some point on Brand’s radio show, they made these now oft-bandied remarks about Andrew Sachs and his granddaughter. Sachs himself has been the model of quiet restraint and dignity. I wish the same could be said for his granddaughter, who looks (you know, the dark, back-combed hair and fuck-me shoes) and, more importantly, behaves like exactly the kind of woman Brand would have spent some quality time with. I don’t think her braying, under the auspices of that fine organ of upstanding moral rectitude, The Sun, has done her any favours at all. Not much by way of dignity there is there? I wonder how much she got paid for that. Even more hilarious was seeing the likes of Garry Bushell and Kelvin McKenzie, those august moral guardians, lining up to say how disgusting Ross and Brand were. Hypocrisy doesn’t even begin to cover that.
I hope Ross stays at the BBC now, and wish that Brand hadn’t walked. Why? Because we are once again plunging headlong into a massively contrived and beautifully orchestrated sense of moral outrage. I just wish I could work out exactly who the orchestrators are. This really is a witch hunt now, and I suspect that the baying pack won’t be happy until Ross is forced out. I hope that Ross is forced to squirm for a couple of days for his toolishness, before everyone lets the dust settle. It’s fairly clear they are both well aware that they have caused offence to Sachs, and seem to be honestly apologetic. Anything else is now cowardice within BBC management. To go further now would be to pander to the worst excesses of the mob. Let’s not forget that until this was all stirred up, the programme had received a grand total of two (yes, TWO) complaints, for using a naughty word. It would be interesting to see how many of the 30000 so far are merely bandwagon-chasers. Let’s hope Mark Thomposn and the BBC Trust show some testicular fortitude and tell the braying pack where to get off.
Quite apart from that however, the coverage of events has been quite breathtakingly awful. ITV News were frankly disgraceful in their Wednesday bulletin. It was the most slobberingly partisan and biased piece of ‘journalism’ I’ve seen for some time. Anyone responsible for working on that broadcast should hang their head in shame for being involved in the the most awful tabloidism. At least two-thirds of the bulletin must have been taken up by the story (I was flicking back to BBC1 occasionally). I couldn’t take my eyes off ITV because it was so surreally bad. They were doing a fairly convincing job of whipping up the bovine ITV audience’s fervour, telling them that the Beeb were going to act, “at last”. To steal a phrase from the great Victor Lewis-Smith, it may not have been journalism, but it certainly was a load of something else ending in ism
You sort of expect it from the febrile and reactionary Mail and Express, who can be relied upon to foam rabidly at the mouth at anything concerning ther BBC anyway. But this is just another sign at how low ITV’s news coverage has sunk over the last decade. It is utterly beyond redemption, or even parody, now.