Magazine article The Spectator

What a Cop-Out

Magazine article The Spectator

What a Cop-Out

Article excerpt

Last week I was on breakfast TV. When the man from the BBC rang the night before I was unenthusiastic, but after I realised that the taxi wouldn't have to come till 7.20 a.m. and that the subject - Why TV is really bad for children - was one I could do with my eyes shut, I said yes.

Annoyingly, apart from the Rat who said I smiled an awful lot, no one saw me. The closest were some golfing friends of mother's who said that they liked my hair but not my scruffy trainers. This was all mother cared about, she wasn't interested in whether or not I'd been any good. Afterwards, I wandered up and down Baker Street, hoping people might say: 'I saw you on breakfast TV this morning and I totally agree with you.' No one did, though.

In the green room - and I think this may possibly be the point of the story - I met a man in a loud shirt, which I was worried, in my new-found TV professional's way, might do strange things to the earnera. He said he was on to plug the BBC's new series about Leonardo and I said, `Oh. I've heard it's really good. I'm going to be reviewing it this week,' and he said, `Oh, that's nice.' I'll bet it was good too, but I didn't see it. Quite craply, the BBC didn't have any preview tapes. And when I tried watching it in real time on Sunday night, I discovered it had already finished because it was broadcast at 7 p.m., when I'm putting the children to bed.

That's OK, though, because I think what I should really be doing is Ali G in Da USA (Channel 4, Friday) and the 300th episode of The Simpsons. Ali G had to go to America, of course, because he was so widely recognised over here that no public figure, however crusty and out of touch, could any longer be persuaded that they were talking to a dim-witted representative of the nation's vibrant ethnic culture who needed to be indulged. His absolute nadir - I've mentioned this before but it can't be mentioned often enough because it was such a serious error of judgment - was when an in-on-the-joke Mohammed Fayed was allowed to present himself as a reasonable, cuddly, unfoulnouthed, self-deprecating gentleman with a warm sense of humour.

My big disappointment with America (apart from its litigation culture) is that even after 9/11 and with George W. Bush in charge, it still seems to remain quite astonishingly in thrall to the dumbest sort of Michael Moore-ish cant. I mean, am I not correct in thinking, for example, that it would still rather take the risk of passengers being blown up on aeroplanes than offend minority groups by targeting them (e.g. young men with Saudi passports) for closer scrutiny than, say, white nuns? …

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