Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Justin Lee Collins says that Brucie should step down from hosting Strictly Come Dancing. He's right.

There should always be a space for Brucie on British television, but it shouldn't necessarily be a weekly live show that usually runs for over an hour. When he was on the Gen Game, he was the best ringmaster TV's ever had - watch those old recordings and you'll see a man in complete control of his domain, making sure that hapless punters hit their marks and get the laughs. The Equity strike-bound Sunday Night at the London Palladium featuring just him and Norman Wisdom is a breathless masterclass in entertainment, and I speak as someone for whom a little Wisdom goes a very very long way. Unfortunately, I can't watch Strictly without thinking "Oh, Bruce, no" far too many times for my own good.

As in so many things, Wogan leads the way. He's going from the Radio 2 breakfast show on his own terms, with ratings higher than ever, and with the grace to wish his successor the very best. I think the experience of his BBC1 chat show still haunts him - he overstayed his welcome there and had to take a lot of flak from the press as a result. Live and learn. He also stepped down from the Eurovision Song Contest on an apparent point of principle, with honour intact. Despite being one of his greatest fans, I sensed him descending further into self-parody year by year, and am glad he got out when he did. The only downer there was that the commentary job didn't go to Paddy O'Connell, who gets Eurosong utterly and would have been great, but I have to admit that my dire predictions for Graham Norton's commentary didn't come to pass, and the whole experience began an unlikely rehabilitation of Norton, compounded by his pitch-perfect 'one foot in the grave' dig at Michael McIntyre on BAFTA night.

As I type, a solution has occurred to me. Make Forsyth one of the judges. He'd be there and he could bring his full experience to bear on the situation, but he wouldn't have to carry the whole show. Failing that, just shove him in TC1 with a piano, an orchestra, Tarby, Lynchy, some chairs, some tap shoes and an audience. Agreeing with Justin Lee Collins is slightly annoying, by the way. I hear from people in the industry that he's a sweetie, and that's nice to know, but it doesn't stop me thinking that he should step down from television.

Monday, September 21, 2009

On Facebook, a friend of mine was musing about the cost of certain items in certain high street stores. Knowing him to be a man of sense, I expressed amazement that he bothered with the high street for anything anymore. I bought both of my computers online - the desktop machine I'm typing this on now was two-thirds of the price of an identical unit in PC World, while the laptop came from PC World's website, and was an exclusive online offer. I get through a lot of blank DVDs, and am consistently astonished at the price high street stores expect me to pay. My DVD recorder came from, and was half the price of the same unit anywhere else. A while back, I needed a replacement mini-jack for my headphones. Maplin wanted £2.99, for which price I could get 5 of the buggers from a chap on eBay. Finally, as one of the few people left still using a fountain pen (I think it's just me and my GP), I've been wondering why you can get green and purple Parker cartridges on the continent but not in Britain. Answer - you can get them here, if you go to the Battersea Pen Home. If you have a credit card, a computer and a willingness to wait a couple of days for the stuff to arrive, buying online is the way forward.

Of course, there are some things that money can't buy (mainly because they're crap), and in my journalistic career, I've amassed a fair few of them. Promotional mugs seem to proliferate - a recent purge of the cupboard brought forth a green one for 30 years of Picador books, a black 'Wake up and smell the coffee' one for Bloomsbury's Encarta dictionary, and a rather nice bone china one extolling the virtues of Sutton Publishing's historical titles. Having amassed enough pleasing non-promotional drinking vessels, including a repro White Star Line Titanic-era 3rd class mug and a superb 'Yorkshire Television Colour Production' mug hand made by my good friend Marcus Bernard of TV Ark, the publishing freebies are going to the charity shop, even 'Wake up and smell Nigel Newton's bank balance'. This has, however, set me to wondering what was the best freebie I've ever received? On balance, it's probably the Pure Evoke 1 digital radio in the kitchen, given to selected hacks in the glory days of Oneword, although the Weidenfeld and Nicolson 50th anniversary anthology that I got signed by both Lord Weidenfeld and Nigel Nicolson is a keeper, as is the t-shirt promoting my mate Andy Miller's book Tilting at Windmills (Slogan: "A hollow victory is still a victory"), even though it has never ever fit me. Does anyone else have good free stuff to declare?