Who is going to replace David Dimbleby as the next host of BBCQuestion Time?
If your answer is “I’d rather suck out my eyeballs with a vacuum cleaner and fill the sockets with acid than give a damn about that noisome dross” then congratulations – you have the measure of possibly the grisliest political TV programme in the entire world, with the exception of the insanely left-wing Australian version Q&A which, amazingly, is even worse.
Question Time, for curious non-British viewers who’ve never had to endure it, is supposedly the blue riband of British political TV.
Each week, a panel of MPs plus a token real-ish person has to sit in front of an audience carefully selected for its left-wing bias in order to answer dreary, dumb-arsed questions invariably demanding the renationalisation of the railways, the beatification (prior to full sainthood) of the NHS, or asking why it is that the government isn’t spending more money on everything. Plus there’s usually a boring local one about the bus service in Dumfriesshire or the badger cull or the cottage hospital which is on the verge of closing.
Governments will need to take account of the information and its accelerating trend as they plan future defences to protect low-lying coastal communities.
The researchers say the losses are occurring predominantly in the West of the continent, where warm waters are getting under and melting the fronts of glaciers that terminate in the ocean.
“We can’t say when it started – we didn’t collect measurements in the sea back then,” explained Prof Andrew Shepherd, who leads the Ice sheet Mass Balance Inter-comparison Exercise (Imbie).
“But what we can say is that it’s too warm for Antarctica today. It’s about half a degree Celsius warmer than the continent can withstand and it’s melting about five metres of ice from its base each year, and that’s what’s triggering the sea-level contribution that we’re seeing,” he told BBC News.
So it’s over, right? The Warmunists were right, the deniers were wrong and global warming is a super serial crisis we need to deal with NOW not the day after tomorrow…
What’s amazing about Jeremy Thorpe is that it genuinely didn’t occur to him that murdering someone might be illegal or immoral.
Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little, so you can imagine how sickened I was by the magisterial TV adaptation of John Preston’s A Very English Scandal (BBC1, Sundays).
I’ve known Preston for years. It’s him I have to thank for the compendious collection of CDs rotting in my attic, from the ten years or so I spent working under him (he was the arts editor) as the Sunday Telegraph’s rock critic. But though I’ve hugely enjoyed all his quirky, low-key, sardonically amused novels — loosely on the theme of ‘quiet desperation is the English way’ —I never imagined he’d luck out quite so spectacularly as he has with this truly splendid all-star production.
Plus: gritty, gripping Euro noir on BBC4 and a stylish new country-house whodunit on BBC One
Because I’m a miserable old reactionary determined to see a sinister Guardianista plot in every BBC programme I watch, I sat stony-faced through much of Cunk On Britain (BBC2, Tuesdays).
Philomena Cunk (played by Diane Morgan) is a spoof comedy character who used to appear on Charlie Brooker’sWeekly Wipe and has now been given a full series. Though the character is amiable enough — a heroically thick Northern woman in a smart jacket who goes around Britain making stupid observations and asking celebrity historians dumb questions — I can’t quite work out what the point of the joke is.
Is it a send-up of dumbed-down Britain? Is it designed to make TV history experts look pompous? Is it Molesworth reimagined for 21st-century viewers who’ve never read Down with Skool!? Is it Ali G without the awkward racial element, which would likely never get past the censors now?
In the U.S. – thanks largely to Donald Trump – the skeptics are winning the climate argument.
But in the rest of the Western world, skeptics are losing big time because, increasingly, their voices are being censored. Nowhere is this more painfully true than in the UK, where the BBC has now officially been reprimanded by a state watchdog for telling the truth about climate change.
No really. It sounds absurd to the point of lunacy. But this is what Ofcom – Britain’s state regulator of broadcast media – has done in its latest ruling.
The BBC had run a radio interview in August 2017 with a climate skeptic – Lord Lawson (formerly Chancellor of the Exchequer under Margaret Thatcher). Lord Lawson made several statements about climate change, all but one of them entirely accurate.
“We do have in this country, in England, one of the highest energy costs in the world”
[in response to interviewers’ “The point Al Gore makes is that we subsidise all energy, including fossil fuel energy”] “No we don’t. That’s not true. We tax fossil fuel energy. Anyway, we subsidise renewable energy”.
Complaints were made by a person or persons unknown and Ofcom investigated. It decided, grudgingly, that the above claims were defensible.
What make it are the tiny, beautifully observed details and its emotional heart.
Sometimes — really not often but sometimes — a programme that’s good and honest and true slips under the wire of the BBC’s jealously guarded PC agenda and makes a home run. The latest to do so is a deadpan comedy series called This Country (BBC3).
It’s so deadpan that it’s easy to see why an earlier pilot episode for ITV crashed and burned. If you were channel-hopping and lingered on it for five minutes, you might easily mistake it for an earnest, worthy, achingly tedious fly-on-the-wall documentary series about the poverty and despair of left-behind rural England. This impression is enhanced by screeds that occasionally appear on screen giving you, say, statistics illustrative of the funding crisis in healthcare outside the big cities.
But it is, in fact, a mockumentary. A rustic variant, if you will, on Ricky Gervais’s The Office. (Another of those rare BBC home runs. And, incidentally, do you know how long ago that was? 2001 it started. In fact, it predates 9/11.)
Politics aside, Simon Schama has the makings of a first-rate TV historian.
Most of the history I know and remember comes from my inspirational prep school teacher Mr Bradshaw. History was taught so much better in those days. It was all kings and queens, battles and dates, with no room for any of that nonsense like,‘Imagine you are a suffragette going to protest the oppressive male hegemony at the races. Describe how it feels to be crushed by the king’s horse.’
Nor was there any question that you were participating in some kind of collaborative learning experience. Your ‘master’ taught; you listened and learned — and occasionally made distracting jokes and got bits of chalk chucked at you. That was the deal and it worked very well. This was the tail end of the era defined by programmes like Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation: one still confident enough to imagine that there are such things as good and bad art, superior and inferior cultures, right and wrong judgments.
It’s at least as well acted, suspenseful and sexy as The Night Manager.
My third most fervent New Year wish — just after Litecoin goes to £20,000 and Jacob Rees-Mogg becomes PM — is for the BBC to retire to its study with its service pistol and a bottle of whisky and finally do the decent thing.
After all, as lots of people are beginning to notice, when you spend 40 per cent of your viewing time watching your £79-a-year Amazon Prime, and another 40 per cent on £96-a-year Netflix, your compulsory £145.50 licence fee starts to look like a lot of money to pay for the remaining 20 per cent’s worth of diversity outreach, anti-Brexit whining and green propaganda.
That’s why I was so very disappointed by the BBC’s first big New Year offering. McMafia (Tuesdays) is so brilliant that it almost disproves my point. It’s at least as well acted, suspenseful and sexy to look at as The Night Manager was. So far, it doesn’t look remotely PC. And, unlike its similarly classy, high-budget predecessor, it has the massive bonus of not being burdened by John le Carré’s weird, cartoonish, out-of-date geopolitics.
Why the Detectorists is the most subversive sitcom on the BBC.
It’s a weird sensation getting your child back for an extended period when for the previous decade you’ve been packing him off every few weeks back to boarding school. Obviously, it’s quite pleasant, amusing and enlightening to study at close hand and at length this alien thing that you’ve bred. At the same time, though, they don’t half become a discombobulatingly overbearing presence.
For example, in the old days I would definitely have reviewed Howards End, even though I can’t stand E.M. Forster or the ghastly pinko Schlegel sisters. But now that the Fawn and I no longer have the house to ourselves, we have to fall in with Boy’s viewing schedule, which is largely comprised of quiz shows.
Any quiz show, pretty much. His tastes extend from the most intellectual of intellectual — the painfully abstruse Only Connect, with its horned vipers and twisted sheaves and Victoria Coren with her Sphinx-like smile — to the veritably brainless (but horribly addictive) Tipping Point, where the skill owes less to general knowledge than to judging when to release the disc that pushes all the other discs over the edge, as in that cascade game they have in penny arcades.