TV & Radio

Sir Bruce ForsythMuch-loved British entertainer Sir Bruce Forsyth died in August 2017. He passed away a few months after he’d undergone key-hole surgery to repair a couple of aneurysms. In case you’re hazy on aneurysms, they are bulges in an artery that could burst and kill you.

I know because I had one that almost killed me.

Sir Bruce Forsyth (aka Sir Bruce Joseph Forsyth-Johnson CBE): Song & Dance Man

Before I get on to my own tale of cardiac misfortune, let’s concentrate on Brucie. I must confess, I’ve never been a huge fan. Don’t get me wrong, I can acknowledge that he was talented, thought on his feet, and I realise he oozed charisma out of every pore. Song and dance is an art form. I can appreciate that as much as the next person. Especially if the next in line is a tone-deaf builder who only listens to Brummie Metal.

Without spending any more time watching ‘song and dance’ and ‘all-round entertainers’ than I have to, I can see that the top of the league was Sammy Davis Junior. Sammy was a polished entertainer and his journey to the top was fraught with prejudice and hard won. To me, Brucie was never quite as at ease and polished.

Brucie and Sammy appeared together on a British television show. Although Mr Davis did his best not to upstage his British host, it’s obvious who was the boss (just look at the jewellery):

When I was growing up, Bruce Forsyth was hard to avoid. My father was a Yorkshire farmer who transformed himself into the manager of a pub company. He didn’t get to where he was by being a Bruce Forsyth fan. He also refused to have any truck with programmes featuring Sir Jimmy Savile or Rolf Harris either. Not that I’m suggesting anything. Valerie Singleton, Dickie Henderson, and Frank Bough were on his hit-list, as well.

Sir Bruce Forsyth: The Early Years

Back then, Brucie seemed to be everywhere. I was too young to remember the very early days of ‘Boy Bruce, the Mighty Atom’ or even when he shot to fame as the replacement host to Tommy Trinder on ITV’s top variety show, Sunday Night at the London Palladium. Aside from anything else, my family was more inclined to watch What’s My Line and Sunday Night Play on the BBC.

By the time I was ready to go to college, Bruce had extended his Beat The Clock game show skills to compete with Hughie Green and Michael Miles for the title of ‘Britan’s favourite TV host’. I can admit it now: I quite enjoyed watching The Generation Game when I saw it. Nevertheless, it wasn’t the kind of TV an eighteen-year old faux-radical student would set the clock not to miss.

Sir Bruce Forsyth CBE: The Traveling Music Show and beyond

When Brucie announced he was taking a break from television in 1977, to go on the road with the musical, The Travelling Music Show, I don’t think I noticed. But the show closed early and he was enticed back to the goggle box by a huge slab of ITV cash. Bruce Forsyth’s Big Night became essential viewing for British students but for the wrong reasons. I think it was dated even then. Having a short episode of Jimmy Edwards’s 1950s radio sitcom, The Glums, every week didn’t help in an era when Britain was undergoing the Punk revolution.

To me, it was like watching a live two-hour car crash live on peak hour TV. Here’s a video of the first episode:

As far as I am concerned, it was downhill from there on for Sir Brucie. The comedian Frank Skinner tells a story about him. Whilst Frank was interviewing Bruce for his TV chat show, he noticed he was constantly referring to notes written on his thumb. Afterwards, Frank asked him how could he read such small writing. Bruce’s proud reply was, “I’ve never read a book in my life!”

After the Generation Game, I lost touch with Bruce Forsyth. I avoided the likes of The Price is Right, Play Your Cards Right, You Bet!, and Strictly Come Dancing, though I did encounter the man himself on three-and-a-half ‘real life’ occasions.

My First Public Appearance With Sir Bruce Forsyth CBE

The first time Sir Bruce Forsyth stumbled into my life was outside the National Westminster Bank in Stamford Street, on London’s South Bank. My recollection is that he parked illegally outside the bank and strode in, chequebook in hand. He was taller and thinner than I was expecting from black & white TV, wearing his customary toupee, a salt-and-pepper jacket and dark trousers.  It would have been in the mid-to-late 1980s. I had nothing better to do, so I followed him into the bank.

There wasn’t much of a queue so he was served almost immediately. I couldn’t see exactly how much cash he was drawing out, but it wasn’t more than a few notes that went straight into his wallet. You could tell that people knew who he was but no one (least of all me) was going to accost him. Unmolested, he climbed back into his vehicle and drove away. I seem to think it was a red Jaguar, but I might be making that up.

Sir Bruce Forsyth and I Meet Again (Almost!)

The second occasion our paths crossed was a decade or so later. I was on the top deck of a London bus on my way back to south-east London. I’d been reviewing Indian restaurants for Time Out magazine and I was full of curry. It must have been a Saturday or Sunday evening, around 9 pm.

We were sitting in traffic in Whitehall, when someone on the bus said, “Look, it’s Brucie!” We followed the pointing finger and saw the man himself marching around the corner, surrounded by a small squad of scurrying army officers in red and gold dress uniform. Bruce was wearing a dinner jacket/tuxedo, and he seemed to be giving the officers some kind of instruction. He was taller than any of them.

Someone yelled out a version of “Nice to see you,” which ended on a swear word. Another voice almost immediately shouted: “Piss off!”. This may or may not have been Sir Bruce. It all happened so fast. The squad then disappeared into the building, which was guarded by two police officers.

Sir Bruce Forsyth CBE: Live on Stage

On Saturday 30th June 2012, I found myself at the Hop Farm Festival in Kent. Organiser, Vince Power, allowed me to advertise my own Rhythm Festival to his assembled masses and I was handing out flyers to anyone who would take them. Sir Bruce Forsyth was sharing the main stage with Bob Dylan, Patti Smyth and Randy Crawford. This was to be Brucie’s first festival appearance.

The following year he played Glastonbury Festival, which claimed the same honour. The Glastonbury folk also said he was the oldest performer ever to appear there, which I doubt. He may have been 85 at the time, but I’ve a sneaking suspicion some of those Jazz, Blues and Reggae players were older. Many of the Skatalites were in their eighties and I remember seeing Pinetop Perkins play at London’s Jazz Café when he was 94. I’m pretty sure he’d performed at Glastonbury around the same time. By the way, Perkins was the last surviving Blues performer to have known Robert Johnson, but that’s another story…

Sir Bruce Forsyth at Hop Farm Festival

By the time he appeared at Hop Farm, Brucie had become Sir Bruce Forsyth, having been knighted by the Queen the previous year. He was appearing with what he called ‘His Orchestra’ and he’d brought along a couple of guest singers. To be honest, Bruce’s 90-minute set didn’t really rock my boat or even float my dinghy. It just came as a disruption to my promotional activities.

Having said that, the majority of the audience seemed to lap it up. I wonder what they would have thought had it been an unknown Ted Hopkins from Barnet, doing exactly the same set.

To me, the highlight of the show was when Sir Brucie handed over to the guest female vocalist near the end. She could sing, but I’m not sure there’s much of a market for unknown lounge singers in the UK in the 21st Century.

The ‘half a meeting’ happened something like five years before Hop Farm, when I was visiting Brucie’s manager’s office in Battersea. Ian Wilson also looked after musical comedian Mitch Benn and I was promoting a show with him at London’s semi-fabulous 100 Club. We were drinking tea and talking when the assistant rushed in to announce that Bruce was on the telephone. Ian shot to his feet and said, “I’ve got to take this,” before leaving the room to pick up the call on another extension. I’m not sure if Bruce asked about me or not…

About Aneurysms

Although it has since been revealed that Sir Bruce Forsyth died from pneumonia, it was brought on after he’d undergone heart surgery to repair his aneurysms. The pesky blighters were discovered after he’d a fall at his home the previous year.

Something similar happened to me.

I went to see my doctor, complaining about always feeling tired and occasionally breathless. My fairly high blood pressure was on the suspect list and Dr Cardwell booked me in for various tests. The final one was a heart scan at QEQM Hospital in Margate. The technician was training a junior. After roughly five minutes of rubbing a paddle over my chest, their cheerful banter drifted into uneasy silence.

“Is it supposed to look like that?” The trainee quietly asked. I think the lead technician must have shaken her head because they both fell into silence again. I could sense a certain amount of pointing and gesticulating at the screen.

The technician excused herself and left the room. She came back and asked me to go and wait in a small room. The doctor wanted to see me. He arrived a few minutes later, dressed theatrically (no pun intended) in green scrubs. He explained what was wrong and told me it was vital I be admitted to hospital straight away. No time to lose, any delay could be fatal, etc…

I’d arranged an appointment to have my eyes tested immediately afterwards.  I’ve still got the optician’s bill somewhere.

That was just the start of my crazy adventure in cardiology. I’ll write about the whole incident in greater detail in a forthcoming post.

In the meantime, RIP Sir Bruce Forsyth. You may not have been my cup of tea as far as entertainers go, but you stole the hearts of many generations. (I’m sure there’s a joke in there somewhere…)

Note: the picture at the top of this page is of the actor Gus Brown impersonating Sir Bruce Forsyth in the pilot episode of Matt Berry sitcom, Toast of London. It comes highly recommend.

Post image for Russell Brand, Revolution, and Promoting The Messiah Complex Tour


Russell Brand
has recently been splattered all over the media, advocating radical ideas by the bucket-load. He was asked by “a beautiful woman” to guest-edit the left-leaning New Statesman magazine, and gave them the subject of Revolution. Not to appear a lightweight, he waded in with a 4,500 word article of his own. He also elicited a pile of quirky contributions from friends and others he admires.

Leaving aside Noel Gallagher‘s stereotypical rant against stuff he doesn’t like or understand, there’s a mass of interesting and often surprising material. Not least is film director David Lynch‘s article on transcendental meditation and inner revolution. Brand’s own piece is intelligently argued and full of good sense. He may be a guy addicted to seven-star hotels, but he still sees himself as a man of the people. The paragraphs are longer than are normal in the Internet Age, but that’s often no bad thing. Occasionally, he sounds like a 1970s-style History Man:

The model of pre-Christian man has fulfilled its simian objectives. We have survived, we have created agriculture and cities. Now this version of man must be sacrificed that we can evolve beyond the reaches of the ape. These stories contain great clues to our survival when we release ourselves from literalism and superstition. What are ideologies other than a guide for life? Throughout paganism one finds stories that integrate our species with our environment to the benefit of both. The function and benefits of these belief matrixes have been lost, with good reason. They were socialist, egalitarian and integrated. If like the Celtic people we revered the rivers we would prioritise this sacred knowledge and curtail the attempts of any that sought to pollute the rivers. If like the Nordic people we believed the souls of our ancestors lived in the trees, this connection would make mass deforestation anathema. If like the native people of America we believed God was in the soil what would our intuitive response be to the implementation of fracking?

Russell has much to say on the subject of revolution, including:

We British seem to be a bit embarrassed about revolution, like the passion is uncouth or that some tea might get spilled on our cuffs in the uprising. That revolution is a bit French or worse still American. Well, the alternative is extinction so now might be a good time to re-evaluate. The apathy is in fact a transmission problem, when we are given the correct information in an engaging fashion, we will stir.

Brand’s politics are generally left-wing, although he dismisses the Labour Party as irrelevant. He lumps the Milibands in with Cameron, Clegg and Boris. In an interview with BBC Newsnight‘s Jeremy Paxman, he explains his ideas to people unlikely to buy the New Statesman.

The interview is a staged set-piece with both actors playing their parts to perfection. Jezza spluttering with outrage like a Victorian Bill Grundy whenever Russ says anything vaguely outrageous. Russell snorts, waves his hands and leans towards Paxman like a young stag taking on the tired old codger. For a piece of entertainment, it’s hard to beat. You can watch it here:

Russell Brand’s over-riding message to the young is “don’t vote”. This is a fine piece of anarchy that’s surely destined to be heard, approved of, and acted on by many young people. What a fantastic jape, Russell. Let’s bring down the government by not voting for it!

This might possibly be the long-term result, but in the short- and medium-term it’s yet another boost to David Cameron’s chances of returning his disastrously right-wing Tory government to power at the next General Election, without the debatable constraints of the Lib-Dems. Although a growing number of wet teenagers are “Young Conservative and proud of it”, most young people see the injustices in the world and strive to improve on them.

The best chance for this to happen is to have a sincere Labour Government in power. Not New Labour, scared to upset the Daily Mail and willing to privatise and chop and turn a blind eye to corporate piracy and tax evasion, but a genuine Labour government dedicated to advance the interests of the people of the United Kingdom over and above the interests of the bankers and Big Business.

Taking young radicals out of the equation by telling them not to vote isn’t going to help achieve that end result. The worst part is that the people most likely to heed the message are the ones most likely to vote the Tories and their turncoat Lib-Dem allies out of power.

I’d be less angry about Russell venting his views if it wasn’t for the fact that he is only in Britain to sell tickets for his forthcoming Messiah Complex Tour. His guest editorship of the New Statesman, his appearance on Newsnight and all the other radio and television interviews are simply promotion for this tour.

Russell Brand may be sincere about his views, and I have no reason to doubt him, but surely this exercise in salesmanship has to fall into the same cynical category as those he is condemning.

Comedy is subjective. So is writing. I’ve just come across a 45-minute video I felt I had to share. It skirts around both subjects and comes up with some savoury little insights. The video will not please everybody – the comments below it are testament to that – but anyone who shares my vague interest in the psychology of comedy will find it fascinating.

Like him or love him, Stewart Lee is a man who knows his allium from his Elba.

The talk begins slowly and in a slightly rambling, self-conscious manner. Stick with it and your patience will be rewarded. Writer, comedian and (dare I say it?) intellectual Stewart Lee gives a very interesting talk to Oxford University students about his comedy and the writing of it. It’s a reprise of a talk he gave on a writers’ day in February at the University that wasn’t recorded first time around. The recording is straightforward and low-tech, with some gooey fades.

Lee is entirely open and reveals much about his stand-up technique. There’s a fantastic sequence in which he opens up the box and explains how he puts together a stand up show: character, mood and how the “flip” comes about at the end. I’ll never be a comedian, I’ll never be much of a writer, but I can admire the technique.

Charles Dickens’ characters fall into two main categories: the memorable and the totally unforgettable. I can think of no other author who has created fictional characters the equal of vivid Victorians such as (in no particular order): The Artful Dodger, Smike, Joe Gargery, Fagin, Scrooge, Wilkins Micawber, Sam Weller, Daniel Quilp, Mr Dick, Bill Sykes, Magwitch, Frederick Dorrit, Mr Merdle, Mrs Gamp, and, of course, all the title characters. And that’s just from memory, if I had a crib-sheet in front of me, the list would run to dozens, if not hundreds, of names.

I was halfway through a post about Racism in Football (hopefully following not too far behind…) when I spotted a reminder that today (February 7th) is the 200th anniversary of Dickens’ birth. How could I possibly let that pass? I have been enchanted by his work ever since I first watched those atmospheric black and white Sunday teatime adaptations on the BBC, back in the monochrome 1960s. Although I’ve nothing against full colour broadcasting, there is something about black & white telly that sprinkles even more magic dust over Dickens’ characters and storylines. The same goes for those hugely atmospheric David Lean film adaptations of Great Expectations and Oliver Twist of the 1940s. For some reason we didn’t touch Dickens for our school exams – no shortage of Chaucer and Shakespeare, though – and I had to discover Dickens’ writing because I wanted to, not because I had to.

For the past couple of months, the British media has been on Dickens overload. Every celebrity from Armando Iannucci and Sue Perkins to Mariella Frostrup and Aled Jones have offered up their praise and opinions on the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. There’s a genuine risk of over-kill and a sad realisation that in a year’s time there’ll probably be no Dickens at all.

That’s the way media people think. No one has ever given me a realistic explanation as to why newspapers, magazines, radio and TV don’t “do” something unless they have an event to “hang it on”. I’d find Charles Dicken just as interesting 199-and-a-half years after his birth as exactly 200, but maybe I’m odd.

There’s a theory that suggests that Charles Dickens’ characters and brilliant – if occasionally over-convoluted – plots were so well-crafted because he had to write them in instalments. The theory falls down when you realise that many other authors wrote to the same constraints and (sadly, perhaps) their work has grown ivy and perished over the years. I think we just have to admit that Dickens’s survived is because they were so extraordinary to start with. Take this extract from Little Dorrit:

An old brick house, so dingy as to be all but black, standing by itself within a gateway. Before it, a square court-yard where a shrub or two and a patch of grass were as rank (which is saying much) as the iron railings enclosing them were rusty; behind it, a jumble of roots. It was a double house, with long, narrow, heavily-framed windows. Many years ago, it had had it in its mind to slide down sideways; it had been propped up, however, and was leaning on some half-dozen gigantic crutches: which gymnasium for the neighbouring cats, weather-stained, smoke-blackened, and overgrown with weeds, appeared in these latter days to be no very sure reliance.

‘Nothing changed,’ said the traveller, stopping to look round. ‘Dark and miserable as ever. A light in my mother’s window, which seems never to have been extinguished since I came home twice a year from school, and dragged my box over this pavement. Well, well, well!’

He went up to the door, which had a projecting canopy in carved work of festooned jack-towels and children’s heads with water on the brain, designed after a once-popular monumental pattern, and knocked. A shuffling step was soon heard on the stone floor of the hall, and the door was opened by an old man, bent and dried, but with keen eyes.

He had a candle in his hand, and he held it up for a moment to assist his keen eyes. ‘Ah, Mr Arthur?’ he said, without any emotion, ‘you are come at last? Step in.’

Mr Arthur stepped in and shut the door.

There’s no room here to offer a Charles Dickens biography, but enough space not to ignore the basic facts.

Charles John Huffam Dickens was born in Landport, Hampshire on February 7th, 1812. It was a memorable year all round: poet Robert Browning and the architect Augustus Pugin shared the same birth-year; the metric system was first adopted in France; Napoleon invaded Russia (later commemorated by Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture); and Britain went to war with the United States. By the time of his death, 58 years, four months and two days later, Dickens had written 15-and-a-half novels, 6 novellas and numerous shorter pieces.

The biggest selling of all his novels is A Tale of Two Cities. Don’t ask me why. The book with the most adaptations is A Christmas Carol, possible because Christmas does come around once every year…

The BBC’s Big Read survey of Britain’s favourite novels, undertaken in 2003, contained five from Dickens in the Top 100. They were: Great Expectations (17), David Copperfield (34), A Christmas Carol (47), A Tale of Two Cities (63) and Bleak House (79). Dickens and Terry Pratchett shared the distinction of having the most works in the first 100. (I wonder if that would be repeated in even 20 years from now.) For me, the big surprises were that Bleak House did so well (a clear two years before the ground-breaking BBC adaptation with Gillian Anderson and Charles Dance), and that Oliver Twist did so badly – only managing to scrape in at number 182.

You would have thought that with all the adaptations, in particular Lionel Bart’s spirited musical would have propelled Oliver Twist into the top 150 at the very least. It’s not as if the storyline – including the memorable line: “Please sir, I want some more!” – isn’t well known or that Charles Dickens’ characters in Oliver Twist are not up to standard. My theory is that we prefer our Dickens a little darker… preferably in black and white.

Stand by for the hard facts about Charlie Sheen’s Roast:

Everybody in the USA seems to be obsessing over Charlie Sheen’s Roast – or, to give it its real title, “The Comedy Central Roast of Charlie Sheen”. It’s been the biggest search on Google in the USA since early September. But what on earth is it? When I first saw the term I honestly thought it was some elaborate joke centred around the Sunday “joint” with all its drug references.

What was or is Charlie Sheen’s Roast?

When I actually looked into it, I saw that Charlie Sheen’s Roast was a two hour TV programme (including ads, so probably only around 25 minutes of actual insults), broadcast on the US Comedy Central network in September, that follows a tried and tested formula on American TV. The format began in 1949 with Maurice Chevalier, was famously hosted in the 1970s by Dean Martin and the latest edition was the recently screened Charlie Sheen’s Roast. It’s been attempted on British TV by Channel 4, but didn’t catch on. More about that later…

For those who, like me, haven’t a clue what a “roast” is – other than something British cooks cremate on a Sunday lunchtime – here’s a quick run-down… A “celebrity roast” is an event in which someone in the public eye (the “roastee”) is subjected to a barrage of  mostly scripted comic insults and tributes from a panel of comedians and other well known faces, presided over by a “roastmaster”.

It works because the “roastee”  takes the insults and jokes in good humor and does not see them as serious criticism. In a bizarre twist on the concept of “This Is Your Life”, many regard being roasted as a great honour. Watching Charlie Sheen’s Roast, it seemed more like a lynching with jokes.

Charlie Sheen’s Roast was scheduled for the very same Monday that Two And A Half Men aired for the first time with Ashton Kutcher in Charlie’s long-time role. It all started going wrong for Charlie – in public, at least– on May 20, 1998, when CS was hospitalized after overdosing on cocaine. Various problems surfaced over the years and on October 26, 2010, the police escorted him from his New York hotel suite. According to the New York Police Department, Sheen admitted to being drunk and taking cocaine. Warner Brothers took the opportunity to fire him from the sit-com.

Since then, drug-taking and drinking to excess have been linked to the actor. There’s even a website called charliesheenjokes.com, featuring barbed attacks on the actor, most of which aren’t particularly funny. Here are five typically unfunny examples:

  • Saint Pat gets drunk on Charlie Sheen day.
  • Charlie Sheen won American idol using sign language.
  • Remember that time Charlie Sheen lost, me neither. Winning!
  • If NASA wants to put a man on Mars , just ask Charlie Sheen how he got here and reverse engineer it!
  • You do not drug test Charlie Sheen, however Charlie Sheen does test drugs.

Back to Charlie Sheen’s Roast. I’ve seen most of it online and it’s a pretty embarrassing two hours worth. The six (and a half) best Charlie Sheen’s Roast gags (at least the ones that weren’t too rude or cruel) are:

  1. Charlie Sheen: “It’s true, I’ve hung around with a lot of shady people over the years… losers, drug addicts, dealers, desperate whores. But to have you all here on one night is really special.”
  2. Amy Schumer: “Your marriage to Denise Richards, it was kind of like her Vietnam because she was constantly afraid of being killed by Charlie.”
  3. Jeff Ross: “Charlie if you’re winning, this must not be a child custody hearing. Only time your kids get to see you is in re-runs. Charlie, don’t you want to live to see their first 12 steps?”
  4. Jon Lovitz: “How much blow can Charlie Sheen do? Enough to kill two and a half men.”
  5. William Shatner: “Prostitutes cost a lot of money, Charlie. Hasn’t anyone told you that actresses will sleep with you for free?” and “First off Charlie, I’m eighty-years-old. You’re what, forty-seven?…” [Sheen says: “Forty-six.”] “…Then how come we look like we went to high school together?”
  6. Kate Walsh: “Despite all those years of abusing your lungs, your kidney, your liver, the only thing you’ve had removed are your kids!”

Will Charlie Sheen’s Roast kickstart a new TV trend?

The British attempts at Comedy Roasts came in 2010 when Channel 4 recruited Jimmy Carr to be “roastmaster” for a short series in which Bruce Forsyth, Sharon Osbourne, Chris Tarrant, Davina McCall and finally Barbara Windsor were roasted by the likes of…  Jack Dee, Sean Lock (who summed up the mood when he ad-libbed: “If the money’s right, I’ll slag off anyone”), Gok Wan, Patrick Kielty, Keith Lemon and Chris Moyles.

Channel 4’s tag-line to the series takes an optimistic upbeat view of it all: “A host of comedians and celebrities pay fond – and irreverent – tribute to some TV legends in these star-studded Comedy Roasts.” Yes, we don’t really have the same skills as our American cousins (these were not in the same class of vileness as Charlie’s Sheen’s Roast) … or the same tastes.

I’m pretty sure that Channel 4 have now dropped the idea of any more UK Celebrity Roasts and the chances of Charlie Sheen’s Roast making it on to mainstream British TV are (thankfully) remote.

I would stress that I do not share the sentiments of the headline. It comes from an online forum dedicated to exposing the BBC’s “left-wing bias”. Because of my own left-wing bias, I won’t be naming it or providing a link. Their other suggestions for what BBC stands for include “Big Brother Coverage” and “Blatantly Biased Corruption”.

The moderator, Teddy Bear, and his rabid chums cite examples of how the BBC is mounting a virtual Communist attack on Good Old Blighty, financed by the unwitting licence-payer. It won’t surprise you to learn that the most quoted sources of “evidence” are The Sun, Mail On Sunday and Daily Telegraph‘.

These part-time Beeb-bashers – as opposed to full-time Beeb-bashers like Rupert Murdoch and the owners of the Mail group of “newspapers” – see the BBC as an ultra radical organisation that’s on the side of the extreme left, Islamic militants, the European Union, and on a crusade to replace experienced broadcasters with unkempt yoof.

Examples include how back in the 1980s, Dr Who was nothing more than  a thinly disguised attack on the Thatcher government (proof: “a spin-off Doctor Who children’s novel called Turlough and the Earthlink Dilemma, which was published under licence by the BBC in 1987, featured a despotic villain called Rehctaht – Thatcher spelt backwards”); that the Archers is a hotbed of radicalism (“During the first Countryside March, the Archers managed not to mention it at all, but mentioned the Gay Pride March instead”); that only pro-EU propaganda makes BBC news; and getting rid of jazz programmes on Radio 2 in favour of “soft rock”: “Only a few days since a Newsnight editor attacks the BBC for their ageist and youth obsessed policies – a Radio 2 presenter has quit and done the same.”

Most sinister of all is their belief that the BBC is pro-Islamic and anti-Christian. A whole thread on this theme is illustrated by a BBC logo in which the “C” becomes an Islamic crescent. Here are a couple of examples:

“How is it The Telegraph with resources far less than the BBC is able to cover this story from Bangladesh (“Rape victim receives 101 lashes for becoming pregnant”), yet no mention of it on the BBC site? Can it be that the BBC prefers to hide stories that show the real depraved mentality of these extremist Sharia law Muslim states? Of course it is! Same as it has done with the numerous other similar type stories mentioned on this forum, and the many many more covered by Jihad Watch or Religion of Peace.

“Is there really any doubt about the insidious immoral nature of the BBC?”

and…

“Why is it that whenever a Palestinian is supposedly shot or killed by Israeli troops, and certainly when by an Israeli civilian, it receives instant headline status on the BBC website, but when, as in this case, a Christian is murdered in Pakistan by Muslims for refusing to convert, there’s not even a mention of it?

“This is not a rhetorical question – How do YOU explain it?

“If you really want a glimpse of how many atrocities are committed globally by extremist or fundamental Islamics without any mention on the BBC website, check out this site. See if after you have any doubt about the bias of the BBC in this domain.”

You’d think that Teddy Bear and his crew could be dismissed as part of a lunatic fringe, but it seems that a significant number of Brits feel the same way. Newspapers bash on about it endlessly and there are dozens of similar websites. A quick Google search for “BBC bias” came up with 1,500,000 hits.

Through reading their comments, you can build up a profile of who these people are. Almost without exception they are white, middle-class, middle-aged  – or older – Tory Christians. (A significant number appear to like Trad Jazz and warm light ale, and fancy Joan Bakewell). What their house newspaper (The Daily Mail) likes to call The Silent Majority.

Although members of the Silent Majority tend to do very-nicely-thank you, they and their mouth-pieces like to paint themselves as victims. Victims of the loony left local councils who won’t let them call rubbish sacks “black bags” any more, and who have seemingly turned “man-hole covers” into “person-hole covers”. These are people who actually say “It’s political correctness gone mad!” with no sense of irony.

They see themselves as victims of a mass immigration that’s threatening to overwhelm their tiny homeland and change our way of life forever. Of “bogus asylum-seekers” (sic) who are either taking our British jobs or else scrounging off the dole… depending on what the angle is.

Most of all, they are victims of a left-wing BBC who continually pumps Socialist propaganda into all our homes. “And what I object to most of all,” foams one correspondent, “is that I’m paying for it through stealth lefty tax”. Or what sane people call the BBC Licence Fee.

I can’t help but be amazed that these people really do think that those in charge of the BBC (the “commissars”, as they are often termed!), really do have a secret agenda. That they meet in their marbled halls to scheme new ways to corrupt our naturally-Thatcherite white-skinned nation with their honey-coloured, left-wing filth.

Of course, the reality is that the BBC is run by predominantly middle-class, middle-aged white people. The staff and freelance payrolls are made up of thousands of individuals: Labour-voters, Lib-Dems, Greens, SWP, UKIPs – maybe even a few Tories. I’ll bet that a few of them don’t possess strong political views at all.

The BBC Licence Fee is a bargain. For £139 a year (a smidgeon over £2.67 a week), I get access to six television channels and a mass of radio stations. When compared to what Sky satellite TV costs or the daily cost of “The Mail”, it’s a double-bargain. Don’t tell anybody, but I’d gladly pay £2.67 a week just for BBC Radio 4, BBC 4 TV and BBC 6 Music alone.

I don’t listen to Radio One very often, if at all. The same goes for BBC3, Eastenders, National Lottery Live, Strictly Come Dancing, Women’s Hour, Moneybox Live, The Eurovision Song Contest, BBC Radio London, The Organist Entertains, BBC 5 Live, and a whole load more. But do I think they should be banned and taken off the air? Do I heckers like.

The Silent Majority, on the other hand, only considers the negative. To them, it’s all about what they don’t like. How terrible that their licence fee goes to fund the lifestyle of some lefty comedian or long-haired radio DJ. The SMs insist that everything should be how they want it. Anything that’s not to their taste must be eradicated. The scary thing is, politicians of all persuasions now feel that they have to cosy up to them. Even the BBC concedes more and more to their demands.

The Jonathan Ross/ Russell Brand “debacle” is a case in point. People who listened to the programme as it went out didn’t think to object to what they heard, but once the Mail On Sunday had highlighted the issue, a week later, hundreds of thousands of people who wouldn’t know Russell Brand from Russell Grant, suddenly decided that he and Jonathan Ross should lose their jobs. Now they’ve both gone, and the BBC is poorer as a result.

Anyone with half a brain can see that the BBC isn’t overtly left-wing or pro-Islamic Fundamentalist. I don’t remember a BBC announcer ever suggesting we assassinate a Tory MP, or Eastenders hatching a storyline involved with bringing down the financial establishment. Very few sitcoms centre around the desire for Sharia Law and you’ll hear more about “saving our bangers” and how crazy the EU is than how we must join the Euro-Zone.

Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme, often cited by ‘The Silent Majority’ as a hotbed of socialism, spends a good quarter of its air-time on Business News. This involves financial moguls and City barrow-boys celebrating capitalism and denouncing the likes of the Minimum Wage, paid maternity leave and the prospect of tax rises. My leftwing perspective is that the rest of the programme seems to consist of interviewers sneering at the naivety of Labour politicians and not interrupting Tory toffs half as much as they deserve.

But that’s just my view. I don’t advocate sacking John Humphrys or Evan Davies or dismantling the BBC. I might shoot off an email giving my views, but my ultimate sanction is the “off” button. I’ll just stop listening.

I wish the Silent Majority would shut the fcuk up.

I hate censors. Especially the self-appointed rag-bag of philistine dim-wits who constantly picket the broadcasting authorities, complaining about stuff they’d be better off not watching. My message to them is “Switch off!”

In a civilised society that would be the end of it, but these people are working on an agenda and they are backed by sections of the media who would love to see the BBC toppled. Although the talents of these complainers are distinctly limited, and their collective artistry woeful, they set themselves up as judges and arbiters of what the rest of us can see and hear. These morons would feel no embarrassment in asking Michaelangelo to cover up David’s genitals, Botticelli to banish his bottoms or Chaucer to omit the sauciness from the Canterbury Tales.

The lead letter in our “local” newspaper, the scarily-rightwing News Shopper (you can certainly shop around and get better local news), is a rant from one Miranda Suit (“Address supplied”) headlined “Take bad language off our TV screens”. It speaks of the “controversy surrounding the obscene telephone messages made to Andrew Sachs by Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross” and goes on to urge that we sign a petition to the Prime Minister, “an opportunity for everyone to make a real difference and benefit society.”

This same Miranda Suit turns out to be a leading light in Media March, a Christian protest group with links to mediawatch-uk, the successor to Mary Whitehouse’s Viewers & Listeners’ Association. In 2004 Ms Suit was quoted on the BBC website as saying: “We do need swear words, they are a useful expression of anger, but they need to be used sparingly. The only real swear word there is now is the c-word, and we don’t want that to become normalised. If people have no swear words left, who knows – they might not be able to express their anger and might end up hitting someone.”

She seems to have changed her views since then. Perhaps God told her she was being too liberal; who knows. The Media March website features a letter currently being sent by supporters to the BBC Chairman, which includes the chilling line: “However, while there is much to be justly proud of, the BBC is still not listening to me in a number of important areas.”

I’ve got news for you, Miranda… they’re not listening to me, either.

The letter goes on: “I strongly object to my licence fee being used to fund the following” and lists many of the usual suspects, including “vulgar ‘celebrity’ presenters, obsessed with sex, bad language and insulting behaviour, who are paid millions of pounds in salaries” and “Sleazy, violent soap storylines”, plus:

  • Expansion of digital channels and services
  • Programmes that can be downloaded from the internet by non-licence fee payers for free
  • Continued depictions of violence, sex, bad language, drug taking, etc. which can in no way be described as appropriate for a public service broadcaster

If put into practice, this last objection would mean an end to dramas such as Casualty, which is fuelled by violence and drug-taking. Is Ms Suit and her followers suggesting that violence, bad language and drug taking are not features of life in Britain today? If that’s the case, she should go out more.

The main worry here is that the BBC is on the defensive. Its capitulation in the face of a few thousand people who protested at the Brand/ Ross affair was pathetic. Claims that 40,000 protested is rubbish: this includes thousands and thousands of people like me who voiced support for Brand and Ross and whose contribution was treated as if we had been on the reverse of the argument. Even if you count the entire 40,000 as being against the foul-mouthed duo, it’s not even 0.07% of the UK population of 60,943,912.

And yet things have changed. Even minor swearwords are banned on the BBC and anything regarded as vaguely offensive is now strictly verboeten. Although I don’t advocate the use of the “C” and “F” words on CBBC, there is such a thing as a 9pm watershed and after that it should be purely a matter of artistic control.

I do not have huge confidence that BBC Director General Mark Thompson is the man suited to be the final arbiter in such matters. He was educated by Jesuits and, according to Wikipedia, worships at a Catholic church near Oxford, which hardly makes him impartial deciding events that may send his soul to eternal damnation! Plus, his background in TV is purely factual – Watchdog, Breakfast Time, Panorama, Newsnight – and so he may not always be on the side of art… especially with Old Nick prodding him in the arse with a toasting fork.

Why can’t dominating idiots like Miranda Suit stick to watching the Disney Channel and leave the rest of us to watch what we want– be it Storyville on BBC 4 or Celebrity Arse-Wiggling on Bravo? I may not personally choose to watch Celebrity Arse-Wiggling on Bravo but I’ll defend your right to watch it – provided it’s on after the watershed, of course.

London cop drama, The Bill, has been on my TV longer than the fruit bowl. First appearing in 1983, in the guise of a one-off drama called Woodentop, it became a weekly series a year later and has passed through various formats up to and including its current one hour slot every Wednesday and Thursday, football fixtures permitting. (To be honest, it’s only 42 minutes if you don’t count the recap of what’s already happened, the ads and very annoying parodies plugging the sponsorship product).

There’s no doubt that, during its 25 year run, The Bill has had its moments. Sad that most of them occurred during the golden years when Burnside, “Tosh” Lines, and Sergeant Bob Cryer ran the roost in the late-1980s to mid-’90s. Although, to be fair, the later stories featuring Bill Murray as Don Beech did set the pulses racing.

In later years, The Bill turned into something of a soap opera in uniform, sharing a small pool of actors with BBC undercover rival, Eastenders. A seeming shortage of actors who can pretend to be vaguely comfortable in an east London setting, means that the same ones keep turning up in different roles. Roberta Taylor, one of the Walford exiles, appeared as three separate Bill characters, before surfacing in 2002 as Inspector Gina Gold. And she’s not alone.

Bruce Byron, who plays cocky cockney DC Terry Perkins, had previously appeared on the other side of the Thin Blue Line, as Mr Smee in October 1994, Paul Archer in 1997 and John Shaw in 1998. Then, in 2000, he was introduced as Detective Inspector Lomax before being demoted and reappearing as Terry. Then, blow me, if in the interim he didn’t turn up in Eastenders as Gary Bolton. And there are dozens more.

Imagine my confusion a while back, when watching a rerun on UK Gold – as it was then. Superintendent Adam Okaro appeared in the undercover role of an African war criminal. Any minute now, he’s going to whip out his warrant-card and nick everybody, I thought. We reached the end of the episode and his deportation before I realised that actor Cyril Nri was there merely as a representative of the approved actor’s pool.

You can’t really blame the producers and casting directors. After all, there are only 200 living actors in the whole of Britain. I’ll check online: no, it appears that there are estimated to be 10,000 British actors, 95% of whom are said to be regularly out of professional work at any one time. They must be pretty crappy if the ones who appear on The Bill and Eastenders are the pick of the crop. Or perhaps the casting directors find it easier just to keep calling the same couple of agents over and over again. Surely, that can’t be true…

I’ve been off The Bill for a while. A period of melodrama and totally unlikely domestic plot lines made me look elsewhere for my TV thrills. Plus the cops unrealistically referring to witnesses and criminals alike by their first names (as in, “So, looks like Terry killed Carla in a fit of rage and Mick, Colin and Darren all lied when they said they were with Mel and Kim?”) grated. It had all got so fantastic – in the unreal sense. A while ago, I dreamt that Star Trek Deep Space Nine type aliens were scattered among the cast and I woke up believing it had actually happened.

Although Sun Hill is supposed to be somewhere around Tower Hamlets in East London, most of the filming takes place in south-west London, as near to the studios in the old Triang factory in Morden as they can get. A thesp who worked on The Bill in its early years told me in confidence that, because actors tend to be significantly smaller than real-life policemen, Thames TV had constructed scaled-down sets, with reduced sized doors, filing cabinets and chairs to make the characters appear “proper sized” and suitably imposing.

For some unfathomable reason, last night I drifted into the first episode of a new Bill story, “Forgotten Child”. Despite the predictability an 8pm ITV drama demands, it was far better than I was expecting and I got to the end without feeling I’d been cheated. I even wanted to find out what happens next. Praise indeed…

The story centred around an underage girl runaway from Leeds, whose drug-scarred body had been found behind a strip-pub in Sun Hill. Investigations pointed to a nationwide ring trapping underage girls and luring them into prostitution and drug-dependency. Just another story of life in the present-day version of Dock Green, you’d think.

Although the story was multi-dimensional, a couple of aspects of “Forgotten Child” were mildly annoying, including a character who was supposed to be from Leeds having a definite Liverpool accent. You can almost hear the assistant chief producer saying: “But it still says ‘Northern’, dahling”  – assuming anyone on-set even noticed. Then there’s the clever but unrealistic plot device by which minor characters impart important information (“We’ve found the pub landlord’s DNA all over the dead girl’s body”) as the investigating DC and Superintendent amble down the corridor, recapping the main points of the plot for slower viewers. In my limited experience of the real Bill, Superintendents and DCs don’t tend to mix too much, never mind stroll down corridors, practically arm-in-arm.

To be fair, it isn’t meant to be real life, it’s The Bill. And when one of your main characters attempts to commit suicide in his dressing room because he’s been axed from the programme as Reg Hollis, er actor Jeff Stewart did in 2007, it’s possible to regard aliens showing up on screen as quite normal. Even in a dream.

Note: The Bill finally came to an end on ITV-1 in August 2010.