On Friday I was at the Broadcasting Press Guild awards luncheon at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. For those who don’t know, the BPG is a club, I suppose, of journalists past and present who write or wrote about TV and radio. It encapsulates all TV and radio critics and correspondents of the national newspapers and a fair few trade magazines. We vote annually for the best actor, actress, TV drama, comedy etc etc of the preceding year and the awards are staged between the Broadcast awards in January, the RTS programme awards whenever they’re handed out and the Bafta TV awards in May.
The best bit of gossip I got from the do I really shouldn’t repeat. It concerns John Birt, erstwhile director general of the BBC and a former high-up producer at LWT where he helped land the David Frost/Richard Nixon interviews now enshrined in the Frost/Nixon film. Ask not how I know but it seems the movie’s scene in which Birt is so ecstatic at having landed the Frost/Nixon interview that he disrobes and plunges into the sea is entirely fictional.
Other news: a good friend and one-time fellow journalism trainee Simon Wilson, who is now a comedy commissioner for the BBC, was at the awards supporting Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin who won the best comedy and best writer gongs for their truly wonderful, part-improv sitcom Outnumbered. Wilson was busily texting some mystery producers in an edit suite across town to let them know that they couldn’t have another 15 seconds on the end of the show they were finalising for BBC 1. Gags had to go. Of such minutiae are producers and executive producers lives made.
Of the stuff that happened on the podium, my favourite moment was David Frost accepting an outstanding achievment award and giving an “unplanned tribute” to Denis Thatcher in the process, as he recalled a number of anecdotes about Dear Bill, the man Frost said he most missed never having interviewed. One story concerned Denis at a gathering of world leaders where he was inexplicably called upon to speak. Denis rarely spoke in public and never took a platform – leaving all that sort of thing to the distaff side. In Frost’s memory, he got out of the hole by announcing that “As Mark Anthony said to Cleopatra on entering her bedroom: ‘I haven’t come here to talk.'” We didn’t get that in the BBC’s Margaret drama the other week.