Top marks to Jay Hunt

Gael Monfils. BBC Sport

You’ve got to hand it to BBC 1 controller, Jay Hunt. Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning she ably defended the decision to sack Carol Thatcher from The One Show for using the term “golliwog” in connection with a black tennis player. Hunt also quickly squashed comparisons with the offence Jonathan Ross caused back in October, saying he has apologised on several occasions. Ms Thatcher appears not to have yet apologised for a remark made, as Hunt said, “in a BBC workplace environment”.

Speculation has of course centred on who Thatcher was referring to. Someone with lots of French connections tells me the French press were yesterday naming the tennis players as Gael Monfils (above). Today, reckons the person in question is Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Either way, it seems Thatcher was talking about a black person when she used the G word.

Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant mined this territory some time ago in hilarious but uncomfortable scenes featuring the hapless Maggie in an episode of Extras. Golliwogs and their associations are still fraught with difficulty. We live in a culture that is still often racist, or must seem so to anyone who isn’t white. So there’s offence all round: to black people; to people who think you should be able to say what you like in certain places; to “gollitoys”. Ultimately the BBC is damned if it does (sack someone called Thatcher for causing offence) and damned if it doesn’t (sack someone called Ross for causing offence).

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Why lucecannon is a reality TV-free zone

Joe Swash wins I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here Dec 2008. ITV is a reality TV-free zone for lots of reasons. One: reality TV and coverage of it is everywhere so it doesn’t need to be here. Two, three, four, five and six: it’s just not my particular tasse du the and I shall attempt to explain why. But it will have to be quick and possibly not very thought-out, as I’m about to do some real, live, face-to-face net(not)working. A friend is coming round for coffee.

By reality TV I mean ITV’s I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here (above), Channel 4’s Big Brother and I include all the TV talent shows (Strictly Come Dancing, X Factor, Any Dream Will Do etc etc) because they involve people in so-called ‘real’ situations: learning to dance, learning to play an instrument, going on a journey of self-discovery. Blah. Sometimes they are ‘real’ people; sometimes they are celebrities. But it’s all (more or less) unscripted, which is the term they use for this sort of TV in the US and that’s a much better term than ‘reality’. There is nothing actually ‘real’ about this stuff – the moment it’s screened on TV it is removed from reality as most mortal people (viewers) experience it.

So if you want the latest news and gossip on the latest reality TV programme you can pick up any tabloid newspaper, or check the headlines when you login to Hotmail or whatever. It’s ubiquitous.

I will sound pretentious and superior by saying this, but part of my lack of appetite for these shows is because I want something a bit more from my entertainment and visual diversion. I want a certain knowledge which, like hard cash, I can trade in for something elsewhere in my life or in all our lives. Something that will resonate elsewhere in life or the world or our experiences of it. Something that will help navigate through life a little more happily or smoothly than if I didn’t have it.

Pretentious, moi? (Where’s Stephen Fry when you need him?)

I haven’t the time or headspace to keep up with which celebrity is in which jungle doing which trial. I’d rather gen up on plant names (oh dear) or literary classics which still inform our culture today. I don’t do that because I’m not a total twat and I don’t have the time. But I’d rather spend any spare time reading or gardening than watching stuff I don’t get anything out of.

Call me a counter-culturalist (some people do) but I’ve never liked mainstream, shiny floor TV entertainment – even as a kid. All those tinselly curtains behind ‘The Comedians’ drove me to my bedroom, where I’d let my imagination free with a book, rather than fester over whether Isla St Clair looked fetching in that week’s frock. I don’t like Brucie, even in an ironic, kitsch, throwback way. I can’t be bothered to gossip about people who I don’t know and who become unreal for me the moment they’re on TV. Nor do I waste precious mental energy on situations which have nothing to do with life as I or the vast majority of people live it.

Escapism and catharsis are vital, of course, but I don’t find them in this brand of TV entertainment. Sauce for the goose, or whatever. I choose literature, drama and the sort of comedy that strikes a nerve with me. I get distraction by dancing stupidly, on my own or with others.

I don’t mind that millions of others enjoy reality and Strictly Come Dancing TV and I’m sorry I make myself sound so culturally superiour by condemning this as entertainment for proles. I can enjoy X Factor or Strictly when watching them with people who are also enjoying it. I just don’t seek these things out. I also listen with interest when someone stages an argument about Big Brother, say, putting a mirror up to modern society. I don’t buy that argument because it’s too simplistic and wrong to suggest a show made for commercial reasons (ratings and advertising) has a wider social purpose. Big Brother is part of popular culture just as Facebook is, and that’s it’s place in history.

I am fascinated, from a TV industry point of view, when there’s a glitch in the system as when John Serjeant (how do you spell his surname?) quit Strictly because he was no good and BBC 1 controller Jay Hunt was torn between defending the integrity of a ‘talent’ show and an inevitable desire to protect her ratings with a popular character.

So there’s loads to say about reality and other entertainment TV – but plenty of other people to say it for you. There’s loads to say about lots of other things, too. I’d rather be a loose cannon, firing in different directions, as well as sometimes running with the masses.

Now for coffee, and a break to sort out those mixed metaphors.

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Radio 2 needs an energy boost

I really should have something better to do (lots of things, in truth) but once again this weekend I was reminded of what a soulless place Radio 2 is without Jonathan Ross.

I didn’t even bother listening to whoever or whatever is standing in for his Saturday lunchtime show but was forced to listen to some of what was going on on Saturday afternoon, once the Charlie and Lola story on the in-car CD player had looped for the third time. Snow may be Lola’s favourite and her best, but the magic was beginning to fade after a couple of listens.

So it was we tuned in to Dermot O’Leary for a while. Normally I’ve nothing against Mr O’Leary’s afternoon efforts on a Saturday. It’s easy. It isn’t the god-awful “comedy” that comes on after Ross, which is immediatley switched off. O’Leary gets musicians in to play live sets. And I have a degree of loyalty because he’s a friend of a cousin.

But really, the lack of energy, wit, verve and general je ne sais quoi on his and so many other R2 programmes (Mr Ball included) is sadly exposed because Ross, the main star in the firmament, is missing.

BBC 1 controller Jay Hunt was right to praise Ross and his talents as a broadcaster. All those people who were so keen to gun him down should recognise exactly what they’ve done by shooting down the star. There’s a recession on and R2 is a grey place, devoid of sparkle without Ross on air.

I’m wishing for a digital radio for Christmas. Apparently Adam & Joe are quite good on 6 Music of a Saturday morn.