What I wrote at Lib Dem Voice

March 10, 2006

Why, oh why, oh why...

... do I put myself through the weekly torment that is This Week? I remember when its quirky, jaunty take on the last 7 days at Westminster struck a deft balance between the serious and the light. Now it's just wall-to-wall vapid, humourless inanities.

I actually quite like and respect Andrew Neil as a political interviewer (at least when he's not trying too hard to be funny).

But Diane Abbot and Michael Portillo are utterly pointless. Semi-detached from their own parties, they represent only their own views - which seem to have drifted far away from any intellectual moorings. Neither has any pointful political existence beyond the programme, which means they think only as far ahead as the next edition. It makes for painfully shallow telly.

Watching it tonight - like some kind of sick puppy returning to its own vomit - I was struck by the antiquated futility of the Abbot/Portillo left-right oppositional schtick. It reminded me of the sublime Jon Stewart's eloquent tirade against the US equivalent of This Week, CNN's Crossfire. His Exocet lament - that the show's theatrical, bipolar sniping was "hurting America" - was so devastating that Crossfire was cancelled soon after.

Now I don't think the Beeb need go that far. There have been some memorable editions of This Week - usually when one or other of Abbot and Portillo has been absent. Ken Clarke, Robin Cook and Shirley Williams have all been stellar guests in their time: because they think/thought hard, and have/had something they want/wanted to say - and which was therefore worth hearing. (Inserting those past tenses still makes me sad.)

So let the BBC bring down the curtains on the Abbot and Portillo show, and try instead a new cast of three permanent guests. How about this trio of independent and intelligent MPs: Peter Kilfoyle (Labour), Ed Vaizey (Tory) and Lynne Featherstone (Lib Dem)?

5 comments:

wrinkled weasel said...

I am an addict of the show and will get the DT's for the next two weeks.

You have a good point, Shirl the Girl, Ken Clarke might make a welcome change from Abbott and Costello, who are so in love with each other (and themselves) I fully expect full on frottage in the next series.

FWIW my dream team would be Rosie Boycott or Shirl, Caroline Spelman or Teresa (FM Shoes) May and Tony Benn or the ghost of Robin Cook

Jock Coats said...

Don't drink, don't smoke, what do you do?...

I actually quite like and respect Andrew Neil as a political interviewer

Stephen Tall said...

Was that subtle innuendo following, Jock?

Neil's intelligent, tenacious and doesn't take bullshit. I like that. It's the jokiness that grates.

Liberal Neil said...

Neil's intelligent, tenacious and doesn't take bullshit.

Can't argue with that! Andrew can be quite good too ;-)

Seriously though - if this is what the Beeb mean when they say they are etrying to make politics more accessible then they are getting it horribly wrong.

This programme just adds to the perception that politicians are a bunch of self-serving f**kwits in a bubble of their own making.

Why not have a fairly serious look at the issues they discuss. Even their 'celeb' guests tend to have more substantial points to make than Abbott & Costello.

Cllr David Morton said...

I do enjoy it, but a bit like question time, I think it is now political geeks talking to other political geeks. It needs refreshing. I'd definately give shirley williams a regular slot. There is no reason why they couldn't get three on the sofa. The guest packages are often really good but the abbott/costello/neil love in is now incestious and kind of smothers any proper debate. I tend to take it as a package with question time (and now footballers wives segments as well but thats gone off the boil as well) and a bottle of red wine while texting fellow political geeks. (oh god I need to find love!) but in honesty isn't that now the problem with it. It was men't to make politics accessible but is now talking to its self like the political programmes it was ment to replace.