Wednesday, 17 February 2010

I Love Jonathan Miller

I've just been listening to the latest podcast of Start the Week from the BBC. I was keen to hear it because one of the guests was Jonathan Miller. Once again I was struck by his ability to talk interestingly and amusingly on almost any subject. Browsing the television offerings of the BBC, many of which are repeats or programmes chosen mainly because they are cheap to make, I wondered why they don't just employ Sir Jonathan to talk on any given subject to fill gaps in their schedule. There are all sorts of vague rumblings around that he is all sorts of things - windy, pretentious, bogus et cetera - but a lot of that is fuelled by jealousy I suspect, combined with a distrust of anyone really confident and energetic. One of the other guests on the programme, Douglas Hurd,(always full of quiet self-importance and a self-effacing but unmistakable awareness of his Etonian heritage et cetera), is probably of this school of thought - 'Well he's a clever enough chap, but he is a bit intense', he might say, if asked. Stevie Smith wrote a mean short story about a small boy, supposedly modelled on a young Miller, so that probably started it all. What swine people are. Miller never appears aloof or too grand for anyone, he is constantly ready to be engaged and engaging, keen to discuss almost anything. I suppose that could be rather exhausting to live with but as an entertaining public figure he can always be relied on to throw up new ideas and insights and stimulate the minds of his listeners, without overawing us - he carries us along with him, enthusing us and drawing us in. The Hamlet he directed at Bristol's Tobacco Factory was by far the best production of that play I've ever seen. I would happily watch him present programmes on any of my least favourite subjects - pensions, say, chemistry, lacrosse. In fact, I'd go further - I'd even watch the shopping channel if he were presenter. I think the Attenborough who presents wildlife programmes was once voted the man people thought was most like god. I love Attenborough, but Miller would get my vote ahead of him, I'm afraid. Heaven in his company would be great.

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