Friday, 2 May 2014

Like Ian Messiter

At the end of each episode of Just a Minute Nicholas Parsons expresses his gratitude to the person who thought up the idea of the game which makes the show. Such a display of good manners is fairly remarkable nowadays, which is probably why I notice whenever I hear him doing it.

Anyway, I've had a couple of ideas for television programmes and I will tell you about them in a minute. If someone manages to use them, all I ask in exchange for the kernel of the dea is a similar kind of tribute to the one Parsons gives Messiter so regularly.

My first idea might be called Riveting Unreadables. It would be a programme in which people who have come to fame as writers but are actually interesting talkers rather than writers are given a show to chat amongst themselves. The kinds of people I'm thinking about are Will Self, whose books are impenetrable to me but who usually provides entertainment when someone asks him a question and Lionel Shriver who seems to delight in choosing subjects of such unbearable despair and misery that one would only choose to read one of her fictions as a form of penance. Despite this, I could listen to her talk about almost anything - the quality of her voice appeals to me and her intellect has a nice mocking quality, plus she somehow manages to be witty and intelligent without ever seeming to need to whine about being a woman or  aboutbeing ignored because she's a woman or any of that.

 I'm sure there are dozens more writers who could fall into this category - riveting to listen to, rather dull to read. Whatever credibility I might once have had would be destroyed if I were to suggest that James Joyce might fit well in the format, if it weren't for the fact that he is dead. Which is why I won't  suggest it, (because of the credibility issue, not the dead question).

My second idea comes from an experience I had some years ago when one relative was graduating from Cambridge and another rather arty, vague relative turned up in jeans and sneakers and a hooded rain jacket. I had the faint sense that possibly a Cambridge graduation might be one of middle England's big occasions, but thought possibly casual clothes would be okay, given that it was a university after all and the thing was about learning, not fashion. However, when we arrived at the Senate House to queue to go into the hall where the ceremony was to take place, even the slightly dreamy relative noticed that possibly her outfit wasn't quite what it should be. With fifteen minutes in hand, we exited the queue and dashed from stall to stall of the market in the central square by the Senate House. Back with time to spare, just under fifty quid shelled out, we'd managed to assemble a set of clothes (plus "accessories") that suited the occasion and its wearer.

My idea, arising from this incident, is of course to send out people to different market towns and give them fifty pounds and fifteen minutes and get them to try to equip themselves for a wedding or a funeral, a job interview or a garden party at Buckingham Palace. It's Ready Steady Cook but with clothing. The important thing I forgot to mention is that these forays should be filmed. It wouldn't be much of a television show otherwise.

Let me know if any of this is useful. If a programme is made from either of these ideas of mine, I probably won't watch it as I don't care for reality television much - but I'd still like to know.


  1. I'd love to think that the mention of Ian Messiter is an example of good manners, but I'm pretty sure that it's a contractual obligation that his rather assertive widow made a condition for continuing the series.

    I may be getting her mixed up with the equally tricky Mrs Plomley.

  2. I suppose it is pretty nice the widow wanted him to be remembered. She has done an excellent job, if that was her plan