Saturday, 8 November 2008

I shagged him once, but I think I got away with it

So, let's be honest. It surely can't just have been me whose first thought on hearing about the Ross and Brand 'scandal' was an image of Manuel, tea towel draped over his forearm, jiggling nervously from one foot to another with utter confusion on his rubbery face and pebble eyes darting worriedly from side to side as he listened to some unexpected and rather regrettable messages on his answer phone and responded with a perplexed..."Que?"

This must surely be the biggest mountain out of a molehill ever in the history of moles.

Let me be clear from the start. Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand's phone calls to Andrew Sachs were in bad taste, puerile and monumentally unfunny (the latter being what irritates me most). The content was offensive and the action utterly juvenile and unworthy of a couple of silly teenagers with nothing better to do, let alone two successful and highly paid professionals. Without doubt, the broadcast should not have been aired, and both performers should indeed have apologised to Andrew Sachs for their immaturity and idiocy.

Having said that...what is with the ridiculous overreaction and massive media coverage of an incident which boils down to some blokes leaving another bloke a stupid message on an answer phone? First there were two complaints, from actual listeners of the broadcast. Next minute, it was the top headline on ITN's News At Ten for at least two consecutive nights, every television channel and newspaper was headlining it, and everyone in the world was commenting on it. I sat and watched News At Ten in disbelief - admittedly, it was ITN, so not a natural lover of the BBC, but first headline?! On a global news programme? There was an American Presidential election about to happen, war, famine, global recession - but more importantly than any of that was a rude message left on a man's phone! Only the British could possibly consider that a lapse in manners constitutes the most significant global event on any given day, and only we British would complain in droves about a radio programme we didn't actually listen to, and a prank we didn't even know existed until we heard it in the media a week later.
"He said what?! But that's appalling! The swine! I must complain directly!"
" didn't actually hear it. weren't offended by it, were you? It had precisely no effect on your life at all."
"Well, I've heard it now! On News At Ten! You never had to put up with this from Morecambe and Wise. Where's the address for the BBC, and the phone number for the Daily Mail?"

Next thing we know, Brand has resigned, Ross is suspended and Chris Evans is crying because Lesley Douglas has given in her notice.

So anyway. Why is everyone behaving as if Andrew Sachs is some kind of dementia-ridden old codger who needs to be coddled and protected in his dotage? The man has worked in television and the entertainment industry for decades; he worked with comedians who were the 'edgy' performers of their time, such as John Cleese; he is not a naive old dodderer who requires the public to swoop in and protect him from the evil that is Radio 2.

And Georgina Baillie, Manuel's granddaughter. Why is everyone behaving as if she's Sandy from Grease before the bit where she sings "You're The One That I Want" in skin-tight Lycra, and that she had a virginal granddaughterly reputation that has been sullied and debased in the manner of a broken engagement from a Jane Austen novel? Good grief, the woman is in her twenties and belongs to a burlesque exotic dance troupe called Satanic Sluts and works under the name 'Voluptua'. Photographs of her in corsets and stockings (taken from her MySpace page, I understand) have appeared all over the press. Next to many column inches devoted to her bleating on about how Russell Brand has embarrassed her poor grandad by forcing him to think of her as 'sexual'. Now, call me old fashioned, but I've always found that an effective way to avoid your immediate family being forced to see you as 'sexual' has been to not be a stripper who posts half-naked photographs of yourself on the internet. Hugo Rifkind illustrates my point with far more wit than I could here.

Not sleeping with Russell Brand would also be a good way to avoid everyone finding out you slept with Russell Brand. Possibly Brand's reputation is unheard of in satanic or slut circles (the latter seeming rather unlikely, let's face it) but the rest of us have heard all about his sexual exploits rather more than we'd probably like. What a cad! Sleeping with all these women! What a Lothario! But then (and I'm making an assumption here) if he's not routinely using Rohypnol or some kind of hypnosis on all these poor Sandys, then if they weren't there lining up to sleep with him willingly, the embarrassment of poor old grandads could be avoided more effectively.

Jonathan Ross - well, he gets paid too much. Everyone knew that already, including him. It was only a matter of time before there was some kind of protest over it, and here it is. Who decides how much he gets paid, by the way? Have they been suspended too?

He's the father of daughters, and for that reason his involvement in this incident seems surprising and rather disappointing. But come on - Wossy's always made jokes that are close to the bone. Remember Heather Mills and the two legs? (Now that, I found funny). Ross and Brand are employed and popular exactly because they are a bit outrageous and dare to go further than most of us would. This broadcast obviously shouldn't have been aired, and yesterday there was a further resignation in the form of David Barber, who cleared the programme for broadcast. Sorry Mr Barber, but it should have been you in the first place, and Lesley Douglas should never have had to fall on her sword. Brand's resignation and Ross' suspension is a loss to the BBC.

I only have one final question. How is it that Max Clifford is always the winner in every situation, ever?

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