TV Review – Late Review, Newsnight, This Morning, Late Night Poker

The Late Fruitcake

(Originally published in TVS Magazine, March 2000)

Three months after the last column I’m still getting complete strangers come up to me in the street and asking me that I couldn’t possibly have thought that Hippies was any good. It was, and I can prove it on an Etcha-Sketch. It wasn’t as good as the League of Gentlemen, admittedly, but then not a lot is.

I’m going to miss Late Review now it’s moving. I don’t think the new early Sunday timeslot is going to sufficiently supply my regular fix of complete barminess. In a sort of end-of-term spirit, this barmy quotient was raised to dizzying highs in its last few shows. Once upon a time the nutcase seat was filled (more than adequately) by “poet and critic” Tom ‘Fruitcake’ Paulin. Fruitcake’s remit was to sit at the end of the table and dislike things for worthily bizarre reasons. he once dismissed Booker Prize winner Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha – the story of an eight-year-old boy in Dublin – for failing to address the IRA’s brutal fight for whatever it is they’re fighting for these days.

But now, in these end of days, it seems that the controversy spotlight that Fruitcake has been diligently hogging is much sort after. Germaine Greer accusing Toy Story 2 of paedophilia clawed back some attention for the Aussie Bogbrush. But it was the originator who ultimately floored them all. On the last show Tom completely turned the reviewing tables on everybody by liking everything. Tony Parsons was gobsmacked. Tony tried to encourage Tom to hate a film about the Mikado (“racial stereotypes, Tom, racial stereotypes”) but to no avail. Fruitcake just sat there, staring into that middle distance he always stares at and praised things on their merits. Confident in final victory, Tom’s insouciance could have melted candles.

Meanwhile, the real Northern Ireland troubles have been the star attraction on Newsnight (BBC2, weekdays), where it only takes up around 90% of its screen time. The division between the faces of British and Northern Irish politics can be shocking – John Prescott has got a long way to go before he can compete in bullishness with these guys, and Paul Condon could learn a thing or two on the subject of institutional bigotry. Newsnight recently interviewed some Ulster school kids (I use the word Ulster because they were resolutely Unionist). Coming across like a Commons Select Committee they disparaged the peace process and were confidently disgusted with their hardly much-more tolerant leaders of talking to terrorists (i.e. Sinn Fein). ‘The language of terrorism’ is a much over-used phrase – hardly surprising since that is the only language anybody seems to use over there.

The accusation that is generally lobbied at Newsnight is that no-one watches it. But the presenters would not have that relaxed and comforting manner if they thought people were actually watching. It’s the same thing that infused This Morning (ITV, weekdays) during its early days, before Rich and Jude saw their audience figures rising and started to regard the cameras as a rabbit would an ongoing car’s headlights. It is also the reason why Saturday night TV is so shit, as the ever-changing presenters of these ever-changing ‘entertainment’ shows realise that an obscene amount of people are watching. A lot of these programmes don’t actually need to be broadcast. The sheer amount of fun-ness they are trying to exude could be heard just by opening the window.

Recent episodes of The Bill and new drama Dirty Work have featured lots of people playing poker. Somebody else has been watching Late Night Poker (C4, Fridays), which returned recently. About as addictive as television gets, what is most surprising about the spectacle of what is, after all, a lot of stone-faced people sat around smoking a lot is how fast it all is. When things really get going and the amount of money in the pot can be mortgage-shredding, there’s barely time to pause for breath. The croupiers have not been watching Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. Recent highlights of Late Night Poker include the moment where the actor from London’s Burning blew £10,000 in a heads up with a housewife, and the moment where a three-way face-off was resolved with the turning of one card. I suspect that those involved with the show realise their success, as the commentary is much more enthusiastic (read: louder) in this series. Over-compensating again.


About klausjoynson
I'm a writer, editor, musician, DJ and cartoonist. Contact me at: klausjoynson(at) or follow me on Twitter: @KlausJoynson

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