Columns On the Stage

Rogues’ Gallery

Now that the BBC has a taste for turning its own scandals into prime time ratings, I’ve wasted no time pitching similarly eye-catching ideas

This article is taken from the November 2021 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issue for just £10.

With the ghost of Jimmy Savile still chomping on his cigar around the corridors of Broadcasting House, what better way of pouring petrol on the flames than commissioning a “harrowing biopic” on the man’s crimes, not to mention hiring the corporation’s most highly regarded comic actor to pack a punch in the lead role?

Now that the BBC has a taste for turning its own scandals into prime time ratings, I’ve wasted no time pitching similarly eye-catching ideas to its traditionally unresponsive commissioners. Fingers crossed (working titles) Martin Bashir: A Right Royal Rumpus and the Sir Cliff Richard-inspired Rogue Raiders are receiving the consideration they surely deserve!

When observing my colourful breakfast table response to news of the director-general’s hefty pay rise, it soon became clear that the teenage nephew had no idea who the aforementioned Mr Davie was, or what all the fuss was about.

What a disrespectful little wretch he’s become

After I’d patiently explained the significance of the ongoing debate surrounding the licence fee ­— adding it had funded this uncle’s regular BBC TV and radio appearances between 1972 and 1999 — the boy gave out an unpleasant snort, before returning to whatever appliance he presently pleases himself with. What a disrespectful little wretch he’s become. More to follow shortly…

Despite the lady boss of the 007 franchise having mercifully confirmed a female Bond’s a non-starter, the current Leader of the Opposition still feels duty-bound to champion the idea.

While I read he’s busy “reaching out” to his party’s lost supporters, one imagines the Bond stance is illustrative of his problems lying ahead. Much like those in the minority trying to tell themselves that removing Doctor Who’s male organs (or whatever equivalent Time Lords have) has been a triumph, I fear here stands a politician fervently attached to the North London belief that making longtime TV/movie franchises less entertaining and less successful is better for the nation at large.

Recent birthday celebrations took a regrettably dark turn when it emerged the nephew had bought me that muckraking new autobiography by Miriam Margolyes, with the added insulting explanation that this troublemaker’s handiwork seemed “my sort of thing.”

Biggins shows his true colours by lobbying for a knighthood

While unsure whether this was deliberate provocation on his part — he appeared all wide-eyed innocence — I managed, courtesy of professional breathing exercises, to maintain admirable composure before finally giving him the benefit of the doubt. Just when proceedings appeared to have returned to a more settled state, that unhinged mother of his arrived from Gloucester, cheerily presenting me with the latest Gyles Brandreth, thus sending one’s rage to a point of no return.

Mother and son were swiftly ordered on their way, complete with contemptible birthday offerings, and warned not to again darken this door until at least the second week of Advent.

Amid inevitable excitement surrounding the latest Bond film, hats off to forgotten 007 George Lazenby. Still evidently sore about his professional misfortune after all these years, George’s mean-spirited assessment of Daniel Craig and co on the BBC airwaves was a masterclass in showbiz bitterness, so rarely enjoyed in these media-managed times.

After years of appalling toadying around the royals, Biggins shows his true colours by lobbying for a knighthood, preposterously announcing it’s “long overdue”. Appearing in a Kent production of Jack and the Beanstalk come the time of the New Year Honours, one can only hope and pray the intolerable Christmas pudding isn’t elevated beyond Pantomime Dame in Dartford.

I gather Dundee thespian Brian Cox now enjoys appearing in videos for fans, delivering a popular expletive from his American TV series for almost £250 a time. Isn’t it revealing how tastefully people can behave when they find fame in later life?

The royal welsh College of Music and Drama announces that over the next five years it’s “to become a different kind of conservatoire, one that is more relevant, diverse, accessible, connected and engaged”. Principal Helena Gaunt also promises “to focus on long-term means of improving well-being and social inclusion and delivering economic impact for Wales”.

What can all this possibly mean? My contact across the Severn clarifies: “They’re begging for money and lots of it.”

Fit for a princess

This American-based Netflix offering endured one-star reviews

Just when it seemed a whole week had passed without another People’s Princess popping up, I was heartened to come across Diana: The Musical on the television. This American-based Netflix offering, heading for Broadway at the time of writing, endured one-star reviews from sections of the London press, who among other things accused it of “plumbing new depths” and being “so bad you’ll hyperventilate”. Yet, from what I can personally recall, the show was a perfectly pleasing accompaniment to Tuesday night cocktail hour.

Snobbery from the British critical establishment is commonplace whenever sensitive national issues are given a light-hearted flourish. Despite finding a charming girl for the role, one’s own attempts to find a theatrical home for my magnum opus, The Songs of Sally Bercow, have been endlessly thwarted by similarly small-minded types.

While Joan Collins has again been highlighting the antics of fellow stars dead and alive — this time via her serialised My Unapologetic Diaries — how dare that ancient oaf from the BBC, Mr Cockerell, think he can do likewise about Joan!

Just as our beloved Dame was hitting her stride with more charmingly indiscreet tales from yesteryear, “Westminster insider” Cockerell saw fit to flog his own (doubtless less lucrative) memoir with the headline-grabbing claim that Joan once had a knee-trembler with notorious late Tory swordsman Alan Clark.

This was angrily denied by the lady herself, who didn’t appreciate such tittle-tattle — not least when she’s busy selling her own. Proof, were it still needed, that unglamorous political hacks have no place in show business.

Sincere thanks to classy crumpet Patricia Hodge for drawing attention to the scandalous fate of theatricals over 70, now often reduced to gratefully receiving whatever scraps are thrown our way. Dearest Patricia knows such professional misfortune all too well: as I write, she’s bracing herself to carry that ageing ham Havers on a UK tour …

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