How many years is it now? Like so many across the UK, my Sunday morning when at home starts with The Andy Marr Show (tm) and, before that came into being, started with David Frost. It’s informative but not too demanding. The politics side is always prevented from overwhelming the rest of the show. But one aspect of the programme is becoming sadly tedious.
An all too typical pundit line-up
And that is the roster of talking heads that are summoned to review the Sunday papers, today being a classic example. Iain Dale and Polly Toynbee are a good double act, they’re knowledgeable and sound people, and both are comfortable with their roles. But, and here there is a very big but, we’ve been here before. They are part of an all too predictable cast.
Think about it: tune in BBC1 at 0900 on Sunday and if you don’t see either of today’s paper reviewers, you are all too likely to see folks like Sun columnist Jane Moore, Mirror man Kevin Maguire, Max “Hitler” Hastings or Amanda Bloody Platell. The impression is given that there is a very limited variety in what is offered. The result might just be a diminishing return in viewer interest.
Not, of course, that I or anyone else is suggesting that Marr, Barney Jones and Chris Cook should let any external force do their selection for them. But, and yes, there’s another but, they are missing a trick. When the press regulation debate was raging, where were Even Harris and Brian Cathcart? Was the BBC frightened of asking a Hacked Off supporter, instead of just talking about them?
And where are the younger generation of pundits? Compare and contrast with the same channel’s Question Time, where Owen Jones from the left and the likes of Tim Stanley – well, had he got to Salford Quays last week, that is – and Mark Wallace from the right are invited, among others. They could do a lot worse that my good friend Sunny Hundal – not that they’re asking.
Maybe some of those named sneaked on to the Marr Show sofa while I wasn’t looking, in which case the apologies are on their way. But somehow I don’t think they have. And that’s the whole point: when John Cleese, on the same show, points out the way in which the Beeb has become horribly conservative about commissioning comedy shows, he could have included much more of the Corporation’s output.
And that’s a pity: yes, viewers like their Sunday mornings not to be too demanding, but not to be stale and predictable. Why bother to tune in if you know who’s going to be guesting and have heard their spiel so many times before?
There’s one for Ye Olde BBC Suggestion Box.