Saturday, 30 January 2010

The Ones That Didn't Get Away

Last week I posted an entry listing the question masters I would have loved to have been in a show with, but never got a chance. In response to the article, regular LAM reader Chris asked me where I would place the question masters that I have appeared with within this pantheon.

I'll admit, I did deliberately fight shy of this in the first post, but since I've been asked, I will try to answer this honestly, without fear or favour. Here we are : -

Nicky Campbell

I wouldn’t say that you really got to know him at all during “Come and Have A Go . . . “ What I will say is that the man struck me as a total professional. Throughout the whole thing , dress rehearsal and then the live show, he was in total control. I was also impressed with the way that he comfortably used a lot of four letter words during the rehearsal, but in the live show, when presumably he was getting instructions in his ear all the time, he never let one slip in at all.As for the show, it was a bit of a shame that once you were out you got the bum's rush back to your hotel, even though the show was still going on, so you didn't get to see him after the show. IMHO Nicky was one of the reasons that the second series of Battle of the Brains was a big improvement on the first.

Dermot Murnaghan

Dermot is a real gent. He is every bit as warm and nice and friendly off set as he is on set. I thoroughly enjoyed all of my AYAE appearences with him. As a presenter, I do wish he would sometimes just jettison the script a little more – don’t put all your eggheads in one basket was bloody annoying by the third time you heard it, let alone the thirty third. But he's a nice chap, who manages to keep the tone fairly light throughout his shows.

John Humphrys

Lets get the negatives out of the way first. In my four shows John never once came back to the green room while I was there, so I am afraid that I have never managed to hold a conversation with him when I wasn't sitting in the black chair. Mind you , if you did manage a wisecrack during the chat he was very generous with his laughter and response, even if these were inevitably cut out of the show before it went on air. Also, before the interround chats were binned you would spend a lot of time talking on the phone to a researcher about what areas of your subject and/or your life that John could explore with you. All for the sake of the most dispensible part of the show. On the positive side, John is a master on set. My final was filmed in Glasgow Caledonian University. Normally good old Ted Robbins is the warm up man. He and John have a very good rapport, and the banter between them is great. But for the final they had a local boy there, who went down like a lead balloon. So during the show, when there were any breaks in the filming, John ignored him completely , and instead entertained the audience himself, with funny stories about Celebrity Mastermind etc. All of us after the show spontaneously said what a brilliant job he did – and its true. On the day of the final he was fantastic – I think he enjoyed it as much as we did. If he didn’t, then he hid it well. Nobody could follow Magnus, but John does the best job anybody could do, in my opinion.

Chris Tarrant

Chris is a class act, on set and off it. The rehearsal for my Millionaire show was done by producer David Briggs, who said that Chris isn’t expected in the rehearsals. He still made a point of coming down, sitting among us, having a chat etc. I think that if you’re my age you’re naturally disposed towards Chris because of lingering warm memories of Tiswas and then OTT. You genuinely feel that he is being sincere with what he says to you in the chair. Then afterwards he is the first into the bar, and he buys everyone a drink. I think that in recent years Millionaire has probably suffered a little bit through familiarity in the eyes of the public. But be honest, isn’t one of the reasons why it became such a broadcasting phenomenon the fact that they picked exactly the right person to host the show in the first place ?

Russell Davies

Such a warm, witty and intelligent guy. I think I’ve already said this before, but the fact is that I found the radio show to be much more easy going and laid back than television, even though the show itself can be a bit of a mad gallop when you get started. I can’t really criticise him in any way. A lot of his asides are actually very funny, although you don’t realise quite how funny until you hear them at home. I also genuinely think that he possesses one of the very best voices in radio today. BoB is a very civilised show, and Russell, Paul and the team do come back to a green room for a little drink and a bite with the contestants after the show, although I was never there long myself due to the necessity of driving straight back to Wales.

So – where would I place them in the pantheon ? Well, I’m going to use my own criteria here to help me out a little. WWTBAM is a game show, and so Chris will not feature in my deliberations.

To be brutally honest, had I not been on their shows, I’m not sure that either Nicky or Dermot would have been on my list. This is not to decry the work they have done, nor does it diminish my admiration for Nicky’s professionalism, and Dermot’s all round nice, good-blokeishness.

If Robert Robinson does retire from BoB, and Russell takes it over on a more permanent basis, then yes, 100% he would deserve his place among the pantheon.

John is a difficult one. I don’t say that he has made the show his own in quite the same way that JP has made UC his own. I’m not sure that the format would allow him to do it anyway. Had I never been on the show, though, I would be absolutely desperate to do so. So of course I would include him in the pantheon- even though I do wish he would get out of the habit of repeating a correct answer when he’s given one sometimes.

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