Belfast Telegraph

It's Good Moaning Ulster as dumbing down fails

TV View: The programmes to watch and the ones you really want to miss

By Joe Nawaz

It began, as most of my formative realisations do, with meat. That is, a friend of mine happened to mention in passing that while sleepily auto-tuning into Good Morning Ulster recently, the call went out from Conor-Noel-Bradford-Thompson for bleary-eared listeners to tweet in with their favourite joint of meat.

History doesn't record whether silverside or sirloin made off with the plated plaudits, but, unfortunately, I understand the BBC iPlayer has.

It got me thinking about that once-hallowed institution that is affectionately known as GMU to those weary commuters who have to rise at such an ungodly hour.

The thing is, it's not very good any more, is it? If meat-based tweet-ins didn't have you wondering, then the slow, gnawing sense that in the chase for what media types call a broader demographic, they've thrown the reassuringly educated baby out with the bathwater. Or to put in English, it's rather dumbed down of late, hasn't it?

I bow to nobody in my admiration for Noel Thompson as a broadcaster. He's indelibly etched into Norn Iron's tiny but significant media Mount Rushmore. But when he's thrown so many rotten, half-gnawed broadcasting bones to fill the dead air it really doesn't matter how expert a polisher of the proverbial poo you are.

Witness the early morning aural mugging that was his 'guitar riff' piece with Michael Bradley of The Undertones, which singlehandedly managed to not only tempt me to delete The Undertones back catalogue from Spotify, but also possibly tempted hitherto Anglophobes to grope for the Radio 4 button and the patrician squeeze of the Today programme.

The thing about early morning radio is this. You either want to tune into bumptious upbeat musicality, or you want to listen to Good Morning Ulster – as it was. That is a gentle and authoritative and, dare I say it, intellectual pedicure to coax the weariest feet into stepping out into another dismal working day.

What people don't want at 7.30 in the morning is the general public and their reclaimed opinions on meat, trouser hems or twerking.

Especially when driven by the 19th century district magistrate vowels of Conor Bradford.

He might be talking to vicars who motorbike for Christ, but really he may as well be passing sentence upon them to be hanged by the neck until dead for chicken rustling.

I speak as somebody who's occasionally called on to deliver a borrowed opinion at 8am in the Radio Ulster studio, who's occasionally found to be spluttering to remember what that opinion was when prompted, and promptly expressing the exact reverse in a mild panic.

And that, I suppose, is exactly my point.

As Karl Marx's namesake once said, I wouldn't want to be part of a club that would have me as a member. I don't want the hallowed and once beguilingly stuffy (stuffy is the perfect pre-coffee morning condition, incidentally) institution of GMU to get down, up, or sideways with the kids.

I don't want them to ask us to tweet in pictures of amusing body parts (honestly, you think the Beeb would have learned a thing or two from 'Simpsongate'), and I certainly don't want them to be even aware that Celebrity Big Brother is a thing.

Leave that to loud, garish commercial radio, alongside the bad jokes, excruciating matey-ness, and listless 'banter'. I mean, it's 7.30 in the morning, for goodness sake.

News, expert views and handling the weighty issues of the world seriously yet lightly will do for starters. Leave the teenage kicks to fab-uptown-whacky FM, thanks. To paraphrase a fellow columnist in these pages – I love you GMU, you're perfect. Now change.

Will we learn anything from Hopkins' hateathon? Fat chance

Sing ho-ho-hosannas. Professional unpleasant posh bogbeast Katie Hopkins has found another way to eke out her lamentably lengthy five minutes of hmmfamy in the public eye.

She's bagged herself a show – Katie Hopkins' Journey To Fat And Back (TLC) – based on one of her myriad loathsome opinions, which she happily utters for money. This one's about fat people, that pernicious tribe that just won't stop eating and appear to be too large to round into camps.

In a new TV hateathon, she's going to make herself fat and then thin to prove fat people aren't just being fat on purpose, but are also morally up there with paedophiles and Nazis.

The problem is, while the pseudo-sensationalist stylings of a cloven-hoofed narcissist might make great telly in the pea-brain of a TV exec, it's actually context-free, cheap sneerovision. I'm all for poking fun, but I'd like to see the tables turned for once. How about Celebrity Belsen? Where the privileged, beautiful and powerful spend two weeks in striped pyjamas as they're beaten by guards (for fun, you understand) as viewers get to ring in to vote out the least popular attention-seeker of that particular week.

The participants would go on that reality TV fave, the personal journey, and lose a few pounds in the process. It would be TV cocking a sneer in the right direction for a change. I hear Channel 5 are already interested.

Classy new Doctor has brow factor

I can't, I won't let this column pass without even a passing gush in the direction of Doctor Who (BBC1) , as realised by the finest pair of eyebrows to grace a face since Denis Healy hung up his bushy caterpillars of majesty.

The opening episode of the Capaldi era was a joy from beginning to end. The man with the blue box gurned, wisecracked, shouted and generally charmed at least two islands worth of TV viewers.

He channelled what geeks like me like to call the "classic Doctor" era with such assuredness, you'd be forgiven for thinking that he really didn't have the power of time travel.

He also made me realise just how rubbish David Tennant actually was as the doctor, and how Matt Smith's flirting Time Lord was actually rather annoying.

Roll on next week and Daleks versus eyebrows.

Switch on...

On The Air (BBC): Gerry Anderson may be gone, but the animated shorts of On The Air were a joyous reminder of the brilliance of the man, and a proved to be a lovely send-off for the finest broadcaster to have emerged from this corner of the island.

Switch off...

Tumble (BBC1): Being in singular bah humbug mode this week, the gaudy sub-Strictly tat that makes up the stupidly named Tumble has been — as our American cousins would have it – grinding my gears.

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