James Delingpole James Delingpole

Stuff of legend

A few years ago, my at-the-time-quite-impoverished screenwriter friend Jake Michie told me about this brilliant new children’s TV series he’d dreamed up about the Knights of the Round Table.

A few years ago, my at-the-time-quite-impoverished screenwriter friend Jake Michie told me about this brilliant new children’s TV series he’d dreamed up about the Knights of the Round Table.

A few years ago, my at-the-time-quite-impoverished screenwriter friend Jake Michie told me about this brilliant new children’s TV series he’d dreamed up about the Knights of the Round Table. All the male leads would be young and pretty with boy band haircuts; Arthur would be a bit of a rugger-bugger lunk, while the real hero would be a younger Merlin who would use his magic to get his pal out of all sorts of scrapes; and obviously there’d be monsters and demons and suchlike to stop the kids getting bored.

I was appalled. Partly I was appalled because I knew if it got made it would be a huge success and make Jake much, much richer than me (as indeed he now is). Equally, though, I was appalled because unlike Jake I’d read the whole of Malory’s Morte d’Arthur, and Tennyson’s Idylls of the King, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, at least five times probably, in the original Middle English, not in translation, if you please. As a result I felt rather proprietorial about the things you could and couldn’t do with our National Myth. Here was a once-in-a-generation opportunity for children to learn about what Arthur and Guinevere and Percival and the rest really got up to in the original stories. And what was Jake trying to do? Turn it into a cross between Take That, Doctor Who and Harry bloody Potter, that’s what.

Sometimes I think it may have been a mistake to have read English at Oxford. Jake, of course, was right and I was being a precious literary ponce.

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