Jeremy paxman

University Challenge deserves Amol Rajan

I wish I could say that Bamber Gascoigne would be turning in his grave at what has happened to University Challenge. But unfortunately, I understand from people who knew the Eton, Cambridge, Yale and Grenadier Guards historian, playwright, critic, polymath millionaire and scion of the upper classes that he chose to compensate for his privilege by embracing progressive causes. So, chances are, the shade of Bamber is thrilled to bits at seeing his old quizmaster’s seat occupied by someone who drops his aitches and pronounces ‘h’ where it should be aspirated and landed a mere 2.2 from hearty, insufficiently medieval Downing. Bambi’s successor Jeremy Paxman probably isn’t too bothered either.

Fairly desperate: BBC1’s Unbreakable reviewed

On first impression, you might have thought that Unbreakable was just a fairly desperate reality show cobbled together from I’m a Celebrity, Mr and Mrs, Taskmaster and It’s a Knockout. After all, the format is that people of varying degrees of fame – from Simon Weston to, er, the bloke who presents MTV’s Celebs on the Farm – arrive with their partners at what presenter Rob Beckett calls ‘a big posh gaff in the country’. Once there, they’re made to perform a series of game-like tasks as Rob looks on and guffaws. Naturally, the series does make a few cunning tweaks to its obvious forebears. Unlike in Taskmaster, for example,

Jeremy Paxman is right about BBC newsreaders

Once upon a time there was a very powerful news organisation that was watched, respected and loved by almost the whole of the people. And that big organisation put a very special importance on its main news bulletin of the day which it broadcast at nine o’clock in the evening. And all this happened in the faraway land called ‘back then’; and The Word was the BBC’s and the man – for it was always a man – who read out The Word became one of the most recognisable and famous faces in the country. And then things changed and the big organisation became less-loved and its important bulletin became

Mandelson’s story could have been so very different

Matt Forde, the stand-up comedian and presenter of his regular Political Party Podcast, has hit on an overlooked technique for getting the most out of big-name interviewees. He pretends to know nothing. Wide-eyed and star-struck (actually he is neither), Forde puts them at their ease in conversation with an apparent fanboy ingénue. ‘Do keep up, Matt,’ said Peter Mandelson, affectionately, as in his Christmas holiday interview Forde claimed to be unaware of some half-forgotten political turbulence that Lord Mandelson, his star interviewee, once encountered. It worked a treat. Lord Mandelson is normally a wary interviewee, but with Forde I have never heard him so unguarded: more confessional even than in

Enjoyably bad-tempered: The Lock In with Jeremy Paxman reviewed

‘I used to be Mr Nasty! That was good! Mr Nasty was easy!’ Jeremy Paxman bellows at Michael Palin on his new podcast. Now Paxman wants to know: ‘Have you got any recommendations as to how you become the nicest man in Britain?’ ‘I’m a very angry, cross person half the time!’ Michael Palin protests, pleasantly. The Lock In with Jeremy Paxman is Paxman’s attempt at a more convivial register — ‘just interesting people, over a pint, with me’ — in contrast to the tone he deployed famously on Newsnight for 25 years: that of the professional curmudgeon. Luckily Paxman is still a hopeless grouch and cannot easily sustain common

I have no clue what’s going on but can’t wait to find out: BBC1’s The Capture reviewed

How did the police ever solve any crimes before CCTV? That was the question which sprang to mind watching the first episodes of two highly promising new crime dramas this week. It’s also the central question now facing the detective in one of them. Part police officer, part career women, Rachel Carey in The Capture (BBC1, Tuesday) is being fast-tracked through the system to the traditional disapproval of her grizzled, old-school boss DCI Alex Boyd — imaginatively known as Boydy. Fortunately, Rachel (Holliday Grainger) won’t be with his unit for long. Having saved Britain from a deadly terrorist attack while working for special ops, she’s been sent there temporarily to

A romp through royal hits and misses

You might well expect a royal documentary on Channel 5 to be unashamedly gossipy. You might also expect it to go for the simultaneous possession and eating of cake — lamenting the endless scrutiny the poor Windsors are subject to, while adding a fair amount of its own. What you mightn’t expect, however, is for the presenter to be Jeremy Paxman. But in Paxman On The Queen’s Children all three things are true. Stranger still, the result is undeniably enjoyable, thanks largely to Paxo himself, who comes across rather as Robert De Niro did in films like Meet the Fockers: as a man who, after decades of the serious stuff,

The idiot box

How to sum up David Frost? The lazy writer’s friend, aka Wikipedia, calls him ‘an English journalist, comedian, writer, media personality and television host’. To which I would add only: ‘Britain’s first TV superstar.’ (To some he was also ‘The Bubonic Plagiarist’, but we won’t dwell on that.) That Was The Week That Was, The Frost Report and The Nixon Interviews made him a key cultural figure of the 1960s and 1970s. But his true significance struck me only recently. He may have damaged Britain, unintentionally, as much as anyone in living memory. Frost, in my view, was a Pied Piper who helped to lure a generation of the brightest

The Spectator’s Notes | 19 January 2017

It is hard to be shocked by anything in these tumultuous times, but I was brought up short by the ‘attic’ headline of Tuesday’s Times, advertising the paper’s T2 section: ‘Up close and personal with Donald Trump — Michael Gove’ , it said, and continued, ‘Sex after 50: it’s fabulous’.. The earliest members of Alcoholics Anonymous offered their famous Twelve Steps, which the drunkard must take in order to recover, born of their own experience. The Twelve Steps are still the foundation of AA. They work because they are taken by people who have hit rock bottom and realise it. The first step says, ‘We admitted we were powerless over

Letters | 9 April 2015

In defence of Catholicism Sir: Michael Gove gives an excellent defence of Christianity (4 April), but his embarrassment about the Roman Catholic part of the story is unnecessary. He writes of his discomfort as, declaring oneself to be a Christian, ‘You stand in the tradition of the Inquisition, the Counter-Reformation, the Jesuits who made South America safe for colonisation … the Christian Brothers who presided over forced adoptions’. The Inquisitions (Papal, Spanish and Portuguese) were indeed shameful, but were often as ineffective as the governments that supported them. The Counter-Reformation was a great movement of spiritual and cultural renewal that altered and improved western civilisation. Jesuits, and other religious orders,

In defence of Christianity

Jeremy Paxman was on great form last week, reminding us that when it comes to being rude to prime ministers he has no peers. Jeremy’s rudeness is, of course, magnificently bipartisan. However elegant the sneer he displayed when asking David Cameron about Stephen Green, it was as nothing compared to the pointed disdain with which he once asked Tony Blair about his faith. Was it true, Jeremy inquired, that he had prayed together with his fellow Christian George W. Bush? The question was asked in a tone of Old Malvernian hauteur which implied that spending time in religious contemplation was clearly deviant behaviour of the most disgusting kind. Jeremy seemed

Could it be that Wolf Hall is actually the teeniest bit dull?

In January 1958, the British government began working on the significantly titled Operation Hope Not: its plans for what to do when Winston Churchill died. The plans, it turned out, wouldn’t be needed until January 1965 — but the intervening seven years were obviously well spent, because, as Churchill: A Nation’s Farewell (BBC1, Wednesday) made resoundingly clear, the farewell in question was a triumph. London came to a standstill and Big Ben fell silent as huge crowds watched the procession of the coffin from Westminster to the spectacular state funeral in St Paul’s — and its boat journey along the Thames afterwards. For the 50th anniversary, Jeremy Paxman talked us

Spectator letters: All Things Bright and Beautiful, oligarchs and school fees, and Songs of Praise

Times past Sir: ‘Imagine,’ says Hugo Rifkind in his excellent piece on the power of Google (29 November), ‘that there was one newspaper that got all the scoops. Literally all of them.’ We don’t have to imagine: such a newspaper existed, a couple of centuries ago, and Hugo works for its descendent. The Times of the early 19th century had a foreign intelligence service that regularly outperformed Whitehall’s, and a circulation several times that of all its rivals combined. It thundered as confidently on royal scandal as it did on the details of parliamentary reform. Its editor dictated the membership of at least one cabinet. Regulation just entrenched this state of

Mary Beard vs Jeremy Paxman

‘Did you find it a good read?’ asked Harrriett Gilbert. An incredibly long drawn-out sigh from Mr Paxman. ‘I think it’s really unsatisfactory,’ he at last replied. ‘But Jeremy,’ retorted Professor Beard, ‘I don’t think you’ve read it carefully enough.’ The eminent classicist from Cambridge is not afraid of conflict. She must eat her students for breakfast, loving an argument, which she of course will always win. Mary Beard didn’t just disagree with Paxman but insisted that her way of seeing, her interpretation, was the right one. She and Paxman were Gilbert’s guests on the first of a new series of A Good Read (Radio 4), in which the guests

Evan Davies is SO not Jeremy Paxman (thank God)

It’s unusual for somebody promoting his own television programme to tell you not to watch it, but that’s what Evan Davis has been doing. At least, he has asked us not to watch Newsnight during his first week as its chief presenter — the week that is now drawing to its close — because it probably wouldn’t be any good until he’d had a bit more experience. And even then it might turn out to be no good, he’s said: we probably would know by Christmas if it was a disaster. As it happens, I am writing this just before his first appearance on the late-night news programme, but I

Russell Brand is duller than even the grimmest political interview

I have just spent a few moments in bed with the popular comedian Russell Brand and I have to say that I enjoyed it hugely. We did not have full penetrative sex, sadly, and when I say ‘in bed with’ I mean it sort of figuratively, or vicariously. What happened is that I watched Russell’s latest address to the world, which he delivers regularly from his bedroom — complete with those by now familiar mangled, high-camp estuarial vowels, tortuously pretentious grammar and infantile, uninformed narcissistic political opinions. Russell sits on the bed and tells us about the state of the world, man, and how it’s all, like, shit, and this stuff

Your starter for ten: why do we Brits so love University Challenge?

‘Fingers on buzzers!’ says Jeremy Paxman on University Challenge. But technically this is inaccurate. Only one of the teams actually has buzzers. The other side has push-button bells, instead. I’ve been watching the programme religiously for God knows how many years without ever consciously noticing this. But, once you’ve been told, it’s obvious — in much the same way it’s obvious that the way you tell Thompson and Thomson apart is that one has an upturned moustache and the other doesn’t. Which, come to think of it, would be quite a good University Challenge question. Apparently, one of its main criteria is that every question must have ‘inherent interest’. That

Without Paxman, the BBC will have just one interrogator: John Humphrys

In a double blow for the beleaguered BBC, the corporation has lost three of its most compelling attractions in little more than a month: the Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman, and Susanna Reid’s legs. Paxman has said he has had enough and announced his retirement from the thinly viewed current affairs programme. Susanna Reid’s legs have made their way over to ITV for its even more thinly viewed breakfast show called ‘Phwoar, Wake Up and Have a Look At This’ or whatever. The legs have attracted criticism for spending a substantial proportion of the show hidden from view under a desk while the rest of Susanna Reid jabbered about something with

Jeremy Paxman’s Great War is great. But is 2,500 hours of WW1 programming too much?

Why are we so fascinated by the first world war? As its 100th anniversary approaches, we’re already mired in arguments about whether for Britain it was a ‘just war’ or a ‘pointless sacrifice’ of millions of lives. I don’t see why it has to be one or the other. Surely this huge and horrific event held elements of both, and more. If ever there was a time when glory ran alongside absurdity, when courage marched lockstep with catastrophe, this was it. We’re looking back at the Great War as if it were a mental exercise — should it or shouldn’t it have happened? But maybe our fascination is emotional as

Damian McBride: Why I clutched at my trousers in front of Jeremy Paxman

They say nothing beats the feeling of seeing your book in print. But for me, the proudest moment was presenting the first copy to my Mum. She’s been ill recently and I read her most of the chapters in draft while she was convalescing, albeit leaving out the nasty bits. I sat with her that evening, reading her more of the book and feeling quite pleased with it. But the nervous feeling kicked in the next day when I saw the first extracts in the Daily Mail, and heard some of the reactions from the media and Labour folk. It strikes me as bizarre that people would reach conclusions and