‘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 standards of politeness even over the course of a half-hour interview. He is therefore on enjoyably bad-tempered form in most of the episodes, and continues to draw on large reserves of combative energy — on Lee Child’s novels (‘Why can’t you do anything better?’); on Richard Dawkins’s scientistic preaching (‘Don’t your friends say to you: “Oh, lighten up, Richard!”?’); and on poor, nice Michael Palin’s travel documentaries (‘You’re not going to be traipsing around when you’re 90, are you? That would be really embarrassing.