Sunday, November 02, 2008

Some sane words on the Brand/Ross/Sachs affair...

India Knight in today's Sunday Times

I am utterly nonplussed by the Russell Brand-Jonathan Ross fallout. What’s with the insanely disproportionate reaction? Grovel a much-needed apology, by all means, then grovel some more, but why the need for ritual disembowelling?

Brand “resigns”; Ross is suspended without pay for three months; the controller Lesley Douglas, who is revered by her creative stable, falls on her sword; and Radio 2 self-harms in order to assuage 30,000 members of the public - a few streets’ worth - because two clever, talented men made a grotesquely tasteless joke, for which they apologised profusely - if late in the day.

The corporation’s desire to show moral backbone has left it looking spineless. The millions of viewers and listeners who didn’t complain are left deprived of the entertainment that they, too, pay their licence fee for. What on earth is going on?

She also goes on to say how Brand and Ross, while great entertainers, do have the "Achilles' heel", as she puts it, of treating women reductively, let's say. Well worth a read.

I'll be posting a comment on TVScoop tomorrow about what the whole affair means for comedy on the Beeb, so I'll cross-post here. Something to look forward to, eh? ;)


Persephone said...

Here's some sane words from a distance in The Globe and Mail, one of our national newspapers here in Canada. I'm not sure about "the harmless prank" bit. I'm not old enough to have a granddaughter, but I do have daughters. Although they are not yet old enough to become "Satanic Sluts" (and even if they were old enough and had taken billboards out of themselves posing in the altogether), if someone pulled something like this on me, I'd hunt them down. Jonathan Ross has a young daughter (doesn't he?) and should know better. I don't think any of those involved should be fired. Public humiliation would be nice....

annawaits said...

Thanks for that :)

Yeah, Ross has a daughter, and he should absolutely know better. But the complete lack of premeditation makes it hard for me to be genuinely angry about what he and Brand did. The papers have decided to call it A Series Of Prank Calls, but that suggests they rang Sachs up with the express intent of making fun of him, when in fact they were just expecting him to pick up for a phone interview.

I'll shut up now though, cos the other thing I've written goes into the importance of context/intent etc. :)

Dean said...

It's frustrating as it was mostly pointless (ie. not funny) and so was pretty much indefensible.

It sets a pretty disturbing precedent, as when someone at the BBC want to do something that is offensive or shocking or pushes the boundaries of taste, but have a reason for it (eg. everything Chris Morris has done) then they're more likely to get knocked back over it.

It comes down to responsibility of free speech and when you have it not abusing it or it gets screwed up for the rest of us. One could hold the producer responsible I suppose, especially if it were just Brand. But Ross started off as a producer and has been doing it his whole life, he should have known better. In fact, I'll wager he probably did know better than the likely much younger and less experienced actual producer who may well have deffered to his judgement.

Of course, the witch-hunt is only happening because it was Brand and Ross, were this to happen on Mock The Week no-one would notice. Indeed this Mail piece ( is interesting as they're finally kicking up a fuss now, when it's a repeat from ages ago, just to tie in with the Brand story.

Matt_c said...

I agree with your point on the TVScoop article about the danger of mediocrity.
I think there's the 'moral' issue and the 'quality' issue; the worst bit about the phone calls was that while they were a bit funny (but distasteful - and how I hate smugness) they were not 'good' comedy. And to sail so close to the wind (prank calls being a chargeable offense) in a way that's so pointless is to waste comedy's permission to break the rules. That's my complaint.
I instinctively don't like the idea of comedy having utility but I do want it to be quality. I just think the debate of whether the quality of BBC comedy might be affected by the outcry might also ignore the fact that the incident under discussion was not quality comedy.
(Statements about the objective nature quality are naturally meant in all seriousness but with the tip of my tongue in my cheek.)

Jane Henry said...

I don't think it was a harmless prank either and Jonathan Ross should certainly have known better. But I agree with India Knight, the self righteous howling from people who apparently weren't listening and were only retrospectively offended when they read about it in the papers has been the most distasteful aspect of this for me. I feel very sorry for the producer (who is apparently only 25 ) - presumably she didn't have the nerve to stand up to Ross and Brand even if she had objected. I do hope her career doesn't stall as a result of this. And as a huge Radio 2 fan I think the resignation of Lesley Douglas is catastrophic and very unfair. But at least she (unlike the jumping on the bandwagon politicians who are all baying for blood) had the decency to take responsibility. That's leadership.

Think Wossy suffering a lot from revenge via those journos who were offended by his comments about his salary versus theirs. Not very edifying to see the Fleet Street pack baying for blood...