The BBC's 'smug comedy consensus'

Writer slams panel shows

Writer Martin Kelner has accused the BBC of subscribing to a ‘smug’ comedy consensus.

He says panel shows often have too many ‘self-satisfied’ guests sharing a similar, point of view, who take potshots at an accepted pool of targets: not just political figures, but at a limited pool of celebrities, including Jade Goody, Wayne Rooney and Kerry Katona.

Writing on The Guardian's website, broadcaster Kelner – who is working on his own pilot talk show for Radio Five Live – says: ‘I am generally a fan of the BBC's topical comedy/panel shows, but there is no denying a tendency towards smugness at times.

‘Jeremy Hardy on Radio 4's The News Quiz, for instance, is a funny man but there is something about his tone - maybe it is the approbation of the audience - that occasionally seems so self-satisfied that, even while you are laughing, you want to give him a smack round the neck with a sock filled with horse manure.

‘The host, Sandi Toksvig, and at least two of the other guests often follow a similar line to Hardy, giving the impression that ideas and attitudes are seeping through the air conditioning at Broadcasting House, creating a kind of comedy consensus.

‘It would be easy to form the impression that at 6.30pm on a Friday evening on Radio 4, comedy opprobrium is reserved for a combination of Conservatives and chavs, with a side order of British pop stars who have been successful in America - conveying the inescapable message that the working classes will be supported as long as they have the good grace not to become rich and famous.’

He added that one problem was the scarcity of entertaining right-wing pundits in the UK, saying: ‘If the only points of view available come from one side the descent into smugness will be inescapable.’

Meanwhile, right-wing Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens also slammed Radio 4 yesterday, complaining that ‘much of its airtime is stuffed with dire alleged comedy, the appalling, shameless and unchecked Leftist propaganda of The News Quiz and an unchanging array of chat shows presented by ancient liberals’.

>> Click here to read Kelner's blog in full.

Published: 17 Nov 2008

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