Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Littlejohn: unfunny, repetitive, wrong

Richard Littlejohn's column today is awful.

OK, so that's not exactly surprising. But even by his dreadfully low standards, this is pitiful. His main rant is about the BBC, so obviously no one at the Mail is likely to complain.

He has decided that since Alan Yentob appeared near the top of a BBC 'top talent' list, he would re-write the schedules as if Alan Yentob starred in every programme. Geddit?

Littlejohn is in the Mail more often each and every week than Yentob is on TV, but hey, why spoil a great idea.

And by great, I mean rubbish.

So with an staggering lack of hilarity, he's produced twenty-seven programme descriptions hosted by, and about, Yentob.


They all revolve around the same, single idea - Yentob is paid a lot.

Laugh? I nearly did.

It contains Yentob's name repeated 40 times, as if it is a side-spliter all by itself.

Here's some of the - ahem - highlights:

11.00am. Cash In The Attic. Alan Yentob opens his safe and shows us all the money he has been paid over the years by BBC licence-payers.

9.00pm. The Y Factor. This year's plucky winner Alan Yentob performs his barnstorming version of Money, Money, Money!

See the wit and imagination? The skill of the wordplay?

No, me neither.

He mentions 'expenses' four times:

6.00am. Breakfast With Yentob. Join Alan on the sofa as he interviews his celebrity friends and fills in his expenses. Weatherman: Alan Yentob.

12.00pm. Working Lunch. Alan Yentob entertains his celebrity pals at The Ivy, on expenses. Also features an interview with his chauffeur as he clocks up three hours' waiting time.

10.00pm. Come Dine With Me. Alan Yentob takes over the Michelin-starred private dining room at the Connaught to entertain his celebrity pals on expenses.

10.00am. The BBC At Glastonbury. Live coverage from the marquee on the back lawn of Alan Yentob's Tudor mansion in Somerset, where the BBC's popular creative director is hosting a gala bash for his celebrity pals, on expenses.

And 'pension' five times:

3.00pm. Bargain Hunt. Alan Yentob commissions a series of low-rent makeover shows to fill the daytime schedules, after discovering the entire BBC programme budget has been blown on his two salaries and index-linked pension.

8.00pm. Panorama. A special investigation by Alan Yentob into whether the BBC licence fee is frittered away on fat salaries and index-linked pensions for executives. Alan concludes that it isn't.

11.00am. Who Do You Think You Are? Alan Yentob goes on a voyage of discovery in an attempt to solve the mystery of why the BBC pays him £183,000 a year to present an arts programme no one actually watches, and how he manages to draw a pension even though he hasn't retired.

2.00pm. Film: Yentob. Barbra Streisand stars as a boy with no discernible talent who rose from poverty to become award-winning creative director of the world's biggest broadcasting organisation, on two salaries and an index-linked pension.

6.00pm. The Money Programme. Alan Yentob visits a number of tax havens to investigate how to shield his two salaries and pension from Labour's new 50p top rate.

There really is no beginning to Littlejohn's talent.

If ever the word padding applied (twenty-seven!) this was it. And it's not as if he's using television metaphors for the first time. He's done it over and over again. The Labour Government as Big Brother and Dad's Army (twice); the leader's debate as reality TV.

And now, Sarah Brown as Sybill Fawlty.


Yes, with a couple of sentences still needed to finish this week's column, he scrapes around the bottom of the barrel and comes up with this gem:

Sarah Brown has been running up a big phone bill, calling a friend in Canterbury late into the night. One call lasted an hour and three-quarters.

I have visions of Sarah glued to the phone, like Sybil Fawlty, while Gordon crashes around the house, Basil-style, muttering to himself, tripping over the furniture and banging his head against the wall.

'Oooooh, I know ...'

Is this the best political satire he can come up with? Is this what the Mail expects for the amount it pays him?

Elsewhere, he's waded in to the Tiger Woods story with this:

Tiger Woods has announced that he's giving up golf for the time being to try to repair his marriage. It isn't golf that's brought him to the brink of divorce. He'd be better off giving up sleeping with slappers.

'Slappers' because obviously the fact that Tiger has cheated on his wife with numerous women is solely the fault of the women.

Because at the Mail, it is always the fault of them pesky women. It's what happens when they are let off their chores.

Littlejohn has also - rather arbitrarily - decided that:

A Government's principal duties include protecting the currency and defending our borders.

And before you can say: 'he's just made that up so he can attack the Government on those two issues', he writes:

With the economy teetering on insolvency and yesterday's news that several of the most wanted criminals in Europe are hiding out in this country after being allowed to enter Britain without any proper checks, I'd say Labour had failed on both counts.

Well, obviously the economy and the currency aren't the same thing, so that doesn't even make the point.

The rest is the inevitable immigration bit. And - surprise - he hasn't got it quite right.

The list released by the Metropolitan Police, as explained in yesterday's Mail, is about the most wanted people in Britain (not 'in Europe', which Littlejohn uses deliberately to imply they all flee here) who happen to come from Europe and America.

Obviously, because he lives there, Littlejohn doesn't mention the American.

It's almost as if he wants you to think criminality is solely the preserve of Eastern Europeans.

Oh wait.

Secondly, the Police have very clearly stated these men are:

alleged to have offended abroad

'Alleged'? Pff. Littlejohn has no truck with such legal niceties and refers to them all as 'criminals'. Maybe they all did what they are accused of, but perhaps we should reserve judgement until they have actually, you know, been convicted.

Thirdly, Littlejohn says they were:

allowed to enter Britain without any proper checks.

Yet the Mail's own story says from the day before states:

Most of them will have entered the country legally, leaving Poland, Lithuania and Romania before European arrest warrants were issued.

So what does Littlejohn expect the Border Agency to do? Be psychic? Or just be suspicious because they're all dodgy foreigners and so obviously up to something?

Of course, no Littlejohn column would be complete without a dig at Guardianistas and diversity. So he writes:

The Government is recruiting a new standing army of Guardianistas to encourage members of ethnic minorities to explore the countryside.

Plans for 200 'community champions' have just been unveiled. They have been instructed to increase the number of people from minority backgrounds using National Parks.

It appears the 'community champion' idea is actually from the Campaign for National Parks, a voluntary organisation, so it's not immediately clear what the evidence is for his claim this is a Government initiative.

And this campaign, called Mosaic, was launched in January 2009, so it's not 'just been unveiled'. There were press releases in April and July. But we know Littlejohn can't do a bit of research to check anything.

Moreover, the idea that is somehow a 'bad thing' to get ethnic minorities to fully explore the wonderful countryside of Britain makes no sense. Wouldn't Littlejohn and the Mail be the first to complain if minority groups didn't learn about Britain?

He continues:

One of the first 'community champions' in the West Country, Zainab Abubakar, said 'Islamophobia' was discouraging Muslims from walking the moors.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more fatuous statement made by anyone all year.

Yes, you read that right.

Littlejohn did just accuse someone else of being 'fatuous'.


  1. £183,000 a year and a Tudor mansion in Somerset? At least it's not £800,000 a year and a gated mansion in Florida.

    This is just like TV Go Home. But shit.

  2. This is probably a really silly question, but how does Littlejohn know who, when and for how long Sarah Brown is phoning?

    (Why it should be deemed to be of any interest to his readers will doubtless remain a mystery.)

  3. And it's nonsensical anyway, as clearly Sarah and Gordon bear no resemblance whatever to Sybil and Basil. But presumably Littlejohn thinks likening everything to a television programme, however inappropriate, is the only type of analogy his readers will understand. Or possibly the only type of analogy he understands.

  4. Ho ho ho!
    Just asked him how much he is paid - according to Private Eye - £700,000 to £900,000 per annum - yes, truly a voice of the people. (Rich ones)

  5. To be fair, Private Eye has got years - if not decades - of humour out of Yentob/Botney's name, so it's not as if there's no comedy potential there, it's just that Littlejohn is not funny.

  6. Calling him unfunny is a bit unjust. In the Fawlty Towers quote, he takes something that is funny and makes that unfunny. He's like the Discworld architect, Bloody Stupid Johnson, whose mind is as far from normal intelligence as genius, but in the opposite direction.

    Word Verification: tomis, a male cat's statement of existential self-assertion.


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