Maybe I have a subconscious desire to watch it, but I always end up doing the ironing when Richard and Judy is on television. If it is my subconscious desire to watch this programme then it’s a frighteningly illogical desire, and one that is opposed to every sense in my waking, thinking mind. My subconscious usually wins, though, thanks to a freak of television scheduling which means that, impossibly, Richard and Judy is the most attractive viewing option whenever it is on. I always look for something else – oh, believe me, I have worn through several television remote controls desperately searching, but I inevitably end up turning back to Richard and Judy.
Last Friday I had three shirts and one T-shirt to iron, and as usual my subconscious cunningly engineered events so that I was just in time for another edition of the show. Alas, the television I was forced to experience as a result has been preying on my mind ever since. I don’t know what bothers me more – the question of what on earth the programme is doing on TV at all, or the question of what on earth these people are doing on TV.
When they presented daytime television classic This Morning, Richard and Judy would take viewers through what was going to happen over the course of the next interminably long three hours, and accompanied by some synthesised musak a schedule would appear on the screen for about two minutes. There was a kind of logic to this, it meant that if you were taking a day off school you could ensure you didn’t miss the interview with Peter Davison at 10.47, or Donny Osmond singing Puppy Love at 12.13. To the addled mind of a feverish teenager it all made a kind of absurd sense (though last time I saw This Morning absurd had clearly got the better of sense, because John Virgo was teaching a 90-year-old woman how to do a trick snooker shot with her walking stick. I suppose housewives and elderly people need that sort of thing to help them through the day).
This is all very well in the morning. But it is simply ludicrous to use the same format at 5pm. It’s as if Richard and Judy still think that their cheerfully amateur set-up is acceptable at a time when they are exposed to more than just housewives and ill schoolkids.
I don’t hesitate to blame the presenters themselves for the sheer wrongness of their programme. I am sure that ten years on daytime television has allowed them to pull all the strings they want; that any young director saying “perhaps we should update this format a bit” would get a stony-faced pout from Judy Finnegan and would be taken aside later by Richard to be politely told “now look, we don’t want to lose the charm of our programme by making it all professional, okay?” Any director not playing ball would be siphoned off to The Salon before they knew it, where they would have every chance to be trendy and modern without risking actually having a career.
Yes, the fault is with the presenters. Because there is actually no excuse for them to be on TV at all. Who decided that Judy Finnegan was cut out for television work? The woman can’t even finish a sentence, and what she does manage to get out is not spoken so much as hesitated. No doubt in her head it all makes sense, she simply has trouble communicating it. It’s like listening to your Grandmother. (Since she looks increasingly like a Grandmother, the comparison seems apt.)
On Friday, she began the programme with a warm “hi everyone, and happy Friday.” What sort of woman wishes you a happy Friday? Possibly quite a lovely one, but not somebody you would give a television show to.
Even if she was capable of making sense, everything she stutters is inevitably interrupted and contradicted by her erstwhile husband. Richard Madeley would probably do a fine job presenting a shopping channel, where the only requirement is to keep talking with bubbly enthusiasm. As a youth I made tapes of a pretend radio station, playing music and talking continuously in between. The results, a seven-year-old’s nonsensical verbal diarrhoea, are more than equalled by Richard Madeley’s professional work. If he was a seven-year-old talking into a tape recorder, his inane style would be forgivable, if still rather annoying. But he is not. This seven-year-old is a grinning man in his 50s and the tape recorder is the entire British nation.
It still beggars belief quite how staggeringly misjudged every word to escape his lips is. After Judy’s “happy Friday” greeting, he turned to her and said “I should begin by wishing you a happy anniversary.” This comment was directed entirely at Judy – I suppose appropriately enough, given its personal nature, but it was as if he’d forgotten 2 million people were watching him deliver it. I’m sure I wasn’t the only person who felt I had accidentally overheard something private; Judy blushed and giggled, and there followed one of the programme’s many moments of marital small talk during which, if it was a dinner party, other conversations would rise a little to avoid embarrassment. But it’s not a dinner party, there are no conversations to hide these exchanges, and it is broadcast across the whole nation with excruciating clarity.
Did Richard wait all day to wish his wife a happy anniversary? Did he really think to himself, “now, it’s our anniversary, but I won’t say anything until we’re on live television”? Or did he think we’d all be thrilled at the news that it was their anniversary, in which case why didn’t he just fricking tell us, instead of embarrassing his wife and every single poor soul watching the whole sorry affair?
Why isn’t there a television standards agency that will recognise when programmes have no right to be allowed to continue? Richard and Judy is the televisial equivalent of a one-legged albino runt in a litter of piglets. No doubt many people would feel deep compassion for the poor thing – but that isn’t a reason to keep it alive. Not only does it offend my sensibilities as a television viewer, I’m finding it increasingly difficult to get the cringe marks out of my shirts.
That’s all I have to say. A happy Monday to you all.