The Brillo Show


Not having seen much daytime TV for a while, I turn on the goggle box to find it reassuringly familiar. Still the same surfeit of health, property and DIY. Still as hard as ever to make money on Bargain Hunt. The Loose Women still reckon that if you’ve nothing to hide, you’ve nothing to fear.

And Andrew Neil is still fronting the Daily Politics on BBC2. I tell you what, for a man who’s a BBC outsider, and supposedly a harsh critic of the Corporation, old Brillo Pad seems never to be off the air. And the show is, despite its best efforts at projecting warmth and accessibility, still as alien as ever to those who aren’t Westminster insiders.

I suppose, of course, that you’re constrained by your guests, who are often fairly unprepossessing. Yesterday we entered Scotto-Tory hell as Brillo collogued with Michael Gove. Nor was the thing saved by having the unlovable Caroline Flint come in to talk to Gove and Brillo about James Purnell’s latest plan to crack down on the arbeitsscheu, and how to reflate the housing bubble.

That was bad enough. Then today, and without any decent warning, that horrible asshole Denis Macshane pops up out of nowhere… Jesus.

I’ve also noticed that as is the run of these things – and it applies also to Bill Oddie, so it can’t be just a news thing – Brillo comes equipped with a female sidekick. The cast varies from time to time, although she’s always fairly attractive and always some decades Brillo’s junior. Her role also remains constant. That is, to read out emails, do some exposition in front of that screen, ask the questions that have slipped Brillo’s mind for the moment, and perform the Tess-Daly-on-Strictly function of laughing through gritted teeth as Brillo recounts a joke even older than he is.

It’s just as well, then, that BBC News seems to have an unlimited supply of capable and presentable women to plonk on the sofa. Thursdays at the moment belong to Jo Coburn, who demonstrably knows her stuff and also has something of a sexy headmistress vibe going on. The rest of the week, it’s radio’s Anita Anand.

Ah now, Anita. I like Anita. When she was doing the late show on Five Live, I was a regular listener and thought that she really deserved to be used more. I suppose this is the glass ceiling, though – maybe in ten years, you could see a woman fronting this show, but for the time being, a supporting role to Brillo is about the best that can be hoped for.

There’s also, and I hesitate to mention this, the visuals of it. When you see Brillo in close proximity to an Asian babe, you have to ask yourself – are the Beeb producers deliberately baiting Private Eye or what?

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