Freud: not such a moody bastard

The Radio 4 tribute to Clement Freud showed that the BBC at least still does good radio.

Patrick West

Patrick West

Topics Culture

It’s very fashionable to slag off BBC television these days.

Apart from the odd documentary on sharks on a May Bank Holiday, some BBC 4 documentary in the middle of the night about Nazis, Michael Palin going round the world in some ever-increasingly tortuous theme, or the brilliant repeats of Diagnosis: Murder with the similarly affable Dick Van Dyke, the BBC is, by consensus, regarded as a waste of space.

But detractors and adherents of the BBC agree on one thing. While BBC television is a mess, pointlessly trying to compete with the commercial channels with shows such as ‘I’m Skating On Ice And A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here And I’m A Chef’, it’s easy to forget just how good the BBC is at radio. Radio 4 is a literally outstanding example.

Consider Paul Merton’s homage to Clement Freud on Tuesday’s Radio 4 show Clement Freud on Just a Minute: A Celebration (1). For those not in the know, Just A Minute has been a gameshow on Radio 4 since 1967, in which panellists are asked to talk about a certain subject ‘without repetition, hesitation or deviation’. And Clement Freud, who died in April, was always the star of the show.

Freud (yes, relation: he’s a grandson of that man) was known chiefly to be a lugubrious, dour kind of person, who drank champagne for breakfast, advertised dog food, became a Liberal MP, argued with his artist brother Lucian, liked betting on horses, and is now generally remembered as a bit of an miserable old bugger with mournful polymath eyes.

But Paul Merton reminded us of a different side to Freud. We were reminded of just how eager he was for success, and beneath the carefully constructed dour demeanour there lay a sensitive soul who used humour as a means of dealing with the world. Hearing re-runs of Freud on Just a Minute makes one realise just how much his worldview owed to his grand-pa-pa, Siggy.

Merton came across as being just as sensitive as his mentor on Just a Minute. And C Freud was not a moody old bastard – he just had some issues with his grandfather.

Patrick West is spiked‘s TV columnist.

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(1) Listen to the show here

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Topics Culture


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