Regular readers will probably be aware that I’m quite a fan of the BBC’s World Affairs Editor, John Simpson. Taking this into account, it’s perhaps surprising for me to admit that I am now living in a frazzled state of almost permanent fear of the man. And it’s all because of those bloody BBC Digital ads.
It’s got to the stage where I’m finding it virtually impossible to sit opposite someone and not imagine them ripping their face off to reveal Simpson’s endearing — but frankly somewhat toad-like — features, shortly followed by his rather dry and monotonous reading of the phrase:
“You can already get eight BBC channels on cable and satellite. But now you can also get them on Freeview, a package of 30 channels …”
No. No more. Stop. Please. Stop it. Please John, I’m begging you. Stop doing the ads. You’re the man who, for a time, I was perfectly ready to accept had almost single-handedly liberated Kabul. OK, so you didn’t. But the point is that I (and most of the UK) believed that you could have done. After that bravura performance, we eagerly awaited the moment when you would stride purposefully into Baghdad, carrying nothing more deadly than a BBC badge and a copy of the Radio Times, and Saddam would instantly surrender as the streets echoed to the sound of the Iraqi people chanting your name in celebration.
But it wasn’t to be. They had to use Shock & Awe instead. Damn.
During the war in Iraq, you were forced to stand aside as various young upstarts — children not fit to lick the soles of your Hush Puppies, like Rageh Omaar and Ben Brown (I can barely bring myself to type their worthless names) — positioned themselves in the thick of the action and revelled in the viewers’ adulation. Meanwhile, you languished in the north of the country. Maybe you were wondering why, John. Why, after all you’d done for the BBC and after you’d proved so popular with the viewers, had you been banished to the sidelines? Why were you left in the demeaning situation of only being allowed to chat to Huw Edwards on the Ten O’Clock News almost as an after-thought, if there were a couple of spare minutes in the programme?
I’ll tell you why, John. It was because of that damn ad campaign! How could we take you seriously as a reporter if we were sat in front of our televisions thinking that beneath your skin lurked Richard Blackwood, Dot Cotton or some third-rate children’s TV presenter? Your colleagues in BBC News — not to mention us poor viewers — were all terrified that you were suddenly going to start tugging at your face in the middle of a report, as your speech slowed and you slipped into some form of hypnotic trance:
“Tonight in Iraq, the situation is … You. Can. Also. Get. Them. On. Freeview. You. Will. Be. Assimilated. There. Is. No. Escape.”
So, Mr Simpson — I’m not sure that I can still call you John after this comprehensive character assassination — for the sake of everyone’s sanity, please retire from those advertisements gracefully. Leave the publicity stuff to George Alagiah — after all, he needs the exposure. You don’t. You’re an elder statesman of TV news, and we respect you.
And if you do insist on continuing your ill-advised advertising sideline, I fear the worst will happen — you will probably end up becoming as downright freakish and scary as Steven Berkoff, when he ripped off his face to reveal that bloody huge dinosaur. A fucking dinosaur, I tell you. I didn’t sleep for three nights after I first witnessed that particular horror.
I don’t want John Simpson in my nightmares.