There’s been plenty of talk of life evaluation during the Covid pandemic. The Great Resignation saw people abandon high-stress careers after re-evaluating their priorities and many of us spent lockdown rethinking major life choices like careers, relationships, and elasticised waistbands … but there’s been far less attention to the evaluation of popular culture, especially TV hosts – the people we invite into our homes on a daily basis.
Has Covid ushered in a notable cultural shift in our preference for TV hosts? Has the angry pundit finally had his day?
When once we could warm ourselves on Piers Morgan’s signature interview burns, or sneer along with Jeremy Kyle while he yelled in the faces of his shamed guests, now the prospect of more of the same ranty blokes relentlessly machine-gunning their every opinion from the telly gives many of us the chills.
It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but I for one have had my fill of grumpy middle-aged men spouting their objectionable opinions. Especially when they’re vented with the volume and authority of someone who feels not only entitled to an audience but to have those opinions accepted without challenge.
Most women will have experienced the frustration of being shouted down – or loudly talked over – by a mouthy male relative over the sprouts. Some women will have lived in lockdown with confrontational, combative bullies and it can’t be pleasant to see similar behaviour playing out on TV for entertainment.
But then again, 2021 hasn’t been a great year for those gobby bastions of TV grumpiness, Piers Morgan and Richard Madeley. Morgan’s obsession with Meghan Markle has become tiresome – and all too predictable. His regular anti-Meghan Markle tirades have made him seem less incisive journalist and more one of those sad, bitter, best-avoided men in the pub who keeps shouting insults about his long-gone ex. We look on pityingly, while he howls into his pint about the “Pinocchio Princess” but it’s all got a bit awkward and uncomfortable and it’s time he went home.
Madeley has morphed from the accidentally hilarious half of the affectionately remembered duo Richard and Judy to making mouthy, overly confident misogynist remarks. It’s a good job he’s usually only filmed from the waist up because otherwise viewers would see that his feet are surrounded by all the balls he has dropped during his stint on GMB.
That other former bulwark of daytime TV, Jeremy Kyle, has resorted to self-cancellation, which turned out to be perfect promotional material for his latest presenting gig. Now he gets to bawl his opinions over the radio waves. Funny how being cancelled seems to have the opposite effect of amplifying voices rather than stifling them. It’s almost as if it’s a disingenuous conceit self-created for publicity. Still, it’s the season of peace and goodwill to all men, so have at it, Kyle. Hopefully, we’ll hear even less of you and your ilk in 2022.
What this gang of overbearing hosts all have in common is the tendency to tantrum when challenged. They’re used to being able to say what they like to anyone they like and attract praise, adulation and a hefty paycheque but if they’re faced with similar behaviour – or even a relatively low-key challenge – they turn into man-babies, storming off and taking their ball home. Morgan walked out of the GMB studios and into a reported £20 million deal with TalkTV. It seems that the model of presenting that’s most valued is domineering and obnoxious. I don’t know about you, but I’m over it.
There was a time when the confrontational host was a refreshing change from the grinning, urbane TV stalwarts we inherited from the eighties, like Anne Diamond, dressed in primary colours and pandering politely to guests. Now, though, The Grumps have taken on the identity of court jesters: standing before us, saying outlandish things in a juvenile attempt to get our attention. At first, it was entertaining. Now it’s tiresome, and all too familiar. A one-trick pony over-ready for retirement.