Wednesday, 26 January 2011


OK, I declare a bit of a personal interest here, because I think Countryfile is much improved with the addition of Julia Bradbury to the team.  But did I think that because she is young, toothsome and vibrant and clearly interesting to watch?  Or is she toothsome and vibrant and interesting to watch because she is young?  On the other hand, did I (and it seems quite a lot of other viewers) not much enjoy watching Miriam O'Reilly cavorting about because she is very, very old (53)?
Now, I have to make a confession here.  I was sitting there at bridge the other evening, mesmerised by these ankles under the table opposite.  They were encased in white ankle socks and black suede ankle boots with a low heel and totally captivating.  I was so excited, I have started looking at this 84 year old girl in a completely different way.  Now, I know she wasn’t wearing white ankle socks or black ankle boots, but she was in a full body wet suit and was rolling around on the beach when I last saw Miriam, but I’m sorry, I found the programme uninteresting.  It’s nothing to do with sex; it’s nothing to do with age; but some people just don’t have a screen presence.  As they say, the camera didn’t much like her.
Sadly the BBC folk tried to help (allegedly) by suggesting she get rid of her wrinkles, which is why this has all gone wrong, but it isn’t to do with appearance as such.  No one (with the possible exception of Frank Lampard) could call Christine Bleakley a stunner.  Nor, if you've seen the pics of her off duty, would you say that she’s without lines on the face.  But her personality lit up the dire One Show and curiously the Bleakley lookalike they found to replace her does the same.
The media is full of wrinklies who continue to attract – Countryfile still has John Craven as a presenter for goodness sake and he’s 171 this year.  Then there’s David Attenborough (85), John Humphries (67) and even Bruce Forsythe, although I think he’s been embalmed, still attractive to watch and with a band of younger followers.  But maybe it’s a sex thing after all then, as there are very few old women presenters?  Although men still seem to like watching Maggie Smith (76), Helen Mirren (oh, she’s only the same age as me), Joan Collins then (77), and I’ve seen all three talking on television recently and found them perfectly watchable.  So what happened with Miriam then?
I also saw a bit of an interview last night on this broad topic, but switched over in disgust, when wrinkly old Esther Rantzen (who still has the same screen presence she always had incidentally, despite being 170) talked of ‘prejudice both sides of he camera’.  Is that it?  Am I prejudiced?  Should the BBC put old people on the screen as presenters so as to be fair, whether they are good or popular, and should I curb my prejudice and stop preferring camera-friendly presenters at certain times of the day?
And are the BBC wrong (whatever the tribunal has decided and whatever apology the BBC has made to Miriam) to put on screen the presenters who seem to meet best the wishes of the audience they are trying to attract?  The Countryfile changeover came after all when they moved the programme to a different time slot. I know that there are more older women on US TV than here and that it is not such an issue there, but surely the audience should have a say in this.  I’m glad for Miriam of course, but not a little mystified at the BBC apology.  It seemed perfectly natural to me, when I got wrinkly, that I should leave my job and be replaced by a younger man.  This has now wrinkled my brow with new furrows of puzzlement . 

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