Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Slipped discs

There's been controversy in radio land this week, with Radio 4 listeners up in arms over the bastardisation of one of their best loved broadcasts. All over the country lips were pursed and half-knitted jerkins set aside in disgust, as long-running show Desert Island Discs became the latest casualty of the BBC's downwards trajectory towards the lowest common denominator.

The source of all this antagonism? Gok Wan - the pencil-thin motivational stylist who focuses his efforts on a bunch of overweight, depressed housewives who've spent the best part of the last decade moping about in grey sweatpants. In case you've missed it, his show 'How To Look Good Naked' is a makeover programme that rejects Trinny and Susannah's straightforward bullying, in favour of a more passive-aggressive approach.

Playing the instant gay-best-friend (just add water), he calls every woman he meets "girlfriend", snaps his fingers like he's constantly trying to attract the attention of a deaf waiter, and shakes his head like he's in the audience of the Ricki Lake show. Of course, it's easy to dismiss his technique, but he can get self-conscious women to shed their clothes quicker than a bottle of vodka and a fistful of rohypnol.

Although the show is about as intellectually nourishing as the Hot Stars supplement that comes free in every issue of OK! Magazine, it's hugely popular and has made Gok Wan a household name. Ordinarily, that should be enough to warrant an appearance on Desert Island Discs, but not according to the die-hard fans of the radio favourite who voiced their disgust on the BBC messageboards.

With comments such as "I was disappointed to hear Kirsty talking to Gok Wan. Is this an attempt to attract the "youth" audience?" and "What he has achieved I consider slight and unimportant." it's clear that older listeners are unwilling to move with the times. And presenter Kirsty Young asking Gok to describe his outfit was the last straw for some of them, with Valerie Hudson claiming that she "considers this sort of castaway a sort of dumbing down".

What these disgruntled geriatrics seem to be forgetting, is that Desert Island Discs never been much more than a celebrity interview format, with a music playlist twist. Just because some of its past guests have chosen Ode To Joy from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, doesn't really make it any more worthy than the Celebrity Takeover Playlist shows that litter the MTV schedules.

If anything, the show is guilty of pandering to celebrities' inherent sense of superiority - are we really supposed to believe that they all exclusively listen to classical music and enjoy nothing better than leafing through Foxe's Book of Martyrs? Wouldn't it be fantastic if Germaine Greer had admitted that one of her eight selected pieces of music was Axel F, or that Ned Sherrin was a fan of Mel & Kim's F.L.M?

At least there's a chance that this new generation of 'downmarket' celebrities will have fewer pretensions, and therefore volunteer more truthful answers. Having said that, if I was stuck on a desert island and had to choose between Margaret Thatcher and Gok Wan, I think I'd be running off to join The Others before the plane's fuselage had even finished smouldering.

1 comment:

  1. I kinda agree with the moaners but maybe the Beeb are just trying to diversify...