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JAN MOIR: Never mind bias audits, Gordon Ramsay’s BBC balderdash is an insult to us ALL

Do you want to understand what is wrong with the BBC, why it is in crisis and why so many people are refusing to pay their licence fee?

Look no further than Gordon Ramsay’s new game show, which began with much fanfare on Wednesday night.

For the next three weeks, Gordon Ramsay’s Bank Balance (BBC One) will be broadcast three times a week at prime time, a harsh punishment for those of us seeking a spark of fun and lockdown relief amid this purgatory of restriction and constraint.

‘Is this really on for a whole hour?’ I whimpered after 15 minutes of grown adults bickering with each other while trying to answer imbecilic questions and then balance plastic bricks on a shelf. Honestly. You’d get more thoughtful discourse and intelligent reasoning in a tumble-tots class.

For the next three weeks, Gordon Ramsay's Bank Balance (BBC One) will be broadcast three times a week at prime time

For the next three weeks, Gordon Ramsay's Bank Balance (BBC One) will be broadcast three times a week at prime time

For the next three weeks, Gordon Ramsay’s Bank Balance (BBC One) will be broadcast three times a week at prime time

Gordon (pictured) shuffles about awkwardly in a suit, exuding a whiff of shifty bailiff with a bad quiff, presiding over events like an undertaker trying to cheer up a corpse. ‘This is where it is going to go insanely intense,’ he shrieked hopefully when someone dropped a brick and I mean literally, not figuratively, which might at least have been more interesting.

‘Please pick up your stack,’ he said at another point, as if directing a waiter towards a pile of dirty plates. It was all very confusing. For everyone. ‘Can I just ask? If I put a five on it and it balances but we get the question wrong, do we still get the money?’ asked one contestant, as the nation fell into a collective slump of apathy and whispered ‘Who cares?’ to one another.

Gordon is terrible, the concept is terrible, the cheap set is terrible and the doltish contestants are terrible. (Q: Name a capital city north of London. A: Manchester.) Bank Balance might just about pass muster as a weekday teatime diversion when The Chase is on sabbatical and you find yourself locked in a basement and chained to a radiator with only a functioning television set for company. Instead, it has been served up in the top slot as a new star vehicle leading the evening schedules for the next month. It is almost insulting.

However, at least the guests on the first show hit the diversity jackpot, which is all that seems to matter these days. The first couple were a BAME brother and sister called Tobi and Tosin, while second couple Lindsey and Vicki were married lesbians from Bournemouth. New BBC boss Tim Davie will be pleased!

We all know that, for many years, the BBC has not stinted from its self-imposed mission to promote diversity on screen in all forms and at every opportunity — and for all the right reasons.

But this is about much more than the line-up on a quiz show. Our national state broadcaster seems to be rushing towards increasing calamity and catastrophe both on screen and behind the scenes.

This week, new broom Davie has decreed that all BBC staff must complete controversial ‘unconscious bias’ training as part of the Corporation’s new ‘diversity and inclusion’ plans — despite the evidence that seems to suggest that anti-bias training doesn’t actually reduce bias, unconscious or otherwise.

Gordon Ramsay's Bank Balance on BBC One

Gordon Ramsay's Bank Balance on BBC One

Gordon Ramsay’s Bank Balance on BBC One

Yet as part of the drive to turn the BBC into a social utopia, Davie also wants 80 per cent of staff to declare their social class and hopes that 50 per cent of LGBT staff will be ‘open’ about their sexuality with their manager — but why the hell should they be? Surely your background and your sexuality are no one’s business but your own?

Declare your social class? Darling, this is Britain, a place where we can sniff out exactly where anyone is on the class spectrum by how they pick up an asparagus knife, or a sailor, or a napkin, or a skill, or even a plastic brick on a game show. We can read the social runes like anthropological experts. We are world class in this respect.

And apart from anything else, is it not insulting to employees, perhaps even a breach of their human rights, to make them ‘declare’ anything personal that does not directly relate to the workplace? And for what purpose is that avowal made, if not to foster even more social engineering and unconscious bias?

We all know there are plenty of areas of bias within the BBC, which still remains a throbbing nest of Lefty Remainers convinced of the superiority of their thinking. From panel shows to comedy shows, to quiz shows to Emily Maitlis, their hegemony is total, while their groupthink prevails.

How I long to see a sympathetic portrayal of a Conservative MP or a Tory supporter in a drama or elsewhere! Yet in punchlines, in scripts, in Zoom interviews and in life, anyone even mildly right of centre remains the butt of the joke, the socially unspeakable, the cowpat on the BBC road to righteousness.

The BBC is tying itself in knots censuring staff about virtue-signalling, fretting about impartiality and falling out with one another over assorted trans issues, which includes calling them ‘trans issues’ in the first place. A non-binary staff member questioned chiefs by asking: ‘What do you mean by the trans issue?’ Terrified management clarified that they hoped their shorthand choice of words had not caused offence — on and on it goes.

They seem to be much more concerned with what is going on with each other, rather than what is going on on screen. Which, at the moment, is a very substandard game show fronted by a foul-mouthed chef who can’t even whip up enough enthusiasm in himself, let alone the audience at home.

No wonder viewers are deserting the BBC in droves, with under-25s showing no interest in paying a licence fee, and many over-75s refusing to do so. 

The BBC knows it needs to broaden its appeal to a wider range of people to halt the slide — but how and when? One thing is for sure, this Bank Balance is not going to put them in the black any time soon.

Are The Muppets really a menace? 

Disney is streaming old episodes of The Muppets — but it is so worried about negative depictions and mistreatment of people and cultures that some of the programmes will be released with trigger warnings.

Can this be true? I’ve always been impressed by the philanthropic efforts leading cast members have made over the years. Kermit the Frog was ahead of the pack on green issues. Miss Piggy is a leading light in Pink Lives Matter.

Disney has earmarked 18 Muppets episodes as worthy of warnings, including one with Johnny Cash singing in front of the Confederate flag.

Disney is streaming old episodes of The Muppets

Disney is streaming old episodes of The Muppets

Disney is streaming old episodes of The Muppets

These days it seems no form of children’s entertainment, however innocent, can escape the dread hand of social conscience and sexual politics from spoiling all the fun. How one longs for the uncomplicated world of the Crackerjack pencil and not ever questioning why Andy Pandy got in the laundry hamper with Looby Loo.

Now even Mr Potato Head is to get a name change after being made gender neutral by makers Hasbro after 70 years of blameless macho spuddery. From now on, he (they!) will be known only as Potato Head.

So it is especially cheering to see that some of the Muppets have escaped the chop. Pepe the King Prawn, despite evincing Latino stereotypes, lives to sizzle for another day. And the Swedish Chef is not done with his meatballs. Not by a long chalk. ‘Hurdy gurdy mincey mincey choppit nurdy,’ as he would say himself.

High noon for failing high streets

In a bid to revive our ailing high streets, the Labour Party has dug up a ten-year-old plan sketched out on the back of a Harvey Nicks carrier bag by former consumer guru Mary Portas.

Under the proposals, Labour would hand local councils new powers to revamp any disused stores which have been vacant for at least 12 months. Into what? They were a bit short on detail, but shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds believes it would kickstart the post-pandemic recovery in town, village and city centres.

It would also put the kibosh on Government plans to make it easier for developers to turn empty high street shops into cheap homes, she said. But isn’t affordable housing exactly what the Labour Party should be campaigning for? And surely having residential areas in depleted city centres is what might be needed to bring vibrancy and life back into the dead-end gulches they almost certainly will become?

Once upon a time, yes, there was a case for reduced rents to encourage independent traders into city centres. But who will be brave enough to start a new business and pay a big rent in a post-pandemic world?

Turning empty shops into much-needed housing is the first step in bringing consumer demand — and indeed consumers — into the heart of our towns and cities.

With the help of online shopping and internet banking, high streets will never be the same again, anyway. We have to think of a different way to solve the problem, not just a different shop. 

Cheer up, everyone — Frasier is coming back. Kelsey Grammer has confirmed he will reprise his role as the perennially thwarted radio show host in a revival of the 1990s TV comedy.

The new series will focus on ‘the next chapter in the continuing journey of Dr Frasier Crane’. I can hardly wait, for surely this was the best sitcom of all time? There are a thousand hilarious Frasier moments, but I will leave you with this one, when a lovesick Frasier seeks advice from his worldly-wise radio producer friend Roz.

‘What do you do when the romance goes out of a relationship?’ he asks her.

‘I get dressed and go home,’ she replies.

Surefire cure for Gwyn’s brain fog

A senior NHS boss has reminded influential stars such as Gwyneth Paltrow of their duty of responsibility when talking about Covid treatments. But he might as well have howled at the moon.

My dear friend Gwynnie wrote on her Goop blog that contracting Covid-19 had left her with ‘some long-tail fatigue and brain fog’. How could she tell, many wondered.

Luckily, she had some remedies which, amazingly, epidemiologists and health experts worldwide had overlooked.

Gwyneth Paltrow holding a book on 'intuitive fasting'

Gwyneth Paltrow holding a book on 'intuitive fasting'

Gwyneth Paltrow holding a book on ‘intuitive fasting’

Gwynnie said a ‘functional medicine practitioner’ had recommended an ‘intuitive fasting’ healing regime. I translate this as ‘some dude who charges £500 for a consultation and told her to eat kale crisps when she felt like it’ — which turned out to be true. He also told her to follow a mainly ‘keto[genic] and plantbased’ diet, with no sugar or alcohol, while fasting until 11am every day and taking infrared saunas.

Actually, many of my generation grew up taking iinfrared saunas, which involved sitting in front of a two-bar electric fire and developing a condition known as ‘corned beef knees’. I wonder whether Gwyneth’s functional medicine practitioner has a cure for that?

Quiz Time. In the 1980s, did you have a hairstyle as big as a haystack? Did you wear leg warmers when your legs were actually warm enough, thanks all the same? Did you cut the neck off your grey sweatshirt to make it look more off-the-shoulder, like Jennifer Beals did in Flashdance (above)? Did you own any, or all, of the following: a Swatch watch, Ray-Ban Wayfarers, lace gloves? Do you know how many Red Balloons Nena sang about and can you remember those new-fangled things called hair scrunchies? If you can answer yes to most of these questions, then congratulations! Your Covid jab appointment must be in the post. 

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