Amid the hearty New Year greetings that rang across the Scottish Parliament this week as MSPs met for the first time in 2016, there was an amusing critique of the Hogmanay offerings served up by our broadcasters.
Speaking in the opening debate of the new Holyrood session, the deputy Tory leader Jackson Carlaw had a dig at the First Minister following her “starring” role on STV during the countdown to The Bells.
For those fortunate enough to miss the programme, it is worth explaining that Nicola Sturgeon, her mother Joan and sister Gillian appeared on Elaine C Smith’s “Burdz Eye View of Hogmanay”.
As MSPs discussed public services at Holyrood this week, Carlaw said he wished to pay tribute to “our public service broadcaster” BBC Scotland and its Hogmanay Live programme.
Carlaw praised the Hogmanay Live hostess Jackie Bird (“that consummate broadcaster”) and the BBC for “mercifully sparing the nation the commercial alternative” of what might as well have been called Alas Smith and Sturgeon.
“There on the other channel was the former comedienne in what used to be known as the ‘don’t watch alone’ slot, staging a sort of recreation of the opening scenes of MacBeth and that sort of new year programming that Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu used to be so fond of,” was Carlaw’s barbed take on the STV effort.
One wonders which comparison the Sturgeon family found least palatable. Was being likened to Shakespeare’s coven of witches preferable to being associated with the cult of personality fostered by the late Communist dictator?
And what, pray, would Elaine C Smith make of being described as “the former comedienne”?
Carlaw was not the only person to find something laughable about the STV show. In yet another sign that almost everything about Scottish life now tends to be viewed through a constitutional prism, viewers went online to complain about the politicisation of the show.
Although politics was not discussed, many could not help but notice that STV had concocted something akin to “Natvision”.
The hostess is a prominent supporter of independence, who played a high-profile role during the referendum (Elaine C Smith was on Yes Scotland’s advisory board). The only other guest, the comedienne Janey Godley, was also prominent on the Yes side.
Some 37 viewers were sufficiently irritated that they went to the bother of making a complaint to the TV watchdog Ofcom after watching the Sturgeon clan discuss the delights of first-footing, Black Buns, lumps of coal and other Scottish New Year rituals.
As Carlaw gleefully pointed out, more viewers voted with their remote controls with viewing figures for Jackie Bird outnumbering STV by eight to one. With complaints of political bias now almost as ubiquitous as the First Minister, one suspects that the underlying reason for viewers turning over from STV was to do with the quality of the programme.
Sir Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation it wasn’t. Its gossipy format and couthy style made it more like a hame-knitted version of Loose Women.
In fact, one suspects all the independence squitter distracts from the most pressing issue of all. Sad to say, but nobody is ever likely to come up with a Hogmanay television programme to match Rikki Fulton’s Scotch and Wry of blessed memory.
Unsurprisingly, the Sturgeons proved a poor substitute for Supercop.