Michael Heseltine paid tribute to Frost’s quiet-assassin style and Michael Parkinson started every second sentence with “And I’m sure you must have found this too…” It was chummy – too much so at times, such as when Melvyn Bragg and others mentioned the importance of solid research only for Sir David to ask of Clive Anderson: “You didn’t have many rows with people, did you?” Anderson is only remembered for two interviews, both of them row-tastic: Jeffrey Archer (“Is there no beginning to your talents?”) and the Bee Gees, who stormed off.
Bragg was good value about his encounters with Francis Bacon over a long liquid lunch and a dying Denis Potter whose tipple was morphine – and so too was Ruby Wax, arch-exponent of the three-day interview, who coaxed gobsmacking candour from Imelda Marcos and Sarah Ferguson, the latter revealing the contents of the drawer with the “Small pink T-shirts” Post-it and much more besides.
In one sense, the TV interview has come a long way. Interviewers no longer extend simpering hands to movie actresses and invite prime ministers to talk about whatever they like. In another, when you factor in spin doctors and fearsome PRs, it hasn’t. Andrew Neil was last up, and especially for Frostie he revealed that David Cameron, not long installed as Tory leader, only agreed to an interview after a long chase, provided it took place out of doors while standing up and would last a mere five minutes. From now on let’s call him Mariah.
How do you follow The Scheme? Some would rather Michelle Friel and Julian Kean didn’t try, but their reality gaze is as unflinching and unapologetic as a Doc Marten or a Steak Bake. High School probably won’t inspire as many shock-horror headlines and you imagine this is something to do with Glasgow’s Holyrood Secondary being more involved at the edit stage than were Marvin and his faithful hound Bullet. But it’s shaping up as an engrossing portrait of Europe’s biggest school, the caring, committed staff and pupils who have to cope with Asperger’s, allergies, late nights working for their mums, not being able to speak English, getting lost in the endless corridors and the dread nickname “Justin Bieber”. I like that no one is playing to the cameras but if I’m allowed to have favourites will go for the two first-years we glimpsed walking home. One: “See if there was maths every day? I’d actually put in a complaint: school must not stop for the weekends.” The other: “Ach, I don’t like the place thatmuch.”
Letting Go was a poignant documentary which must have brought a jolt of perspective to parents who start getting anxious about their children flying the nest a full ten years before it will happen (example: me). Every kid in Rosa Monckton’s film has learning disabilities, including her own daughter Domenica. Government policy encourages independent living but when Richard tried it he was taunted by neighbours so is now back home. Jess is currently trying it, bravely, but her parents can’t get her rare genetic condition officially recognised, denying her important care. They’re kids with the same dreams as yours. Domenica has her heart set on being a dancer and this was Jack: “I want to be famous… I want to go to Las Vegas… I want a really amazing life.”
Scott & Bailey (ITV1, Monday, 9pm) is a modest hit, well-liked and well-watched, but STV isn’t taking the second season, so if you want to keep up with Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharp’s detectives you have to play sleuth and hunt them down elsewhere. This almost makes you more of a detective than they are because the pair spend a heck of a lot of time just gassing – in the loos or wherever, about men usually.
The writing is funny, with heavily-built suspects being described as looking “like a wall… like a wall with a perm”, and I love DCI Gill Murray and her merry banter with the woman from forensics: “What do you want now you fat-arsed cow?” Murray is played by Amelia Bullmore who more or less steals the show, just as her husband Paul Higgins did in The Thick Of It, playing the even madder Scottish spin doctor Jamie MacDonald.
Frost On Interviews
BBC4, Tuesday, 9pm
BBC1, Monday, 9pm
BBC1, Tuesday, 11.35pm