When celebrities have a film or book to promote they turn up everywhere. I don’t have a television but I still tire of hearing on the radio the same old anecdotes or read in the newspaper answers to the same trite questions. Everybody knows it is a completely false situation; the interviewer being delighted at the chance to interview a star and the star knowing full well the only point is to push the product and they would rather be at home doing something far more interesting. Many times I have felt sorry for the celebrities who are having to sound thrilled at being asked the same trite questions; equally it is hard for the interviewer to come up with a searching question which will reveal something new.
Janice Turner of The Times interview with actor Rhys Ifans this week made headline news simply because it was a “car crash.” As The Guardian reported, “Believing Ifans to be “a thoughtful man” who might like to discuss “important issues”, Turner decided to begin by asking him about his Welshness. That’s hardly a controversial subject, but Ifans decided to be obstreperous.” And it all went downhill from there with Ifans pooh-poohing questions on Leveson and The Press Complaints Commission before he finally told her to “fuck off” adding: “I wanna end this interview now. I’m bored with you. Bored. Bored.” The point is that though it may have been a “car crash” at least it was far more interesting than the usual sycophantic nonsense. Ifans subsequently apologised, sending flowers and blaming antibiotics but this was obviously another PR initiative rather than an act of sincerity.
I’m sure it wasn’t always as transparently obvious as this; I remember watching Wogan and Parkinson when the interviewees had nothing to promote but were there simply for the crack of it or just to give their fans a glimpse of their true personality or simply because they had something interesting to say. There was no feeling of promoting a product, marketing a film, or some other public relations exercise, it was simply a chat.
When did it all change? A quick check of the TV and Radio listings for early morning, daytime and evening chat and magazine shows, highlights the ever-changing list of celebrities on a constant treadmill of promotion; this excludes the national and local radio stations that are also broadcasting these interviews. Have our visual and aural media just become marketing tools for the public relations industry? Surely in this day and age this would be understandable on the commercial channels but funnily enough it seems to me that the BBC is the worst culprit, rubbing salt into the wound that TV licence payers are paying to promote celebrities’ books, films, perfumes, clothes and other assorted paraphenalia. This is quite clearly unacceptable and I for one hark for the old days of an Oliver Reed or Grace Jones interview, they’d probably now be banned under Health and Safety!