Rod McPhee: Why did TV geeks turn all chic?

WHEN I was a kid there were roughly two types of men on the television.

There was the rather dweeby, chinless variety who were

eccentric and nice (late night Open University lectures on BBC2 being a natural habitat) then there was the square-jawed, swarthy type you just wanted to punch in the face over and over again.

Now I'm all grown up I find myself in a post-Jamie Oliver world where youthful male exuberance appears to trump your more dignified father figures.

Maybe I've just grown older and less aesthetically pleasing, but it seems virtually every programme fronted by a bloke is now fronted by a conspicuously good-looking one.

Thus, ex-model Vernon Kay takes over from Les Dennis on Family Fortunes and Doctor Who morphs from Patrick Troughton to twenty-something timelord Matt Smith. Even age-defying Gary Lineker has crushed any memories of Dickie Davis.

Women, I concede, have had to put up with watching impossibly leggy, young, bottle-blonde bits of she-fluff floating across their screens for decades.


But I'm afraid men – vain, proud, tribal men – need more time to adjust to more svelte, honed pretty boys (with a rough cut-off age of around 50) pervading their TV sets.

It's not so much the sudden change, though it is quite sudden, it's the nature of the jump and the fact that rather dashing chaps are popping up in the most unlikely and frankly inappropriate places.

Take astronomy, for example. Good old-fashioned, dusty, smelling-faintly-of-mothballs, astronomy. Ten years ago we had podgy Patrick Moore staring at us over his monocle and a waistband invariably hoisted up to his chest.

But now? Now we're guided round the cosmos by Professor Brian Cox, 42-year-old baby-faced scientist who is currently the darling of the Beeb and a former band member of 90s dance group D:Ream no less.

And what about nature programmes. The king of nature programmes was Sir David Attenborough. Lovely, cuddly Sir David creeping up on gorillas in the jungle.


Now we get Steve Backshall who, despite his best efforts to fool us he's a bona fide nature show presenter, is clearly a male stripper.

Then there's weathermen. Name a famous weatherman...go on...yep, that's right...Michael Fish?....go on...Bill Giles?....yes, keep going... John Kettley? All, you'll note, complete squares.

But in 2011 we have Tomasz Schafernaker, who not only looks like he should be auditioning for the X-Factor but already boasts the kind of name you expect to pop up on a blue movie billing.

It's not that I question their qualifications or their ability to do the job it's just that, well, it just doesn't seem right really.

I can just about deal with Kay, Smith and Lineker, but scientists, naturalists and weathermen? Square-jawed and swarthy? No.

There's a natural order in this world and people who gesture at things with pointy sticks should always be geeky, chinless and eccentric. Sorry.

Beware yet more false economies

LOSING our Lord Mayor would be nuts. It would be another example of saving a few pennies here and there which, some way down the line, would see us quids in.

The cost is around 300,000 a year which, I must admit, I thought sounded like an inordinately large amount of cash.

But the prestige and grandeur and aura of civic pride it creates is worth ten-fold that amount. If we aspire to be a big league city then, as I've said before in Notes from the City, we need to make big injections of cash.

The councillor who questioned this outlay is right to do so, but let's not stumble into making false economies.

Whenever someone sees a sum over six figures they always gasp at the expense, particularly if the payback is difficult to measure.

These outlays really are an investment and the benefits would only be realised once we'd lost them.

In fact the more I see how the Mayor of London influences the capital, the more it makes me think Leeds, and other regional capitals, should have similarly elected figures to stick up for their respective cities.

If that meant spending even more money, as it inevitably would, then it would be right to do so. In the meantime, let's carefully consider any more cutbacks.

What's in a name? Quite a bit really

AS developers of Leeds Arena inevitably look around for a sponsor, let's hope whoever they sign up won't cause us to lose our name.

In other words, it would be great if we could get some kind of business with Leeds in the title, just like the Manchester Evening News Arena.

Failing that, let's at least make sure it's in there somewhere. For example, Newcastle's arena is known as Metro Radio Arena Newcastle – I could live with something similar here.

What I'm sure many Loiners wouldn't like is the name of our city removed entirely from the title, which is what seemed to happen to Sheffield Arena a few months ago.

Now, after striking a sponsorship deal, it is simply known as the Motorpoint Arena. Check out their website's homepage and you'll see that a facility which is arguably a jewel in the city's crown now no longer references the city in any way.

Only near the bottom of the page, in small font, does it mention Sheffield. Sad.

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