Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Was Kermode pushed or did he jump?

I was just sitting down to write a piece on the strange case of Mark Kermode and the Film 2010 job when events suddenly made the story irrelevant. Way back in 1997, when Barry Norman left the BBC’s flagship movie …

Mon, Mar 29, 2010, 20:29


I was just sitting down to write a piece on the strange case of Mark Kermode and the Film 2010 job when events suddenly made the story irrelevant. Way back in 1997, when Barry Norman left the BBC’s flagship movie programme, a few prescient pundits — Derek Malcolm for one — suggested that Kermode, then only about .001 percent as famous as he is today, should be presented with the ermine and sceptre. As it happened, the Beeb took the populist route and offered the future Manuel-botherer the exalted position. In truth, he has never seemed up to it. Though a genuine expert on Manga and other Asian genres, Ross too often bigged up films featuring stars he’d recently interviewed and always read the copy as if he’d seen it for the first time 10 minutes previously.


Cheer up, Mark. The Exorcist is on Sky Horror later.

A few months ago, after a decade of hysterical whining, The Daily Mail finally got its way when Ross abandoned the BBC to spend more time with his money. Now, surely the job was Mark’s. In the interim, Dr Kermode had confirmed his expertise and passion while gathering a substantial following on BBC2′s Culture Show and — Hinge to Simon Mayo’s Bracket — BBC Radio Five Live. All the bookies had him as strong favourite. A poll in, of all places, The Sun called for his appointment. The BBC could simultaneously bolster its flagging credibility (Kermode has a PhD, remember) and satisfy its teeming license payers (he is, in many ways, a populist figure). Why, there hasn’t been a more obvious succession since R A B Butler took over the UK prime minister’s job from Harold Macmillan.

Initially, when pressed on the matter, Kermode seemed to adopt the Michael Heseltine construction: “I cannot currently foresee the circumstances under which I would stand.” When asked about the issue by Mark Lawson on BBC Radio 4′s Front Row, he stressed that he had not been offered the job, but he did not exactly deny he would accept it if the call came. Last Friday, however, the tone had changed. During his regular slot with Mayo, he seemed to deny any possibility that he would be sitting in the Film 2010 seat when the series kicked off again. His reasoning? The show needed a mainstream critic, not somebody whose “favourite film of last year was  a Swedish vampire movie”. Really? He was mainstream enough for those voting in The Sun’s poll. How far downmarket is the BBC heading? Is my cheese sandwich in with a shot? Is this pile of rotting mulch? Is Johnny Vaughn?

The answer came this afternoon when it was announced, to the genuine surprise of most observers, that Ms Claudia Winkleman, heavily mascaraed daughter of Eve Pollard, had somehow secured the BBC’s top movie reviewer job. Now, I am sure that Claudia is perfectly adept in her specialist field (whatever the hell that may be), but, anybody who saw her dire hosting of Sky’s Oscar coverage, will be in little doubt that she is no expert on film. She could prove us all wrong, but, the chances of the Film show returning to its glory days now seem unimaginably remote.

So did Kermode really (as he implied) rule himself out or was he making the best of an outrageous snub? It’s an intriguing situation.

(Oh, and if you didn’t get the absurdly obscure joke above, Alec Douglas Home actually succeeded Harold Macmillan.)

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