23 November 2008

Janet-Street Porter: The New Joan


Gangly, ugly kid. Mod at 15, geek and hot-rod. Smarty-pants. Journalist and newspaper editor. BBC executive. Self-believer ("Milk-bottle bottomed glasses and frilly teeth" she laughs about herself). Fashionista. Fag hag (cruising friends of hers in London used to code "Just off to Janet's" as the park was just under her house). Jungle ranter (she was on 'I'm a Celebrity...' in 2004, a real put-off, but anyway). I'm just watching her breathe fire on the damp squib that is 'Loose Women'; it's like eating a large pile of mashed potato with cream - hateful, but strangely comforting. She's saying how she hates expensive face-cream (controversial, Janet, those ladies are really milking your intellect) and I'd just heard her on Desert Island Discs, being actually rather sweet. Despite her abrasive chat and accent (which people are snobbish about - because it is rather grating - but it shouldn't inform our opinion of her character) it is telling that she would rather take the Pet Shop Boys to her island rather than some classical cleverness. I LIKE HER. A lot. I was just looking for that human angle. And now I find she has it, I realise she is the only woman to put on Joan Bakewell's granny slippers and catapult us into a new generation.

She hasn't got any of the foolish feminist beliefs that would have the 'Loose Women' gossip show believe men are the root of all evil: she is quite aware that men come fully formed from home, she says, wanting to change them is ineffective tomfoolery - better to wake up every morning and think you're bloody brilliant - "No-one else is going to do it". Now some may see this hardcore act as unnecessary, but those who have been caught-up on the wrong end of a bastard know all too well a certain element of armour is necessary. Of course, there is that excellent side to her as well that just says "Life's too F***ing Short" (terrible book, apparently, never read it, probably won't) - we shouldn't realy be taking things to seriously, and this is where JSP comes into her own, as we don't really have to take her seriously either. I should like to have a wine with her - I feel her sense of humour is wry and hysterical.

She sings Gordon 'Crappucino' Ramsay's praises but quite easily sashays past him to a state of grace far above his "Eat the fucking lamb shank, you fucker" warblings. She is, quite possibly, the saviour not only of British television/journalism but also the new Messiah. But we'll have to see how she fares. I am not sure I can bear her having been on "I'm A Celebrity..", I refuse to watch it, but I do know she is not into reality TV snobbery whereas I must definitely am. As in - it is utter rubbish.

Janet Street-Porter, I urge you in your indomitable way to challenge Joan's crown (now that she has slipped over to Harman's menagerie and is bopping away with the over 80s via email) to help us rebuild the BBC. Her attitude to Brand and Ross was perfectly intelligent - a relief from the alarming and risible paddywhacks people have been spewing all over the place. She knows it's a part of a strange blokey-lad culture, and we all know she doesn't do lad. Neither does she do obsequious, something the latest Brand-Ross embarassment has in spades:

"Brand and Ross were reflecting this attitude" (the blokey one), she writes. "Senior executives should have junked the item, and insisted the apology was appropriate. Fines, sackings and investigations can't alter a culture."

Quite. Straightforward. Sensible. I think if we can temper a bit of swearing with some informed, intelligent ideas instead of a desperate need to shock, we might all feel a bit calmer and a bit less excitable. We must take Janet Street-Porter as a role model, as for all that she is a hectic, loud-mouthed squawker, she also has a heart which seems to be placed more or less correctly and this is no mean feat in a television culture revved-up with blame, nastiness and trite rubbish. Janet - just don't get too complacent and serve yourself with sound-bitey programmes. Get on the bus and use your clout to encourage some young presenters to be different, write firebrand stuff, and ignore the gloomy norm.

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