TOM UTLEY: The radio show that drove me to the potty – even though it survived 57 series and 506 episodes

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Many years ago, I had a much-loved colleague at another newspaper who flooded her articles with quotes from philosophers and prominent historical figures.

I hope I am not mistaken when I say that in my opinion she did this in order to give her readers the impression that she was more learned than she really is.

So she could write, “Didn’t Alexander the Great, if memory serves, deceive me about 323 BC: ‘I’m dying with too many doctors’?”

In fact, I would have known very well that the quote was generally attributed to Alexander. But this was not so much because she was a connoisseur of ancient history, but because she had just come across it in Penguin’s Dictionary of Quotes, which she liked to keep open on the table in front of her as she wrote.

Okay, I have to admit that I myself, like more than a few other columnists, was occasionally guilty of the same sin. In fact, I just picked up Alexander’s wit from the same dictionary. But I like to think I wasn’t as much a serial offender as my beloved ex-colleague.

Ridiculous

Anyway, I thought of her every time I listened to a long-running Radio 4 show, Quote. . . Cancel listing. That was before it was finally abandoned last month – after no less than 57 series and 506 programs – for reasons that only emerged this week. I come to them in a moment.

A long-running Radio 4 show, Quote. . . Unquote was last discontinued last month – after no less than 57 series and 506 programs

Now I know I’m risking the wrath of legions of dedicated fans of the program when I say I’ve never enjoyed it much and I certainly won’t miss it, it’s gone now.

It seemed to me to represent the old BBC, awakened in the worst condition – smug, a little ridiculous, and it seems to have no purpose other than to allow its participants to tell the world: ‘Look how smart I am! ‘

In particular – and here I may be terribly dishonest – I have long been annoyed by the smooth radio voice of its host Nigel Rees (77), who co-invented the program 46 years ago with John Lloyd, producer and writer of programs such as Not The Nine O’Clock News, Blackadder, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, QI and Radio 4’s The Museum Of Curiosity.

77-year-old Nigel Rees (pictured), who co-created the program 46 years ago with John Lloyd, producer and writer of programs such as Not The Nine O'Clock News, Blackadder, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, QI and Radio 4's.  Museum of Curiosity

77-year-old Nigel Rees (pictured), who co-created the program 46 years ago with John Lloyd, producer and writer of programs such as Not The Nine O’Clock News, Blackadder, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, QI and Radio 4’s. Museum of Curiosity

Let me say at once that I have never met Mr. Rees, whom readers may know not only from Quote. . . No mention, but as a long-standing fixture in the Dictionary Corner on Countdown until 2001.

As far as I know, he is a wonderful guy, the most erudite, civilized, witty and encouraging society imaginable – and kind to children and animals.

All I can say – based on nothing more solid evidence than his sublime drag – is that he always found me a little patronizingly boring (look who’s talking!). If you ask me, he usually sounded more than a little pleased with himself as he giggled over the bons mots of Samuel Johnson, Oscar Wilde and the like.

In fact, it seemed to me just such a sogost that we might be afraid to sit opposite us at dinner.

But let us leave aside the fact that there is nothing clever about reciting from dictionaries of quotations – or even compiling them, as Mr Rees did. Since the first Quote broadcast. . . Without a quote, back in January 1976, I felt that the format never really worked.

This is despite the fact that the program has attracted a galaxy of distinguished guest panelists, from playwrights Alan Bennett and Sir Tom Stoppard to such reconstruction luminaries as Sir Peter Ustinov, Dame Judi Dench, Sir David Attenborough and the late novelist Sir Kingsley Amis.

In favor of those wise or lucky ones who never listened to it, I should clarify that the main part of the show was in the form of a quiz in which the announcer read a quote and Mr. Rees asked his participants to define his quote. source.

The problem was that very often none of the guests had a clue about the answer, no matter how famous the quote was. This led to awkward silences until Mr. Rees reduced himself to increasingly difficult hints.

Bigwigs

To give you a general idea, here’s a parody I made up – but I don’t think it’s that far from reality.

Announcer: ‘To be or not to be, that’s the question …’

Rees: ‘Who do you think wrote these words?’

Star: ‘Um, it sounds very deep. Could it be Adele? ‘

Rees (with his most refined, school-like masterful voice): ‘No, you’re going to have to go beyond that. Think of a bard from Stratford-upon-Avon – or a descendant of the Danish royal family. ‘

Participant: ‘Ah! I think I have it! Was it Prince Philip? ‘

The host of Radio 4 Rees has revealed that he left the BBC after 46 years because he felt pressured by the corporation’s focus on diversity.

The host of Radio 4 Rees has revealed that he left the BBC after 46 years because he felt pressured by the corporation’s focus on diversity.

It seemed to me that this problem was especially exacerbated in the last two series, when the average level of knowledge of the guests seemed to plummet.

Which brings me to the explanation now given by Mr Rees for his decision to end the show. He let it be known that he was tired of the interference of today’s BBC giants, obsessed with ‘diversity’ and vigilance, who tried to dictate to him what kind of guests to invite to his show and which quotes to avoid airing.

As he wrote in the January issue of his quote. . . The Unquote, which he will continue to produce even though the show is over: ‘I don’t want to sound like an’ anti-awakened ‘Tory MP (which I am far from), but. . . “Cultural issues were among the many factors that contributed to my withdrawal.”

He offered an insight into the ridiculous antics of his W1A real-life bosses and outlined how he had to fight to allow their announcer Charlotte Green, who was privately educated in her home counties, to read a quote with a Yorkshire accent.

Patronizing

“I can only assume that expecting complaints from Yorkshire people that they were sponsored or stereotyped led to this,” he said, adding his own observation (which just seems to me a slightly patronizing stereotype), “if you can imagine Yorkshire people who are able to be under the auspices. ‘

He also revealed that for the 500th edition of his show, he wanted to include lines from Noel Coward’s Mad Dogs And Englishmen: ‘In Bengal / Moving at all / It’s rare, if ever.’

“And yet I was told that it ‘reflects colonial relations,'” he writes, “and so the awakened police relied heavily on me to choose something else.”

As he pointed out, the BBC authorities seem to have overlooked the fact that Coward is making fun of the English, not the Bengals.

Mr Rees said he felt under pressure

Mr Rees said he felt under pressure from the BBC’s “priority” to invite various guests – even if they were not always the most appropriate speakers. Pictured is Broadcasting House in London

They did not seem to notice the lines: ‘It seems such a disgrace / When the English claim / Earth / that they cause such joy and happiness.’

In an interview this week, Rees made it clear that he resented him for ordering him to invite guests, for no better reason than ticking off the BBC’s Diversity fields.

‘The question should be: Is the panelist suitable for the program?’ he said. Instead, we had recipes for different groups and disabled guests. I didn’t agree with that at all, but I agreed because I had to. ‘

Does this perhaps explain why Quote. . . Unquote has become so particularly painful to listen to in your dying weeks?

Regardless of the truth, I would like to give Mr Rees a full assessment of provoking the BBC’s awakening, even if they risk being “revoked” by the proponents of this stupid and impatient religion. Really, I’m firmly on his side.

As for his awful program, my view is perhaps best summed up in a two-word phrase that I see coming from my dictionary of quotes from Troilus and Cresside, a bard from Stratford-upon-Avon: ‘Get rid of it well! ‘

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