Having run out of cronies, work colleagues and prime ministers in need of a better public image, Piers Morgan’s latest interviews are generally people he has no connection to, and who – as a general rule – the public don’t really have a connection to. This week, he tackles Bruce Forsyth, giving his trademark fast-forward biography of Brucie’s life, only stopping to ask salubriou questions. Like “What make of car did you lose your virginity in?”
Brucie’s been part of the fabric of British entertainment since before I was born. Maybe I’m being harsh here, but do the public really want to delve into Brucie’s history? Is he that relevant, topical, interesting?
Piers skirts through Forsyth’s history, a whistlestop tour of all those iconic moments – tipping a bucket of wallpaper paste around Norman Wisdom, Play Your Cards Right, Royal Variety performances. What’s refreshing about Brucie here is that he’s not hung up or defined by any of those past glories. Clearly he’s someone who’s been massively popular and lost the approval of the public, and been set upon by the tabloids repeatedly in his career.
Even the more salacious parts of his life – a ten year seperation from his first wife, various daliances with beauty queens, two children born out of a relationship with a co-presenter and a further marriage later in life – these are all glossed over almost too quickly.
And even when Bruce has spoken at length about lazy journalists blowing stories out of proportion, Piers has the gall to bring up the Anton DuBeke race row and the sensationalist sacking of Arlene Phillips. Lazy journalism at its worst! It almost feels like Piers takes the most sensationalist headlines of someone’s career and focusses on those. Hilariously, most of the people he interviews speak about how the tabloids twist and misreport things – and there’s Piers, the living embodiment of the national tabloid press.
The thing is, his recent interview with Simon Cowell was a far more sensitive interview. He knew about Simon’s background and family relationships and gave what felt like a more authoritative “life story”. With Brucie, he went for the low-hanging fruit, the easy stories, instead of digging deep with him and giving us something new and interesting. Brucie, for his part was refreshingly open (OK, he looked cagey when Piers asked him if he’d slept around before seperating from his first wife) and funny when he needed to be. However, I don’t feel that I know him any better than I did before the show, which is where Piers Morgan fails.
Essentially, what Morgan is doing is picking out a bunch of tabloid coverage and giving the celebrity the right to reply. My other gripe is the sheer amount of filler – teasers for each successive part of the show before each ad break. Editing that fools you into thinking something intelligent is coming up – like when Bruce got to wax lyrical about race, political correctness and ageism – and then gives you some twee soundbites before moving swiftly along.
Sadly, this is lightweight stuff. I asked The Stage writer Scott Matthewman on Twitter how Life Stories compared to the classic series This Is Your Life. The reply was amazingly apt: “It’s twice as long and half as interesting.” Spot on.