No Elvis Presley or Beatles on Icons: Greatest Person Of 20th Century? BBC really puts the con in Icons

Not seriously at all, obviously.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t get angry about what happened on BBC2 last week.

Icons: The Greatest Person Of The 20th Century, hosted by Nick Robinson and Claudia Winkleman, incorporating Sob Story of the Millennium and The Victim Olympics.

A night that represented everything that’s rotten and self-destructive about our national broadcaster.

It’s an extravagantly stupid idea, for starters, because you simply can’t measure the achievements of Enigma code-breaker Alan Turing against those of Muhammad Ali.

It was based on a big fat BBC lie as well: “We want your opinion.” It doesn’t.

The BBC hates your opinion. That’s why Tuesday’s final was played out in a mood of head-shaking disappointment with the viewers, who hadn’t read the script and voted for an all-male final of Ali, Turing, Picasso, Ernest Shackleton, Martin Luther King Jr, David Bowie and Nelson Mandela.


An outrage against politically correct decency that had the ensemble fizzing with resentment, particularly Chris ­Packham, who was meant to be there championing scientist Turing, yet began the night by telling us “Marie Curie should’ve made the list,” thereby undermining the entire process.

If ever a process deserved to be under-mined, though, it was this BBC circle-jerk, which spent six lavish, globe-trotting weeks trying to craft the most right-on outcome possible.

That’s why it wasn’t just Elvis who was missing from Kathleen Turner’s entertainers — for gender ­reasons — The Beatles and Frank Sinatra were as well. Shamefully, Jesse Owens was left out of a Sporting Icons section that included Tanni Grey-Thompson but not Ludwig Guttmann, who actually invented the Paralympics.

And there was no sign of Alexander Fleming in the Scientists category either.

The double-standards and bias throughout the heats were, of course, also breathtaking.

So Winston Churchill’s views could be labelled as “racist” by Sir Trevor ­McDonald, but Kathleen Turner made no mention of David Bowie’s fascist period because the Beeb’s decided “he used his talents to push for a more ­inclusive society”.


Imposing its self-righteous 21st Century values on the past also meant the British Empire got an uncontested kicking, in the Gandhi segment, from Sanjeev Bhaskar, who claimed “35 million died of ­starvation as a result of the Raj’s exploitation of the land”, even though you could just as ­convincingly argue famine was endemic to India until the British helped introduce democracy and the railways.

But where does all that middle-class self-loathing, skewed history and guilt-tripping actually lead? Well, initially it’s to Tuesday’s preachy mess of a final.

An occasion won, probably for all the wrong reasons, by Alan Turing whose victory provoked widespread sobbing among the audience, who were either moved to tears by their own loveliness or uncontrollable fits at the sight of Nick Robinson positioning himself, with a saluting Adolf Hitler on his right ­shoulder, right at the climax.

Long-term, as others have already pointed out, though, it’s hardly an unconnected surprise to learn millions are deserting the licence fee, in favour of quality subscription channels, like Netflix, when the BBC makes it so regularly obvious it hates not just half the population but pretty much the entire history of the country, with the exception of the Suffragettes, Peter Tatchell and the NHS.

That’s not an Icons-style BBC “fact”, though, it is just an opinion.

Quiz show dough-balls of the week

The Chase, Bradley Walsh: “What Swizzels lollipop is also the name of part of a chicken?”

Elsie: “Innards.”

Tipping Point, Ben Shephard: “Which TV channel that launched in 1997 became the fifth national terrestrial channel in the UK?”

Conor: “Channel 4.”

Ben Shephard: “The Cabinet War Rooms were the underground headquarters of Winston Churchill’s government during which conflict?”

Pamela: “Pass.”

And Bradley Walsh: “In the TV show Sherlock, which character has the first name Greg?”

Anjali: “Sherlock Holmes.”

(All contributions welcome.)

— INCIDENTALLY, would Rodrigo Alves not be a hell of a lot more interesting if he’d had 70 operations to try to turn himself into the human Ken Dodd?

— MEMO Greenpeace. RE: Good Morning Britain, Gemma Collins: “Piers, I want to treat you to a ­holiday.” “Really? Me and you on a beach?”
You’re gonna need a bigger boat.

Crying shame for SAS

CONTORTED into a thousand different stress positions, while listening to hours of baby howls and women’s screams, I caught up with eight back-episodes of EastEnders last week.

Then I watched the white-noise torture interrogation scenes on the final of Channel 4’s SAS: Who Dares Wins and thought: “Piece of p***. I could do six months of that before I even noticed anyone was trying to extract a confession.”

It’s everything else that I’d find impossible, from running up and down a mountain to the crucial sob-story element, which may not be an official part of SAS selection yet, but all the candidates seemed to have one.

The straw that broke the camel’s back, though, was suicidal and mentally ill Nathaniel whose inclusion, in the first mixed series, made me realise Channel 4 wasn’t looking for the 25 best recruits at all.

It was looking for the 25 who’d make the best television.

Hardly a stellar revelation, I know, but it meant I lost faith in the show and shared none of the pleasure with the three winning candidates: Mark Peart, the only recruit who’d probably stand a prayer on real selection; Milo Mackin, the Ed Sheeran lookalike, who was doing it for his late brother; and Dr Louise McCullough, representing women from Aberdeen.

A demographic who, I can assure you, are about 1,000 times more terrifying than the actual SAS. Confess to everything if you ever find yourself in a hostile environment with one of them

It’ll spare you a fate worse than EastEnders.


ALL of Britain’s ugliest braggarts queuing up to get into E4’s Sex Clinic.

BBC2’s hideously reformatted Eurovision: You Decide cocking up everything including the spelling of head judge “Ryan Clark-Neal”.

Joanna Lumley’s dreadful opening address at Bafta’s annual dressing-up box awards.

This ­Morning’s unhealthy obsession with cosmetic ­surgery addict Rodrigo Alves, “the human Ken doll”.

And British Airways’ new “Dear old Britain” advert imagining it’s going to entice anyone into a long haul, in economy, with Grayson Perry, Paloma Faith and a gospel choir for company.

Unless the small print includes “a parachute”.

Gemma loses a peel

CRICKETER Ryan Sidebottom might not go on to win Dancing On Ice, but questions will surely be asked if he’s not now in the running for Sports Personality Of The Year.

A Special Recognition award, at the next Baftas, might also be an option as well after knocking out Gemma Collins who, six weeks into the contest, had outstayed her welcome, by about six weeks.

No real surprise, given she prepared for this week’s contest by going for a “skin peel”, which must have had them cancelling all holiday leave at the beauty spa.

You saw the results for yourself, though. She could barely hand-jive, in the stationary position, without keeling over.

Jason Gardiner might have taken genuine pleasure putting the final boot in, but there was almost no decision to be made, once it was over.

Dancing On Ice now returns to normal, Gemma goes back to the “day job” and if Kingdom Of Leather doesn’t put in a bid for her skin peel then the spirit of entrepreneurship is dead in this country.

There’s at least 20 sofas in that carcass.

Great TV lies and delusions of the week

First Time Mum, Ferne McCann: “People have told me I’ve got a natural flair at ­presenting.”

Icons: The Greatest Person Of The 20th Century, Sanjeev Bhaskar: “I humbly submit Martin Luther King.” Humbly?

And Good Morning Britain, Gemma Collins: “When the GC’s gone, people miss her.”

Like a boil on a wart on a haemorrhoid.


THIS week’s winner is Little Mix’s Jesy Nelson and Janice from The Muppets. Sent in by John Wyatt, via email.

Picture research: Jimbo.

TV gold

Netflix’s beautiful Sunderland Til I Die series and its chillingly thorough four-parter Conversations With A Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes.

Penny Lancaster very sedately attempting to apprehend a junkie on Channel 4’s Famous & Fighting Crime.

Sky Atlantic’s reboot of Das Boot. And Peanut, the p***ed butterfly, who’d got wasted on a fermented pineapple and was creating merry hell in The Secret Life Of The Zoo’s hot house, “with his beer goggles on,” trying to nail anything with wings.

What’s technically known as a “larva lout”. (I’m here all week.)

— EASTENDERS  Ruby on her date with Jay: “We had sex. It was great. But he hated my toad in the hole.”

And how’d you think the toad felt?


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