The Grey Cardigan 28.04.06

CONFINED TO barracks with a particularly debilitating bout of "man flu", I am trapped in the "entertainment" hell that is daytime television. It's a constant succession of alcoholics, wife-beaters, thieves, money-lenders and egomaniacs — much like being at work at the Evening Beast, in fact. Even the inane questions are there, with a phone-in quiz to win a Mazda sports car challenging viewers to decide if it's A-plates, X-plates or L-plates that must be displayed on a learner driver's car.

I've complained about this before. Every single programme has a similar quiz or opinion line, all tempting the housebound and the workshy to blow their benefits at a pound a pop. Now they're even targeting innocent drunks, by running a quiz show through the night with questions that even a Daily Sport sub could answer. The consequence is that the alcoholically-challenged now wake up with a massive phone bill as well as a dreadful headache.

One could forgive this blatant mugging if the money was going somewhere useful — into news programmes, perhaps? Instead regional news is dying on its grey-loafered feet while Sir Trevor McDoughnut has to resort to defending football hooligans who have done the crime, but don't fancy doing the time.

THOSE bastards at the BBC are no better. I was still struggling to come to terms with the fact that I've spent my entire licence feepaying adult life funding just one hour of Chris Moyles when they went and binned Grandstand. That totemic theme tune, the rattle of the teleprinter, David Coleman's breathless prose — it's the soundtrack of my youth.

Yes, I know that they've got very little in the way of proper sport left to show, but our national public service broadcaster owes us a stab at it, even if it is celebrity underwater netball from Milton Keynes.

MUCH IS made of the value of bigname columnists to national newspapers, with the latest transfers between titles being accorded as much interest as those of Premiership strikers.

Yes, these people are important opinion-formers, but we need not always rely on the Littlejohns and the Utleys to take the temperature of the nation.

One of the few things still worth reading in The Sun (a sickly shadow of its former self) are the incisive and insightful commentaries on life that accompany the topless ladies on page three. Thus we have Nikkala, 20, from Middlesex, shocked to hear that a single speed camera on the M62 has sucked more than £1m in fines from motorists. "It's highway robbery — literally," she says. Meanwhile Ami, 19, from Birmingham, is amazed to hear that Jessie Wallace had taken cocaine at breakfast time. "I can't imagine it's a very nutritious start to the day," she says. "She should have stuck to cornflakes."

OK, it might not be Simon Heffer, but are the opinions of these upright citizens necessarily worth less than his? I think not.

LEFT-HAND, right-hand non-interface at the Daily Mirror, where a spread on the "evil" holiday magnate Billy Butlin reveals that he set up his camps by promoting prostitution and sex, and was such a hard case that he carried a cut-throat razor.

Turn over a few pages to the holidays section (and you know what's coming here) and there's another two-page spread on Butlin's, singing its praises as a fantastic holiday destination for kids and families.

Coming soon, Fred Pontin, international drug baron.

You can contact me, should you be minded, at thegreycardigan@gmail.com

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