How to make an improved Esther show for just £7.50

Despite possessing none of the qualifications outlined in the job ad, Iain Murray thinks he’s got what it takes to edit BBC2’s Esther show

To Anne Morrison, Controller of Leisure and Factual Entertainment, BBC TV:

Dear Ms Morrison,

I wish to apply for the recently advertised position of editor, Esther. I do so, notwithstanding an almost entire lack of the experience you require. However, Tony Blair had no previous experience in government and that has not prevented the BBC from offering him its unstinting encouragement and support, so I feel confident that, for all my failings, I can expect nothing less.

In any case, I am not sure that anyone alive has, as you put it, a “developed understanding of the needs of the BBC 2 daytime audience”. On the evidence of current programming, it would seem that the needs of that audience are primarily a comfortable chair and a mind which, while not entirely blank, could be traversed from ear to ear without risk of falling into anything deep.

I note, too, that you require a “thorough knowledge of the law”, which, I think you will agree on reflection, is something that one may only reasonably demand of a lawyer, and even then one would probably be out of luck.

As for a “proven track record of working with celebrities”, I would imagine that, long before such a record had time to be proven, it would have condemned its owner to a secure institution or, at best, care in the community.

All that aside, however, I have pleas-ure in submitting, as requested, a paper on how I would tackle the challenges and opportunities of this post and how I see Esther developing in the next series.

For a start: without Esther. I know this may, at first sight, seem radical, but you want a “new look series” and, though I am no lawyer and fail miserably on the ground that I find celebrities repellent, I think that to get rid of Esther would powerfully evidence the “first class editorial judgment” you require and could not fail to be an improvement on the old look. Let’s face it, Esther has had a charmed existence; for one who was not equipped by nature for broadcasting, she’s had a hell of an innings. Her voice, locked permanently in the upper register, is shrill, and in any case she’s long in the tooth (no offence meant).

By all means keep the name Esther: it has the advantage of being simple and, shorn of its association with the eponymous millionaire sentimentalist, is suitably vague and all-encompassing to please the daytime audience. It is also female, which, I think you will agree, is a definite plus in a modern, multicultural, inclusive scenario at the cutting edge of the leisure and factual entertainment experience.

You will, of course, want to know who is to present the show in Esther’s absence. The answer is no one. Is that groundbreaking, or what? In the holistic, egalitarian society, which I think we are all agreed is the goal of humanity in general, and of the BBC in particular, in the new millennium, a front person, or presenter, is an outmoded, elitist and totally unnecessary throwback to hierarchism.

So here’s what I propose: the studio should be filled, as usual, with the regulation cast of bores, half-wits, misfits, show-offs, single-issue fanatics, anti-smoking zealots, vegetarians, whimpering victims and simpering celebrities and they should just be left to get on with it.

But – and here is the best bit – they should not be allowed out. Or at any rate, they should be released only one at a time and at monthly intervals, with viewers deciding who should go. This is already proving a very popular form of television and Esther would break new ground by giving viewers genuine empowerment in a real-time situation. Daytime viewers may be stupid but they could be relied upon to ensure that Claire Rayner never got out.

As for topics to be discussed on the show, experience shows that these are of no consequence whatever, since anything that is said is instantly forgotten and is not in any case intended to be listened to, the whole experience of television being confined to watching through half-closed eyes while gently burping.

Here, however, are a few suggestions, just to get things going: Does the name spelt “Rebekah” automatically denote a wrong’un? Why do writers, politicians and broadcasters use the word “perceive” when they mean “see”? Do aliens have a sex life as we know it? Should men be castrated as a sensible precaution? What does “factual” mean, as in “Leisure and Factual Entertainment” (remember Vanessa)? For whom is hanging too good?

I realise all this might be quite a lot to take in but I have a final point that I feel sure will clinch the appointment. I see from your advertisement that I shall be “responsible for a budget of between 2 and 3 million pounds”.

Oh no, I shan’t. On a quick calculation, my version of Esther will cost about &£7.50, effecting a huge saving to the licence payer and offering far better value than the current cost of more than &£1,000 per minute of televised time.

I remain, yours in confident anticipation,

I Murray.

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