There is no way of diminishing the disappointment one feels when watching oneself on television. Things you wish you’d done better, questions you should have asked, intimacies that were probably best left private: they all hasten a man’s hand as it reaches for the remote control as he reviews his day's work around midnight. Yet an occasional glance at the handsome chap chatting on the TV can also be liberating. As the ancient Greeks advised: know thyself! To judge Madeley as though he were a famously gifted contemporary can be quite a revelation if your name also happens to be Madeley. It also stays the hand when all it wants to do is to switch over to Busty Babes UK.
Up to this afternoon, I’d been living in the swampland known as denial. I didn’t want to acknowledge that I had to return to Channel 4. Even as late as this morning, I was more concerned by my life beyond the contract than I was in the guests we’d had booked for the first show of our new series. Judy had only reminded me at lunchtime that the limo would be picking us up at two o’clock. I had planned on spending the afternoon with Clarkson, stalking A.A. Gill around some of London’s choicest restaurants, flicking peas at him as he tried write up his notes on the grub. Instead, I was stuck sobbing in the back of a limo as we made our slow way to the studios down in Kennington.
The Richard&Judy Show may still be the jewel in the Channel 4 crown but the studios had the same unmistakable smell of menopausal pickled onions. The faces were all the same and so were the bodies, despite the constant chatter about diets and New Years resolutions that greeted my arrival. Being the only man working on the show can sometimes make conversation limited. I think it explains the number of male friends I have outside the Richard&Judy phenomenon and why all of them appreciate what it means to shoot black powder long bore rifles whenever we can at the weekend.
As for the actual recording of the show: I thought it went remarkably well. Only watching it now on the Sky+ box do I see how we failed in our stated objective to begin the series on a subdued note. It will hard to maintain this quality over the run of the whole series. All I can guess is that the adrenaline took over. After half an hour, I was in blisteringly good form.
We began with an interview with Janet Street Porter. As soon as I saw her in the green room, I knew she was going to clash with the sofa. Before we went on air, I even asked her if she’d slip out of her horrendous green tights but Janet just responded by calling me ‘a misogynous prig’. You might have read about our long history of mutual dislike going back to our well publicised falling out over the matter of Lebanese butter. It was back in the days of ‘This Morning’ up in Liverpool. I’d made an offhand remark about Janet’s taste for low fat spreads and she’d told me off for being uncultured. That had led me to make an offhand joke about her love for butter made from camel milk. I still don’t know what she has against me but the feud has simmered for all these years and I can't see there ever being peace. Either in the Middle East or between Madeley and Porter.
Despite this, when the cameras are on her, Janet remains the consummate professional. She chatted away through the segment without once mentioning camel butter. I managed to avoid commenting on the gangrenous colour of her legs. That’s not to say that the first ad break wasn’t tense. Janet had me pinned against the wall and threatened to remove my feet at the ankles. Judy had to beat her off me with a cushion and things were barely settled by the time we all came back from the commercials. We chatted about her new book and then I had security escort her from the building as Judy and I moved on to chat with the nation’s chirpiest toff, Ben Fogle.
I hadn’t seen Ben since the incident at Ainsley Harriott’s house when one of my least sociable gastric discharges had re-stained the Italian marble in the bathroom. Ben was on the show to plug his new series in which he’s been helping people overcome the problems in their lives through adventure. I was so sure he was going to mention my tricky gut and recommend that I try canoing up the Nile to teach it a lesson. He didn’t, which shows what a good sport he is. But I was still a bit worried about him spreading malicious gossip about me so he too was soon being led from the building by security.
To be honest, after the next break, the show became pure Judy. I had to sit there in the presence of some of the ghastliest paintings produced by the wit of man. It was, quite frankly, embarrassing as I listened to Judy turn poetic as she described pictures made from vegetables and raw fish. My poor wife has so little taste you’d think her a custodian of the Tate. I’d wouldn’t mind if she’d allowed me to give the segment a bit of class by asking Carl Warner if he compared his studies of foodstuffs with vanitas paintings of that period of counter Reformation in Europe of the seventeenth century. I wanted to know if his garish landscapes were a comment on the artificiality of food and by extension, human life, at the beginning of the twenty first century, in a similar way to those Protestant artists who depicted decaying fruit as symbolising the mortality of the flesh and an ethic of worldly suffering. Judy just thought it better to ask him if he enjoyed working with vegetables. I was relieved when we’d made it to another break and that’s when I told the artist what I really thought of his work and had the security guard escort him from the building. For the life of me, I still don’t know why we couldn’t have used that time to help some talented unknown artist find a market.
I’m similarly dubious about our video clips segment which is another of Judy’s babies. This week’s selection distinguished the brain dead from the truly moronic: a dancing parrot, a whistling belly button, the ubiquitous accident involving a caravan, and a comically frowning baby. My favourite remains the German juggling hammers, which gives me endless delight to know that we’re promoting dangerous stunts on national television without any warnings about ‘trying this at home’. Mark my words: this year will be known as the year when accidents with claw hammers shot through the roof. Or, more accurately, got stuck in the roof before coming back down and embedding themselves in the skull of some inept juggler.
The last segment was our interview with Martin Freeman. By this point, I was completely out of it. I can barely remember what I said. As usual, I hadn’t read the notes before the interview and had expected Martin to be my favourite black actor from America. I was hugely disappointed that I couldn’t ask the questions I’d prepared about ‘Seven’ and ‘The Shawshank Redemption’. Instead, I had this pasty-faced English Joe blathering on about some film he’s made with an unknown filmmaker, who just happens to be Gwyneth Paltrow’s brother. There is no man working in show business who takes a dimmer view of nepotism in the arts. If Paltrow had been on the show, you can be sure that I’d have had an security escort him from the building.
And that, as they say, was a wrap. Despite all my prevaricating about going back on TV, I can’t recall ever being in such good form at the beginning of a series. I won’t be re-watching any future episodes, so I won’t be boring you any more of these behind the scenes anecdotes. I know you all love the show but, to be honest, it’s not for me. It helps pay the bills but what man in his right mind wants to spend his day admiring luminous landscapes made from potatoes and peas?
Now, I have to get some sleep. Tomorrow is going to be a tough day for Madeley, the unpublished writer. We’re interviewing Pauline McLynn (Mrs Doyle from Father Ted) about her sixth novel. That’s right. Her sixth! I have some interesting anecdotes about Norman Mailer I want to run past her.