Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Do looks count?

Where did it all go wrong? My career as a television star, I mean.

I realized there was an image problem with my role in the televised thalidomide debate (Sept.27, Baying for Blood), as the audience were so obviously keen to lynch me and burn the studio down, but I didn't at first see why a personable young man like myself shouldn't eventually have a lucrative TV career, perhaps having cosy chats on a couch with, say, Felicity Kendall or Fiona Bruce (except she was still at school then). Move over Colin Firth (although he was also a schoolboy at that time). OK then, Erroll Flyn.

I should have known there was a problem with my image following my first televised appearance in about 1968. My Professor had been asked to make a programme about various forms of hair loss, and so I, as the bright young spark and general dogsbody of the Department, had been asked to gather together suitable patients and demonstrate the various features of their different diseases in the clinic, whilst my Professor spoke about the science of hair follicles from the studio.

This was clearly my big chance. At that time several doctors like Charles Fletcher had already become famous for presenting medical documentaries, and I could clearly see the potential for scientific stardom ahead. Think Howard Winston, Richard Dawkins, Brian Cox and many others in more recent years. I knew I was to be the star of the show because the crew had been following me around and filming me for days on end, from every conceivable angle, distant and close-up, as I dropped my pearls of medical wisdom. I knew that I just had to demonstrate my avuncular bedside manner, keep my good profile to the camera, exhibit my occasional shafts of wit, and I'd be made for life.

In those days television was not available in all households, and my mother had invited several neighbours in to watch her son, the famous doctor and television star, astound the world.

The great day came. The titles rolled, the programme was introduced, my Professor did his talking head bit and then the patients were introduced one by one. Then we had close-ups of their various bald patches, with an occasional glimpse of a hand (mine) parting the hair to show the distinctive 'exclamation mark' hairs or the scaly patches or the blue scars or whatever. This was accompanied by the voice-over of some twit with a dreadful monotonous whining Northern accent who thankfully never appeared on-screen. Unfortunately that was me!

Well, at least my mother's neighbours saw what my hands looked like.

To paraphrase Ali-G, "Is it cos I'se ugly?".


  1. I have a friend who called us all to say that she would be on the TV talking about sleep counselling. She'd been filmed for hours.

    We watched the slot and saw briefly talking to a class. If we hadn't known she was wearing a red jacket, we wouldn't have known that it was her.

    Actually, we saw more of her handbag in it.

    I did feel for the poor girl!

    Ali x

  2. Ali- Maybe I could make a film with your friend, featuring her handbag and my hands?
    You're probably too young to remember the old medical documentaries called 'Your Life in their Hands', but we could update it as a gynaecology series called 'Their Hands in your Wife', starring JohnB as one of the old hands.
    Now who could we get as the old bag?