• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

TV review: new Newsnicht was too much 'fun'

When Newsnight Scotland was introduced back in 1999, Jeremy Paxman labelled it a 'dog's breakfast.'

Sarah Smith
Sarah Smith

Whilst it was hardly as bad as that, Newsnicht never quite won people over. To be fair, the odds were stacked against it from the beginning: it was tagged onto mighty Newsnight as a little appendage and was only given a paltry 20 minutes. Nationalists could argue it was a shoddy compromise; the result of the failure to create the 'Scottish Six'. Others could dismiss it as a clumsy deviation from the real programme and that Scottish viewers were being given something parochial.

I certainly never warmed to it. Not for political reasons but just because Newsnight is a respected programme and it was always disappointing to be shunted off somewhere else and - say what you like about his prickly comments on Scotland - Paxman is brilliant to watch. As soon as online TV came along, which allowed me to opt for the 'real' Newsnight again, I ran straight back to him.

So I won't mourn the demise of wee Newsnicht and for those who grumbled that it was a bit thin, a bit short, just twenty minutes of appeasement, there is the new current affairs show, Scotland 2014, hosted by Sarah Smith.

Predictably, her appointment has provoked a lot of comment on social media - some of if fond, some of it wary, and some it just the usual poorly-spelled abuse. There are concerns that a London-based journalist from a famous Labour family has been summoned north to present the show. This formed the basis of the recent chatter and hype about Scotland 2014, but my main concern was whether the show could match up to weighty old Newsnight, whom it has already managed to shove aside on the TV schedules.

Sarah Smith said the show would aim to be 'fun' and 'cheeky'. Perhaps I'm a curmudgeon but I recoiled at this. If this is to be 'our' Newsnight, in this crucial year, then I don't want it a political version of The One Show. Would I be watching this 'fun' programme and find myself longing for the gravitas of Paxman and the sombre purples of the Newsnight studio? How can they combine 'fun' with dignity and debate?

Scotland 2014 opened with soft, pleasant music, which was a far remove from the shrill or pompous intros news programmes often have. Then we saw that the studio was lit with acidic pink and orange hues whilst its presenter perched on the desk, showing a bit of leg. My heart sank at this: pleasant music, bright colours, legs on show - I feared we were definitely in a more cerebral version of The One Show.

However, the programme then did something very unexpected. For all the chatter about whether Sarah Smith will be biased in the indyref debate the programme chose to lead with a story about G4S. Independence was pointedly bumped down to second place and I welcomed this as a subtle message that the show - and Scottish debate itself - will not be a one-trick pony.

When they eventually moved onto their piece about the 'costs' of independence, they puffed it up with some silly vox pops about what kind of car Scotland would be. 'A red one,' someone suggested. Again, I was concerned about the deliberate 'fun' aspects of this show.

An interview with Danny Alexander followed and, given the fears that this programme would be biased, I was surprised they had no-one on from the Yes camp to challenge him. The tiresome Alexander was left free to ramble and there was no sharp jab of questioning which he would have received under Paxman or Gordon Brewer.

Then things got worse. Sarah Smith and two excitable guests gathered round a table to discuss the trending topics on social media. What an utterly pointless exercise! It was as though the programme was trying to prove it was cool when, these days, everyone's granny has Twitter. Everyone's granny will also know that the trending topics on social media are usually nonsense, and so we had mention of Macaulay Culkin and then a silly debate about whether Ian Rankin is Scotland's best author when it's painfully obvious he isn't. I'm just glad the programme didn't launch yesterday or we'd have seen Scotland's brave new current affairs show discussing Kim Kardashian's wedding.

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

236353