The Aussie polymath Clive James is indisputably the greatest TV reviewer of all time - which is why anthologies of his criticism are still a rollicking read forty years after the shows they discuss went off the air. His ability to distill the essence of the figures flickering across his screen was so unerring that far, far lesser talents were still pilfering his best lines a quarter-century later. So I was both flattered and unnerved to find, upon opening yesterday's Guardian, the great man addressing my own recent venture into the telly-hosting field:
Apart from his habit of punctuating any long sentence with the word "ah" (imagine Sue Barker as a baritone), Steyn is, ah, an ideal broadcaster; provided, that is, that, ah, you have an extra half-hour in your day to follow him through the occasional flat spots in his, ah, doomed search for perfect fluency.
How Steyn finds the time to do what he does is one of the mysteries in this new era of personalised broadcasting. He can write, speak and sing, and, being a Canuck, he can probably also skate. His problem now is going to be finding a weekly guest as bright as he is.
That's too, ah, kind. Aside from writing novels, poetry, songs and translations of Dante, Clive James is himself one of the best TV interviewers around. Still, I'm glad he liked this segment:
One of the first shows to be globally transmitted through his new enhanced medium was an interview with Sir Tim Rice. I watched it with fascination, awed all over again by how scruplously Rice attends to the language in which he expresses himself. I don't think he said "ah" once, and unless he were quoting the lyrics of Ah, Sweet Mystery Of Life verbatim, I think he would never do so.
But what made the interview a benchmark was that it was so confidently technical. Both host and guest, for example, found convincing reasons to agree that a solid rhyme is inherently more satisfactory than an approximate one. Try getting any two ex-members of the Eagles to agree on that...
At which point, Mr James moves on to the progenitors of "Hotel California" and "You can't hide your Lyin' Eyes". Or, in my case, I can't hide my Lyin' Ahs...
~Speaking of The Mark Steyn Show, we were live on stage at the Manning Conference in Ottawa yesterday, talking free speech, identity politics and more. The Daily Caller has a report on it, albeit with some very approximate quotes.
2017 is the 150th birthday of the Dominion of Canada, and, by way of celebration, I thought I'd feature some great Canuck songs in the months ahead. We started with one of my absolute favourites - "I'll Never Smile Again" - which, thanks to the Tommy Dorsey band and their new boy vocalist Frank Sinatra, became in 1940 the first ever Billboard Number One. That's to say, the very first American Number One record was a Canadian song. I explain a bit more about the ballad and its author, Ruth Lowe, here. But I've always loved the song and I wanted it to lead off our sesquicentennial observances, so I asked the great Tal Bachman, son of the great Randy Bachman, if he fancied doing the song his way. And he did, beautifully. I'm very grateful to him.
UPDATE: Also from this week's Ottawa trip, here's Mark with Evan Solomon, Joyce Napier and Craig Oliver on Canada's third longest-running TV show of all time, CTV's "Question Period". Mark shows up about 28 minutes in.
~Coming up this week: On Monday, I'll say a few words about the late Alan Colmes, my sometime co-host on "Hannity & Colmes". On Tuesday, there'll be a full-length interview with one of the most insightful thinkers, Larry Arnn, Churchill scholar and President of Hillsdale College. And, if you couldn't make yesterday's stage performance in Ottawa, we'll air that in full, with me, Tal and "I'll Never Smile Again", on Friday's edition of The Mark Steyn Show.