A Touch Of Frost

David Frost 74….hmmm.
I actually remember That Was The Week That Was. I suppose I was 11 years old. It was late night Saturday viewing and as I recall “open ended”.
Live TV certainly.
A stock company which included singers David Kernan, Milicent Martin…and actors, William Rushton, Lance Percival, Kenneth Cope, Roy Kinnear and others.
Certainly I was 11 years old, when Milicent sang that song about Kennedys assassination. On reflection that MADE TWTWTW more than Bernard Levin getting punched or frankie Howerd or the disapproval of the McMillan Government.
It was late night TV…adult…and yet the only time I can recall my father disaproving was a Kinnear- Martin acted sketch about Contraception.
And for the most part, I recall that a live show in front of a live audience, things can and DO go wrong. There was a certain look of fear in all the actors. Some sketches fell flat. No laughs. No applause.
Frost was the ringmaster….and really no more than a 24 year old posh Oxbridge graduate…a bit smarmy, even then.
Peter Cook claimed that the idea for a late night satire show was his.
Perhaps the most telling quote about Frost is from Peter Cook.
He claimed (truthfully) that he had saved David Frost from drowning….and that he would always regret it. Aparently this was a joke.

While TV satire and comedy went in one direction…Monty Python and The Goodies (on a show they gave frost a medal for Plagiarism)….Frost went in another direction. The TV Talk Show or the Frost Report.
Memorably for a Norn Iron perspective a Sunday night Frost Show was about the Civil Rights Movement and featured John Hume.

Thats the frustrating thing about David Frost. He was a satirist, a hard-hitting interviewer, a soft interviewer, a quasi anti-Establishment figure from the 1960s who became extremely Establishment …and mega rich.
And of course the sheer campness and awfulness of “Thru The Keyhole” featuring A-list celeb Frost and some B-list celebs on a panel, looking at the houses of C-list celebs.
Of course, if Frost was really “anti-establishment” he would never have had a BBC career in the first place. BBC likes to hire people like Dara O’Briain, Hugh Dennis and Ian Hislop to say occasionally rude things…but basically they are absorbed into mainstream Establishment. Be consistently anti-establishment like Frankie Boyle and youre not on BBC.
Was the highlight of Frosts career really interviewing Richard Nixon about Watergate?
Or was it….being played by Michael Sheen…in a movie about that event?
Hard to really disentangle the professional broadcaster…was he the first TELEVISION broadcaster who had no connexion to Newspapers or Radio.
As the Usual Suspects at the Beeb clamour to sing his praises….why is it that I just didnt like him very much?

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11 Responses to A Touch Of Frost

  1. hoboroad says:

    Frost was once asked if he voted. No he replied they’re all my friends. Sums the man up if you ask me.

    • Yes, he was very much inside the circle wasn’t he? Once he got his feet in there he had no intention of being booted out. But his early stuff, when he was still working his way in, was his best. He was the anti-establishment. For a wee while.

      • No…I cant agree.
        he was never going to be a truly loose cannon.
        TW3…headed by Ned Sherrin was a curious mix. Sherrin would be far too elitist.
        But the idea was born out of Cambridge and all that. Peter Cook. Even Ian McKellen.
        And it brushed against a peculiar 1950s early 1960s type comedy in London…the Revue..Danny LaRue, Ronnie Corbett, Kenneth Wiliams which was “insider” in that the West End London “society” audiences got the references to important people and their secret vices.
        david Kernan and Milicent Martin (I last saw her as Daphnes mother in Cheers) were from that tradition.
        William Rishton…public schoolboy, artist, professional toff was a key person in Private Eye and British comedy.
        Lance Percival the white!!! Calypso guy was also a revue type comedian but he will occasionally show up in Carry On films.
        If you can check out a song called “Shame and Scandal in the Family”.

        Kenneth Cope went on to be Sonny Jim in Coronation Street, Hopkirk Deceased in Randall and Hopkirk Deceased and in Brookside of course. No public schoolboy, he was a Liverpool character actor.
        Likewise Roy Kinnear, a character actor…light comedy such as George And Mildred (he was Gerry the Builder). Died falling off a horse during the filming of The Three Musketeers.

        Frost…and the suspicion that Frost was “always on the make” and sold out seems to be strongly held by his early collaborators.

    • I could never be like that.
      maybe thats a flaw in my character.
      necessarily to work or to pursue a hobby…football,horses, golf whatever it is entirely right and proper to have friends from all backgrounds.
      But I have never understood the apolitical…journalists who have friends in the political spectrum …to the point where they have no opinion of their own.
      Indeed there is something bland….movers, shakers, lobbyists etc who will just get along with whoever is in charge.

      • @FJ,

        Ah, but the rebels always join the pre-existing elites (or form their own). The “Alternative Comedy” set of the 1980s and early ‘90s in Britain are all now mainstream. Some of them have turned to the sort of TV they used to revile (Ade Edmondson doing a “Countryfile” for ITV!). Very few of the 1980s’ iconoclasts are still fighting the good fight. Most have joined the others dogs at the top of the dung-hill. To be honest I can’t really think of anyone in Britain of that era who still is even vaguely rebellious. Mark Thomas perhaps, though he was more 1990s and is now very much out in the cold.

        As for Ireland, sure look at our own Dear Leader up there in Iveagh House. His days in the Republican Clubs and the Workers Party long behind him. Ne’ry a mention of any “Group B” shenanigans in his CV. No doubt he will be with the great and good in Derry for the passing of Séamus Heaney. Maybe he and Martin McGuinness can exchange notes?

      • Oh youre right about that.
        just look at Ben Elton.
        arguably Alexei Sayle, Mark Thomas, Mark Steele, Paul Merton did not sell out.
        There is something bizarre about Adrian Edmondsons Show.
        or Tony Robinson….er SIR Tony.

        There is something where people ride the current wave to SHOW BIZ.
        Frost….was everything…Comedy, Business Man, Journalist, ShowBiz.
        he was just “too much David Frost “

  2. I liked Frost, though I was too young for his heyday. To me he was Sunday morning politics. But he was also representative of an era that still retained that 1970s’ jet-set glamour. Whenever I think of Frost I also think of Peter Ustinov. Though the latter was the greater man. I had a look back at some clips of his old 1960s’ shows. Some are magnificent.

    • If you ever see the John Hume clip circa 1968…passion etc. Hume at his best.
      But its too easy a mix for me…The Frost Report, the Frost Programme, bad puns on Thru The Keyhole.
      Sunday morning cosiness.

  3. hoboroad says:

    I remember reading Private Eye in the 1990’s. Frost was a regular target. One diary piece written by Craig Brown I presume was really nasty. It showed Frost as a vain egotist neglecting his family to fly around the world first class in order to make TV programmes.

  4. I couldn’t care less about him.

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