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Tune in, switch off - Classy birds and culture to boot

Since the demise of the South Bank Show, viewers with a taste for the arts may have struggled to find something in the schedules to whet their appetite

Since the demise of the South Bank Show, viewers with a taste for the arts may have struggled to find something in the schedules to whet their appetite

But new series The Review Show (BBC Two), promised "cultural comment of the highest order". It was so high, in fact, that I had to turn down the volume. Guests gathered to talk about Obama's first year in office and the Oscar-tipped film Precious. As American politics fascinate me, and I had already watched and marvelled at this must-see movie, I was raring to go.

Kirsty Wark had only four in her group, but it sounded like 40. Viewpoints by the volume and comments by the crate load were poured out in simultaneous transmission. I was worried the neighbours would complain about the noise. It was like one of those "rounds" in music where each singer comes in a few bars after the previous one and then sings on, ignoring everyone else.

The clips, though, would be great for teacher training. Kirsty displayed classic "how not to do it" classroom control and talked over everyone. She would have struggled to collect dinner money from them.

The panel analysed Obama as if he were a work of art. A grey-garbed Bonnie Greer sighed, almost cried over the "pointy-headed intellectual", the "first viral president" who was now "breaking people's hearts". Apparently he was never real - just "a construct". Well, he has had me fooled all along.

Novelist Harry Kunzu described the President as "a nerd" who only became human when he announced the troop surge in Afghanistan. Apparently this meant he was no longer in charge of his own destiny. The most powerful person on the planet barely human and not in control? Where does that leave the rest of us, just struggling to get through to half-term?

In between trying to keep order, Kirsty even offered her own commentary. To her, Obama was a "global counter-cultural icon". I'm waiting for the A-level sociologists to explain that to me.

Paddy McGuinness displayed marginally better classroom management in the new Saturday night "pre-pub" offering, Take Me Out (ITV1). He lined up 30 love-shorn ladies, searching for a fella in a cross between Blind Date and Fifteen to One. Lights on screens indicated female acceptance. Tom from Surrey pranced around scratching his crotch like a peacock on heat to the screams of the teams. One rejected him because his skin was too tight - a "wind tunnel" look. But his fiery saxophone performance enabled Paddy to use an extinguisher and a double entendre at the same time. Then, roles reversed, Tom turned off the lights of the girls he had just turned on. I think the show is a cultural phenomenon, too, or should that be counter-cultural? I had better check with Kirsty.

Ray Tarleton is principal of South Dartmoor Community College in Ashburton, Devon.

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