I pitched the advert idea to Fips, to try and get it circulated while Dog’s Bowl are thinking about it; he laughed his head off for ages, then said, ‘No, we don’t do stuff like that.’ Then he took about fifteen minutes to make the point that he’d made in the first thirty seconds, that his was not the sort of agency that represented advertising copy ideas. It’s quite like having a father figure actually – but unfortunately just the same as the one he replaced.
‘I rang you to pitch you a different idea actually,’ I told him, to which he replied, ‘what did you tell me about that other stuff for then?’ And began explaining again why he was the wrong person to call with such ideas all over again. When he finally stopped talking, I said, ‘if I find any of my own clients, will I still retain the right to pay you 15% of all the work I do for them?’
And he laughed, and Fips is one of those who when he laughs can’t help but fall in a heap as if it’s the most absurd thing he’s ever heard, so I forgave him, then he said, ‘I’ve got a couple of mates who are well on in that game, I’ll get them to take a call from you.’
Why didn’t he just say that at the beginning? I thought. I suppose because, as I’ve now concluded, he’s still training me, and if that is right, he might yet be that other model of father figure, which is capable of subtle plays and variations in his mentoring, such that you might perhaps come to trust him in his mission to render you a better product; and not like the original in the series, whose approach to counselling is more designed in favour of bolstering his own rectitude.
Either that, or he has ADHD tendencies like me, and can’t help shooting his mouth off when he doesn’t really mean it, and can’t think of anything else to do or say to fill the space but feels obliged to make a noise? I’ve got a checklist I’m working on and I’m going to start plotting him on it too, so that it closer resembles a controlled experiment.
So, then I pitched him my TV show. It’s to be based on the fact that the following are popular: cookery shows; relaxing with celebrities; slagging people off; and fake reality; which for some reason, have never yet been combined to create an all-round family entertainment package. You can build a set that looks like a kitchen-diner, as if it belongs to the host, then you invite a different celebrity round every week, and they can either cook a meal, have a drink, whatever – we present it under the myth that the host and the guest are just embarking on a real-life friendship, as if they’ve met a couple of times at a party, or have a friend in common (N.B.: they do not have a mutual friend, which is a solecism). And they pop round to see each other – like the way Ronnie Corbett, Bruce Forsyth and Roy Castle used to do with each other at Christmas. If they’re to cook, they must either do something simple that can be assembled during the show, or have it half-prepared before they turn up, so that you can just put it in the oven when they arrive and have a drink while it cooks through – the point being that they actually eat it, like the Galloping Gourmet used to do, and continue talking, as they would if they were at home.
David Cameron, Mark Francois, and Spencer off Made in Chelsea, are all bred on the cross: Galloping Gourmet ex studio invitee dinner guest.
It’s to be just like people’s real lives I tell him – so that sometimes another unexpected person might be there and they just have to deal with it. He sort of warms to the idea a bit and asks a couple more questions, then when I think he’s with me, I tell him that the real bit of originality that we add to the mix is this: that they are honest with each other, instead of dancing round faux manners, and sycophancy, and book and film promotions, in the way that they do on chat shows; and that the unwritten compact, which only we will know, is that the host is intolerant of pap, and if they dare get a bit self-publicisy, they’ll get an even bigger roasting then they were already due. Of course, if they exhibit shyness and humility, and their work is decent, they’ll be treated accordingly.
‘There’s no future in dissing celebrities,’ he tells me, ‘it’s a lore of the business,’ and I tell him that makes it all the more original and worth doing. Plus, I add, the host will be capricious and they won’t know which version of him/her they’re getting on any given day. He mmmd for a while, and I didn’t know whether that meant he was thinking deeply about it, bringing his vast amount of experience to bear on the conundrum, which would clinch it and turn it into a marketable concept, or whether it was just a prelude to a refusal.
Before he spoke again, I added that it’d be like a badge of honour to get a roughing up, you know, I said, like anyone who sells anything, if they were brave enough to tell you how shit it was, they’d probably sell more.
‘You’ll sell that idea better to Gemma Collins than you will Julia Roberts,’ he said. Then went silent again.
As it endured, I dropped, ‘you know, you’ve got to Constanza it up a bit.’ I talk too much. I’ve got to learn to hold it at the front of my mind, that most people don’t like others; that I actually don’t like anyone once I’ve got to know them either; that they are unlikely to like me, and definitely will not, once they’ve got used to me. I’ve got to go into new relationships knowing that the counterparty is as hateful as Big Eggo. Start with hate, and show your decent side by being prepared to let them convince you that they are worthy of better treatment. I’m going to get that down to a few words and turn it into a badge.
Eventually he said, ‘leave it with me. It will only work with a real arsehole, so that it doesn’t look contrived. I’ll see what Paxman is doing.’
We weren’t really having a conversation at this stage, he was puzzling it all over and seemed to forget that I was still on the phone with him, ‘Not him,’ he said after a while, ‘he’s made a brand out of being gratuitously offensive and everyone’s sick of him. Maybe that joyless prick off that nature programme? But he’s thick, isn’t he?’ Then he said, ‘no, no, no, I’ll tell you what, Dominic Cummings. He’d ginger the bastards up a bit.’ Then he put the phone down. And carried on talking to himself I imagine.
But he did email later to remind me to say:
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