Daily Mail Weekend Magazine - - NEWS - Ni­cole Lam­pert

‘They’re all con­niv­ing and fal­li­ble, but like­able’

the un­likely heart-throb in their midst. Sim­i­larly, in meet­ings no one wants to put their heads above the para­pet for fear of be­ing shot down. ‘Peo­ple say­ing less than they mean has be­come a fea­ture of cor­po­rate and pub­lic life,’ says John Mor­ton. ‘Your worst night- mare is be­ing caught out by say­ing what you ac­tu­ally think. You hear this on the To­day pro­gramme all the time.

‘So they’re trained to stop that hap­pen­ing, then along comes a Trump or a Farage and peo­ple say, “My God, he just says what he thinks.” You have that with Hugh Skinner’s char­ac­ter Will. I’ve al­ways seen him as a holy fool who’s quite out­side that world, which gives him a kind of odd strength.’

Some­how the hap­less se­nior man­age­ment team al­ways seems to be fire­fight­ing as the Beeb veers from one cri­sis to another. ‘I have no inside knowl­edge of the BBC, but I imag­ine work­ing there is re­ally dif­fi­cult,’ says John. ‘Peo­ple are fal­li­ble. They do mess up and vie with each other for po­si­tion. Be­cause we’re all lit­er­ally in­vested in it, if they do some­thing that peo­ple think is wrong or not good enough we feel per­son­ally af­fronted.’

The show is filmed partly at Pinewood Stu­dios and partly at the real Broad­cast­ing House in London, and one of the com­edy’s many joys is see­ing how fic­tion mir­rors real life. The real W1A build­ing has sev­eral rooms ded­i­cated to BBC leg­ends, but in the show a fic­tional Frankie How­erd room ren­ders the con­cept ridicu­lous as Ian bel­lows, ‘See you in Frankie How­erd.’ This year many of the scenes take place in the Mary Berry room, which re­ally does ex­ist at Broad­cast­ing House.

Many peo­ple at the BBC un­der­stand­ably recog­nise them­selves in the show. ‘The num­ber of ex­ec­u­tives who come up to me and say, “You don’t know the half of it!”’ says Hugh. ‘That’s the usual re­ac­tion. The funny thing is, I’ve never been asked for more self­ies than when we film at the BBC. You’d think they’d be too cool for that. The re­porter Frank Gard­ner was buzzing around tak­ing self­ies with us in the back­ground.’

David West­head, who plays Head of News Neil Read, agrees. ‘Peo­ple like Huw Ed­wards are run­ning up to get their pic­ture taken with us. It’s bonkers. I got asked to give a speech for a se­nior news ex­ec­u­tive who was leav­ing af­ter 25 years. I said, “‘You know I’m not the real Head of News and Cur­rent Af­fairs?”’ But they said he was just a huge fan of the show. I had no idea who this per­son was or what to say so I just said, “You’ve been use­less for 25 years. Clear your desk now; you’re a dis­grace!” He loved it.’

The char­ac­ters may be ridicu­lous but they’re de­lib­er­ately like­able. ‘It’s not a proper satire – in those you get plea­sure from watch­ing very un­pleas­ant peo­ple out­ma­noeu­vre each other and crash and burn,’ says John Mor­ton. ‘My aspi­ra­tion is they man­age to be con­niv­ing and fal­li­ble, and yet some­how at least some of them are like­able.’

Fans will in­deed mourn the show and its be­wil­dered ex­ec­u­tive Ian Fletcher. ‘All I can say is that on be­half of all of us in se­nior, and in­deed mid­dle, man­age­ment, here at the BB and some­times C it has been a great priv­i­lege,’ says Hugh in his best Ian Fletcher voice. ‘If prob­lems are sim­ply so­lu­tions wait­ing to hap­pen we have an enor­mous amount of so­lu­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties at the BBC. So that’s all good.’ All good in­deed.

Hugh Bon­neville as Head of Val­ues Ian Fletcher with Jes­sica Hynes as Brand Con­sul­tant Siob­han Sharpe

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