“And a very good
evening to you”. It’s not a phrase
anyone uses in real life. It’s
particularly odd when a major BBC TV news bulletin starts with those words, just
after we've witnessed dark images of death and destruction around the World. It’s even odder when those pictures are as truly
appalling as they have been in recent weeks.
Why is it a good evening? More to the point, why is it a
very good evening?
It’s all very polite, but does it not sound strange? Just like
the obsession in radio and TV with ‘thank
Note when newsreaders do their thing and the presenter utters the
gratuitous ‘thank you very much, Susanne’.
For what exactly?
Why does Susanne enjoy the privilege of being thanked; and
not those who sang the songs or made the ads, or those hard-working jingle-singers.
It’s most unfair. I do find particularly fascinating those who
thank the network newsreaders many hundreds of miles away down the line, in the full knowledge
that the reader will never hear the fulsome gratitude. Is it not like writing a thank you letter and
ripping it up?
Witness too, those occasions when a studio presenter takes
some time to preface an OB report. They go to pains in
the delivery of the cue to describe the background and carefully set the scene for
the report. On TV, that studio presenter
even goes to the trouble of half-nodding at the end of the cue, with the head
sympathetically on an angle as they anticipate the report unfolding. At that point, just when the listener or viewer
has been taken emotionally into the very heart of the story, the remote presenter
breaks the spell and chooses to say a chirpy ‘thank you very much, John’. For
what exactly? Reading the cue? Maybe even a cue into which the reporter had considerable
Why whisk the listener away from the place they have been
taken, back into the politeness of the English sitting room? Given there’s also
likely been a gap for the ISDN line or satellite feed to catch up, the whole
thing sounds inordinately pregnant.
Guests have caught on too. Maybe it’s part of their media training. ‘This
situation has been described as appalling by many consumer. Fred
Farnsbarns is from the trade body. Fred,
people have been seriously injured owing to these problems, what have you got
to say about it? “, struts the presenter with theatrical aggression. “Good morning”, responds guest Fred, before pausing;
stubbornly determined not to carry on until the grumpy presenter spits out a reluctant sotto voce ‘good morning’ back.
Callers are almost as bad. In midst phone-in, at just the opportune moment,
a presenter will swiftly turn to a caller for input ‘John, this has happened to you hasn’t it?’, they query, smiling smugly that they have managed
to conduct the orchestra of voluntary contributors so skillfully. Caller John then merrily ignores the question - and just says ‘good morning’ to the presenter.
What’s more, the caller then
proceeds to ask the presenter ‘how
are you?’? This British ‘how are you?’ business is a puzzle to
most people from outside our fair Isles.
They correctly observe that neither of the participants in a Home Counties ‘how are you?’ exchange is
remotely interested in each other’s welfare.
Let’s stop saying ‘thank you’, or ‘thank you very much’, or ‘thank
you very much indeed’ or ‘thank you very much indeed there’. Or ‘thank you very much indeed there,
Trevor’. Or ‘good morning’, or ‘good
evening’. Or ‘a very good morning’. It usually isn’t.
If we stop, maybe callers and guests will swiftly catch on and
we can all be as naturally rude to each other as we are in real life and save
an awful lot of time. And not appear
weird when we describe the most atrocious sights this Century as being part of
a good evening.
Grab my book 'How to Make Great Radio'. Published by Biteback. https://www.bitebackpublishing.com/books/how-to-make-great-radio