Did you not threaten to overrule him, Paxman? Did you not threaten to overrule your editor when he told you that he was going to let you finish your career in such an embarrassing and God-awful fashion that you’d end up looking like more of a nipple than Boris Johnson? Did you? Answer the question. Did you not threaten to overrule him? Did you? DID YOU? You should have.
A friend of mine admitted that he wept – wept! – as the credits rolled last night. I was split on the matter; weep or vomit, weep or vomit. Actually, I wasn’t sure whether to weep, vomit or breathe a sigh of relief. For if this had been just a regular episode of Newsnight, Paxman would surely have been fired.
The problem with last night is that it presumed that someone who is a genius at one very specific thing must also be a genius at everything else. And though Paxman is undoubtedly a giant at monstering his fellow man, there’s not much evidence that he’s good at anything else, like being funny, likeable or clever. He’s just a bastard. A very great bastard, who doesn’t care if you’re the leader of the country or about to fly to the moon. He’s probably the best bastard the world’s seen since whoever started the Spanish Inquisition.
And so when his editor thrust him into various positions where he was forced to do something other than be a bastard – such as be funny on a tandem (which has never been a funny scenario to put anyone through even when they did it on Last of the Summer Wine) – he came across a loser. Only at the end, with the start of the valedictory music (which the editor clearly hadn’t okayed with Paxo) did Paxman’s professionalism return and his face re-assume its usual why-am-I-surrounded-by-such-cretins look.
The worry is that he’s now earned enough brownie points for him to live out the rest of his days cashing in on all the good-will and make our life a misery by never properly retiring, becoming a ‘national treasure’ and forcing the BBC to let him make a 500-episode documentary on his sock collection. In other words, he’s played a total blinder – as you’d expect of any world-class bastard.