This is a great week to be watching TV in the UK.
Full disclosure: When I’m not editing Indiewire, I’m a full-on media junkie. And the current News of the World scandal has been nothing short of riveting — not only for accusations that could make it the Watergate of the 21st century, or the possibility that it could seriously ding the previously impervious Murdoch empire, but also because it’s been an extraordinary opportunity to show off the oratory talents of some of Britain’s best-known comedians.
First there was Hugh Grant, who comported himself so well in his interview with the BBC News (and displayed heretofore unknown sleuthing skills) it’s hard to believe that this is a man who built his career on stuttering.
And now there’s my hero Steve Coogan (current star of “The Trip”), who takes down former “News of the World” features editor and full-time weasel Paul McMullan (who Grant also faced down — and it, should be noted, that characterization is not a metaphor; based on his behavior, I’m fairly convinvced McMullan is an actual rodent) on the BBC’s “Newsnight,” which is sort of the UK’s after-hours version of “Meet the Press.”
Here’s a small sample:
McMullan: I’ve tried to write articles in a truthful way and what better way is there of getting the truth than listening to someone’s messages. [emphasis mine]
Coogan: I think you’re a walking PR disaster for the tabloids. You come across as a risible individual who is symptomatic of everything that’s wrong with the tabloids. You’re not trying to uncover corruption. You’re just trying to find out who’s sleeping with who. It’s morally bankrupt and you are morally bankrupt.
Now, that’s entertainment. You’ve got to watch it.