Our Daytime Sitcom Life – The One Where Peter Hitchens Does blah blah blah etc

apologies for the deja vu of this blog post, here we go again


Remakes are tricky, especially if the original is in living memory. Newsnight tried to pull this off on Monday and, like El Mariachi and Battle Beyond the Stars, even included some of the original cast. The original starred Russell Brand and Peter Hitchens, sometimes billed by his stage name, “the hated Peter Hitchens”. The remake replaced the original British celebrity addict with an American name, perhaps to aid international sales (much like The Quatermass Experiment movie), but Peter Hitchens agreed to revisit his part. 

I have met Peter Hitchens and found him quite pleasant off set but when the cameras were on I found him a bit silly. On occasion, I find myself agreeing with him, but there is usually a later paragraph where it all goes awry. He is much like David Icke, there are moments where I nod, then I turn the page and go, “ah, perhaps not”. Some write that they find it hard to comprehend that he is the brother of Christopher Hitchens, but there is similarity in their tenacity, certainty of themselves and intransigence, even if Peter doesn’t have the same corrosive wit and flamboyant intelligence. I found myself sharing more of Peter’s views on the latest Gulf war than Christopher. What is implied by those that can’t imagine their genetic ties is, “how come I agree with one and not the other?” 

I find Peter’s self-aggrandising, self-declared sobriquet of “the hated” an amusing addition, as if revealing that this is all music hall really.  It’s like a comedian declaring that they are “edgy”. 

Matthew Perry has all the good guy credentials that this TV bout likes to trail, square jawed, the product of a beloved sitcom, he had it all, then fell into the abyss, but has now risen again. 

The redemption story and the heart of gold.

The fallen champion now clean and back for the prize bout.  

Baroness Meacher is there too, but like so many Hollywood flicks, she may have been cast, but the fireworks are really expected between the two male leads. (though as it was she actually gave the sanest and most factual answers)

The referee is Paxman. Let the games begin. Biting and sniping allowed, no enlightening, the crowd want a fight that allows them to depart none the wiser and as certain of their opinions as when they went in. 

So Matthew Perry said nothing in particular, a loose statistic, a bit of hubbub, a sort of blurry positivity about drugs courts. Peter Hitchens started reasonably logically –


“if you wan t to stop people being drugs user then the best thing to do is make sure they don’t start in the first place”


Then, he got to the nub of his hubris, fear will stop the drug dabbling. If ferocious punishment hangs over us all, then there will be no needle and damage done. 

Addiction is a fiction. Peter Hitchens seems an alien to empathy. It would have bee interesting to hear a hint of the research that has led to this conclusion, and it was one with dogmatic certainty, but none came forth.

Paxman looked jovial, jabbing to create the maximum entertainment from something that would have no educational value. 

It descended into a silliness of name calling, flat jokes and po-facedness which is often considered to be a perfectly acceptable substitute for evidence. 

“He must know what he’s talking about look at his serious face and furrowed brow.”

The winner was Twitter trends and Newsnight’s iplayer hits. Baroness Meacher came out reasonably unscathed, trying to offer actual information. I would like to have heard more, but this was just a soapy celebrity spat. 

Is it better to have fewer people watching, but actually be fed something to chew on, or have a bigger audience who leave with every preconception intact? 

The shallows seem so safe, but by playing in the shallows, by not offering the risks of depth, will TV just evaporate. Even the most important stories will be dealt with with such frivolity, no one will care. All life must come with a laugh track, the canned laughter of daytime sitcom, the joy of My Family. 

New tour for 2014 – Sheffield, Norwich, Nottingham, Salford and the rest, plus tours with Josie Long and Grace Petrie and Skeptics in the Pub visits. Details HERE 

Happiness Through Science DVD (w/ Prof Cox commentary) HERE


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8 Responses to Our Daytime Sitcom Life – The One Where Peter Hitchens Does blah blah blah etc

  1. I’m glad I’m not the only one who felt the ‘Matthew Perry destroys Peter Hitchens’ assessment I saw from some people when posting the link was, at best, overstated. One said ‘Matthew Perry makes Peter Hitchens look like a complete idiot’ but Hitchens was more than capable of doing this unaided.

    I once attended a debate between The Hated Peter Hitchens and Will Self about gun control. Peter Hitchens was perhaps unsurprisingly in favour of arming civilians and made the argument that ‘well, cars kill a lot people too so…’. When the really-very-obvious idea that cars were also ‘socially useful’ was pointed out to him, instead of conceding this point, he refused to break character. ‘I don’t think cars are socially useful at all, terrible things’.

  2. lanceleuven says:

    “if you wan t to stop people being drugs user then the best thing to do is make sure they don’t start in the first place”

    But should we really be trying to stop people taking drugs? Isn’t it up to them? Once they start harming others, then there’s the time to step in. But up until that time. It’s up to them.

    • Keeno says:

      I dream of a time where mankind is mature enough to use these chemical that (largely) nature and evolution has provided us with, in an enhancing and helpful manner. A small amount of MDMA when empathy and connection is required. A lick of THC when food or music is being enjoyed to heighten the perception, or when a tangential lok at a proble is required. A touch of Diamorpine when a deep release from anxiety is helpful. A kaleidoscope of psilocybin when one wants to convene with nature and behold the wonders of the giain mind. a cheeky line of cocaine when energy and focus are required. a breakthrough of DMT when we need to lose our ego fully and behold the universe and what is beyond this waking consciousness.
      I think these molecules interact with our brains for a reason, and if we were to use them at the right time, in the right amounts, in the right set and setting and with the right information and guidance, we would reap great benefits from them.
      but we’re not mature, and abuse is so so easy, when we’re struggling every day to succeed, and sometimes need an escape route from the madness of our psyches. And I also think there’s far to many negative influences out there who don’t want us to be the best we can, so this prohibition will likely wrangle on forever. And as such, a proper debate won’t be had, and wouldn’t be given air time as it’s still seen to be a scourge against society.

  3. I was actually invited to partake in this segment – as a drug policy analyst for the Transform Drug Policy Foundation. I had some other stuff on that night but was ready to cancel; Newsnight is a naturally big gig for someone in my position and the opportunities don’t come along that often. But I baulked when they told me who the other participants were.

    Why, I asked were they doing a segment on drug courts at all? The answer was that they were doing the segment purely because Perry was in town and wanted to do some media to promote drugs courts. Its fine that hes into the issue but should Newsnight base its editorial choices purely on celebrity. Perry is a perfectly sincere chap – but hes not a drug court expert. Where, I asked were the treatment professionals, the law enforcers, drug court judges, or criminologists? Perry and Hitchens it seems, were brought in to make ‘good TV’; serious debate is a secondary concern – the ratings and twitter/media responses dont lie.

    Drug courts are not even a big subject in the UK (where we have had court ordered treatment referrals in one form or another for years anyway – there was not even a specific new hook; It was simply that a famous person was in town and wanted to talk about it. To put this into context; last week Uruguay legalised cannabis – the first country in the world to do so; a story that has direct relevance to the future of UK drug policy. By any standard this was probably the biggest international drug policy story of the year, if not some years. But got almost no coverage and Transform go no calls as experts on that subject, because there was no studio debate on Newsnight.

    So anyway – I ended up blowing it out and suggesting they get someone else – Meacher being one of the other possibilities. She did well but was rather drowned out by the bigger egos in the room whom Paxman did little to reign in.

    Historically I’m a big fan of newsnight but it feels like they are becoming increasingly tabloid. Its disappointing as theres simply no need, They are a public service broadcast and should be doing serious coverage of serious stories – not getting into lame ratings battles with commercial news channels with pointless tabloid filler like this. Its just a bit rubbish.

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