Tuesday, 25 August 2009

When Aggers met Allers

TMS is always likely to throw up some unexpected events from time to time, as you'd expect if you were to pack a daily eight-hour live radio show with eccentrics, egomaniacs and oddballs.

I say this with fondness, and my enjoyment of Test Match Special is well documented, but I don't there's any getting away from the fact that it is hardly representative of the common man.

It's a strange mix between public-school chaps and working-class lads, an unlikely mix that nevertheless comes off brilliantly.

One of the former is Jonathan 'Aggers' Agnew, probably the man most heavily associated with the programme now that Johnners has gone to the big commentary box in the sky, CM-J taking a back seat and Blowers is seemingly semi-retired.

The juxtaposition of Aggers and Boycott and Aggers and Tuffnell respectively are two all-time great TMS pairings to my mind, and it's this clash of styles and characters that makes the programme so unique.

It's a commonly-held idea in TV land that opposites attract, a mantra that is patently untrue as often as it works, hence bizarre pairings such as Tess Daly and Bruce Forsyth, Des O'Connor and Melanie Sykes and Vic'n'Bob with Alice Beer.

But it works on TMS because of the mutual love of cricket. That theory was rather tested to its limit during the last test when the View From the Boundary interview segment featured urchin-like coquette Lily Allen.

Allen, a recent convert to cricket, had been entranced by the hairy delights of Graham Onions and had formed an unlikely friendship with Aggers via Twitter.

Naturally an interview was arranged and, to be fair, Aggers did seem rather more excited than he would if he were interviewing, for example, Chris Tavare.

The interview passed off in much the same way as most Agnew interviews do. I'm a great admirer of his technique, which consists of being so nice to the interviewee that they inevitably drop their guard, at which point Aggers starts firing off some rather more tricky posers - albeit in the nicest possible way.

The TMS commentator certainly did his best with Allen, but seemed occasionally flustered as Lily giggled, teased and flirted outright. It was like listening to Harry Potter interview Lolita.

Somehow, in an article in The Grauniad, this has been recounted as a leering, panting Agnew slavering all over a repulsed Allen.

I'm baffled at this piece of writing by Will Buckley (though The Grauniad has form with deliberately provocative articles), even accounting for the mischievous 'I'm joking, of course' tone.

Agnew has not seen the funny side, and has publicly called for an apology from Buckley on Twitter.

I can see why. While there exists a definite schoolboy level of Carry On-style smuttiness in the TMS box - I recall two distinct occasions recently when Agnew had to scold Tuffers for his innuendo, and another where Boycott teased Agnew that he fancied another guest - the accusation that Aggers was 'perving' over Allen rather crosses an imaginary line beyond which TMS does not venture.

The programme exists, rather uniquely, in a slightly rose-tinted vaccuum, sealed off from the real world and its sex, politics and beastliness. Therein lies its appeal – the crackly 198 LW Radio 4 broadcast, the cakes, gentlemen in whites, claret and TMS ties.

Even the likes of Matty Hayden and Russell Crowe seemed a little altered, a little more pleasant, by its effect, and the complicated Tuffnell and Boycott are lent an air of the scampish and avuncular respectively in the TMS surroundings.

Buckley's assertion that Agnew spent the Allen interview lusting over a young girl does not sit comfortably in this world, and the notion is grossly unfair.

It's not simply Not Cricket, it's simply Not Test Match Special.

• UPDATE: Lily Allen has defended Aggers, The Torygraph has waded in, and Buckley has apologised.

He admits to a joke not really finding its mark, which is fair enough, though someone probably should have seen this coming.


  1. I agree. I'm appalled that the Guardian (or was it The Observer?) published this and have not, as yet, forced an apology. I guess maybe their current anti Beeb stance justifies even 'journalism' like this. It's a Very Bad Show. (Not TMS obviously - that's a wonderful show.)

  2. Hear hear, that Buckley article was terrible! Ended up late to a wedding because of the Aggers/Allen interview, didn't want to get out of the car!

  3. There's no smoke without fire though, as the old saying goes. Aggers had clearly demonstrated an attraction to Allen through the preceding weeks and was not ashamed to flirt on air. If he's going to do that, he's going to open himself up to criticism. We can argue about the form and content on that criticism, but he could have handled the situation differently and avoided any issues.

    Why an older man lusting after a younger woman on the Beeb hasn't attracted criticism in its own right I'm not so sure!

  4. That's Aggers' style though, so it wasn't 'an older man lusting after a younger woman'


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