The news, should it be your kind of news, or any kind of news, that Matt Baker is to leave The One Show next year has no doubt mildly brushed the lives of anyone with nothing better to do at 7.00pm on a weekday. I watched his predictably tearful announcement (not while watching ‘The One Show’, I hasten to add) and although I didn’t physically perform one, my mind was certainly fully set to ‘disinterested shrug’ mode. Matt Baker is arguably one of the least consequential people on the planet. You may have seen him do all kinds of things for charity and dying people and other assorted elderlies but come judgement day I suspect his actual, tangible impact on humanity will be as faint as an asthmatic whisper in a gale. His problem is that he’s just too nice. Almost worryingly nice.
I don’t mean anything horrible by that last statement; I just have an odd mistrust of anyone who is that nice all the time. There is a chance that once the cameras are off he is a terrible bastard to all and sundry but somehow I find that hard to believe. He reflected on his 9 years of hosting ‘The One Show’ (having taken over from the semi-funny, northern chuckle monkey Jason Manford) and he sincerely thanked everyone who had supported the programme over the years and it dawned on me just how many people really must have nothing better to do at 7.00pm on a weekday. He also said that he was looking forward to having dinner with his family and putting his children to bed and that surprised me a little because I had always assumed that anyone as benign and towelling soft as Matt Baker must be a eunuch. Fancy that.
I don’t have the energy to find out how many years ‘The One Show’ has been going but I can say with some pride that I have never found myself redundant enough to sit through a whole one of them. At best, and even this is rare, it’s been more like the 3/8ths show and that’s only when BBC 1 has been on and I have been momentarily hit with Locked In Syndrome. It’s exactly the kind of show that Alan Partridge should host, only it’s not anywhere near as entertaining. Whenever I flick past it I always see the same kinds of people: Stephen Fry (of course, Mr Ubiquitous), Boycie from ‘Only Fools and Horses’, someone from EastEnders, a mild comedian, a co-host from Baker’s other job – ‘Country File’ (it is one of light entertainments greatest ironies that Matt Baker can host ‘Country File’ and yet still give the impression he should get out more), a Spice Girl, Esther Rantzen, a sort-of-big film star doing the rounds, Robert Plant (always charming, but it still seems like an odd place for an ex-member of Led Zeppelin to turn up), and someone like Michael Ball or Jack Savoretti; who will close the show with a song outside to a small crowd as they develop frostbite.
And of course between the polite, very un-probing interviews there are the features. Features on food banks, heating bills, zebra crossings, flight paths, child obesity, pond escape planks for 3 legged hedgehogs, the massage parlours of Dunstable, badger baiting with Brian May, being old, being deaf, women’s wrestling, toddler boxing, hair implants, nut allergies, the history of doughnuts, a long lost uncle, a secret kitchen, prosthetic elbows, vegetarian blind dates, stammering parrots, Edwardian syphilis, out of date milk, one legged tennis, caravanning in Rotherham, prolapsing llamas and, of course, charity. Because without charity Matt Baker’s life would be an empty husk and every morning he would have to stand in front of the mirror and call himself a failure. For him the highest he ever gets is off the back of a charity canoeing marathon, where he gets to hug the poor sod he’s been raising all that money for and then turns to the camera and says “I’ve been Matt Baker, now it’s back to the BBC studio”. It’s all down hill from there as he gets home to find a microwave dinner and the kids already asleep.
So there he was in tears; the tears of a very nice young man indeed. A pensioner’s idea of a well-mannered, gentle touch gigolo. He’s off to service his family but have no doubt he’ll be back. In fact, even better than that he won’t really go away. He’ll still be counting newts and stroking hedgerows on ‘Country File’ and whenever a few quid is needed to mend a community centre roof or re-inflate the tyres on a wheelchair you can bet your last button he’ll be there, in his glowing cape of many colours. In some ways Matt Baker is too good for this world, but on the other hand if they ever invent a colour blander than magnolia they could do worse than to name it after him.
Incidentally you might well ask what I’ve been doing at 7.00pm every weekday for the last 9 years that makes me so special, and the answer is nothing. In the gym, having a wee, outside having a smoke, taking dinner out of the oven, deciding which slippers to wear, hanging out the washing, replacing my toothbrush head, taking out the rubbish, changing a light bulb, feeding Miss Hairy Mary Miyagi, humming to myself, staring at the wall, watching something else. The point is that no matter how mundane the task it has always taken priority over Matt Baker and The One Show. I’ll save that kind of magnolia for when I have dementia.
G B Hewitt. 5.12.2019