Thursday, 4 March 2010

Penny Smith

News has just broken of Penny Smith's intention to leave GMTV after 17 years. This will be quite a sea-change for GMTV, as nothing better represents their particular niche in current affairs/lifestyle broadcasting than this journalist and presenter.

Following Ms Smith participation in the BBC's reality-ent show Just The Two Of Us, a show born during the apogee of such television during the noughties, Framescourer wrote this admiring editorial of her unwillingness to capitulate to the pseud criticism of the ubiquitous "judges panel":
Penny Smith, An Example To Us All

All hail Penny Smith. We'd undertaken to follow this latest Gawd-bless-em pageant of plebiscite-anaesthitising mediocrity to report on Mz [Fiona] Bruce and Smith. We continued to be confounded as to what anyone's idea of what exactly the point might be.

Well here it is. The Beeb's been filling a week of its evenings with low-to-borrowed concept graphic-rich confection which places implicit - and disproportionate - demands on the contestant celebrities. Doubtless some agency was at work to persuade them of the benefit of their involvement, in terms of their personal stock, the benefits to their career, their employer... 'big personal investment could generate big personal return' etc.

Penny Smith has come on to the show like a parent at Sports Day or a School Fete. Of course I'll join in, she says, but I am well and truly fucked to buggery if I'm going to take seriously any component part of this show. I am going to do exactly what I like, as long as it's not hurting anyone else.

So she upsets the mawkishly self-righteous panel of pedantry, trying (with the probable exception of Stuart Copland) to look like they're taking it seriously, forcing Tess Daly into a compering position Trisha Godard or Jeremy Kyle would blanche at and making snobby middle class media-conscious artisans such as yours truly huff and puff and generally get our knickers in a twist. Tonight's key exchange came following the first round (yes, there were two rounds): Judge 4 (the screen doesn't tell me what her name is and I don't care sufficiently to investigate) almost shouts 'It's a singing competition!' to which Penny drops her facade for a beat to respond 'I'm a newsreader, not a performer!'.

Quite. So if you want the pathos of exposed vulnerability or the catty, defensive confrontation of sold-out pannelists clashing with back-footed personalities there are half a dozen or so others. If you want to see a newsreader trying to sing, vote Fiona Bruce (we didn't, so we didn't).

But Penny Smith has come in playing none of the games expected of her. She's not a performer. Neither is she representing herself or anyone else as a newsreader qui chant. And finally she's not going to be just another celebrated personality who, in either shouting or crying, denegrates herself personally.

As I write Penny, finally evicted, is giving an encore performance of the duet she did earlier with not the least interest or effort - but this time round with neither self-consciousness nor shoes. Bravo.
Of course, Penny Smith isn't just a pretty blonde face of complacent British middle-class smugvision. You can't be part of a major show like GMTV, let alone for as long as she has without considerable journalistic talent. Equally, as this piece on Just The Two Of Us barely suggests, Ms Smith isn't just a Classic FM-like dilletante but a rather more serious consumer of culture - this blogger almost knocked her over during the interval of Prokofiev's rarely performed The Gambler last month.

Goodbye Penny Smith and good luck.

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