Peter Rhodes on the joy of Repair Shop, the threat of secateurs and banning everybody from laughing about anything

Read today's column from Peter Rhodes.

Secateur man
Secateur man

THE BBC veteran John Humphrys says, with hindsight, it was an "unwise choice" to chase an intruder out of his garden while brandishing only a pair of garden secateurs. Maybe so. On the other hand, you can't put a price on the satisfaction of putting the fear of God into the ungodly. And while secateurs may not seem the deadliest of weapons, they do plant a very special terror in the hearts, and other organs, of lawbreaking males. You could lose more than your liberty.

ONE of my favourite telly ads is the one for Specsavers where the short-sighted vet mistakes his assistant's fur hat for a dying cat. It ends with a real cat which has witnessed this drama, gulping. And that little feline gulp makes me laugh. Every time. Time after time. And yet doesn't this ad encourage veterinarians to ignore their eyesight until it's almost too late? Doesn't it make light of feline illness? Does it not reinforce gender stereotypes (stupid man, wise woman)? Might it not make small children cry, or startle the horses? If you are stupid enough to be deadly serious about every advert on the box, you could make a case for banning every one of them.

THAT'S what happened to an advert for Philadelphia which showed a distracted father accidentally leaving his toddler on a restaurant conveyor belt.. Of the millions who saw it, 128 complained and that was enough for the Advertising Standards Authority to ban it for "harmful gender stereotypes." A Volkswagen advert was banned on the same grounds after just three complaints. This is madness.

WE are reaching the point where comedy, artistic licence and freedom of expression can be crushed by a handful of po-faced zealots who either demand the literal truth in everything they see or have become experts in finding things at which to take offence. In the old days, censorship by the Lord Chamberlain was bad enough but at least we knew who he was. Today we face censorship by a handful of anonymous complainers who, for all we know, may have issues of their own. The zealots vet our viewing but nobody vets the zealots.

MEANWHILE, the funniest joke at this year's Edinburgh Fringe was judged to be this: "I keep randomly shouting out ‘broccoli!’ and ‘cauliflower!’ – I think I might have Florets.” This makes light of the mental condition Tourette Syndrome. Censor it. Ban it. Lock up the writer. Victory will be ours, comrades, when we stop anyone laughing about anything.

THE Repair Shop (BBC2) is a surprise hit, with two million viewers following the tale of Grandad's military chest or Aunt Sadie's favourite doll being restored to their former glory. It poses two questions, only one of which I can answer. Firstly, who pays for the repairs? Apparently, it's all done for free although participants are invited to make a donation to charity. Secondly, are the punters contractually obliged not to leave the show before blubbing? That's how it seems.

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