Jonathan Meades

“As a writer and broadcaster about the arts, Jonathan Meades is essentially a nightmare that is happening to the spinning cadaver of Kenneth Clark.” Clive James

Where is Jonathan Meades? In the mid Nineties, he seemed ubiquitous. Turn on a TV in the evening and he’d probably be there, caricaturing himself. A stuffed suit, talking about architecture whilst standing sideways-on in a field looking at a cow. Then he slimmed down, and the transmissions petered out.

Incisive, with the best of judgement, the standard Meades televisual schtick was to deliver a non-stop stream of meaty pronouncements. As each perfectly boned and filleted trope flashed before you, it was whisked away almost before you could grasp the perfection of the execution, and in the meantime, even more excellence thundered past before you’d practically noticed. The man in the suit, who played with all the conventions of presenting, delivered lines in a loud lugubrious monotone, as if he had become too bored with our modern existence to partake in it himself.   Many lines were disdainfully delivered facing away from the camera. Yet this breakneck agility and ice-cold intellectualism was always leavened and made palatable by the addition of his trademark comical Magritte-infused surrealist tableaux.

With his quick soundbites and jokey visuals, you’d think Meades would be perfect for the YouTube generation – so it leads me to wonder why we don’t see more of him about. He would be an ideal candidate to ‘do a Clive James’ and attempt to make a little online media centre to put out short films on pertinent topics. Surely there’s plenty in our current society to raise his ire and offer itself for dismantling. Luckily there’s a whole section of YouTube, the ‘MeadesShrine‘, dedicated to his work. Well worth seeking out. Here’s the start of a series that leads on nicely from Gaw’s Future Post of yesterday:

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About Author Profile: Worm

In between dealing with all things technological in the Dabbler engine room, Worm writes the weekly Wikiworm column every Saturday and our monthly Book Club newsletters.

15 thoughts on “Jonathan Meades

    October 13, 2010 at 09:22

    Loved him mincing around the western Isles in his city schmutter, expected him to be song writing with Bernie Taupin.
    Spot on Worm, Rene would have had him sitting for the one with bowler and apple. If only more of the media creatures were as accurate.

  2. Gaw
    October 13, 2010 at 10:00

    He did a great thing on the North recently. It ended, memorably, in Finland, a fascinating country.

  3. Brit
    October 13, 2010 at 10:31

    Meades has definitely carved out an odd little niche for himself, even amongst the rare breed of Televisual Pontificators. His style is more carefully preposterous than Clive James. I think they should let Tom Paulin do a series in this genre – he would out-preposterise them all.

  4. Worm
    October 13, 2010 at 11:23

    “Finland, Finland, Finland
    The country where I quite want to be
    Your mountains so lofty
    Your treetops so tall

    Finland, Finland, Finland
    Finland has it all”

    Brit – you’re right, Meades is totally preposterous! And yes, Tom Paulin would be super awesome, leaning back, squinting at things and rubbing his chin; before emitting a noise like a deflating lilo.

    Meades actually attended the same west country school as me – a second-rate holding pen for farmer’s sons. He must have left the teachers fairly confounded I suspect.

    October 13, 2010 at 11:29

    He did an excellent fairly recent programme on Scottish football clubs with no obvious link to place. It was top stuff.

  6. Gaw
    October 13, 2010 at 11:57

    Oh yes, I saw that too, Stephen, but had forgotten about it. What I was surprised at were the tiny crowds. It’s amazing some of those matches get reported on the national news when you’ll find more people at any one time in attendance at your local Tesco Extra.

    October 13, 2010 at 12:10

    Meades is too damn clever, and his progs too arty and expensive, for mainstream TV, so he’s been exiled to BBC4, where he emits from time to time. He is the best, tho I thought Peter Ackroyd’s attempts at presenting, channeling Orson Welles, Edgar Lustgarten (and yes Meades) showed promise. He looked as if he’d been wheeled into position and was incapable of anything more than a slow, whole-body turn through 90 degrees. We need more of this kind of presenting. The lugubrious fellow who told us about The Normans had a crack at it, but he clearly had the use of his own legs.

    October 13, 2010 at 12:26

    And then there’s Brian Sewell of course…

    October 13, 2010 at 12:47

    I think Nige may have the revolutionary idea here: Slow Presenting. One could have a series in which the presenter doesn’t appear at all in the first programme, because he will not be disturbed from a long and proper lunch. I watched some of that programme on Scottish football towns with a fascinated horror, as if a visit to Cowdenbeath was on a par with being cast into the abyss. How fitting that Broon is the local MP for one of them. It’s good to be reminded of the programme’s creator. I enjoyed the bits of Magnetic North I saw too. I wonder if he really likes anyone.

  10. Gaw
    October 13, 2010 at 13:17

    Meads seemed to quite like the Finns, Mark. Mostly because their architecture was refreshingly ugly as I recall.

    Apparently, Nige, Peter Ackroyd is a demon disco dancer. I think his approach to locomotion is cetacean – a stately and measured progress very occasionally interrupted by dramatic leaps and dives.

  11. Worm
    October 13, 2010 at 14:21

    but who would win in a dance-off between Ackroyd and Salman Rushdie?

    October 13, 2010 at 14:43

    Meades is one of the best.

    He upped sticks from Britain a few years ago and now lives in France, which may account, to some extent at least, for his absence from our screens. However, I suspect the main reason was that he didn’t fit into any particular pigeonhole and refused to use the words “I’m on a personal journey to discover…” at the start of his shows.

    BBC Four seems a purpose built home for him, so I hope they get commissioning him quick while he’s still prepared to do this sort of stuff.

    The day I discovered the MeadesShrine on YouTube was a highlight of that particular year. Can’t recommend it enough.

  13. Worm
    October 13, 2010 at 15:29

    ah, thanks for commenting and relaying the extra info Burghblue, france seems like the kind of place for Meades, seeing how they like their ‘intellectuals’ – and very true about the pigeonholing i’m sure!!

    October 13, 2010 at 15:45

    This post was most presentable until Brit brought out Brian (yes Salvador, of course I will) Sewell, arch accent of the airwaves, working class hero and trenchant tosser.

  15. Worm
    October 13, 2010 at 15:56

    The sewell/salvador story is pretty excellent though!

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