The Mail on Sunday: Living The Life
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The Mail on Sunday – Live Mag

A better class of chat show

Living the Dream

Tuesday, Sky Arts 1, 8pm

One of the many strengths of the specialist Sky Arts channels is that they allow the television schedule the space to experiment and breathe. It’s hard to think of another channel that would commission In Confidence, the series of talk shows in which Professor Laurie Taylor probes prominent figures, from Richard Dawkins to John Lydon, over the course of an hour-long interview. Most chat shows, as we know, offer 15-minute slots for celebs with a product to flog.

Sky Arts’ other interview strand is Living The Dream, a looser format in which guests are paired up and asked to discuss their careers, lives and public personas without the presence of a formal interviewer, leading to wide-ranging and often entertainingly rambling conversations. The result is the inverse of ‘chat’ as we know it.

Sometimes it works better than others, the secret being the pairing. In the last series, Joanna Lumley revealed to Melvyn Bragg that she’d had ‘a bit of a wobbler’, referring to mental-health issues. But Bragg is an established interviewer and it didn’t really feel like they were straying off piste, despite the breakdown revelation.

Next week, showbiz veteran Des O’Connor shoots the breeze with stand-up Alan Davies, which promises to be gently subversive; but this week’s meeting of minds is an absolute cracker as maverick dramatist and portrayer of cinematic villains Steven Berkoff compares notes with pop star-turned-soap actor Martin Kemp (right).

At first glance you’d imagine they have little in common, the former Spandau Ballet New Romantic and the purveyor of in-you-face total theatre and monologues about the female form. But they met on the set of The Krays film in 1990 and it soon transpires, share a love of villains and London’s East End (and a combination thereof). When Kemp tells his interlocutor about the time he met Ronnie Kray at Broadmoor – ‘We spoke for two hours purely about murder and death, about people he wanted to kill, and people he should have killed’ – Berkoff is practically salivating.

Berkoff in full rant mode is a marvelous sight to behold and one that has too regularly been denied TV audiences. Here, prompted by Kemp, he lets fly about ‘the real gangsters, Putin and Assad’; about journalists who sadistically attack defence-less victims, referring to his notorious court victory over ‘the harridan’ Julie Burchill; and about a covert anti-Semitism operating in British society, for which he blames Shakespeare and Dickens for giving us ‘the two worst villains in history’, the Jews Shylock and Fagin.

Kemp, for his part, is equally good value, discussing his brain tumours in detail and the therapy afforded by unleashing your demons to portray a monster. It certainly makes a change from Graham Norton.

By Mark Wareham