Opinion: Another Chat Show, Another Man

Michael McIntyre

So this week it was announced that The Michael McIntyre Chat Show will start on BBC1 in the Spring. It is no surprise that the network has found a new vehicle for the nation's skippiest stand-up star. And maybe no surprise that it's a chat show. McIntyre is great talker and, more importantly, also a great listener. Anyone who has seen him do small shows will know that he likes nothing better than banter with his audience, so hopefully the sparks will fly when he banters with his guests.

The thing that really isn't a surprise about this news is that it is another chat show fronted by a man. Women love to talk, they love a good gossip, they are interested in people, yet for some reason while male comedians are seen as latterday Parkinsons, female comedians still rarely get the juicy chat shows. Caroline Aherne landed one, but only a spoof one as Mrs Merton, where the emphasis was on comedy, not interviews. Sarah Millican has a chat show element in her series but it is so light and fluffy it probably set the chances of a female having a full-length chat show back fifty years. Ruth Jones had a brief run which was OK, Charlotte Church had one that made my skin crawl, but I've just remembered that Davina McCall had one which was even worse. The horror, the horror. Elsewhere women get to natter on Loose Women at lunchtime, but TV still hardly takes the risk of allowing them out at night.

This remains a mystery to me. Why, for instance, is Jo Brand one of the judges on Splash! and not hosting her own talk show? Surely some executive has considered her for her own chat show at some point? She could certainly do it. I imagine Miranda Hart could do it. Jenny Eclair. Susan Calman too. And Luisa Omielan would be fun. What about Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders or Victoria Wood? It would be interesting to see Bridget Christie given her own show. Women have the vote, why can't they host a traditional, conventional TV chat show? This is 2014 after all, not 1914. The fact that a few have failed seems to have scared networks away from trying others.

There is clearly no shortage of talented women, yet they are constantly overlooked in the UK. QI tonight features a record-breaking three female guests this evening – Susan Calman, Sandi Toksvig and Liza Tarbuck – and this is so unusual it will probably be trending on Twitter. And things don't seem to be that much better in America, where few, apart from Joan Rivers, have had a proper Letterman-style stab at the chat show genre. Actually Rivers also had a show over here for a while in the late eighties - Can We Talk? – but it was mainly memorable for featuring Peter Cook wondering what exactly he was supposed to do as her regular sidekick. It seemed as if TV felt that even a woman as verbose as Rivers could not cope with a whole show on her own. 

Sometimes it looks as if you have to be gay – Norton, O'Grady, Alan Carr – or managed by the late Addison Cresswell's company Off The Kerb – Ross, Carr again, McIntyre – to land your own big-time traditional evening talk show. Or Frank Skinner. Still, I'm sure Michael McIntyre's show will be fun. But a female host might have been fun and groundbreaking and revolutionary too.

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