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Richard Osman on why rubbish TV isn't completely pointless

The new Child Genius quizmaster talks yoga balls and the merits of a varied TV diet

Published: Tuesday, 12th July 2016 at 9:00 am

Describe the Osman domestic viewing arrangements.


I’ve got a sofa, bookshelves, a lovely big picture of my kids right behind the TV, and a re-creation of the commemorative 1923 Radio Times Christmas front cover from 2013 on my wall, with Xander [Alexander Armstrong] and me.

At almost six foot six inches tall, where do you put your long legs?

I occasionally have back trouble, so my trainer said, “Why don’t you just sit on a yoga ball to watch telly?”

Ever fallen off it?

I’m many things, but I’m not clumsy enough to fall off a yoga ball while watching TV! It’s quite boring as well, though. I’ll sit on that yoga ball tonight and watch TV for about seven minutes. Otherwise it sits in the corner of my room, this big purple ball mocking me. Like the white balloon in The Prisoner.

You’re obsessed by TV. Is watching it like going to work?

I don’t carry a briefcase when I go to watch, but the TV is the centre of my living room. As it is in most people’s living rooms – certainly most people I trust. When you walk into someone’s house and you don’t see a TV, doesn’t that send shivers up your spine? You think, “Oh, dearie me.”

They said that about books...

If you ever go into someone’s house and they don’t have bookshelves or a TV, that’s when you should call the authorities.

Series 4 of Child Genius starts tonight

Are you a tea-in-front-of-the-telly man, or do you sit at the table?

In front of the telly, since I was a kid. My kids [a daughter, 17, and son, 15] are, too – and that’ll never change. If I didn’t play poker I wouldn’t need a dining table.

What programmes do you like?

Shows that have been made with love and without cynicism. If I talk about watching Britain’s Got Talent or X Factor, people will say, “Why are you watching that rubbish?” But well-made TV is well-made TV – even if people think it’s beneath their intelligence – and I’ve yet to find anything in my life that’s beneath my intelligence. I’ll be enthralled and engrossed by The Night Manager, but I’m equally comfortable watching Michael Portillo’s Great British Railway Journeys. I’m a terrible, terrible magpie.

Is it possible to like everything?

There’s never been a better time in British TV. If you can’t find something you like, perhaps TV is not for you as a medium, and by all means go and have a walk.

Presumably you avoid walking?

No, but I always go out with my iPod on. The trouble with me is I’m very severely visually impaired, and if I’ve got my earphones in, I can’t hear. So I just have to make sure I’m somewhere quite familiar. But people know me around here.

Does your eyesight affect your viewing?

I’ve got to sit right up to the telly if I really want to see the detail. When the football’s on, for instance, I’ll get very close. Otherwise I’ll settle back and listen and see the shapes moving around. My kids are always very sweet with me. They know when I can’t see stuff, so they’ll always point it out. I’m not constantly thinking, “I can’t see anything,” because I see what I see, and I’m very grateful for what I do see.

What would you change about British TV?

I’d like more working-class people in TV because they’re greatly under-represented – not just in television but in all media. You’ll get better stuff: funnier, more varied, more interesting. I’m hopeful that the industry will develop in a way that truly represents our society.

You could guillotine Xander for a start...

You know what the big secret about posh people is? Most of them are lovely.

Child Genius begins on Channel 4 tonight at 8pm


Pointless Celebrities is on BBC1 Monday to Friday at 5.10pm, and at 6pm on Saturdays


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