Last Night’s TV – Prescott: The North South Divide

by Lynn Connolly

john pauline prescott

Let me start by saying I like John Prescott; I always have. He’s earthy, he’s all muck and butties and he doesn’t even attempt to be pretentious, but why, oh why, was this BBC programme made?

It served absolutely no purpose that I could see other than to give John and his lovely wife Pauline a few daytrips.

That said, Pauline and John made a comedic duo; he determinedly blunt and all ‘Northern’ and Pauline trying to be rather more tactful and rather less in-your-face. But as to the subject of exploring the whys and wherefores of the North South divide, there could be no person less suited to embracing cultural and class differences than John Prescott.

He’s the epitome of the North, the man could be a Northerner for England in the Olympics and take home gold. He’s whippets and ginnels and probably has a T-Shirt that reads, I Heart Nye Bevan. All of which is just fine by me, I’m all of those things too, but I can only conclude that the purpose of this show was to send Prezza down South in the hope that he’d end up in an egg-punch-up again.

However, if that was the intention, the programme makers were foiled because for the most part – and primarily at Pauline’s insistence I suspect – John was on his best behaviour throughout. Even when goaded beyond human endurance by Brian Sewell, a snobby art critic who thinks the solution to the North-South divide is to send a pox or a plague upon the North so we can all just die quietly.

I thought John showed exceptional restraint with Sewell. Had it been me he’d said that to, I suspect the man may need to insert his toothbrush anally to clean his teeth.

However, there were, as I mentioned earlier, some very funny moments, one of which came when John described at inordinate length how he used to go to Butlin’s for holidays. His memory lane monologue was to a very personable and eminently patient chap called Billy. Billy was in Essex where he was doing his best to sell houses, having to resort to BOGOF offers even, but he managed not to lose the will to live while John rambled on about junior boxing contests in Pwllheli.

Another titterworthy moment came when Kym Marsh was pressed about how she gets her hair so shiny.

But there were some uncomfortable moments too, such as the visit with a man who’s been out of work for five years. John and Pauline rolled up outside his Liverpool home in their luxury motor, then later left him bound for their luxury apartment overlooking Big Ben, so that surely did little to assure the chap that they empathised entirely with his plight.

However, that sticky moment aside, this was overall a fairly amusing programme but again, I have to say it was rather pointless. We got to hear lots of facts and figures about differing life expectancy, unemployment and other vagaries of the North-South divide, but if this was a serious attempt at some kind of socioeconomic and demographic research, it fell soundly on its backside.

If however it was just an opportunity to see the Morecambe and Wise-esque duo that are John and Pauline Prescott, it was perfect. He got a portion of chips, Pauline showed us proudly the view from her new apartment and although their Jag replaced the chara that might’ve been their transport a few decades ago, it were a few nice days out petal. Aye, it were that.

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.