Six Million? That's Very Nearly 214 Armfuls!
Last night BBC4 showed John Freeman's 1960 Face to Face interview with Tony Hancock.
One of the more intriguing moments was when Freeman pressed Hancock on his massive earnings. At that time he was one of the highest paid people on television. Was it true that the BBC paid him £30,000 a year? After much hesitation, Hancock said it wasn't true but conceded it was very close to £30,000 a year.
This enormous sum enabled Hancock to buy a house in the country, buy lots of cars and travel the world in luxury.
Today the average salary is, I believe, around £28,000.
It set me wondering whether the relationship between today's TV stars' salaries and average salaries was any different from Hancock's day.
In 1960 the average salary for an office worker seems to have been around £600. So Tony Hancock was being paid 50 times as much.
Jonathan Ross's current BBC contract pays him £6 million a year. If my calculations are correct, that's 214 times the average salary.
This, of course, mirrors the massive income inflation amongst the super-rich more generally, with CEOs of major companies earning more in a year than their office cleaner will earn in a lifetime.
I quite like Jonathan Ross. But whether he merits a salary from public money that is massively greater than was ever paid to Tony Hancock in his prime is doubtful.
Episode 3 of series 2 of Gavin and Stacey (BBC3) has been widely hailed as one of the funniest so far. "I howled, spluttered and wept throughout" said the Radio Times reviewer.
Most attention has focused on the gym scene towards the end. Funny though that was, I was crying with laughter for most of the previous twenty minutes and never more so than at Smithy's hysterical crying fit in Gavin's office. Smithy ruled out suicide when he realised he couldn't afford the necessary quantity of Nurofen if he was going to have a holiday this year. When you're one of the writers you can give yourself great lines like that. And in the mind of Smithy, that's a piece of reasoning that makes perfect sense, as does his repeated statement that he's "the father of someone else's child".
One of the reasons the second series hasn't disappointed is that the writers keep on surprising us. Nessa's share-dealing was a jolt from the blue but she's a character for whom nothing will strain credulity.
The Observer's reviewer, Kathryn Flett, is one of those unfortunate souls who is lukewarm about the series. Fair enough. You can never argue with personal taste in comedy. But when she says she doesn't like 'warm cockles' I think she's missed the point. For all its warmth, many of the characters are tragic to varying degrees. It's from that low-level tragedy of everyday life that the comedy springs. The two chief exceptions are Gavin and his father Mick, both sensible, feet-on-the-ground blokes to a degree that would be boring were it not for their kindness and a streak of romanticism. Both have to pick up the pieces from the chaos that swirls around them and that perhaps makes them rather tragic too.