In Defence of Samantha

It was reported last week (DM, Guardian) that Samantha, a stalwart of Radio 4’s I’m Sorry, I Haven’t A Clue for almost thirty years, has attracted some complaints.

Apparently the BBC has received, wait for it, a whole four complaints about Samantha in the last eighteen months and asked the writers and panelists to “tone down” the smuttiness of the jokes. To put this in context, Clue has, on average, two and a half million listeners.

I’ve listened to Clue since I was little. Well, I probably didn’t actually listen to it properly until I was a teenager, but you know. We didn’t have a TV, we had a radio. And books. But anyway.

If you don’t know about Clue, the jokes are largely innuendo and double entendres. I didn’t find it funny until I could understand them – about when I started listening properly.

Samantha is the scorer – her job made easier by the fact that no points are awarded – and she is aided by two assistants: the lovely Monica and the Swede Sven.

I’ll give you that the comments about Samantha probably do sound somewhat dirtier now that the chairman is no longer the twinkly-eyed, genial grandfather-like jazz legend that was Humphrey Lyttleton (RIP; and that’s just my impression from his voice). Jack Dee is a good successor, when one bears in mind that, really, no one can replace Humph, but he doesn’t quite have that innocence of voice that Humph had, and which probably makes the difference.

But, Samantha’s fictional, and most of the “smutty” comments are when she is making her excuses to leave before the end of the show. Usually, she has a gentleman caller of some description and the comment requires dirty-minded listeners for them to be funny. For example, when she has a date with a Russian gentleman, who has suggested dinner in his hotel room, and then liquor out on the balcony. See? Perfectly innocent.

Is it the script-writer’s or chairman’s fault that you’ve misheard the comment and thus become offended?

The delightful Samantha is not offensive to women and those few who are offended ought not to be the ones dictating her job and early-leaving apologies. Are we not in an age when women have the independence to make their own decisions about their social lives? And can, as in the above example, dine with a man in a hotel room and then drink alcohol without people calling her offensive? That’s an insult to Samantha. I think the complainers should apologise to her, rather than the BBC kowtow to the complaints.

Samantha has done a fantastic job as the show’s scorer since 1985 – long may she continue in it!