Ivory Tower: A special edition of the favourite armchair critic TV show
[Titles and Music]
Narrator: In the week of Dominic Cummings’ seven hours of evidence to a select committee, we’ve also been watching the Friends reunion, Dragon’s Den and the latest Corrie. Meanwhile over in central London Micky and Mandy are deciding what to drink.
[Michelle Donelan and Amanda Solloway are on the sofa]
Solloway: When did you stop drinking Lambrini?
Donelan: I’m just trying something more sophisticated.
Solloway: Cinzano Bianco?
Donelan: With bitter lemon.
Solloway: I think that’s what they are calling Dominic Cummings.
Narrator: This week we’ve all been watching the latest episode of Friends, the one in which they are all in their 50s.
[Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds on a garish red and gold chaise lounge]
Carrie: I don’t remember when this was on the first round, I was too young. My parents wouldn’t let me stay up that late.
Johnson: Gosh, it used to be on a Friday night. I was usually in bed by then too.
Carrie: Well, you must have had a lot of family duties at the time.
Johnson: I didn’t mean my own bed.
Carrie: Don’t be vulgar Boris, take your feet off the coffee table, do you know how much that cost?
Johnson: Sadly, yes.
[Patrick Vallance and Dominic Cummings are in La-Z-Boy armchair recliners]
Vallance: Chandler and Joey are just like us, besties forever.
Cummings: If you say so.
Vallance: Thanks for all those nice things you said about me at the select committee.
Cummings: You promised you’d destroy the WhatsApp messages afterwards.
Vallance: Of course I have, bestie.
[Alistair Jarvis and Jo Grady are in twin armchairs]
Jarvis: Which friend are you most like?
Grady: Because I think I combine leadership with ethical purpose.
Jarvis: I thought you’d be most like Phoebe.
Jarvis: Because Lisa Kudrow is the one who’ll be most concerned about her pension.
Grady: Which friend are you?
Jarvis: Ross, he works with academics.
Grady: I thought it would be Joey, he has been involved in a few car crashes.
Narrator: Over on BBC2 there’s a return of Dragon’s Den.
[Chris Whitty and Jenny Harris are socially distanced, in masks, at opposite ends of the sofa]
Harris: I’m glad to see that they are following Covid protocols.
Whitty: What, the BBC showing repeats?
Harris: I like Peter Jones.
Whitty: Yes, their leather goods are very reasonable.
Harris: What would you say if you were presenting to the dragons?
Whitty: Next slide please.
[Over in the Vallance—Cummings house]
Vallance: I do worry about the scientific validity of this vitamin shake he is pitching.
Cummings: He’s a charlatan.
Vallance: We agreed you wouldn’t talk about Matt Hancock tonight.
Cummings: I don’t mean him.
Vallance: You’ll need to be more specific.
Cummings: He’s not up to the job.
Cummings: We should copy this for Arpa.
Vallance: Charcoal vitamin shakes?
Cummings: No, pitching hugely expensive ideas in a consequence free environment with a basic lack of scrutiny.
Vallance: You said you wouldn’t talk about Matt Hancock.
[In the Solloway—Donelan house]
Solloway: He’s having a laugh with his valuation.
Donelan: It’s just low quality. It will lead to nothing but a lifetime of debt.
Solloway: You wouldn’t have thought the director of the Royal Ballet would have to come on Dragon’s Den.
Donelan: Royal Ballet? He doesn’t even have a Union Jack.
Narrator: We’ve also been catching up with events on Coronation Street.
[In the Johnson-Symonds flat]
Johnson: Crumbs, my absolute favourite.
Symonds: You’re thinking of Coriolanus.
Johnson: No, I love Red Wall Street, full of real northern Conservative voters.
Symonds: It’s set in Manchester.
Johnson: Isn’t that where we go for the party conference?
Symonds: Yes, but we don’t have any MPs there. That’s where Andy Burnham is.
Johnson: I thought he was the one from Liverpool.
Symonds: He is, it’s confusing.
Johnson: Which one is Mike Baldwin?
Symonds: He hasn’t been a presence there for years.
Johnson: Just like the Labour Party. Gosh, is that what the north really looks like? Where is the giant inflatable me?
Symonds: Speaking of which, have you taken Dilyn for a walk today?
Johnson: No dear.
Symonds: When you’ve done that can you put one those ready meals in microwave?
Johnson: Yes dear. How do I do that again?
[Over on the sofa with Solloway and Donelan]
Solloway: People say I look a bit like Bet Lynch.
Donelan: If you say so, dear.
Solloway: At least I can relate to the characters in Coronation Street.
Donelan: Because you are a northern MP?
Solloway: No, because every day a cast of eccentrics with implausible motives and competing egos are involved in inexplicable plot twists.
Donelan: That’s no way to talk about BEIS.
Solloway: I was thinking about the University Research Sustainability Taskforce.
Donelan: Am I on that?
Solloway: Not sure, it’s one of those ones on Teams, I can usually only see Ottoline Leyser’s conservatory.
Narrator: And of course, everyone has been watching Dominic Cummings at the science and technology select committee.
[In the Vallance-Cummings pad]
Vallance: Look, Dom you are on the telly.
Cummings: The idiot box.
Vallance: It’s not the Downing Street press conference.
Cummings: What were the ratings?
Vallance: Not as good as your rose garden appearance.
Cummings: That was a bank holiday special.
Vallance: And everyone was locked down.
Cummings: I wasn’t.
Vallance: Yeah, that was the problem.
[Over in the Jarvis—Grady house]
Grady: I really can’t stand him.
Jarvis: Which one? You’ll need to be more specific.
Grady: It’s just one liar talking about another liar telling lies.
Jarvis: We agreed not to talk about the USS pension negotiations.
Grady: It’s a searing indictment of the entire political class.
Jarvis: It’s only discussions about a pension scheme.
Grady: I mean this ludicrous pantomime that is taking up all our attention.
Jarvis: So, do I.
[At opposite ends of the Harris-Whitty sofa]
Harris: He’s got it in for poor old Matt Hancock.
Whitty: There’s quite a queue on that one.
Harris: I’m doing the press conference with him tomorrow.
Whitty: Dominic Cummings?
Harris: No, the health minister.
Harris: Chris, why are you moving further away along the sofa?
Whitty: I’ve just remembered, I need to put the bins out…
[Over in the Downing Street flat]
Symonds: I can’t believe he just said that.
Johnson: Which bit?
Symonds: That I was obsessed with completely trivial things.
Johnson: Yes dear.
Symonds: There’s nothing trivial about little Dilykins.
Johnson: Can I have a cushion dear?
Symonds: No, Dily is sitting on it.
Johnson: That dog is getting more attention than me.
Symonds: No, I think Cummings has laid into you more than Dilyn.
Johnson: I can’t believe he says I’m not fit.
Symonds: After all those walks you’ve taken with Dilykins.
Johnson: And the cycling to Olympic Park during lockdown.
Symonds: Can I have a gold yacht?
Johnson: Dear God no.
Symonds: Can I have 10,000 people at the wedding?
Johnson: Please make it stop.
Symonds: There’s another six hours of evidence to go.
[Titles and music]