Movie criticism on TV died a death in 1998 when the great Barry Norman migrated to Sky following Birtian treatment at the austerity-driven BBC: his show was screened irrregularly at variable times approaching midnight and after 26 years of nonsense he’d had enough. Frankly, so did myself and his band of dedicated viewers. This, after all, was the world’s only important movie critic on the small screen outside of Roger Ebert in the US and he was treated shambolically. The fact remains that I remember more about his thoughts on any given film released in the 80s and 90s than anything I’ve actually sat through at the cinema in the past ten weeks. Or years. Let’s call it a disintegration of film quality and a hatred for the paying moviegoer, shall we? He was fearless but charming, incisive and fair, witty and wise. Partly that was due to his sardonic disposition and his satirical gifts, but also the facts of his upbringing. His father was a producer and director and his mother an editor, so the stars didn’t faze him because he’d met most of them. He trained in shipping management and was a jobbing journalist, writing everything from gossip to cartoons, bridge columns to leaders. He had a knack for the witty phrase. From 1972 onwards, and with a brief sabbatical (1982) he was the must-see movie critic on TV in the BBC’s Film slot, the doyen, the reliable, the guy you trusted. His reports from the Cannes Film Festival were a particular joy. He understood the compromises behind films but he didn’t necessarily trust the business. He had spats with everyone from Robert De Niro to John Wayne but he had a crush on Michelle Pfeiffer. The downgrading of the critic is everywhere visible; the lack of serious film appreciation on the small screen is not just an appalling vista it’s a telling sign of the general view held by programme controllers that the citizenry are moronic and lacking in discernment. The revolving presenter’s door at BBC’s Film show (on for just a handful of weeks in any given year) and its round-midnight screening time and use of EPK montages instead of actual film clips just shows what they think of us. It’s a bad time for film buffs but it’s been like that for two decades now – horrifying and sad. Barry Norman was Generation X’s critical saviour. And why not?