16 February, 2008

Wireless wise

Having no access to television does, perhaps inevitably, prompt you to spend a bit more time with the other things you hold dear in life. Like the radio.

Scanning the airwaves these last seven days with more purpose than usual has turned up the inevitable litany of finger-pointing, sticky-beaking, shit-stirring and rabble-rousing. But enough about Gardeners' Question Time.

Brian Matthew seems to be back to full strength on Sounds Of The Sixties, though it's no longer 'Roger "The Vocalist" Bowman' behind the glass but the dreaded 'Phil "The Collector" Swern', erstwhile bagman for Dale Winton on Pick Of The Pops. Precisely what he's collecting remains moot; whatever, it must be a step up from fag ends.

Elaine Paige is sadly still ruining Sunday lunchtimes with her inability to even say her name without sounding as if she is uttering a terrible blasphemy. The "retired" Anna Ford has been thrown something to stop her from moaning, except it's rubbish: The Garden Quiz takes a vaguely interesting if indifferent subject and manages to make it as irritating as a rake in the retina.

Having to play stooge to Mark Radcliffe seems to have sapped Stuart Maconie's confidence as a solo broadcaster. The other weekend he kicked off his Saturday afternoon slot on Radio 2 by forgetting not merely what was coming next and the station telephone number, but also what record he'd just played. It was painful listening. He also sounded really bored. Perhaps a gimmick - say, a daily Talking Point - might revive things. Or he gets back with the right comedy partner.

Broadcasting House hosted by Paddy "This is Paddy, er, O'Connell" O'Connell and The Westminster Hour with Carolyn Quinn, at either end of Sunday on Radio 4, feel like they're still struggling to live up to the efforts of their founding fathers, respectively Eddie Mair and Andrew Rawnsley.

Much better is The Bottom Line, Evan Davis's weekly gossip about prices with a few captains of industry. You could never in a million years imagine his predecessor Peter "bias against understanding" Jay doing this kind of thing, and that's just as well.

Don't listen to The Moral Maze in the bath. There's nothing worse than trying to relax while hearing Michael Buerk trying to dress up some abstract obtuse ethical irrelevance as A Crisis Of Our Time. The debates are never to do with morals anyway, and there's sod all that's maze-like as well: you either agree or you don't.

Better stuff: Desmond Carrington, who is clinging on to a weekly spot at 7pm on Tuesdays on Radio 2; File On 4, which did a brilliantly-made expose of hospital fire risks last Sunday; Today In Parliament, which is back on Monday after half-term; James Naughtie covering the US elections on the Today programme; and of course The Archers, which in the last fortnight has tackled giant pancakes, the property market, inheritance, speed dating, slimming and newts. Any one of which would have made a decent Radio Times cover. Well, a more agreeable Radio Times cover than Ricky Gervais dressed up like Sid James in Carry On Henry.

5 comments:

pootle said...

Grand stuff, Ian. I've been thinking for a while that I should have a year off watching TV to break my addiction. But I suspect that in its place, radio would draw me in.

No amount of bubbles could make The Moral Maze acceptable bathtime listening. Comedy's the thing. If it's a particularly funny one then all the noisy, splashing water bits can be got out of the way whilst the audience laugh. This week I popped my BBC podcast cherry and shared Wednesday's bath with Sandi Toksvig (well, I bathed, she presented The News Quiz) (obviously). Enjoying TNQ much more these days. It has a sense of fun that Simon Hoggart never seemed quite able to bring to the chair, even if it seems a little less on the nose, satirically speaking.

Could Quote Unquote finally be getting put out to pasture? The repeat of the perennially smug not unsmug series has been relegated to the Radio 4 graveyard shift, rather than ruin everybody's Sunday lunch preparation. Bless you, Nigel Rees, but you were never much cop on The Burkiss Way either.

Not on at the moment, but I'm still furious at the dumbing down of Brain of Britain. Bumbling Peter Snow and his grating bloody chumminess. He even uses the contestants' first names now, instead of calling them Mr or Mrs Surname. Jorkins has been sacked. Where's our beautifully spiky Robert Robinson gone? Russell Davies sat in for Robinson a year or two ago - the temporary transition was relatively seamless. Not as big a name as Le Snow, presumably. Sigh.

Russell Davies continues his excellent work at Radio 2 on Sunday nights. The soothingly smooth three-in-a-row sound of Davies, Malcolm Laycock and David Jacobs are impossibly managing to carry on the torch that the likes of Benny Green ran with during my childhood. How Radio 2 can square broadcasting this style of show less than twenty-four hours after Russell Brandy-Wand is a mystery. It's the least focused BBC radio station by some distance.

Much as I love Desmond Carrington, he's never sounded quite the same since he was kicked off the Sunday schedule. I often deliberately Listen Again to him on a Sunday lunchtime, just to recreate those heady pre-Elaine Paige days. Other Radio 2 gems: Listen to the Band and The Organist Entertains, still providing sterling washing-up accompaniment for the nation, and Mike Harding is going from strength to strength with the assistance of all his fantastic folky friends.

I just caught Dick & Dom playing Elton's Tiny Dancer on 1. It's like DLT never left... The playlist crossover between Radios 1 and 2 and 6 Music makes one wonder whether there's any need for all three of them, especially now that George Lamb is pissing his filthy Radio 1 juice all over weekday mornings on 6. Just swap him for Whiley now and let's be done with it. I quite enjoy dipping my ears into Stephen Merchant on a Sunday afternoon, although two hours of it is a bit of a slog. Bet we'll hear him filling in for Jonathan Ross on Radio 2 in the not too distant though. Ross is an odd one. The boorish personality he chooses to use on Saturday mornings and on his telly chat show is clearly at odds with the more thoughtful, wittier, more likeable and passionate Ross that presents film programmes and BBC4 documentaries. Stop selling yourself short, JR.

My BBC local radio station is (at great length) BBC London 94.9 (as they never stop telling us). Not much to shout about here, apart from Sean Rowley's Guilty Pleasures (Sunday lunchtime) and Danny Baker's weekday mêlée, the best mid-afternoon music and nonsense show since Mark & Lard were storming Radio 1. Are there any other decent local radio shows we should be checking out over the internet?

Radios 2 and 6 in particular, sort yourselves out. Stop sharing a controller and your identities might not blur together so much.

FeedbackReport said...

Phil Swern's one of those irritatingly general 'pop music' collectors. He's reputed to own every single, erm, single ever to chart in the UK.

Ian Jones said...

Lesley Douglas was on Radio 4's Feedback at the weekend trying to defend George Lamb's performance on 6 Music. Apparently men respond to music "intellectually" while women do it "emotionally", and she wants more of the latter tuning in, hence George Lamb and his wittering about clothes and celebrities and ligging. At least I think that was the idea.

Matthew Rudd said...

Alex Lester's yer man.

David Pascoe said...

Colin Murray at 10pm is still a crime against taste, decency and nature.

Rob Da Bank or Huw Stephens are Peel's logical successors. Why doesn't Radio 1 see this!?