Written by Radio

Some Decent Radio

Aside from Fred and Ginger films on BBC Four and Doctor Who on Christmas Day, I probably spent more time listening to the radio than watching the box over the festive period. Here are one or two radio programmes I enjoyed; they’re all BBC programmes I’m afraid, and very few of them are still available to listen again, so you’ll have to use your own inventiveness (*cough* UKNova *cough*) to hear them. But they’re worth seeking out.
When Hollywood Went To War – Humphrey Lyttleton, the jazz trumpeter and presenter of I’m Sorry, I Haven’t A Clue, presented this two parter on how Hollywood studios supported the Allied war effort both before and after America entered WWII. Lyttleton could also be heard on the very funny Christmas edition of I’m Sorry, I Haven’t A Clue recorded live at the Lyric Theatre.
MR James at Christmas – Five adaptions of MR James’ ghost stories introduced by Derek Jacobi. OK – I haven’t actually listened to these yet, but I will soon – I’ve also got lots of BBC Four repeats of dramatisations to watch too. Interestingly, BBC Audio released a double CD of MR James Ghost Stories “Volume 1” which contains readings (not dramatisations as here) of a further five stories. I’ve yet to listen to these too. By the way, when did all the BBC Shops shut down? I knew the one in London shut a while ago, but was surprised and disappointed to see the one in Norwich had also been replaced by a very similar, but not-quite-the-same shop. It had effectively become a Doctor Who store, with an amazing variety of merchandise including, incredibly, some original Target Doctor Who novelisations from the eighties were on sale which they were selling at the original prices – i.e. £1.50 each. Sadly the BBC Audio shelves were quite bare, and I had to go to Waterstones to get my MR James. There’s also an afternoon play about a film-maker who’s producing a documentary on James that I still have to listen to – A Warning To The Furious. It’s on Listen Again until this Friday.
Jeeves Live – Exactly what it says on the proverbial tin. Martin Jarvis – he of Just William audiobook fame – reads a couple of Wodehouse’s Jeeves stories live to an audience at the Cheltenham Literary Festival. You’ve got to love Jeeves don’t you? Episode two is on Listen Again until next Monday. And a boxset of the Fry and Laurie TV version is available awfully cheaply at Amazon and in the HMV sale at the moment. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to tuck into Wodehouse via the wonderful Everyman reprints of his works that have been published since 2000. I’ve got six, but another 48 still to go, and they continue to be published.
Just A Minute – A fortieth anniversary special presented by Nicholas Parsons and including some of the greats from down the years. It was fun hearing Kenny Everett take part on his debut many moons ago, as they let him talk for 90 seconds out of meanness (Kenny Everett: The BBC Local Radio Years from Radio 7 awaits a listen by me).
The New Year’s Day Concert – Live from Vienna. I always listen/watch this despite the stuffiness of the Wiener Musikverein where the concert takes place. The Blue Danube always seems the perfect way to see in the New Year. This year they couldn’t help but celebrate the fact that Austria co-hosts the European Championships in the summer, although it was probably a mistake to have a male ballet choreagraphed around the theme of football. Most of the performers had obviously never seen a football in their lives before the first rehearsal!
There’s plenty more still stored up for me to listen to on various hard disks and PVRs at home including some gems from Radio 7.
There are also a few interesting sounding productions coming up in the next week or so. Underneath the Lintel is this Saturday’s play on Radio 4. It stars Richard (The West Wing’s Toby Ziegler) Schiff stars as a lonely Dutch librarian… On Sunday Martin Freeman stars in The Picture Man on Radio 3, We Need To Talk About Kevin is the new weekday Radio 4 serial, Alison and Will from Goldfrapp are on the Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie show next Wednesday ahead of the release of their new album in February, and the brilliant Down The Line begins its third series next Thursday with the wonderful “Gary Bellamy” answering the phones. Finally, Iain Lee starts his new show on Virgin Radio this coming Sunday at 10pm.
And lastly a plea. Can we please have more original programming on the live stations over Christmas? I’m fed up with “Best Of” programmes, and other pre-recorded fare. I want something new and fresh. Christmas can be – how can I put this politely – a trying time for some people. And escaping to the sounds of the radio can be even more imporant than normal!