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.