Category Archives: Radio

The Archers: Why are we meant to care where Pip lives?

BoxesGah, script-writers! What is going on?? I know it’s not the first time I’ve said that to you, and doubtless won’t be the last. But look here, Pip has had three addresses in as many weeks, and I just know that there won’t be a decent pay-off. If the only reason you’ve dragged us through her boring house moves is so that the following scene will play out in an episode several years in the future, I will be quite aggrieved.

Pip: Oh no, this official form will to take ages to fill in [sound-effect of pen being hurled onto the desk].
Toby/Rex/Tom [it’ll be one of these three who wins the dubious Pip prize in the end, mark my words]: Why’s that, Pip?
Pip: It asks for all my addresses in the last five years! Do you remember that time after we/me and Toby split [delete as applicable] and I left Rickyard and went back home, then ended up slumming it at Lower Loxley?
T/R/T: Oh yes, that’s right. Fancy a coffee?
Pip: Go on then. [Sighs, sound-effect of pen being picked up.] I’d better get on with this.
Brian [entering randomly]: I say Pip, you look awfully glamorous considering you’re just filling in a form.*

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The Archers: Scones Out For the Lads

CG 1I’m calling it: Calendar Girls is the weirdest play Lynda has ever tried to put on. Yes, I do remember the one when she wasn’t sure, right up until opening night, whether Jim would read in English or Latin (you’d think that as the director she’d have needed to know that). And I also recall 2008’s effort, Jack and the Beanstalk, in which Lynda played the rear-end of a cow. I’m sure you’ll have your own examples of the craziest village plays. But there are three key reasons why Calendar Girls is even more bizarre than its predecessors.

  1. Everyone in Ambridge knows the film inside out.

Whenever Lynda approaches someone for a part, the person knows who she is talking about. Even young’uns such as Emma, who are unlikely to have even seen the film on the grounds of implausible demographics, know all the characters’ names. It is JUST NOT POSSIBLE. For one thing, CG has not entered the public consciousness in this way. And secondly, even if it had, the names are not memorable. They are all names like Chris, Annie and Ruth. Names like characters on The Archers, really, and look how long it took us to remember them. I still call Jenny, Chris and David ‘Thingy.’ Calendar Girls is not the Rocky Horror Show. There are no Riff Raffs and Frank N Furters in CG, more’s the pity. (Imagines exciting new mash-up, rings agent, explains idea, agents pretends to lose signal and puts phone down.) Continue reading

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The Archers: Don’t marry her, have me

So the gloomy day inches ever closer. The day that Helen wilfully hitches her wagon to Psycho Rob till death do them part, or until the Borsetshire Women’s Refuge helps her escape – whichever is sooner. In light of Jess finally getting round to organising the decree absolute, I am minded to reflect on Ambridge marriages. And long-term partnerships too, of course: I am a modern blogger, even if I still think that ‘living in sin’ sounds wildly exciting.

Are there any decent marriages at all in this benighted village? My decency test is very simple and goes like this: would I like to be one of the parties in this marriage? Overwhelmingly, the answer is no. For instance, the script-writers clearly believe that David and Ruth have a good and strong marriage. That may be true, on paper. (Yes, I do realise that everything in The Archers is technically ‘on paper,’ at least to start with.) But my test asks whether I would like to be in that marriage. Actually be one of the two partners, I mean, not like Camilla was ‘in the marriage’ of Charles and Di. UGH, a horrible vision of being David and Ruth’s sexual plaything has entered my mind and won’t leave. Nurse! Brain bleach, stat. So anyway, no I damn well wouldn’t like to be married to David, thanks all the same. Would I like to be married to Ruth? Are you effing kidding me?! It’s nice they have each other, though. Saves two other people.

I’m going to run the test on some more couples. Continue reading

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The Archers: Oh dear. They’ve all fallen down that disused mineshaft

bowmansWhen listening to the Archers, the spirit of Tony Hancock’s masterful parody, The Bowmans, is never far away. In the famous final scene, Old Ben Merriweather (Hancock), sees ‘half the village’ coming across the fields.

Tony: ‘Dang me, they shouldn’t be walking across that field.’
Actor: ‘Why not?’
The rest of the cast cry out in unison. This is followed by silence.
Tony [flat]: ‘Oh dear, what a shame. They’ve all fallen down that disused mineshaft.’

Naturally my first thought, on listening to the Great Flood sweep across Ambridge, was that at long last, our Old Ben Merriweather moment had come! This was a marvellous once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get rid of all the dead wood, in one fell swoop. I felt sure that the scriptwriters had finally seen sense, goaded by a million whinging listeners (including me), and that the following tragic scenarios would now play out: Continue reading

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Cabin Pressure. Simply brilliant!

Cabin PressureYou know how some people get when they have a fabulous new boy/girlfriend? They can’t stop telling you how brilliant said person is. They tell you the funny things they say All The Time. If they could clone them so everybody could have a boy/girlfriend as great as theirs they would. Well, I am currently that person – except I don’t have a boy/girlfriend. I am a late but enthusiastic arrival to the Cabin Pressure party.

Just when I had begun to fear my sense of humour was fading, I have found something that has literally made me spit out my grapefruit juice (luckily I was next to the sink) with laughter. I am to be found, earphones in and MP3 player on, giggling in the aisles of Sainsbury’s. I am utterly enthralled and addicted. I even traded in existing Audible books in order to gorge on all four series (plus a Christmas special) in less than a fortnight when I ran out of credits. If I had a pencil case and/or rough book, it would have Cabin Pressure quotes (Brilliant! The lemon is in play. Yellow car. etc) encased in hearts scribbled all over it.

CarolynWhy have I fallen so spectacularly for this Radio 4 sitcom about MJN, a teeny charter airline (or airdot – you can’t put one aeroplane in a line as MJN CEO Carolyn Knapp-Shappey once remarked)? Firstly, because it is really, really funny. (See previous paragraph.) I honestly think the last sitcom to make me laugh this much was Blackadder (on its first airing).

It’s also extraordinarily well-written by John Finnemore. He has a way with callbacks that is astonishing. You think a line is perfect and funny and 25 minutes later he turns it upside-down, gives it a polish,  and makes it even funnier. But it’s not his fabulous plotting or genius comedy that makes me love his writing so utterly – it’s the heart that it has. For all the turmoil he puts Carolyn and her crew through at 35,000 feet, the deep affection he has for them, and writes into every line, is what makes Cabin Pressure special.

That and having an astonishingly talented cast, of course. Stephanie Cole, Roger Allam, Benedict Cumberbatch and Finnemore himself are the core as Carolyn, First Officer Douglas Richardson, Captain Martin Crieff and steward Arthur Shappey.

Carolyn is the alpha dog trying to keep her business afloat and her crew in order. She could be an awful harridan, but Cole never lets that happen.

benedict mjnMartin is the hapless Captain, desperate to be taken seriously and generally suffering at the hands of Douglas and/or his own ineptitude. Again, there is a real danger that he could turn into a whiner – but that’s never going to happen while the fantastically talented Benedict Cumberbatch is wearing Martin’s heavily braided Captain’s hat. Also he convincingly conveys the impression that Martin is both a good deal shorter than his own six-footedness and deserving of our sympathy. Then there’s Paris (series 3, episode 2) in which his own success in Sherlock is beautifully subverted. (Martin: But the thing is, we’ve taken away all the things that can possibly have happened, so I suppose the only thing that’s left, even though it seems really weird, must be the thing that did happen, in fact. Douglas: Snappily put.)

douglasThen there is Douglas. He might only be the first officer but he oozes the confidence and authority that Martin would give a year of his life to have. Once described by Carolyn as being like Stephen Fry’s favourite uncle. Always has at least see seven ulterior motives for doing anything. King of the laconic putdown. Roger Allam is simply superb. Douglas may be a sky god, but Roger is a radio god. I’d join his marathon-running team in a heartbeat (once you have listened to Vaduz – series 4, episode 3, you will know what I’m talking about).

arthur_shappeyLast, but in no way least, is Arthur the eternally optimistic but dimwitted steward (and Carolyn’s son). Arthur thinks pretty much everything is brilliant and even I might enjoy flying in his company.

Now, here is a link to Cabin Pressure on Audible, who will even refund you if you don’t like one of their books. You have nothing to lose (except your drink over the nearest surface, the ability to ignore yellow cars and the inability to say “Brilliant!” without sounding like Arthur).

Existing Cabin Pressure fans may also love this lovely video done in the style of the Nikon ads.

I could rave for hours, but the jokes are really best experienced firsthand from the professionals, so I’m off to listen to Ottery St Mary for the fourth time (Yellow car).

Posted by Jo the Hat

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The Archers: Why Pusscat and Tiger mustn’t split

Image SPOILER ALERT: If you’re an Omnibus listener and you haven’t yet heard the one on Sunday 2nd December, there is a spoiler in the first paragraph. Though you probably won’t be that surprised by it, tbh.

So after months (or years? It felt like years) of Lilian and Paul meeting clandestinely in little tea-rooms for tete-a-tetes in which NOTHING whatsoever happened, they finally shagged. I’d like to say it was a surprise but the only surprise was that it took so long. Though when it finally happened, it was kind of abrupt.

  • Lilian: “Usual dreary chit-chat hinting at unhappiness with Matt.”
  • Paul: “ Usual dreary platitudes hinting how much better it would be with him instead of Matt.”
  • Listener: “Zzzz”
  • Lilian: “Let’s go to your hotel room.”
  • Listener, waking up and spilling tea: “Hey what?!”

Anyway, once the relief of a plot having moved forward was over – a relief so rarely experienced by Archers listeners – the panic set in. OH LILIAN! What about Tiger?? Matt and Lilian are by far and away my most favourite couple on the Archers. Whenever they share airtime you know you’re in for a treat. He growls away, tiger-ishly, like a middle-management Reggie Kray, alternately treating Lil like dirt or whisking her off to Lower Loxley when she needs to be distracted from some naughty thing he’s done. She, purring or letting rip her filthy forty-a-day laugh, tells Matt exactly how she feels, all the time. Both actors sound like they’re a gnat’s crotchet away from bursting into giggles. I love them so much. If they split up (NO!) and Lilian gets together with the too-good-to-be-true Paul, one of the great soap partnerships will be crushed, like Nigel after he messed up his Chim-Chim-Cheree roof routine.

More to the point, it will be the demise of the only couple in which I properly like both partners. There aren’t any others. Look!

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Desert Island Discs: John Prescott

A public school education can be like slapping on an expensive set of veneers. You get something blindingly shiny, but you  wonder what they’re hiding. You only have to watch five minutes of Made in Chelsea to see how some of those who have been brought up to think they deserve to rule the world, have a forcefield of braying confidence which seems to substitute for brains, actual talent or a decent personality.

I also count amongst my friends, many decent men and women emotionally messed up by their experiences of boarding school. It’s not Hogwarts. Harry Potter, like Malory Towers and St Clare’s, portrays a preposterously positive vision of boarding school. Lord of the Flies with plusher furnishings and rugby pitches is more like it. And, to think, Parliament always has been dominated by public school boys. God help us all.

So it was refreshing to hear Secondary Modern-educated John Prescott (technically, Baron Prescott of Kingston upon Hull) on Desert Island Discs. He’s not a man to whom the word ‘slick’ would ever apply, but he’s so much more interesting than Cameron and Osborne ever will be. He shone in this interview. In contrast to them, and despite all of his achievements, his self belief is low. He finds walking into restaurants alone impossibly stressful. It’s clear that there are parts of him that are messy and chaotic, and equally clear he’s done some dumb stuff. The Jags, the affair. I’m not counting the punch, because although it was politically unwise, it was also done rather superbly (not that I condone punching people of course). But he admits his faults, and what also comes across is that he’s sincere, fascinating, and in many ways, remarkable. And he genuinely admires and adores his family. This was a man taunted and tormented in Parliament for being working class, Northern and not having the slick schtick of the braying Hooray Henries. But I think, it’s evident in this programme, that he will be remembered long after they’ve merged into one unmemorable pile of beige, over-privileged bores.

If you’re quick you can catch it on iPlayer. Well worth a listen.

Posted by Inkface

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