Is there anything more suited to radio than the panel show? Four of the most recent wits sit round a table and measure the length of their own lateral thinking. It is a format that should lose nothing by being transferred to the medium of sound. Only that’s not quite right is it? It’s one thing to hear laughter on the television without being able to see the audience; it’s another not to be able to see anything at all. Without the reassuring looks from the performers to fall back on, everything takes on the smug know-it-all tone that frequently plagues the Radio 4 comedies. Not that it’s all bad. There are good jokes in there, the friendly banter is quite pleasant, and there is an unmistakeable joy in hearing one comic try to out-funny another. Annoyingly for the critic, all the comedians are actually quite pleasant. Even David Mitchell’s nasal cheese-wire voice is quite likeable. But every time it starts to get pleasant, in bursts the laughter again, forcing the ears to get with the mirth. I don’t need to be screamed at by a room of giggling intellectuals to know where the jokes are: please leave my ears uncluttered.
Sherlock Holmes: His Last Bow- Radio 7, Wednesday 2.15am
Another made-for-Radio moment here: Sherlock Holmes. We know what he looks like, we know what most of the people in it will look like, heck, we even know what the places look like. And there’s no studio audience here, cackling all over the shop. Indeed, the tone is so serious that even in the middle of the night this radio play still warrants an alarming listener warning: “This play contains acts of Voodoo and other unpleasant behaviour.” Those ghastly voodoos. The play, once one gets over the horror of voodoo practices, is good. The voice acting top notch, with Michael Williams standing out in particular (though some of the Spanish accents wobbled and dipped as much as their armada). The adaptation catches the tone of Holmes perfectly, with the lightness of humour and British spirit of fun so often missing from other versions. The whole production is a sterling reminder of the pleasantness of listening to Radio. On at two fifteen, it served as an excellent indulgence before bed time, best enjoyed with a warm duvet and unashamedly sweet hot chocolate. So, not what I was led to believe by the alarmist pre-show warning then…
Bubble Gum and Cheese, Radio Solent, 11am Saturdays
Whether you’d agree to “play it loud” is a matter of debate for this radio show, specialising in tracks that are truly embarrassing to be fond of. Which is bizarre, because there is far more pleasure than guilt in this three hour-long programme. There can be no doubt that there are some absolute stinkers in the selection, but the cheeky chappy Alex Dyke keeps everything smiley, and the cringes at bay. That is unless you happen to stop at the traffic lights with your windows down, and entertain the two stunning young ladies in the adjacent car with “Blockbuster”. Two very strange looks received there. The show sets its scope very wide indeed, rampaging through well known classics of the decades without a care. It is precisely the kind of show that can convince you the sun is shining, even when trapped inside a drab reviewer’s office sheltering from Britain’s ever changing monsoon season. A thoroughly enjoyable three hours; just make sure that your car’s windows are up.