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BBC Radio
Posted on Sunday 3 February 2013 at 9:17 am

Rachael's Week in BBC Radio Vol. 2


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Listened to this week is primarily folk and fairy tales or alternate takes on them. I didn't intend for that but the first couple I tried were kind of bad so I kept going looking for something good and then just kept going even more after I found some good ones.
Next week I'm most looking forward to a plethora of science fiction repeats.

One note before I get going on the usual stuff: last Sunday evening (I think) was the BBC Audio Drama Awards. You can see who and what picked up major awards here and last year's winners here. I have some of these programs downloaded but haven't listened to any of them and I don't have many of them as I didn't start downloading until this past summer. None of the ones I now want seem to be available for purchase anywhere. If anyone knows of a way to get Kafka the Musical in particular, I'd be extremely grateful!

I use a program called Radio Downloader to download hours of stuff every day (I can't recommend RD enough) and will possibly never listen to a great deal of it. I often listen to things for the first time months after they air. Because of that, I do two things in these BBC Radio posts.

(1) Listened - I'll discuss all the shows I listened to this past week. Some of these may be newly aired things but many may have aired months ago or, if they're things I sought out to buy, might not have aired for years. I will include links to the BBC website for everything and to AudioGo for anything available for purchase. AudioGo is the official site for BBC Radio and is almost always cheaper than iTunes, Amazon download, etc. If you don't already have an account there and want to enter my email (brattyjedi at gmail dot com) as the recommender the first time you buy something, I can get points good towards free downloads :) If something isn't available for purchase, you don't have it downloaded, and based on my comments on it you'd really like to listen to it, let me know and I might be able to help.

(2) Downloading - This will be kind of a look ahead to what I've set up to be downloaded in the upcoming week with thoughts on why I selected it.

Listened to 27 January to 2 February (mostly in order of preference, best to worst):
Cabin Pressure Series 4 Episode 4: Wokingham
This is quite possibly my favorite so far of this series. It struck a better balance between series one and two preference for word games and zany single episode antics focusing just on the crew of MJN Air versus series three and four focus on character development outside the confines of the airplane and on-going story lines.
There is one out of universe thing about this episode that amuses me greatly. Prunella Scales (whom I shall now forever think of as Actually Prunella Genuinely Scales due to Finnemore's blog post last night) plays Martin's mother. Martin is, of course, played by Benedict Cumberbatch. In the series of radio dramatizations "Rumpole of the Bailey," real-life husband and wife Timothy West and Prunella Scales play husband and wife Horace and Hilda Rumpole. In some of these dramatizations, Rumpole tells the audience about cases from his younger days and Young Rumpole is voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch. While there is an actress who plays Young Hilda (two actually, I think), this sort of means Cumberbatch and Scales have now played husband and wife as well as mother and son. Yes, I realize I'm a dork for being entertained by such things.
It goes without saying that I will buy Cabin Pressure at AudioGo once it is available but I'll likely wait for the entire series rather than getting each episode one at a time.

Red Shoes (Saturday Drama)
This is an absolutely wonderful dramatization of a Hans Christian Andersen story that I don't usually enjoy. The text of the very short story is here for anyone interested. The dramatization sounds wonderful and conveys all the sanctimonious moralizing that I don't like from the story but makes the horror of it just over the top enough to show the problems and then subverts the original message in the very end. Love it!

We Can Remember It For You Wholesale
An exception to this week's largely fairy tale based listening. This is a c. one hour dramatization of a classic science fiction story by Philip K. Dick. I love the story and I love the dramatization. The pacing and tension are perfect here, better than I've ever gotten it reading the story because I'm a very fast reader and fly through things too quickly sometimes. It is the story of one man who desperately wants to go to Mars and attempts to have his mind altered so that he'll remember having been there without ever actually going. Once people start tampering with his memories, however, he discovers there is already much inside his head he remembers that might not be true and even more truth that he doesn't remember. Both films Total Recall are loosely based on the concept behind this story, but the plots are very different.

Tanith Lee - Red as Blood
Great dark version of Snow White with the queen as the hero and Snow White as the real evil. Very enjoyable half hour story. The twist here that makes Snow White into the evil will be familiar to readers of Neil Gaiman's short story Snow, Glass, Apples, but the execution of the idea is different.

Bill Taylor - Likely Stories
There are five half-hour radio plays in this collection of modernized fairytales. I've only listened to the first so far, Rumpleduck, which is rather logically a take on Rumplestiltskin this time dealing with a teenager getting literally sucked into a computer game, and rather enjoyed it. I'm looking forward to the rest and will probably finish them up on a hike this afternoon or run tomorrow, depending on the weather and what pops up on my schedule.

Fairy Tales Retold by Sara Maitland
These three stories, each only about 15 minutes, are wonderful retellings of classic tales (who'd have thunk based on the title?). Sleeping Beauty Wakes Up and The Gingerbread were both fantastic updates (to Hansel and Gretel for the latter in case you weren't sure). The third story, Mother Love, an update to The Seven Swans (or Six Swan Brothers or some variation on the theme depending on the version) wasn't quite as good and wasn't so much an update as just a retelling from the PoV of the bad guy which can be fun but just felt overdone here.

After Happy Ever
These five short radio plays (about 20 minutes each) provide something of continuations to modernized fairy tales and are a very mixed bag. Goldilocks was a fantastic, realistic take on the original tale and the modernized Princess and the Pea wasn't quite as good but was still very enjoyable. Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Snow White, however, were all either slightly less realistic or just kind of boring.

White Snow (Saturday Drama)
There is so much potential in this darkly comical version of Snow White told from the PoV of the stepmother, but it just doesn't ever live up to the potential. The new queen is a somewhat conniving, somewhat bumbling peasant, and is supposed to be the source of most of the dark and the comedy but the two halves are constantly warring and neither is well-realized.

Fairytales: Live from the Palace
There are four separate tales contained in this one-hour play. The schtick was for the familiar tales to be told as TV news reports. The first story, Cinderella, began that way then quickly became a disappointing straight-forward version. The next, Aladdin, was better done with the regular story scenes interspersed with fake news reports. The final two stories were better at actually sticking to the supposed idea of the show. I very much enjoyed the take on The Shoemaker and the Elves and would recommend that brief bit if it were easily pulled out of the rest. The Three Little Pigs story that ended the show was done more like a TV documentary than a regular news report and was interesting but something about it just didn't work for me. I'd known going in that there were two writers and wasn't all that surprised to find out that the first two that failed to fully live up to the promised concept were by one author and the second two by the other.

Tom Thumb Redux (Afternoon Drama)
This was a somewhat fun but ultimately unfulfilling science fiction version of Tom Thumb: a scientist gets drunk one night and accidentally invents a serum that makes him shrink and he has to confront his new diminutive status. I think the problem here was the attempt to have the sci-fi / fairy tale story idea and a more character-driven story in the form of marriage troubles in the scientist's life all in one 45 minute drama. It was just too much to try to cram in. The last ten minutes or so were the best but probably not worth the time to get there.

Beatrix Potter - The Tailor of Gloucester
This is a cute, classic kids' story but the dramatization doesn't have much to offer. There isn't enough dialogue, or even potential scenes for dialogue, in the original to give the dramatist anything to work with so there's just a bunch of characters muttering to themselves and it feels rather flat.

Various Episodes of Panel Shows
I'm usually more up to date on these as they are good to only half listen to in the background while piddling around with other things. I didn't have as much piddling time while I was at my parents' over the holiday break, though, so I got behind. I'm slowly getting caught back up.

The News Quiz Series 79 Episode 7: I stay up to date on this one since they are poking fun at each week's news. This week's episode was politics heavy, which is a plus for me. It was more news and indignation than laughs, though.
The News Quiz back episodes at Audio Go

Act Your Age: Three teams of two comedians of different age ranges (Up and Comers, Current Crop, Old Guard) compete to find out which generation is the funniest. Mostly this amounts to six comedians taking turns giving tiny bits from their stand up routines, which is fun though sometimes they forget what they've already said on the program and repeat something week-to-week. The main draw for me is that the regular Up and Comer is Jon Richardson who is one of my favorite young British comedians. This week I mostly listened to series 1, which is actually several years old, but BBC recently re-aired it so it is what I've got downloaded.

Heresy: Another one where I've been listening to old episodes because that is what the BBC aired most recently. The idea behind Heresy is that the panel argues against conventional wisdom (e.g. surveys show most UK citizens think the queen is great but the rest of the royal family sucks so the panel argued the queen sucks and the rest of the royals are great). OK for a bit of background noise, but not one of my absolute favorite panel shows.


Downloading 3 to 9 February:
New episode of Cabin Pressure (Xinzhou)
Well this is a no brainer. Of course I can't wait for the new Cabin Pressure!

Simon Bovey - Slipstream
This five episode science fiction drama is set during WWII and concerns the sudden appearance of a Nazi super aircraft that might be extraterrestrial in origin. History and Sci Fi - two of my favorite things!

Earthsearch
This is a ten-part science fiction space exploration series. Space exploration isn't one of my favorite sci fi subgenres (but it is infinitely better than the hard military stuff!), but this series, originally from the 1980s, has always been well-received and I've liked several other things the writer (James Follett) has done, so I think it should be good.

Wally K Daly - 625Y
Another science fiction repeat, this one from 1999. Again Daly is a writer whose work I've enjoyed and this has the added bonus of starring Geoffrey Whitehead. This play, only one hour so much shorter than the previous two, deal with genetic manipulation of humans.

The Fall of the Mausoleum Club
Another repeat (so many of those right now) from the 1980s. This is a series of spoof horror stories. Sounds like silly fun and it has Jim Broadbent among other actors whom I generally enjoy.

The Sofa of Time
A one-series early 2000s fantasy spoof sitcom featuring many of the talents involved in the TV show Spaced. Works for me!

Bonnie Greer - Rosa Parks
This one might be new, I can't find too much information on it. In any case, it is a look at a rather famous incident in American history and I'm always interested in other countries takes on that.

Andrew Miller - Pure
This is an adaptation of the 2011 novel of the same name. The story focuses on an engineer in late 1700s France and his task of moving the bodies from a mass graveyard. I love the era in which this is set and the plot sounds intriguing.

Sir Henry at Rawlinson End
I had no idea what this one might be about but the wikipedia page describes it as "a largely spoken-word, solo comedy recording" from the 1970s. That sounded like it might have possibility but I knew I had to try this when I got to the following in the wiki description: "Puns, double-entendres, pop-cultural references and all manner of clever wordplay abound, as Stanshall initially takes the role of an unnamed narrator, then drifts between character and narrator thereafter." I am always a sucker for cheap puns and word-plays!

Anthony Hope - The Prisoner of Zenda
I know a little about this beyond the Beebs brief summary: "Epic historical tale of subterfuge and doppelgangers, set in an East European province. Stars Julian Glover and Martin Jarvis." That would be enough for me, but I do also know that this is a dramatization of a novel from the 1890s that gave rise to a subgenre of adventure and romance stories typically involving royalty and nobility balancing their love lives and some kind of political turmoil. Yay political turmoil!

Evelyn Waugh Short Stories
What it says on the tin: readings of Evelyn Waugh short stories. I've always enjoyed Waugh's works.

Anna Sewell - Black Beauty
A one-hour dramatization of the children's classic.

Washington Irving - The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Straight-forward reading of the classic tale. My preference for dramatizations over readings fell away when I saw that the reader was Martin Jarvis.

Nick Warburton - Every Book in the World
I've listened to and enjoyed several things by Nick Warburton so basically picked up this one and the next on that basis alone. Of the two, I'm more interested in this one: a play about a man driven mad attempting to collect a copy of the titular every book in the world.

Nick Warburton - A Soldier's Debt
See above. The BBC's description of this one, "A missing recording of Macbeth creates a tie between three people in war-torn West Africa," sounds a bit less my kind of thing, but still worth giving it a shot.

The Newsagent's Window
Sounds like a fun, silly little story: a man starts replying to all the ads posted in a local store window.

Little Blighty on the Down Series 2
I have the first series of this older sitcom spoofing country-side soap operas but haven't listened to it yet. I'm mostly just downloading this to have so I can continue if I really like the first series once I get around to it.

Running Dramas
BBC Radio has several weekly or daily programs that do various original radio plays or dramatizations. The main ones are Afternoon Drama, Saturday Drama, Drama on 3, 15-Minute Drama, Classic Serial, and The Wire. There aren't really any in particular that are jumping out at me this week as something I'll really enjoy. Good thing there are so many other options!

Standing Panel Show Subscriptions
Whatever episodes of the following panel shows happen to air in any given week are always on my download list: Act Your Age, Heresy, I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, I've Never Seen Star Wars, Just a Minute, The Museum of Curiosity, The News Quiz, The Unbelievable Truth, Whose Line Is It Anyway?.

Continuing Downloads
For shows subscribed to previously that might still be on-going, see last week's post.


Anything good y'all listened to recently or looking forward to next week?

Comments:

aoife
failte_aoife at 2:38 pm on 03 February 2013 (UTC) (Link)
Ahhh...thanks! I'm quite fond of fantasy-spoofs (already listened to Elvenquest and Hordes of the Things) and have been trying to find Sofa of Time for a while without success...I would have completely missed that it's no on the radio again...right now I don't have the time to go through the radio-program not that I have the time to listen to it but I ignore that
Rachael
bratty_jedi at 3:30 pm on 03 February 2013 (UTC) (Link)
I've started on Elvenquest and I think I have every series, but I haven't listened to them all yet. I've very much enjoyed what I have heard. I'm not familiar with Hordes of the Things.
aoife
failte_aoife at 3:51 pm on 03 February 2013 (UTC) (Link)
It's also on AudioGo...basically a predeccessor to Elvenquest from the 80s. It is amusing though I didn't find as funny as ElvenQuest (though somehow I also always kept getting distracted while listening and missed quite a lot...I guess I need to re-listen to it a bit more carefully). It does have some good stuff (the hero has a minotaur named...Steven XD)
Rachael
bratty_jedi at 7:02 pm on 03 February 2013 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks. I'll give it a go after I finish Elvenquest.
Kizzia
kizzia at 3:44 pm on 03 February 2013 (UTC) (Link)
Having utterly failed to listen to anything I recorded on your recommendation last week I'm just going to keep recording things and actually remember to transfer them to my iPod so I can listen when I'm driving :)
Thank you for doing this!
Rachael
bratty_jedi at 7:16 pm on 03 February 2013 (UTC) (Link)
Glad you're enjoying it.
milady_vilya
milady_vilya at 8:52 pm on 03 February 2013 (UTC) (Link)
I'm looking forward to tomorrow's Unbelievable Truth John Finnemore, Henning Wehn are both on the panel.
Rachael
bratty_jedi at 12:18 am on 04 February 2013 (UTC) (Link)
I'm excited for that as well. Finnemore and David Mitchell are always great together, no real surprise there, and Finnemore on Unbelievable makes me think of Arthur's bear facts.
Unsentimental Fool
unsentimentalf at 9:07 pm on 03 February 2013 (UTC) (Link)
I enjoyed the Tanith Lee but gave up on the Pratchett; couldn't follow the dialogue properly. I'll stick to the books! Also try to keep up with More or Less, the R4 statistics show which is always worth listening to. And Cabin Pressure, of course. This week's is the first one of the two I was at the recording for so am particularly excited! I'll try to listen to the science fiction show, as well.
Rachael
bratty_jedi at 12:20 am on 04 February 2013 (UTC) (Link)
I haven't tried Wyrd Sisters yet but I enjoyed the BBC adaptation of Small Gods.

I'll look into More or Less.

So jealous of you for going to a recording. That must have been so much fun!


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