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BBC Radio
Posted on Sunday 28 April 2013 at 8:14 am

Rachael's Week in BBC Radio Vol. 14


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Listened to this week highlights were Rumpole and a Two Pipe Problems story.
Next week I'm most looking forward to a rerun of an old Stephen Fry spoof sitcom, a remake of an old radio detective serial, a couple of comedic novel dramatizations, and a few interesting running series starting up on the regular drama programs.

Note: I'll be out of town next weekend. I'm leaving Friday (3 May) and coming back the following Friday (10). The full BBC Radio schedule for that week I'll be gone most likely won't be up, particularly not in a way convenient for browsing, before I leave. I'll probably end up doing something along these lines:
Thursday, 2 May: Post things I'll be downloading for maybe Sunday (5) to Wednesday (8).
Sunday, 12 May: Post things I've downloaded / will be downloading for Thursday (9) to the next Saturday (18) and everything I listened to from today (Sunday 28 April) to that Saturday (11). That could make for a beast of a post since it will cover so much more time than normal, but I don't think it will because I don't think I'll be able to listen to much while I'm out of town.
I'll be out of town again around the first week of June so might have to adjust the usual posting schedule then, too.

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 21 to 27 April (mostly in order of preference, best to worst):
Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders: Old Unhappy Far-Off Things and Alone and Without a Leader
We've covered just how much I adore Rumpole, yes? Good. This is no exception. The main case was an interesting one and played out fantastically with a bit of investigation and a dramatic courtroom reveal. This is the first of the Rumpole's with Benedict Cumberbatch as younger Rumpole so there were some interesting differences. The framing with Timothy West as older Rumpole telling about a case from his younger days and commenting on himself throughout was very well done. My favorite of the tricks they played with were moments when Rumpole would be in a difficult situation where returning fans know old Rumpole would say something biting but young Rumpole just isn't sure enough of himself so Cumberbatch would deliver a classic Rumpole line, West would say "Is what I should have said," Cumberbatch would come back in with something much more timid, and West would come back with "Is what I did say." I think this could be overdone but they did it exactly right here and by the end there was one moment where the "what I should have said" and "what I did say" lines were actually the same words but delivered not quite as confidently the second time as a way of showing young Rumpole beginning to become the beloved old Rumpole. I definitely think this works better for fans of old Rumpole than as a starting place with the character as there are lots of little things that explain the origins of long running gags that just won't be as cool if you don't know them already. Also, this story takes place not too long after World War II (early 50s I think they said) and deals heavily with the war and there is one absolutely hilarious moment where Cumberbatch does a bit of a Churchill impression to rouse the spirits of a crime family in their battles versus another, more ruthless, crime family.

The only Timothy West Rumpole adaptations for sale are the first four stories in Rumpole and the Primrose Path at AudioGo. I have bought them and wish I could buy more, including this one, but it just isn't available. I have most of West's Rumpoles from downloading, but I don't have R. and the Teenage Werewolf and R. and the Right to Privacy (sometimes jointly called Rumpole's Return) nor do I have Truth Makes All Things Plain and The Past Catches up with Us All (sometimes jointly called R. and the Reign of Terror). If anyone knows how I can get those four, I'd be grateful!

Two Pipe Problems: Here Doggie and The Case of the Missing Meerschaum
The two episodes of this I listened to this week are the definition of mixed bag. Two Pipe Problems are mysteries that sometimes run within the Afternoon Drama. I think there have been around eight or ten of them but I only have a handful. The stories are set in a retirement community for old show business types and the two main characters are old television actors most famous for having played Holmes and Watson together in a supposed medium-running BBC tv series in the 1960s. They now have a bit of a love-hate friendship and sometimes work together to solve mysteries in their retirement community with the one who played Holmes always thinking he's a genius when he's a bit of an idiot and the one who played Watson actually solving everything. The first story in this run, Here Doggie, is atrocious. No one should ever listen to it. The mystery doesn't show up until the last ten minutes or so and is never compelling, the plotlines happening before that are all boring, and the supporting characters are annoying. There is also a weird pseudo dog barking mixed with a bouncy tune that they use for some scene transitions that is just stupid.

On the other hand, the second story, The Case of the Missing Meerschaum, is absolutely fantastic! It is possible I just loved the hell out of this because it hit right on a personal sweet spot, but it should be a sweet spot for many regular flisters. In this story, the two actors are the invited guests of honor at a Sherlock Holmes fan convention and that actually allows for much of the back story of the main characters to be elaborated upon so people can jump in here without any prior knowledge and be perfectly fine. There is tons of poking gentle fun at the absurdities of over-the-top Holmesian fans throughout and as one of the targets of those jokes I loved every minute of it. The mystery pops up when a pipe used by Basil Rathbone in all his Holmes films goes missing. As with all the Two Pipe Problems, the actual solving of the case is incidental and happens mostly off stage, which I know annoys some mystery fans who like to follow all the clues and try to solve the cases before the solution is revealed, but I'm especially OK with it here. These little stories, this Holmes convention one in particular, are just fun and silly homages to mysteries more than actual mysteries themselves. They're about wallowing in the love of the genre rather than actually being great examples of it.

The Lady Detectives - The Law and the Lady
I listened to the first three of the four mysteries in this collection last week. This last one is by far the best, hardly surprising since it is an adaptation of a Wilkie Collins work. The story here revolves around a new wife investigating her husband's hidden past. I can't really recommend any of the other three stories but this one is well worth a listen and is under an hour so not much of a time commitment.

A Special Kind of Dark (Saturday Drama)
I'm not sure I've ever spent an hour of my life as confused as I was listening to this. It is a dark psychological mystery/thriller and it just made no sense for quite a while. It was largely supposed to make no sense, the listener is supposed to be as off-kilter as is the main character who is perhaps being somewhat gas lighted throughout. It mostly made sense in the end and had a reasonably satisfactory resolution, but I think there were a few loose ends left. It was OK and I think I'd say I enjoyed it, but it wasn't anything special and I doubt I'll ever listen to it again.

History of British Comedy
I listened to the first two episodes, which go through the interwar years then from World War II through the 1950s, as background noise while working on other things like I do with panel shows and thought it was OK. It is mostly David Mitchell lecturing on the history and types of British comedy interspersed with interviews with comedians and the like and recordings of classic performances. I like the second episode a bit better as it had more of the last, but since the first episode covered the earliest period for which there are necessarily the fewest recordings, that makes sense. I'm not all that familiar with the periods covered here, there are a few names I recognize but not really performer or shows I've seen / heard, but I still found the information interesting and especially liked how they placed comedic developments within larger contexts.

Various Episodes of Panel Shows
The Museum of Curiosity: I listened to a series 4 repeat with guests comedian Harry Enfield, solar astronomer Lucie Green and Alan West, Baron West of Spithead. I'd call it a mixed episode. There were some funny bits, but there were also a lot of sexist and ... not racist... nationalist I guess, jokes in this episode and those just don't entertain me.

Act Your Age Series 2: This week I listened to the first half of series 2, which is actually a few years old, but BBC is re-airing it. It was all fine for background silliness. Nothing particularly stood out as excellent or terrible. It's been a while since I listened to any of Act Your Age so I suppose it is worth repeating what I said about it the first time for anyone unfamiliar with it. 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 one of the regulars is Jon Richardson who is one of my favorite young British comedians.



Downloading 28 April to 4 May:
Delve Special
A spoof series from the mid 1980s with Stephen Fry! It is poking fun at investigative reporting.

Paul Temple and Steve
This one is interesting from a BBC Radio history perspective. This was a radio series in the 1930s to 1960s about two detectives, a crime novelist and a reporter who eventually marry. Due to BBC's not keeping great archives at the time, many of the original broadcasts were lost. So in the 2000s, the BBC began re-recording some based on the original scripts but trying to make them sound like the originals by using old mics and sound effects, 1940s accents, and the like.

Arthur Wing Pinero - Dandy Dick
This is an adaptation of a farce from the 1880s about a clergy man who preaches against gambling but then gets involved in a horse racing scheme.

Carey Harrison - A Call From the Dead
Stage play about a psychiatrist who receives a phone call from a former patient who should be dead but claims to have been buried alive and calling from a cell phone in his casket.

Stella Gibbons - Cold Comfort Farm
Dramatization of a 1930s comedic novel about a woman who decides to become a leech, living off all her relatives. This is supposedly a good one for poking fun at all the "manners" of the manor house types from the era.

Absolutely Delish
A series of comedies about food and dining. Not sure.

Change at Oglethorpe
Sitcom about a trainee becoming in charge of a railway station. Don't know much about it.

I think I've Got a Problem Series 2
I downloaded series 1 of this sitcom about a man with music playing in his head but haven't listened to it yet. Might as well grab series 2 in case I like series 1.

Planet B series 2
This is a science fiction series. I have series 1 but haven't listened to it yet. That's getting to be a familiar refrain, isnt' 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, Friday Drama, Saturday Drama, Drama on 3, BBC Cymru Wales Drama, BBC World Drama, 15-Minute Drama, Classic Serial, and The Wire. This week I'm most looking forward to a run of older plays about historical subjects, starting with one about millennial movements during the English Civil War then one about slavery, on Drama on 3, a series about a man who fights off all the monsters and evils that everyone else thinks are just fantasy (dragons, faeries, etc.) on the Afternoon Drama, and a couple of dramatizations of Julian Barnes novels on the Saturday Drama.

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, Dilemma,Wordaholics.

I'm adding The Guessing Game this week. It is on series 2 but I didn't hear series 1. It is a comedy quiz show hosted by Clive Anderson.

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

Comments:

Unsentimental Fool
unsentimentalf at 10:19 pm on 28 April 2013 (UTC) (Link)
The book of Cold Comfort Farm is a wonderful farce- I'll happily try the dramatisation.
Rachael
bratty_jedi at 10:39 pm on 28 April 2013 (UTC) (Link)
Good to know. It is on my To Read, but since that's over 2000 books when last checked, not sure when I'll get to it. Friend recs always encourage me to bump books up, though.
aoife
failte_aoife at 7:57 am on 29 April 2013 (UTC) (Link)
Good to know about Rumpole...I have a few others and then will listen to those before Old Unhappy Far off things.
I also listened to one of the History of British Comedy-episodes (thanks to my very elaborate system for sorting things only the third because I had no idea where I put the first two...I have found them by now and probably listen to the whole thing in order again).
It was nice...I have never been that interested in the history of comedy but overall it's quite enterteining.

For this week I want to check out 'The ape that good lucky' which apparently are 'spoof lectures on human evolution'...I mainly want to give it a try because they were written by Chris Addison and I quite like him.
Rachael
bratty_jedi at 11:55 am on 29 April 2013 (UTC) (Link)
I debated the spoof evolution lectures and now I can't remember why I decided no. I might go ahead and add them to the download list since that doesn't cost me anything. I was going to say I don't know Chris Addison, but I just looked him up on wikipedia and I do know him, I just didn't recognize the name.


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