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BBC Radio
Posted on Sunday 10 March 2013 at 7:52 am

Rachael's Week in BBC Radio Vol. 7

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Listened to this week was Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, Nineteen Eighty-Four, and Idylls of the King.
Next week I'm most looking forward to the start of Neverwhere, some Ray Bradbury stories, Neverwhere, The Lady Detectives, Neverwhere, Casanova with Cumberbatch, and this thing I haven't mentioned at all around here: the start of bloody Neverwhere!

Link of interest before the usual: There's a guy who does a regular podcast, which I like in theory but rarely listen to, on audio dramas from various sources so not just my BBC obsession. He also posts articles, links, etc. and I follow those more regularly. He wrote a recent article on his hopes that Neverwhere, thanks to Neil Gaiman's name if nothing else, will be a good thing for the popularity of radio dramas overall. I'm less optimistic of further crossover than he is (what percentage of Cumberbatch fans who have stumbled into it have expanded much beyond Cabin Pressure for example?) but wouldn't mind at all if he turns out to be correct.

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 3 to 9 March (mostly in order of preference, best to worst):
General note on my listening:
I've been on a thematic reading kick lately. In February, I read comic books and comics-related books almost exclusively which didn't translate well to listening for hopefully obvious reasons. In compensation for all the comics, March is the month of heavy tomes. I'm currently reading Moby Dick (partly also listening along to the Big Read full reading while reading the physical text, but never just listening) and, if I have the stamina after the whale, I'll follow that with War and Peace. I'll try to match my radio listening to my reading theme so I'm mostly going to be listening to dramatizations of novels, not necessarily heavy tomes but maybe, for the entirety of March. Luckily for me that can include Neverwhere!

Victor Hugo - Les Miserables Omnibus
Loved this! I have read Les Miserables but never experienced any adaptation, musical or otherwise. I thought this did a wonderful job of capturing the emotional impact, characterizations, and basic plot of the novel while trimming it down since the source is rather bloated at times. Roger Allam was of course fantastic as Jean Valjean and really I enjoyed all the actors' performances.

Gaston Leroux - The Phantom of the Opera
I'm familiar with the basic story of The Phantom of the Opera through general cultural osmosis, I suppose, but I've never read, heard, or seen any version of it before this so I can't compare it to other productions, but I did enjoy this one. I thought all the acting was good and the story moved well. I don't know what was cut from the original source, but I don't feel like there were any major holes or places where I felt something had to be missing. I think I enjoyed the B characters such as the owners of the opera house trying to outwit the "ghost" and the concierge working against them on the ghost's behalf more than the central love triangle characters. I certainly did not come away feeling overly sympathetic for the phantom as a kind of tragic anti-hero as I know some people do from some interpretations, but I do feel they made him an understandable villain.

The Real George Orwell - Nineteen Eighty-Four
Of the huge Orwell celebration BBC did in February, this is the first to which I've listened. I love Nineteen Eighty-Four the novel and was disappointed in this dramatization. The beginning was flat, though the last forty minutes or so of the two hours picked up and came closer to getting the feel of the novel. Part of my problem was that the audio was odd in the beginning. I think they were trying to do a bit of fuzziness in order to add to the feel of the dystopic world, but it just made it hard to understand the words sometimes. Basically all of the Orwell stuff is already available to buy from AudioGo since BBC was really pushing this series. Nineteen Eighty-Four is here.

The Idylls of the King
This was a Drama on 3 production from 2009 that I bought from AudioGo. I thought it was OK but not fantastic. It was sort of a full-cast reading more than a dramatization in that the narrator read a lot and then the other actors basically seemed to read the dialogue of their characters. It was a perfectly reasonable version of the basic Arthurian tales as Alfred Lord Tennyson told them, but it mostly felt like it was going through the motions and just didn't wow me. If you're a huge Arthurian fan, collecting everything in much the same way I do with Holmes, it could be worth a listen, but probably not otherwise.

Various Episodes of Panel Shows

Just a Minute: I listened to the first three episodes of the current series of Just a Minute this week. I love Just a Minute for absolutely mindless background noise. I often tune them out when someone is just talking, playing the game, and then only pay attention when they start arguing over whether or not someone has violated the rules. The arguing is definitely the best. You can buy past episodes of Just a Minute at AudioGo.

Dilemma: I listened to episode 2 of the current series this week and enjoyed it. Nothing particularly outstanding this week but even when not outstanding this seems to be a solid, strong panel show.

Downloading 10 to 16 March:
Neil Gaiman - Neverwhere
I don't know there's anything I have to say on this that I haven't already said about 50,000 times. Neil Gaiman is awesome. The cast is awesome. I've had issues with the two previous versions of Neverwhere but I love the idea and I honestly think this one is going to be the one that gets it right. Yay! The first episode is this week (Saturday) and the rest will be next week.

A Night with a Vampire
This is a five episode reading of Victorian stories of vampires. Readings aren't my favorite, but the story sounds interesting and the reader is David Tennant so that works for me.

Baldi Series 1
One of perhaps too many ongoing detective series on BBC Radio. I'm not too familiar with this one, but since there are five seasons it seemed good to grab the first while it is reairing to give it a shot and see if it will become a favorite.

Cadfael - Monk's Hood
Similar to Baldi, but not the first story here and I'm more familiar with Cadfael. Too many detectives!

Dermot Bolger - Haunting Women
Scary, haunting, supernatural, etc. kind of plays focusing on female. Works for me. Is BBC doing more female focused things right now for Women's Day?

Elizabeth Gaskell - Mary Barton
Adaptation of a classic novel. Never read the novel, but always wanted to.

Ian Kelly - Casanova
Another reading. This time it is a recentish biography of Casanova. I'm not sure I'll ever listen to it, but the reader is Benedict Cumberbatch and if I'm ever going to listen to any voice in my ear telling me about Casanova, that one's the winner. There is also a non-BBC Cumberbatch reading of part of Casanova's autobiography that you can buy as an audio book, but that's five hours long whereas this is only a little over an hour. The autobiography would probably be better than a biography, but while I might eventually give about an hour to Cumberbatch reading Casanova at me, I don't think I'd ever give five hours to it.

Stories of Ray Bradbury
Yet another reading. For something I usually shy from, I've got a lot of them on tap for this upcoming week. Oh, well. The reason for the exception here is Ray Bradbury. I love Bradbury. I might not ever listen to these as I'd be more likely to just sit down and read the stories, but it will be nice to have hanging about if the mood to listen ever strikes.

The Lady Detectives
This is a series of four plays featuring female detectives. Hooray for the women!

Wilkie Collins - The Moonstone
Adaptation of a Wilkie Collins detective story. One of the lady detective stories above is also a Wilkie Collins story so apparently he's just all over this week.

Revolting People Series 1
This is a bit of a PSA. I've bought series 1 and 2 of Revolting People so I won't be downloading it, and am continually annoyed at the lack of series 3 and 4 for sale, but this is the first time anything of Revolting People has been on since 2010 so I thought I'd draw attention to it for anyone who isn't familiar with it. This sitcom is set in Baltimore on the eve of the American Revolution and more often than not is just a vehicle for jokes about Americans vs. Brits, which I love. The actual plot and characters are sometimes weak, but it hits on enough of my interests that I enjoyed it. One of the two writers and main actors is Andy Hamilton, who I rather enjoy. This doesn't compare to his longer running radio sitcom, Old Harry's Game, but few things do.

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 Drama15-Minute Drama, Classic Serial, and The Wire. This week I'm most looking forward to a dramatization of Moliere's The Misanthrope. I'm also intrigued by the idea behind The Wire play this week. The script is based on, and includes excerpts from, interviews with three elderly people where they discussed their worst fears. The parts of the three elderly people are played by children, in an attempt "to explore the close links of elderly people and children; the vulnerability, simplicity, fragility, resilience." Could be an interesting, thought-provoking, experiment.

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.

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

EDIT: I added a couple things to downloading this week. Rather than adding them here, where they would be easily missed by anyone who'd already this, I made a Part II post for this week.


failte_aoife at 1:17 pm on 10 March 2013 (UTC) (Link)
I'm also waiting for The Moonstone-adaption. I was somewhat ambivalent about the book (meaning I loved the story but was less fond of the characters and most narrators annoyed me) and I'm curious how they will adapt that for radio.

I have downloaded 1984 but shallowly just because Christoper Eccleston is in it. I probably won't listen to it any time soon because dystopia is simply not my genre. I tried but no matter if I read something or watch it I never really enjoy it.

This week I've been listeing to more Agatha Christie (really enjoyed Murder is Easy) and the first two episodes of Minister of Chance. It's not on the radio but an indie-production that can be downloaded for free. It's a sci-fi story set on a planet that has just been invaded by foreign powers. What I listened to so far was really interesting (despite there being the invaded and the invaders not everything is black and white and it has some pretty fascinating world-building).

For next week I'm also really looking forward to the Cadfael-story. Monk's hood is not one of my abolutre favourites but still one I like very much.
But what I'm really exited about is Thorndyke - Forensic Investigator. He was a contemporary of Sherlock Holmes but the stories never were quite as popular (admittedly I get why, the one story I read so far had quite a lot of details on the forensic investigation but I find these things interesting).
bratty_jedi at 1:56 pm on 10 March 2013 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for the heads up about Thorndyke! BBC does so many detectives that I'm trying to cut back and only download ones I know about at least a little. I didn't know anything about that one so I skipped it but you've got me looking forward to it now.

I'm saving up the mysteries at the moment for the most part. I think my next theme after my big books and dramatizations will be mysteries and thrillers (which will also include a bunch of dramatizations) so I can get to some of them.
Unsentimental Fool
unsentimentalf at 3:36 pm on 10 March 2013 (UTC) (Link)
Lovecraft's At The Mountains of Madness. I find Lovecraft hard work to read but this reading murmuring dark terrors in my ear while I potter round the kitchen has been just right!
bratty_jedi at 7:07 pm on 10 March 2013 (UTC) (Link)
I'm working my way through reading all of Lovecraft's fiction, but very slowly. I've got a couple of the BBC readings (I think they're both readings not dramatizations) of his stuff, including Mountain of Madness, that I might listen to rather than reading the text when I get to them.
space_oddity_75 at 7:46 pm on 10 March 2013 (UTC) (Link)
Hello there! First of all, happy belated birthday! :)

I'd like to thank you SO MUCH for the list of upcoming radio dramas you always put up on your LJ: I've become quite the addict to BBC 4 Extra and their excellent programmes, and it's good to know that there's lots of new interesting stuff to look forward to.

This weekend I spent 6 hours on a train and had the chance to listen to the whole dramatization of 'Les Miserables' with the fantastic Roger Allam. What a great story, and what a fabulous characterization! Being a huge Allam fan, this adaptation was particularly satisfying. I loved him as Javert in the original musical, but from now on he'll always be my favourite Valjean as well.

I've also just subscribed to 'Neverwhere' on Radio Downloader, hoping in a great adaptation of one of my favourite Gaiman books. With such a stellar cast, I'd be surprised if it was less than a masterpiece.
bratty_jedi at 8:40 pm on 10 March 2013 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for the kind words and birthday wishes. :)

I loved Allam as Valjean. I've never seen any of the musical versions, or even listened to any of the songs, but I'm debating seeking out some of the little easily available with him as Javert just to compare.

I really really can't wait for Neverwhere!

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