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BBC Radio
Posted on Sunday 19 May 2013 at 8:33 am

Rachael's Week in BBC Radio Vol. 17

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Listened to this week highlights included The Browning Version and a couple of detectives.
Next week I'm most looking forward to several book dramatizations and tons of repeats with favorite actors including Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry, Roger Allam, and Derek Jacobi.

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 12 to 18 May (mostly in order of preference, best to worst):

April was detective stories and due to my trip in early May I continued that over a bit and began transitioning to May and June's theme of short stories and plays this week.

Second Holmes
This is often described as a comedic spin on Sherlock Holmes and it kind of is but that's somewhat misleading. I'd more describe it to a modern audience as a lighter and earlier version of Sherlock (BBC) as there is certainly humor, but that isn't the main feel and it certainly isn't a farce or spoof. This series is from the 1980s and follows the adventures of the grandson of Sherlock Holmes and his friend and chronicler, the grandson of John Watson. The various episodes play with classic Holmes stories, sometimes very explicitly such as in the first case when the duo are called to a case involving a Baskerville hound, but often more subtly, in a similar though not identical way to the Sherlock (BBC) TV show. The Holmes here resents his family's fame and the burden of continuing the business placed on him by his father and grandfather and wants to use his great mental capabilities to study history, physics, or basically anything other than solving mysteries. Watson, on the other hand, is in many ways just an original Holmes and Watson fan and is always quoting the canon and prodding the new Holmes to "do his duty" by being the detective he is supposed to be. The entire show is great fun, though the last episode is somewhat weak and trying to set up a sequel series that was never made.

The Browning Version (Saturday Drama)
I loved this play. Terence Rattigan is an amazing playwright and this is a very powerful and emotional work. I listened to the performance here while reading along in the script. It was very interesting to see how they'd use sound to convey the visual cues in the stage notes of the script. I plan to do something similar with a few other plays in the next few weeks. One caveat, this particular version of The Browning Version was well acted in many ways but was also a bit slow. It almost seemed like they knew they needed an hour-and-a-half play for the Saturday Drama slot and they just paused and otherwise pulled apart what should have been an hour long performance to make it fit the slot.

Thorndyke: Casebook of a Forensic Investigator Series 2
Thorndyke is a fictional detective created as a direct challenge to Sherlock Holmes. The point is to have a detective that could be real, that uses actual science and very detailed observations to solve cases in a way more recognizable to modern forensic science than Holmes's wild guesses that only work and seem like more than guesses because it is fiction. This was a reading of three of the stories by R. Austin Freeman. The first story, The Stolen Ingots, was good. It is an interesting case with a fun solution and really demonstrates Thorndyke's meticulous methodology. Story two, Rex v Burnaby, was boring. The solution was obvious before the characters had even realized there was a mystery and that just wasn't much to it at all. The final case, The Stalking Horse, was good though not as good as the first story. Overall, I liked the stories and the reader here, William Gaminara, did a good job. I doubt I'll listen to these again anytime soon, but I'd be up for other stories from the show.

Liz Lochhead - Blood and Ice
This is a radio play about the life of Mary Wollstonecraft (Godwin) Shelley and the writing of her novel Frankenstein. It was a bit oddly done, with the voice of Dr. Frankenstein's creation coming in at places that made sense to me and worked but then again in places that didn't work for me at all. It also started a bit slowly and should have ended ten or 15 minutes before it did, but the middle was dramatic and enjoyable. I'd say I liked it overall, but that might just be because I love the novel Frankenstein so was extra interested in the topic here.

Various Episodes of Panel Shows
The Unbelievable Truth 11:4, 5 & 6: All three of these were fantastic episodes. Week 4 had good "lectures," but the asides and arguments around them were even better. I was laughing like mad a few times and quite enjoyed it. Week 5 had John Finnemore on and he got the topic of airplanes! Brilliant! The lectures that week on socks and octopods were also fantastic. Week 6 wasn't quite as good (how could it be?) but still highly enjoyable.

News Quiz 80:4 & 5: Both of these episodes were very good. Episode 4 was a bit more overtly political with discussion of elections while episode five had a few more social issues like middle class drinking and sex on TV but they were both fun and entertaining. Unfortunately that's it for the current run so it'll be a few weeks until more News Quiz. What a bummer.

Downloading 19 to 25 May:
In the Chair
Dramatization of a political thriller/comedy novel about a reporter investigating a series of murders. The adaptation is from the late 1990s and includes Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, and Richard Griffiths. Excellent!

Poirot - Sad Cypress
Agatha Christie. Poirot. Good.

Charles Dickens - Mrs Lirriper
Dramatization (I think) of a lesser known Dickens, sort of. It is actually an early shared universe in that Dickens created Mrs. Lirriper and wrote a couple of the stories about her lodgers then other writers of his time wrote stories about other lodgers. Not sure if this is just going to be the Dickens stories or include others but Dickens is one of my favorite "classic" writers and I love the idea of the shared universe so I'm excited either way.

Daphne du Maurier - My Cousin Rachel
Dramatization of a du Maurier novel. I like du Maurier though I haven't read this one.

Alan Garner - Elidor
Dramatization of a children's fantasy novel. I've not read the novel in question, but am familiar with it as a basic kid's fantasy in which children from our world find themselves in a strange and magical world. I believe in this one the evil from the other world follows them home which is less overdone. I do like these kinds of stories despite how my previous sentences may have sounded and I want to have this dramatization as something to listen to when I'm in the mood for that kind of thing, I'm just not currently in the mood for it, I think.

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant
This dramatization of the Anne Tyler novel is the 15-minute drama this weekk but I want to grab the omnibus version. This is absolutely not the kind of story I typically like at all, a basic popular novel about a modern dysfunctional family, but I read this book for an English class in high school and for some reason it really grabbed me and I loved it. I reread it once in late undergrad or early in my MA program and haven't gone back to it since. I don't know how I'd feel about it now and figure the dramatization could be a good way to check back in with the story and characters.

Alan Bennett - An Englishman Abroad
I've not seen the movie that is the original version of this story (I think), but I generally like Bennett's plays and films so I'm on board with this adaptation of the story of the real meeting of an actress and a spy. This is actually part of a series BBC is re-airing right now on The Cambridge Spies of the early Cold War era, but most listed so far are documentaries and the like in which I'm not interested.

Julian Mitchell - Another Country
Another bit of the Cambridge Spies stuff that caught my eye. This one is an adaptation of a stage play based on the childhood of the main spy. It has Tom Hiddleston in it, who isn't one of my favs but I know he has some major fans among the flist so I thought I'd point him out. This isn't airing until next Sunday so should be on next week's post, but it seemed to make more sense to post it now with the Bennett. I haven't looked further on the schedule so there might be more of this stuff next week.

Elizabeth Morgan - Dear Countess
I was going to skip this play as a drama about a troubled Victorian marriage just isn't grabbing my attention due to too many of them, somewhat similarly to my comments on basic kid fantasy tropes above. Then I saw "Stars Derek Jacobi and Timothy West." in the BBC description. Yeah.

With a Little Help From My Friends
A play based on the life of Brian Epstein, the manager of The Beatles. I know a bit about Epstein's difficult personal life that led to his early death due to a probably accidental but possibly intentional drug overdose. I've heard rumors of a film based on his life starring Benedict Cumberbatch being in the works, so I'm not surprised the Beeb is re-airing this 1996 drama.

The Big Ticket
Random play that just sounds like fun: a postal worker coming to grips with her sudden wealth from a lottery ticket win.

Nick Warburton - On Mardle Fen Series 2
I have series 1 and 5 of this program but haven't listened to any of it yet. This is just one of those "Might as well grab it in case I like the first series." kind of things.

Will Smith's Midlife Crisis Management
Repeat of a 2008 sitcom. I'm in because Roger Allam and Geoffrey Whitehead are in it. The program is about a man suffering a midlife crisis. Opinion was divided as to whether it was greatest or worst thing ever when it initially aired.

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 couple of Afternoon Dramas look promising, one on Lady Jane Grey and Edward VI trying to negotiate the political reality of child monarch / royal and the other a look at Roman London through the eyes of a Black woman, I think (the BBC description is somewhat confusing me). In a similar political and historical vein is the Saturday Drama on Machiavelli's the Prince and its place in modern society.

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, and The Guessing Game .

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


failte_aoife at 2:39 pm on 19 May 2013 (UTC) (Link)
Then I saw "Stars Derek Jacobi and Timothy West." in the BBC description. Yeah.

I understand your reasoning very well. *goes and subscribes to that*

I really really love Will Smith but from the three radio-comedies he wrote and starred in (Mr. & Mrs Smith and The Tao of Bergerac are the other two) Midlife Crisis is probably my least favourite. I still enjoyed it (and Roger Allam) but Smith's comedy-persona is this die-hard geek who is rather too full of himself and in MC he is very full of himself and he passes the line from 'in an amusing way' to 'in an annoying way' a bit to often. As said, still enjoyable but not his best work.

Apart from the usual panel shows I immediately listened to 'How does that make you feel?' and loved it. Of course there's Roger Allam and his character is hillarious (he did remind me of a much worse version of his character in The Thick of It) but I also really enjoyed the other patients. Too bad only the 3rd season is available at AudioGo as I'd love to hear the whole series at some point.
Then I found a very old version of Les Miserables and listened to the first part. It's just interesting to compare it to modern audioplays (compared to them it has some really long parts with just narration) but it's not so amazing that I'd consider it a must-listen.
bratty_jedi at 11:05 am on 20 May 2013 (UTC) (Link)
A great actor certainly makes a difference. :)

I don't think I'm familiar with much if any of Will Smith's work. If I'm unimpressed by the midlife crisis one I'll keep in mind what you said and give one of the others a chance should they pop up.

Interesting with the older Les Mis. I love that book but it is one that for a modern audience needs a great deal of editing. I'm not sure leaving in the narration in an audioplay does it much justice. Either reading the book itself or an adaptation that heavily edits sound like the two best options to me with this maybe just somewhere in the middle.
bowl_of_glow at 7:32 pm on 19 May 2013 (UTC) (Link)
Have I ever mentioned how much I love this posts? I love this posts. I'm Italian and I'm listening to a lot of BBC Radio 4 programmes right now because of you, when I don't even listen to the national radio here :-P

Second Holmes sounds interesting, will probably download it! I listened to The Newly Discovered Casebook of Sherlock Holmes which wasn't that bad... but wasn't that great (I admit sometimes I found it hard to grasp some of the jokes, but still). I listened to the first two eps of The Beekeeper's Apprentice but I don't think I'll listen to the rest. I actually found the premise of the story quite interesting but the character of Mary Russell was SO obnoxious (maybe it's just me, I don't know) and I couldn't stand all those little digs at Watson, Holmes basically said that it was nice to work with a true partner for a change and Watson was just a useful pair of hands, which was so out of character for him, I mean. Ah, no.

The Unbelievable Truth Ep5 was hilarious, I had it on my iPod and I was laughing out loud as I walked, embarrassing! (I think "Who hits an armadillo with a broom? Scientists!" might have been my favorite bit, I kind of want an icon of that. lol)

I listened to the first part of the adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities, it was really really good. I've never read the novel actually though I've had it in my ebook collection for a while; following the plot wasn't that easy but I'm hooked. Will definitely download the other parts.

This week I'm most looking forward to a couple of Afternoon Dramas look promising, one on Lady Jane Grey and Edward VI trying to negotiate the political reality of child monarch / royal and the other a look at Roman London through the eyes of a Black woman, I think (the BBC description is somewhat confusing me)

They both sound pretty interesting, I'll check these out!

ETA: So sorry about all the edits OMG I can't spell

Edited at 2013-05-19 07:38 pm (UTC)
bratty_jedi at 11:14 am on 20 May 2013 (UTC) (Link)
Have I ever mentioned how much I love this posts? I love this posts.
Thanks!! :D

I tried the Undiscovered Casebook Holmes and wasn't impressed. I listened to the first two episodes and might go back to it someday, but I don't know. It was too much random jokes and not enough plot for me.
I've always avoided the Beekeeper's Apprentice series of books. I'm not a fan of the basic premise there. Your opinion of it fits with what I've assumed it to be without ever actually trying it. Maybe someday I'll give it a go so I can properly form an opinion on it, but there is so much other stuff out there that I might now.

Glad Tale of Two Cities sounds fantastic. I've read it and, while I love Dickens, I don't really like that book. The ending is fantastic and there were a few subplots and characters that were interesting throughout but large chunks of it just felt flat and kind of boring. I think it is a book and plot that would be well served by being condensed, though, so I'm hopeful that this adaptation will include everything I like about the book without the stuff I find boring.

No worries on the edits. I get the same way with my own typos and misspellings.
shezan at 10:40 am on 20 May 2013 (UTC) (Link)
I just got hold of Casanova's Memoirs read by Benedict Cumberbatch, and since I am a fan of both, I'm eagerly looking forward to listening. Casanova wrote superb, epigrammatic French, so I'm curious to see whether the translation works.

Would be delighted to send you this, and would myself be very interested in the Rattigan, as well as Alan Bennet & Julian Mitchell when you have them....

(Also, have you got Warhorses of Letters? If not, I have it for you. It is BRILLIANT.)

Edited at 2013-05-20 10:45 am (UTC)
bratty_jedi at 11:36 am on 20 May 2013 (UTC) (Link)
If I'm not mistaken, there are two Cumberbatch Casanova readings. I have the reading of a biography of Casanova by Ian Kelly but not the reading of part of the autobiography. If you've got the autobiography, I'd definitely like to have it. I can also share the biography if you're interested and don't have it.

In addition to The Browning Version, I have two other Rattigans as audioplays if you're just a general fan of his. I've got The Winslow Boy (LOVE!) and Flare Path (haven't listened to it nor experienced the play in any other format so can't say much). Oh, wait. I just checked and the version of The Winslow Boy I have is purchased from AudioGo so if you do want that one and can buy it, I'd encourage that as the first option though I could still share it with you as a secondary option if you can't buy it right now or want to give it one listen to decide if you want to buy it or not. I'm pretty sure I originally snagged it with Radio Downloader and then loved it so much after one listen that I bought it.

I do have Warhorses of Letters, love it to pieces, and am anxiously waiting to find out if there will be a third series.

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