ARTS / The chat host from hell: Radio Programme of the Year

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The Independent Culture
THE BEST programme is also the worst. Knowing Me, Knowing You (R4), which runs for two more Tuesdays, is the hilarious nadir of chat shows. Its host, Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan), is a great comic creation, a Frankenstein's monster assembled out of Jim Rosenthal's gaucherie, Mike Morris's blokishness, Alan Titchmarsh's slime, Michael Parkinson's chippiness, and the research skills of Terry Wogan. Alan's guests are spot-on parodies of the 'personalities' that swill through chat schedules: American psychobabblers, egomaniac entrepreneurs, child prodigies.

Partridge himself first appeared as an inept sports presenter in the other comedy triumph of the year, the news spoof On the Hour (R4; now on cassette in the BBC Radio Collection). In these two series, producer Armando Iannucci and his team have taken radio comedy to new heights. Unsurprisingly, they've been lured to television.

The best new presenter - Partridge's polar opposite - was Andrew McCallister, whose Stanza (R4) brought poetry out of the academy and anthology and into the real world. He was equally at home discussing Gerald Manley Hopkins and Van Morrison. Another to listen out for is Nick Hancock, presenter of Room 101 (R5), who crossed wits with guests as sharp as Ian Hislop and Paul Merton, and survived. Best presenter (veteran) was Ray Gosling for A Taste Of . . . (R4) and Gosling in the High Street (R4). Whether the subject was Burtons' menswear or Serbo-Croat, his curiosity never flagged.

Other old favourites excelled. Radio Lives (R4) continued to show the seamier side of wireless celebrity, most poignantly in Phil Smith's description of the adult traumas of the Clitheroe Kid. In the Psychiatrist's Chair (R4) confirmed that celebrities can be eloquent about themselves. In File on Four, Gerry Northam flew the flag for investigative journalism, with striking reports on the inadequate training of police marksmen and the Italian government's Mafia links.

Documentary of the year was Richard Mayne's Andre Malraux: the Man and the Mask (R3), thorough, intelligent and all too rare. Best drama performance was Kerry Shale's mind-boggling impersonation of 40 characters in The Set Up (R5). Launch of the year was Classic FM, for removing the snobbery from classical music and gaining an audience twice the size of Radio 3's.

(Photograph omitted)

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