Broadcasting: Only a miniature of Chivas Regal?

You will doubtless remember where you were on the day Pepsi painted Concorde blue; because from that moment on, Pepsi's sales just shot through the roof, and within three days no one ever drank Coca-Cola any more. Well, that was the idea, only it didn't happen quite like that, as Steve Punt reminded us in Stuntz last Thursday (R4). This was a run-through of various publicity shenanigans, and while that "z", although deliberately irritating, was no less irritating for that, the programme was itself drolly presented. As far as I could tell, that is, until mechanical catastrophe at my end prevented me from hearing most of the show. Which goes to show that events are never under your control, however much the PR industry thinks to the contrary.

But it did make me think fondly of the way journalists are wooed. We normally keep quiet about this as our judgements are meant to be beyond influence or favour, arf arf. The Controller of Radio 3 invited me to Pelleas et Melisande at the Albert Hall last week; many thanks, just treat me as a blank sheet of paper from now on, and sorry about having to climb over you during Act II to get to the khazi. It was my fault for drinking all your claret, I suppose. Classic FM, as I believe I mentioned a few weeks ago, has a different way of going about things, and sent me a plastic pot of Dolmio pasta sauce in order to induce me to listen to four-minute snatches of middlebrow Italian music. It didn't work. Last week, the station sent me a miniature of Chivas Regal. Much better, Classic FM, although I would have to add that while you are definitely on the right track there is still a little work to do in the quantity department.

The programme the whisky was meant to make me listen to was something called Masters of their Art with Susannah Simons, which I gather was about whisky blending. The same press pack contained details of Across the Threshold, in which - and now you really are going to need a drink, because the words you are about to read do not conjure up a pleasing image at all - David Mellor invites Bonnie Langford into his lounge and plays some of his CDs at her. The very helpful person at Classic FM swore blind that this was what was going to be broadcast, and wasn't some kind of joke.

It is true that if anyone has a face made for radio it is David Mellor, but it is also true that he has a voice that so conjures up his face that it is wisest not to have him on the radio, or indeed any medium, at all. Do programmers really think that when Mellor comes on the radio, the nation goes "Oh goody, it's David Mellor"? (The same applies, mutatis mutandis, to Pip Archer, or indeed any child on The Archers. Come to think of it, it applies to almost the entire cast of The Archers these days, with the solitary exception of Brian Aldridge.)

Amid such stupidity it was more than just nice, it was a lifeline, to have the week's evenings on Radio 3 devoted largely to Samuel Beckett. This meant finally hearing, as opposed to just reading, his radio plays, which are as haunting and innovative as anything else he did. Radio was an ideal medium for someone so ontologically perplexed, whose characters would wonder whether the voices in their heads were nothing more than that. Vexingly, R3 did not broadcast Beckett's first radio play, All That Fall, on the grounds that it had done so a couple of years ago.

The best of the programmes about him were the four entitled The Other Beckett, which went out from Monday to Thursday at 9.50pm. These were 20-minute-long examinations of Beckett's prose and poetry by Christopher Ricks. "Great luck to be alive," said Ricks, of his accidental discovery of Beckett's Watt, "when works of genius are being born, and to come upon them without benefit of a teacher; to be a contemporary, for a while at least, of T S Eliot, Bob Dylan, Samuel Beckett."

Great luck for us to be alive, too, when so lucid, penetrating and enriching a critic as Ricks is as well. Ricks is staggeringly good, generous in his desire to do right by art, and by us: he makes language sit up and play tricks, while at the same time telling us what kind of tricks it is playing on us. When he read out the opening sentence of Murphy - "The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new" - Ricks said: "What impertinence, and what pertinence, to remind us, at the very beginning of a novel, of all things, that there is no new thing under the sun." For who would think to remind us, at such an appropriate moment, and with such elegant economy, as if we had just that moment thought of it ourselves, of the two meanings of the word "novel"?

Reading the ending of Beckett's first story, Dante and the Lobster, Ricks said: "Here was a writer, in his twenties, in entire possession of his art; he has a purpose, and his eyes are bright with it." If you know the story you will know what he means. If you don't, then remedy the situation. Or, if you'd rather not, see if you could persuade Ricks to read out Beckett's corpus for the BBC. He makes the work comprehensible, or as much as possible; and funny, and moving, too.

Arts and Entertainment

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Metallica are heading for the Main Stage at Reading and Leeds Festivals next summer

Music

Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain's daughter Frances Bean Cobain is making a new documentary about his life

Music

Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp

TV Jungle security stepped up after murder and 'suspicious death' near to camp

Arts and Entertainment
TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tvThe two new contestants will join the 'I'm A Celebrity' camp after Gemma Collins' surprise exit
News
The late Jimmy Ruffin, pictured in 1974
people
News
Northern Uproar, pictured in 1996
people

Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the new Paddington bear review

Review: Paddingtonfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Tony stares at the 'Daddy Big Ears' drawing his abducted son Oliver drew for him in The Missing
tvReview: But we're no closer to the truth in 'The Missing'
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
    Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

    24-Hour party person

    Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
    Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

    A taste for rebellion

    US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
    Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

    Colouring books for adults

    How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
    Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
    Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

    Call me Ed Mozart

    Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
    10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
    Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
    'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

    'I am a paedophile'

    Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
    Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

    From a lost deposit to victory

    Green Party on the march in Bristol
    Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

    Winter blunderlands

    Putting the grot into grotto
    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

    London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital