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

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
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.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living