RADIO / How to take the situation in hand: Talk is expensive: Robert Hanks opens up about sex and greets Alan Partridge in his new role as chat-show host in Knowing Me, Knowing You

'It's only recently that I tell people that I masturbate,' one woman confessed on Talk About Sex (Radio 1, Wednesday), and you had to be impressed by the way she'd come on - already chatting openly about it on national radio as though this were the most natural thing in the world. Still, her admission raised a number of questions, among them: how do you set about telling people? Do you wait for a convenient conversational lull and then plunge in boldly ('There's something I think you ought to know . .

. ')? Or is it better to wait for the conversation to drift round to masturbation and then drop your bombshell casually ('. . . Speaking of which, I do a bit of it myself')? But the main question is, why tell anybody at all? Unless they ask, of course.

It should be said at the outset that Talk About Sex, a three-part series looking at 'sex and sexuality in the Nineties', is a highly responsible and serious- minded enterprise. Its half-hour of testimony to the varieties of sexual experience rolls on, punctuated by announcements about the confidential One FM sex talkline, without a hint of a snigger or a double entendre. You can imagine the intended audience - worried teenagers sitting in their bedrooms, listening over their homework, and feeling relieved to find that they aren't alone in their anxieties. And you couldn't accuse it of overselling sex, with its long line of young people talking about the pain and the embarrassment they had gone through to lose their virginity.

The problem with the first part was that it sank under the weight of its own worthiness. You could feel it ticking off the issues as it went on - Masturbation: check. Loss of virginity: check. Male homosexuality: check. Lesbianism: check. Bisexuality: check. To be fair, this reflected the programme's moral agenda - a generous, inclusive morality summed up by one of the songs on the relentless soundtrack, 'It's OK to feel good.' Whatever you want to do is all right, it's normal. But, leaving aside the fact that there are two sizeable minorities over whose needs the programme rode rough-shod, the highly inhibited and the completely unsuccessful, it still felt perfunctory, and finally tedious.

Meanwhile Alan Partridge, host of Radio 4's controversial new chat-show Knowing Me, Knowing You (Tuesday), treads on the toes of practically every minority you can think of; as a result, the programme caught the sharp side of the listeners' tongue on this week's Feedback (Radio 4, Friday), which this week featured several complaints about its puerility and unnecessary explicitness; this probably cheered its makers up no end.

Knowing Me, Knowing You is a spin-off from the excellent On the Hour, Knots Landing to its Dallas. As that image should suggest to the teleliterate, it has some of the characteristics of its parent programme, but doesn't quite live up to it. To begin with, it has inhospitable subject matter. On the Hour, being a spoof of news-programmes, could pull in a lot of disparate material, and could be made in isolation, so that it never lost its poker face. But the chat- show, the target of Knowing Me, Knowing You, is a far more restrictive form. In particular, a chat-show has to have a studio audience to applaud the guests, laugh at the jokes, generally lend proceedings a bit of ambience. Unfortunately, the audience here never stops laughing, so that the joke has been exploded by the studio audience before it reaches the listener. The only way the programme could really work, in fact, is to have an audience consisting entirely of skilled comic improvisers, who could keep a straight face throughout. Failing that, you could try to get an audience entirely devoid of any sense of humour.

Still, the programme has effectively punctured some chat-show conventions. There are knowing squibs about the fake knowledgeability of chat-show hosts: Partridge gets a guest's name wrong, and says sorry, 'but I'd never heard of you before tonight'. He begins a question by saying, 'Now I read a bit in your book that was highlighted in yellow by a researcher for me . . . '

It's hard to know where it goes from here. Steve Coogan's characterisation of Partridge, a self-proclaimed 'Argos / World of Leather man', with his ersatz man-of-the-world philosophising ('Maybe O levels and A levels are just bits of paper . . . that you have framed in your office'), is brilliant, and never cracks. He's a driver you can rely on; he may need a different vehicle.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
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.

    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test