RADIO / Funny way to treat a Sunday

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The Independent Culture
HOORAY. At last somebody has shot Tom Forrest in the seat of his elderly tweeds. For a surreal moment, it seemed possible that an ancient prophecy had been fulfilled: the reason for its originally being called The Archers (R4) had been revealed to an awe-struck nation. But alas, the wounds are superficial and scattered. He was peppered with shot on a partridge-shoot and by Tuesday was back on form, complaining that Jennifer's scones were too fiddly. The guru of Ambridge, who for many years introduced the programme as if it were his own diary, has been transformed by old age and young writers into a powerful case for euthanasia.

As the omnibus edition ended, so began a new look for Sunday mornings on Radio 4. They have done away with News Stand, long before it seemed ready for mercy-killing. It - and Stop Press, and The Radio Show - have been replaced by Mediumwave. Though promising to examine the main media stories of the week, they managed not to mention coverage of news, not even of the devastating earthquake in India. The stories they chose instead had a weary, navel-gazing predictability.

Poor Joanna Coles. Her first interview was with political spin doctors Shaun Woodward and David Hill. Four times she tried to interrupt their boring tub-thumping, before being allowed to move on and introduce a cheerful item by the Chicago Pizza Pie man, Bob Payton, on the imminent delights of television-shopping. Payton thinks the whole idea is wonderful, and just as sure to be successful as the Australians are to win Test matches. (Um, just a minute, Bob, didn't they actually lose one recently?)

A couple of editors banging on about their papers and the ubiquitous, repetitive Armistead Maupin finished off a first edition that struck me as dire - and I work in the media. For Radio 4's next trick, Dilly Barlow did better with Cut the Mustard, a foodie programme. It's hard to see why anybody would choose the sour David Starkey to help launch a series, but at least the show gave some useful practical advice. Wisely avoiding Payton's place, they sent a young architect to get maximum value from a small side- salad at Pizza Hut. I always thought grated carrot gave you a firm base, but Ben Hayes started with spring onions and celery. Using Gaud as his inspiration and his fingers as diggers, he built up an impressive structure 10 inches high that weighed as much as a small dog. It was, he proudly announced, enough to feed a student for a month.

It might have been a good idea to make straight for the nearest Pizza Hut and give it a try. Those who cooked at home were treated to Virginia Bottomley on Desert Island Discs. In a sinister new development, Sue Lawley has stopped offering castaways the Bible and Shakespeare. Our Health Secretary could do with both. To say that she sounded complacent is like saying that some people with mental illnesses might have been unable to find homes since their hospitals have closed. Has she ever walked down the Strand as they are settling for the night? No, everything is wonderful for her. Her husband Peter is her very best friend, she is so proud of her children, such a supporter of John Major, loves her job, has such blissful holidays on the Isle of Wight, is surrounded by such a marvellous clan. I wanted to send her on a partridge-shoot.

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