RADIO / Whitewash won't wash

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The Independent Culture
TWO TALES were told in The Jimmy Young Story (R2). One was about a happy-go-lucky West Country boy who, through bubbling enthusiasm and strict professionalism, crooned and compered his way into the nation's affections. The other, which occasionally slid into view before being swept under the plaudits, was of driving ambition, broken relationships and personal torment.

David Frost's 90-minute interview with Young contained a flood of reminiscence but only a trickle of insight. There were tantalising hints of a less- than-squeaky-clean Young, but Frost rarely pursued them, just as he left unchallenged JY's mania for acronyms (as in his sign-off 'BBFN', bye-bye for now). In the army there had been a married woman who taught him 'everything a young man should know'. Of his first wife, who bore him a daughter he did not see for 17 years, we learnt: 'She was a lovely lady.' Of his second: 'it was never right as a marriage, but it was a great help to me musically.'

The low ebb which led Young to 'collect sleeping pills' is a woeful world away from the cheery chappy at the microphone. Denis Healey, whose mother-in- law was in the same Forest of Dean choir as Jim's mum, suggested he had created a persona that had now overtaken him. Alternatively, Young's power as a broadcaster may derive from his colourful, if camouflaged, private life. In a world of cardboard figures with phoney mid-Atlantic accents, he and his Gloucester burr are unmistakably authentic.

Such analysis is more appropriate In the Psychiatrist's Chair, but it was a pity that Frost abandoned the dogged style of his political interviews (Young himself said that listening and following up were the key to interviewing). Glaringly absent was any probe into Young's politics. He was defensive about the frequency with which Mrs Thatcher appeared on his show ('only once every 18 months'). It would have been interesting to know if Thatcher's favourite interviewer repaid the compliment in the voting booth.

The new comedy show, Lionel Nimrod's Inexplicable World (R4), is more inventive than funny. Created by many of the team behind the cracking news-spoof On the Hour, it aims its darts at the world of the occult (this week: 'monsters, fairies and UFOs'). The jokes are not as sharp or surprising as in On the Hour, perhaps because the target is so diffuse - from Patrick Moore to C S Lewis via The Elephant Man. The best sketch guyed the Odysseus story with the hero confronted by a mild-mannered Cyclops, sporting an eye-patch after a cataract operation, who hospitably offers to 'blow up some lilos for the younger sailors. It really is no trouble'. In moments like this, as in Tom Baker's wonderfully portentous Nimrod, there is hope of better to come.

The feature-maker Piers Plowright is more auteur than jobbing journalist, and his work repays study as an oeuvre. HiEs subject is goodness, and he has explored it through a multitudTHER write errore of characters, usually in their own words, making programmes that are uplifting without being sentimental. The latest, Fire Shut up in my Bones (R4), followed a woman preacher from the African Methodist Episcopal Church, in Georgia. As she lay dying of lung cancer, she had had a vision: 'If you do my will, I will heal you.' The force of her faith was heard in her preaching. The word 'sermon', with its parsonage gentility, travesties it: through her chanting and singing, yells and squawks, the pain and joy of believing were made palpable. By the end, drained, you felt you had been listening to genius as well as goodness.