Right, OK, yeah, cool

UNDERRATED; The case for Terry Christian
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The Independent Culture
Recently in this paper, Mark Lawson referred to Terry Christian as "famously inarticulate". It seemed a description that was impossible to gainsay. Every Friday we had seen Terry on The Word, sitting wide jawed on the sofa while some unfunny American comedian no one in Britain had ever heard of made bad jokes about American talk-show hosts no one in Britain had ever heard of. "Right, OK, yeah, cool," he would say as the well-lubricated audience hooted and grunted and whooped around him. "Right, OK, yeah, cool," he would say as the camera panned shakily on a desperate youth eating a plate of verrucas, toe-nails and other pedestrian off-cuts. "Right, OK, yeah, cool," he would say as he handed over to some pneumatic co-presenter - invariably called Amanda or Danni or Hufty - to simper round a male or, if it was Hufty, a female, film star.

But as the pneumatics came and went through the five years The Word has been with us, Terry remained. He was always there with his Mancunian accent and his electric-blue suits, a point of constant bemusement in a sea of confusion. He was there because he was exactly what the programme required. He was there because the faltering interview technique he was obliged to adopt engendered in his guests the kind of silent, surly indifference that was regarded as essential to the programme's credibility. He was also there because The Word's producers, like no other outfit, knew the value of publicity. They would do anything for notoriety, they craved it, they mainlined headlines, and Christian brought it for them. "Famously inarticulate" they would have loved: it contained the word "famous" within it.

But, like actors who get assaulted in the supermarket because they play bastards in soap operas, Christian should not be castigated for the role he acted out on The Word. Last week it was revealed that Talk Radio, the new confrontational wavelength manned by shouty presenters, was floundering. What amused most commentators about the station's poor start was that Christian's Sunday night show had garnered so few listeners it had not even registered a rating. Like those who accepted that Christian was inarticulate without confusing the issue by watching The Word, so everyone who came to the chortling conclusion that he had no listeners on Talk Radio because he was crap did so without accruing empirical evidence by actually tuning in to him (obviously they didn't; no one did).

If they had, they would have realised that if Talk Radio is failing, it is not the fault of this presenter. For three hours on his show, Christian conducts a debate on a topical issue - from Manchester music to mysticism - with verve, pace and, whisper it, a considerable grasp on words. Three hours' live radio, interrupted by precious few adverts, arenot so easy to fill.But Christian manages; he is smooth and efficient with callers, encouraging and interested with his guests. Also, and this may come as a surprise to his critics, he is funny. Which is indeed how he has always been on radio since the days when his rock show on Radio Derby was required listening everywhere in, well, Derby.

Terry Christian in entertaining radio presenter shock: sadly for him, it doesn't have quite the ring of "famously inarticulate".