The pious and the pie-eyed

RADIO

THE GOD of thunder rode one day upon his milk-white filly. "I'm Thor," he cried; the horse replied, "You've forgotten your thaddle, thilly." Oh well, all right, they didn't quite put it like that in A God a Minute (R2), but they weren't far off. In his relentless quest for the quick laugh, Colin Morris gave us a thumbnail lexicon of gods - not serious ones, like Christ or Jehovah, but reasonably safe, remote, risible gods, worshipped by people who probably don't listen to Radio 2, like the Kikuyu or the ancient Egyptians. So we had the Valkyrie, alias the waitresses of Valhalla; Osiris who would pounce on "any hapless carrot-top" (for goodness sake, how many redheads were there in ancient Thebes?); and Ghede, the frock-coated fornicator of Haiti, who appeared in a James Bond film. Was it Chesterton who said that the ancients could laugh about religion because they didn't really believe in it?

It was all in aid of World of Faith week and, probably, pretty harmless fun. Hindus might have felt uneasy when one of their own, Promati, the god of fire, cropped up in such company, but their faith got a fairer airing in From Birth to Eternity (R2), which looked at the rituals provided by world religions to help their adherents through the stickier moments of life. We heard about the elaborate procedure of a Hindu wedding, the messy rite of circumcision - and listened to Thora Hird remembering tearfully her husband's funeral, accompanied, as is every Christian ceremony, by the inescapably Old Testament 23rd Psalm. In this serious and interesting survey, the most surprising moment came when an old man underwent his delayed bar mitzvah. Orthodox Judaism is bound by rigid rules, and one of them allows this rite-of-passage only to 13-year-old boys. If, however, you miss that moment and go on to live out your three-score-years-and- ten - and then survive yet another 13 years, you can have a second shot at it. Maturity, at last.

Most of these great moments are accompanied by a party, and in our culture that means a booze-up. Dear Diary (R4) this week snooped on the self-deluding maudlin moments of famous drunks. So Byron blamed boiled cockles for his, ahem, indigestion, rather than the prodigious amount of drink with which they were washed down, and Evelyn Waugh grumbled that too much excitement made him poorly. But the clear winner in Simon Rae's eyes was Boswell. He merited two long confessions. In the second, he described waking feeling dreadful at noon, "vexed that I should have been guilty of such riot". A swift brandy put him right, whereupon he played that silly game of opening a Bible at random for inspiration. Alas, he hit upon the text: "And be not drunk with wine, wherein there is excess". "Some," wrote the unrepentant diarist, "would have taken this as divine interposition."

It is always confession-time in America, and we, who already give air- time to Oprah Winfrey and the alarming Vanessa, should not feel complacent, for Coming Soon ... TV's True Confessions (R4) uttered a dreadful warning. Before long our screens, too, could be full of their spawn. Simon Dring himself confessed to a pretty nasty vice. Every time he goes to America, he shuts himself in his hotel room and sprawls on his bed, drinking chocolate milk - ugh, how could he? Boswell would rightly throw up. Then he surfs the telly for any of the 27 daytime talk-shows currently topping the ratings.

Dring isn't quite sure how to take these. Clearly fascinated by people's willingness to submit to the ignominy of these shows, he is simultaneously repelled by their lurid exploitation of the sordid and the frail. There is huge money in it. Transsexual prostitutes, strippers and pimps have made Jerry Springer extremely rich, but to hear Dring interview Lisa, a young, scarred veteran of the Ricky Lake Show, was to realise just how manipulative and destructive they can be.

"Ya have to hook 'em, hug 'em and hold 'em," opined a Love Doc of the Internet, but the telling moment came when Dring pounced on another self- confessed expert, this time one who teaches "neuro- linguistic programming", or body-language. This irritating man was quite certain that we Brits have a serious problem: we are apparently unable to "get earthy", to draw close to the "touchy-feely" part of ourselves. We need American chat shows, he said, to help us break through that barrier. I don't know about him, but I'm with Boswell: I need a drink.

Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
musicReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Arts and Entertainment
‘Dawn of Planet of the Apes’ also looks set for success in the Chinese market

film
News
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight

tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

    Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

    Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
    Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

    The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

    Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
    Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

    Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

    Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
    Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

    Meet Japan's AKB48

    Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor