Radio in 2009: The rare enjoyment of Vanessa Feltz
Sunday 27 December 2009
Corker of the Year
Drama and sketch-based comedy are usually the reason the BBC radio departments might give Ofrad inspectors, if they existed, cause for concern. But Margaret Heffernan's two-part drama about the Enron scandal (Radio 4) was gripping, while one of the best things of 2009 was the mind-scrambling Bigipedia (Radio 4), a wiki-style website-on-the-radio updating of the wondrous Sunday Format that avoided odious comparisons by being just as clever and funny. And standing out in a strong fact-based field was more stuff to mess with your head: Tempus Fugit (Radio 4) examined, among other exotica, the role of wrong-handed teeth-brushing in experiencing the subjective nature of time.
Turkey of the Year
I don't recall anything that had me ready to hurl the radio out of the kitchen window, but another play, Blame the Parents, about teenagers from respec-table families caught up in a stabbing, had all the clunkiness to which Radio 4 drama is prone. And, while I hate to stifle initiative, Mixcloud's promise to "rethink radio", with its aggregation of podcasts, remains no more than a promise.
DJ of the Year
In his 9pm slot on Wednesdays, Huw Stephens – new to me, if not to regular Radio 1 listeners – invoked the spirit of John Peel with his heady explorations of new music.
Surprise of the Year
It probably says more about me than her that I was surprised to find myself enjoying Vanessa Feltz's morning phone-in on BBC London, which I listened to in honour of her Sony Award. Even more unexpected was being thoroughly entertained by another winner, Chris Evans, who feels like flesh and blood these days, rather than some media Frankenstein.
Ongoing Delight of the Year
They were mentioned in last year's round-up, and they continue to hit the spot: Late Junction (Radio 3), in which Fiona Talkington and Co serve musical banquets three nights a week, from finger-in-the-ear folk to electroacoustic sonic structures, and everything – everything – in between; Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour (BBC6 Music) is another cornucopia; and Radcliffe and Maconie (The Radcliffe and Maconie Show, Radio 2) still make the perfect evening hosts.
Just a Minute goes on, and it's still wonderful, but from now on there'll be a ghost at the feast. Clement Freud died in April, and a few weeks later Paul Merton, heir to the JaM throne, paid tribute. He recalled the great man's will to win and his penchant for mind games: 10 minutes into Merton's first show, Freud leaned over and whispered: "This is the worst show we've ever done." Freud, who appeared in every series of JaM from its first in 1967, wasn't the only long-serving BBC stalwart to depart: Steve Race and Malcolm Laycock were both broadcasters whose careers were fuelled by their passion for music.
Letdown of the Year
The decision to pull the edition of On the Ropes in which Andy Kershaw explored his travails of the past couple of years deprived listeners of a reintroduction to one of the finest music broadcasters there has ever been. There's talk of a return to his day job in 2010. The sooner the better.
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