The Week In Radio: The doubters keep knocking on Evans' door

Chris Evans says that he is woken up every morning with a telephone message that gives him a "word of the day". The other day it was Armageddon. Leaving aside the ominous vibe of having someone whisper "Armageddon" in your ear at the crack of dawn, you have to ask what kind of person actually chooses to be woken with an electronic vocabulary update. You'd have to be an autodidact, certainly, and an eccentric. And undoubtedly someone who has a serious penchant for electronic gimmickry.

This little insight into Chris's psyche matters, because the amount of people whispering "Armageddon" about The Chris Evans Breakfast Show is gathering pace. Since he took over from Wogan in January there have been more than 650 complaints to the BBC, and his curious decision to take a week off just six weeks after starting the show, invited more outrage. That was a little rich, given that his replacement Richard Allinson, the herbal tea to Evan's Red Bull Max, was then applauded by the Chris-haters for his soothing bedside manner. But the BBC message boards – not a hugely reliable indicator of listeners' opinion but a guide to what gets them disgruntled – reveal one overwhelming dislike. The show is cluttered with more games and gimmicks than a toyshop at Christmas. There is the megaphone message, Hello Goodbye, the cute kid, the wrong bongs, the cockerel, the fanfares, the canned applause. Among these, while Chris frolics, a legion of listeners flinch.

I hate all these gimmicks too, but here's the curious thing. I can't listen to Evans without loving him. His intelligence, his kind, unpatronising way with children, the way he plays The Candy Man on Fridays to cheer people up. One of the difficulties for the BBC is that at a time when it is determined to refocus on the needs of Radio 2's post-50 audience, the Breakfast Show risks alienating the older demographic who long for Terry's more intimate tones. Indeed, Chris revealed last week that Wogan had advised him to imagine he was addressing just one friend. It's a good tip. At the moment, he still sounds as if he's addressing a hundred holiday campers on Wacky Saturday. Listeners want less game show and more natural genius.

Getting cross with Chris Evans is one thing, but how about voluntarily closeting yourself with someone whose hateful and ill-informed opinions you detest? I always thought that was called a dinner party, but according to Radio 4, it's a new initiative called Living Books. In this weird Scandinavian venture, which is allegedly taking off in UK libraries, people loan themselves out as "human books" to challenge prejudices. Thus, you can acquire a burglar, a Nazi or a transsexual, and spend a joyful evening ironing out your differences. Exactly which prejudices we want challenged varies from nation to nation. In Canada, the best-selling living books people with Aids sufferer and phone-sex worker, whereas in Hungary the most popular dinner guest is the ex-bank robber. It says it all that in the UK we get drearier roster of police officers, asylum seekers, recovering alcoholics and graffiti artists.

Still, it seems to work for some. As the lady from Wollongong, Australia, remarked when she borrowed a Muslim: "I had a perception that Muslims weren't all terrorists but in Wollongong we didn't have anything to do with them." And to her credit even the presenter Sandi Toksvig, who started out believing that as a bourgeois liberal she didn't have any prejudices, discovered a few in company of an anti-abortionist. Living Books is an odd idea and who knows if it will catch on, but I'm thinking, if the BBC really want people to understand Chris Evans...

Talking of dream dinner parties, one person who would be on my list for certain is Horace Walpole. The Oscar Wilde of his day, wit, epic epistolarian and creator of Strawberry Hill, Walpole is way overdue a revival and A Guided Tour of The Castle of Otranto was a fair introduction. OK, so Otranto, his debut novel, is pretty awful and you wouldn't want to be pitching the plot today. The son of the evil baron Manfred is crushed by a giant helmet on the eve of his wedding, leaving dad to seduce the bride. Freud would have a field day with that helmet, as he would with the hidden passages of the castle, but as Rory McGrath pointed out in this revealing programme, the novel's haunted castle inaugurated an entire school of Gothic literature, from Dracula to Frankenstein, Jekyll and Hyde, Rebecca and ultimately of course Hogwarts.

Walpole was fanatical about language and would have loved Chris Evans's Armageddon wake-up call. He personally coined the word "serendipity", to mean chance discoveries of delight – a word so often appropriate to the schedules of Radio 4.

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas