Radio: Here is the news. There is no news
You can see this at work during the parliamentary recess: there's no question on Radio 4 of expanding the Today programme to fill the gap left by Yesterday in Parliament with deeper, longer coverage of other kinds of news; it actually loses part of its time-slot, and we get someone reading a nice book. (Not that this is a complaint - it just tells you something of the BBC's newsgathering priorities.)
Meanwhile, Analysis, the most serious-minded current affairs programmes, pops off on its holidays too - clearly, there's nothing left for it to analyse - and in its place we get Makers of Modern Politics (Thursday, Radio 4), in which Anthony Howard talks with the breathless urgency he manages to bring to almost any subject about great parliamentarians of the past.
On the evidence of the first programme, on Stanley Baldwin, it doesn't look as though the series is going to live up to its title. The main plank of Howard's argument was that we can see Baldwin's influence at work in our current prime minister - a decent, dependable sort of chap, who embodies gentle virtues like fair-play and sympathy for the underdog, and appeals to an old-fashioned vision of Britishness.
Aside from the fact that this is grossly flattering to John Major, who looked like an embodiment of gentleness for about 10 minutes in contrast to Mrs Thatcher, there wasn't any evidence for the idea that Major has been influenced by Baldwin - there's just a vague resemblance, easily explained: both followed a charismatic leader who aroused powerful feelings for and against (in Baldwin's case, Lloyd George), and rather than try to beat their predecessors at their own game, both tried to make a virtue of dullness.
To be fair, Howard did establish Baldwin's importance in turning the Labour Party into the second party of state, and made a case for saying that he's been unfairly condemned as an appeaser. All the same, it wasn't easy to take the programme seriously, largely because it's hard to take politicians quite as seriously as Howard does.
For him, you get the impression, there's something heroic about politics - a mighty struggle between larger-than-life figures; probably he doesn't believe that rationally, but you suspect that there has to be some such feeling at some level of his mind to keep up his apparent sense of excitement about the whole business.
By contrast, the heroic element seemed oddly lacking in A Stone from Heaven (Radio 4, Saturday), a lengthy two-part drama by Lindsay Clarke based on the Parsifal legend, as told by Wolfram von Eschenbach and borrowed by Wagner and T S Eliot.
Clarke had evidently decided that it was the allegorical, psychological elements that were interesting, and they got the headlines: Parsifal abandons mother, fails to respond to promptings of own heart, battles with dark version of self (and is reconciled with same). All of which is highly enjoyable, and done without regard to coherence of plot, which was certainly a wise decision; but from time to time it did feel like a dramatised version of the notes at the back of The Waste Land. There are times when only a bit of straightforward, manly violence does the trick.
n The television review returns tomorrow
game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers
Arts & Ents blogs
- 2 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 4 Italian police 'reveal' what Jesus looked like as a young boy
Top Gear: Jodie Kidd, Philip Glenister and Guy Martin 'in advanced talks' to join show
X-Men Apocalypse: First look at Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner as Jubilee and Jean Grey
American Horror Story season 5: Hotel Angela Bassett set to make 'lots of trouble' with Lady Gaga
Jorge Luis Borges fan brings his infinite library to life online
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
In defence of liberal democracy
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils