Afternoon Play: Blame the Parents, Radio 4
The 9pm slot, Radio 1
How to get from suburbia to Hell? Just turn left at the enraged teen
Sunday 27 September 2009
I'm guessing that a fair proportion of people reading this falls into that oft-maligned group, "middle-class parents" – well-meaning types who sometimes, for all their efforts, find themselves trapped on a runaway train that's going off the rails. (No metaphor goes unmixed in these parts, you'll notice.) You think you're doing everything right, then one day you realise with horror that your divine infant is now a teenager from hell.
Drugs apparently tearing young lives apart is a theme that must have mighty resonance for Jonathan Myerson, one of the writers of Blame the Parents, which centres on three nice boys who end up stabbing a dealer to death. It was his wife, Julie, who wrote The Lost Child: A True Story about one of their own sons, whom they chucked out for smoking dope. The lad described the publication of the book as "obscene", you may remember.
He probably wouldn't think much of this effort, either. A triumph of subtlety was always going to be needed to combat the dead hand of box-ticking, and so it didn't prove. "If I'd been able to take him in hand," rues one dad – discipline versus laissez-faire: check! One of the pairs of parents is divorced – broken home: check! And there are shards of the unmitigated clunkiness without which no Afternoon Play is complete. Millie, the sister of one of the boys and mixed up in the whole business, is in the car with her mum.
"Left!" Millie shouts.
"D'you want me to crash into that bus?" mum retorts.
"I didn't see it."
"There are so many things you don't see." Clunk!
As a middle-class parent with a teenager in da house, as it were, some exposure to Radio 1 is inevitable. In daylight hours it's frankly unlistenable, but after dark it dons its semi-serious hat, never more so than in the new 9pm slot. There's a documentary on Monday (the first was on Jay-Z), while on Tuesdays Nihal hosts The Review Show, which will stand or fall on the quality of its guests. Last week's were the Mercury winner Speech Debelle, DJ Huw Stephens and the sardonic cultural commentator Charlie Brooker. The German metal band Rammstein came on. "It's the sort of music I'd like to listen to if I'm ever escaping off a roof, on a motorbike, in slow motion, firing an Uzi at a helicopter," he observed.
Stephens has his own show in the Thursday slot, dedicated to new music and experimentation. Though little of last Thursday's music was ground-breaking, it was all terrific stuff. If any one man is keeping the John Peel candle burning, it's Stephens. He provides the kind of service that makes me glad, yet again, that the BBC exists.
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