First Night: Men's Hour, BBC Radio 5
'Men's Hour': the view of one man ... and one woman
Monday 19 July 2010
If I was a real man I wouldn't be listening attentively to Radio 5 Live at 7.30 on a Sunday evening. I'd be barbecuing, or cleaning my tools, or (and someone in the scheduling department really ought to be disciplined for this clash) watching Top Gear on BBC2. But then, as magazine shows go, Men's Hour was more Details than Men's Health: intelligent, sensitive, unafraid of emotions – and just a little bit girly.
Its presenter, Tim Samuels, as befits the modern metropolitan male, sounded nervous and ill-prepared. But then, so might you if your studio guests included Pineapple Dance Studios star Louie Spence ("the campest man on TV"), and he started discussing the size of his own penis.
There were laddish additions to this on-air posse: ex-SAS man Andy McNab and comedian Hugh Dennis. But Men's Hour seems petrified of feminist reprisals, and thus intent on emasculating its guests with such topics as a nasal spray that cures polygamy. Mark Ronson wasn't keen on Samuels's suggestion that he had feminine traits, and quickly mentioned his hairy arms and girlfriend. But even he, moved to introspection by the show's ever-present therapist, Dr Mark, admitted that his "default demeanour is anxiety."
"It's about capturing the spirit of when good mates sit around nowadays," Samuels said of Men's Hour. And he has captured that spirit, except that it sounded like those "good mates" were sitting around at the end of a long night's drinking. And nobody wants to listen to an hour of men being melancholy, least of all women. Wouldn't we all rather watch Top Gear?
What do men want? It's not a question admittedly, that has detained anyone much over the past two millennia. But what with unemployed male graduates, troubled gunmen and politicians who are mad, bad and dangerous, men's issues are all the rage. Hence 5 Live's Men's Hour, which launched last night, promising to "delve into uncharted emotional territory for men" and reveal men's true preoccupations. Obviously the discussion zoned straight in on penis size.
Does the genetic variant, RS3 334 make men more likely to wander? Tim Samuels' "posse", consisting of Louis Spence, the gay dancer from Pineapple Dance Studio, Andy McNab and Hugh Dennis, mulled it over in a non-judgemental way that felt like an awkward first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. There was "Thought for the Gay" with the stand-up comedian Chris Neill, urging footballers to come out of the closet. There was Alan Johnson, former home secretary and pop singer, performing a bizarre falsetto about teenage complexions. And there was lots about baldness, soy milk affecting sperm quality, grey hair, and the danger of mobile phones to testicles. Atmospherically, the mood was more GP's surgery than football terrace.
Do men really talk like this when left alone? Men's Hour felt needy, unsexy and really likely to have low self-esteem. Think of Top Gear, then imagine the exact opposite.
As to what women want, a good clue came from Jenni Murray, who chose Man Of The Week. She went for Raymond Blanc. Not for his conversation, obviously, but because he does a good roast chicken.
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