It's Your Round, Radio 4, Thursday
David Attenborough's Life Stories, Radio 4, Friday
A Radio 4 panel show? Your rehab is almost complete, Mr Deayton
Sunday 20 February 2011
Like most people, I suspect, I am the proud possessor of an acquired resistance to Angus Deayton.
I can't even remember the details of his downfall, whenever it was, though I'm probably safe in assuming that drugs and hookers were in there somewhere. I just know that ever since, he's seemed a slightly pathetic figure of fun. Still, "TV's Mr Sex", as he was once mystifyingly known, has gradually worked his way back to something approaching career-viability, though I'm not sure if hosting late-night radio game shows would have represented the height of his ambitions during his goggle-box pomp.
Especially a radio game show in which this listener, at least, had big problems identifying the panellists (Rufus Hound I'd heard of, but not Sara Pascoe, Miles Jupp or Adam Hills). But it didn't matter really, as It's Your Round turned out to be a perfectly decent way to while away half an hour. As is rarely the case with Radio 4 comedy, there wasn't a single moment when I cringed, harrumphed or spluttered. I even laughed out loud a few times. Result! I bet there are already plans to put it on the telly.
Its USP is that the rounds are devised for each other by the guests: in Hound's round, the contestants tried to guess an historical person's identity through sound clips; Pascoe's "Welcome to Romford" required panellists to big up their home town; Hills's "Newspaper Headline Or Cryptic Crossword Clue?" tells its own story; and Jupp's "What Does My Dad Know?", the cutest idea, involved speculating abut the answers given by his father, a reverend doctor, to questions such as "what's Emo?", or, "can you name five shows your son's been in?" (he couldn't).
I'm not making any great claims here: this show won't change your life, and it's unlikely to be here for decades to come. But it was a good bit of fun, and these days that means a lot.
If Deayton has had to work hard to confound the critics, I doubt many harsh words have been said about David Attenborough. My Indy colleague Deborah Ross interviewed him a couple of years ago and found him very grumpy. That's about all I can dredge up on the debit side.
An eightysomething with the vigour of a twentysomething, he's still dashing about. As he nears the end of his long trek, though, the programmes are becoming more reflective – his Madagascar programme on BBC2 is based on memories of his first visit to the island 50 years ago. And on radio, his returning Life Stories is all about retrospection.
He kicked off talking about the forest canopy (terra incognita to humans until we trained pigtailed macaques to fetch stuff). He talked about the difficulties of getting up there, using Jumars – mechanical ascending devices ("the most exhausting method of climbing trees known to man"). As he got older, a system of pulleys was rigged up – until, on the way down one day, there was a chilling sight: the counterweight. "It was grotesquely huge," he said. "I realised, with regret, that this was probably my last visit to that wonderland."
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