Kermode and Mayo's Film Thing, review: Blokey banter that doesn't lose sight of the big picture

Not-quite-telly, not-quite-radio but a both-rolled-into-one kind of show
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The Independent Culture

"Are we thinking of this as a programme?" Simon Mayo asked Mark Kermode at the start of their latest venture. "Because it's sort of radio and television... but it's not radio and it's not television."

"It's a radio programme with pictures," decided Kermode. "Shall we just call it a thing?" offered Mayo. "A thing," agreed Kermode. "Welcome to our Thing."

And so began Kermode and Mayo's Film Thing, a not-quite-telly, not-quite-radio but a both-rolled-into-one kind of show, and an online companion piece to their long-running BBC 5 Live programme, Kermode and Mayo's Film Review, the BBC's most popular podcast after The Archers.

Actually, "popular" doesn't really do their podcast justice, given that, since it first appeared 15 years ago, it has been downloaded over 50 million times. Fifty million! With those figures they should really be given their own network – and possibly even the keys to Number 10.

Anyway, there are now several ways you could have heard their show in the last week. You could have listened on the radio last Friday in the usual manner, cocking an ear to two men talking intelligently about film while getting on with your day. You could have streamed it through your computer, and listened to the same two men talking intelligently about film, but with added webcam footage beamed from the studio.

Or you could have waited until Monday for Kermode and Mayo's Film Thing, the radio-telly hybrid that was considerably shorter than the regular radio programme but came with extra bits including film excerpts (useful, that) and bonus chat conducted not in the studio but in seats overlooking the atrium in Broadcasting House.

If it sounds a bit pointless on paper, it didn't feel that way watching it – or indeed listening to it, as that can still be done. All in all, it's probably best to think of the Film Review and Film Thing as two separate entities with overlapping content.

Where the former had far more in-depth discussions and interviews about new releases such as Far from the Madding Crowd, Unfriended and Two by Two, the latter was more like the edited highlights and was, let's be honest, halfway to being a TV programme.

Of course, these varying formats mean nothing without the core appeal of these two middle-aged blokes whose conversational back and forth has been dubbed as "wittertainment". Along with knowledge, charisma and their fond but ever so slightly fractious relationship, Kermode and Mayo continue to bring a thoughtfulness and passion to their musings. Kermode has a strong personality and ferocious opinions and so for much of the time Mayo's role is to keep him in check. But even so, film is the thing here, not the hosts (even when they disagree and try to outsmart one another). The love for what they do seeps through the speakers.

So do I want to hear/watch/experience another version of Kermode & Mayo, this time in a not-quite radio but not-quite TV format with extra bits? Of course I do. For me it beats the plain old webcam that is now de rigueur in radio studios and allows us to admire largely motionless heads hunched over microphones and taking the occasional sip of tea. (Don't we listen to radio precisely to escape this stuff?). Much as they did 15 years ago with their podcasts, Kermode and Mayo are blazing a new trail. Soon everyone will be doing it, just you wait and see.