Last Night's Television: Radiohead: The Dave Fanning Interview, Sky Arts 1
Shooting Stars, BBC2
Thursday 27 August 2009
As one of those shoegazing, introspective, less-intelligent-than-he-thinks-he-is teenagers who was just entering the sixth form when Radiohead's OK Computer was released in 1997, like half the population I have followed Thom Yorke et al's careers slightly too closely over the ensuing decade. Their "pay what you like" October 2007 album release, In Rainbows, was one of the deftest-timed two-fingered salutes to the music industry in recent memory, so you can't exactly knock their commitment to the cause, or indeed their artistry, but recently there has been something of a chink emerging in their armour of untouchability: Yorke's television appearances. Just recapping quickly, they've been of changeable quality, if that. There were the awkward video-link acceptance speeches throughout the 1990s, there was Grant Gee's heavily stylised 1998 rockumentary Meeting People Is Easy (where all that cinematographic overkill did a great job of substituting journalistic insight) and at least one teeth-grindingly strange turn on Jonathan Ross's couch where Yorke was so overcome with unease that he attempted to mimic Ross's Leytonstone accent (it's so bad that you want to tear your face off). That's not even going into the cameo he made on the 2007's Big Fat Quiz of the Year, in which his laugh was so, er, boundary-defying, that the studio's array of so-sarky panellists (Lily Allen, Russell Brand) were uncharacteristically dumbstruck into yet more embarrassed and pregnant silences.
So, thank the Lord for Radiohead: the Dave Fanning Interview on Sky Arts 1, in which the "legendary Irish DJ" spoke with Yorke and Ed O'Brien, and the former apparently seemed to be (relatively) at ease. Fanning succeeded where other interviewers have not, by apparently following several simple steps: doing his research, being pretty charming and not being a total twerp (something Ross is at pains to achieve). Case in point: Yorke has threatened to stop interviews (search for "Awkward Thom Yorke Interview" on YouTube) that have touched on Radiohead's notoriously fractious recording processes, in which they've allegedly been close to splitting. Here, Yorke was happy to mull them over in relative detail, as Fanning jocularly chuckled and "to be sures" away in the background. Despite the interview being cut together with the band's somewhat-overplayed videos, it was still a surprisingly informative glance at their egos. Yorke's influence and control of the band has increased as they have moved away from guitars, something the rest of Radiohead have inevitably had to come to terms with. It makes you wonder how much 2003's somewhat rushed Hail to the Thief – after the bleeps that had come before – were an attempt to appease the band's lesser-known guitarists. With the recent announcement that their album-recording days are over (here they suggest they want to spend more time with their kids), it seems like a gradual dispersion is on its way. If I was O'Brien, I'd be exploring my cheese-making options.
On a less lofty level, over to BBC Two for the renaissance of Shooting Stars. Little did we know back in 1993 that the bald-headed baby would end up being the most famous person in the room. It's a tribute to Matt Lucas's affection for this surreal platform for Reeves and Mortimer that he is game to play the sideshow. We've had Little Britain since but that hasn't exactly shifted the country's comedic goalposts, so Jack Dee and Ulrika Jonsson are still able to bring misery and sunshine respectively, with relative ease, now being joined by new comic creation Angelos Epithemiou, a burger-van owner with a gelled fringe (played by the once-Perrier-nominated comedian Dan Skinner). The One Show's Christine Bleakley got the trouser-rubbing treatment from Reeves; if he does this for another five years it'll become the equivalent of Brucey's bodybuilder pose. And why not?
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