Robert Hanks: 'Asking Bill Nighy to be louche is to ask a snake to hiss'

The Week in Radio

I'm trying to find a good excuse for writing about
Dead Side of the Mic (Radio 4, Wednesday) – there ought to be something I can say about it that is topical or profound. The dull truth is simply that I enjoy these radio dramatisations of Simon Brett's Charles Paris mysteries so much – in terms of reliable, uncomplicated pleasure – they are up there with the mid-morning coffee and biscuits. And unlike other pleasures, you can combine all those without having to worry about religious prohibitions or messing up the upholstery.

When I say I enjoy these programmes, what I mean is that I enjoy hearing Bill Nighy in the title role, playing a dissolute jobbing actor with a knack for being on the sidelines when a murder is committed. Nighy is an actor of extreme intelligence and delicacy – one of my favourite moments in recent films came in the otherwise depressing 'Notes on a Scandal' when, as Cate Blanchett's betrayed older husband, he welcomed her back to the family home: with a nod and a shift of the shoulders he expressed more about love, forgiveness and wariness than you could compress into a whole page of dialogue. But occasion doesn't demand it that often: here, all he is asked to do is be louche, charming and funny, which is like asking a snake to hiss.

He makes it sound so natural that you could easily not notice the cleverness of Jeremy Front's scripts and Sally Avens' production. The major change to Simon Brett's original novels is that staid Paris has been turned into an ageing rocker, creating the perfect excuse for a soundtrack larded with Jimi Hendrix riffs. There are other nips and tucks, some of them necessary to make sense of 30-year-old story-lines: 'The Dead Side of the Mic' is set behind the scenes in BBC Radio Drama, and the murder is committed with the razor blades that they used to use for editing, back in the pre-digital days. There are also topical references to Roger Bolton, Charles has a sexual fantasy about being trapped on a desert island with Kirsty Young and Charlotte Green, and a major character has a CV oddly reminiscent of Jonathan Ross. It's at this point that the pleasure gets more complicated: as the Radio 4 in-joke-based comedy show 'Listen Against' proved in its second series, the Radio 4 in-joke is never far from being too much of a good thing.

Just to show how difficult the louche, ageing charm is to bring off, Thursday's Night Waves (Radio 3) was given over to a lecture by Tony Benn at last month's Free Thinking festival in Liverpool – 45 minutes of curiously bland tendentiousness, with not a single surprising or even interesting sentiment expressed (he's against war, for democracy). The best moment came when, after one of Benn's diatribes about what "They" are trying to do to us all, Susan Hitch, in the chair, tried to pin him down on the question of who "They" are; but he evaded. At several points, Benn complained about BBC bias – he reckoned that the BBC should be making all political arguments available (what all? Even the extremists and the utterly fat-headed?). Then I tried to imagine a senior Tory politician being given this much air-time on Radio 3. Did not compute.

The most impressive non sequitur of the week came on Desert Island Discs (Radio 4, Sunday), when Kirsty Young, talking to the film producer Michael Deeley about his time in the army, asked how he felt when a fellow soldier was shot while standing next to him. Young said it was the most exhilarating moment of his life, realising that it was someone else, not him, who was dead. Then she asked for his next record and he chose the "Pie Jesu" from Andrew Lloyd Webber's 'Requiem', because of its spiritual qualities.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Muscling in: Noah Stewart and Julia Bullock in 'The Indian Queen'

opera
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn