Fishing for a Chris for breakfast

Robert Hanks the week on radio
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The Independent Online
Yeats saw it all: "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world." There can't have been many people who didn't find themselves thinking of those words when they heard the news that Chris Evans was to leave Radio 1. Not that the announcement came as much of a shock: in recent months, Chris has been turning and turning in what I can only call a widening gyre - a falcon, so to speak, which cannot hear the falconer (ie, Matthew Bannister). A genius, of course, but there's no denying that the Breakfast Show has become increasingly self-indulgent and ill-prepared: the vein of perky inventiveness he showed when he started two years ago seems to have petered out; instead we get Chrissie saying "Hi buddy, how ya doing buddy?"

And while listening to Friday morning's show, I wouldn't necessarily say that the blood-dimmed tide was loosed, the ceremony of innocence was certainly drowned, what with discussions of drooping breasts and his sidekicks' contraceptive habits. The most dispiriting part was a whinge about how shabbily he was being treated by the BBC - the self-mockery that used to characterise Evans at his best finally giving way to undignified and mildly repulsive self-pity. The most disturbing part was his assertion that it's the BBC's job to "give the public what they want". If he really does think that's the point of public service broadcasting, maybe he shouldn't be at the BBC.

The big question now is, precisely what rough beast is slouching towards Bethlehem to be born - or, to put it another way, who is going to replace Evans in the Radio 1 breakfast slot? Mark Radcliffe's anointment has already been confidently announced in at least one newspaper, though Radio 1 denies that any decision has yet been made, and being Evans's regular stand-in must give him a head start.

Talking of rough beasts, though, puts me in mind that another well-qualified contender has lately become available: the brouhaha over Evans seems to have obscured the fact that Derek Jameson, together with his lovely wife, Ellen, last week announced his departure from Radio 2. My feeling is that a deal has already been struck. The official story is that Derek plans to see the world and write a novel, but it seems too much of a coincidence that the Jamesons' stint will be finishing at the end of March, at exactly the same time Evans finishes working out his notice. Their happy conjugal banter, mercifully free of sexual innuendo, may be exactly the thing Matthew Bannister is looking for to raise Radio 1's moral tone, though Derek's boisterous sense of fun can sometimes lead him to go a bit too far. One of the most painful things I've heard for some time was his grilling of Ian Lavender (Pike in Dad's Army) on Monday's edition of The Jamesons; had being so closely associated with one part held his career back, Derek wanted to know: "You've not done much since then, have you?" he bellowed. "You're still just carrying spears, aren't you?" - rounding off with an amusing cry of "Stupid boy". At this point, your reporter made his excuses and tuned to Radio 3.

If, on the other hand, Evans's replacement has to be a safe pair of hands, a man with a proven track record in national breakfast-time radio, then the obvious candidate must be Peter Hobday, formerly of Today and now celebrated as presenter of the pun-filled panel-game Wordly Wise. I can hear him already, asking newsreaders to fax him amusing definitions of long words, getting listeners to lick their husband's lollipops while suggesting a derivation for "vindaloo". At any rate, nobody could then accuse the BBC of simply giving the public what they want.

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