The Week In Radio: Odd couple make the chattering classes chuckle

Jane Thynne
Thursday 12 May 2011 00:00 BST

Have you ever said to yourself, "Why is there never enough BBC drama about middle-class people with young children living in north London?" No? Me neither. I know Outnumbered was very successful on TV, but sometimes feels like the whole of north London is squabbling, parenting and getting a divorce right here in my (south London) kitchen.

If though, you are one of those people who want to hear more about north London, or indeed the talented David Tennant, who pops up like a specially resilient strain of ground elder in every part of our cultural experience these days, then The Gobetweenies is for you. It features the kind of hands-on, amicably divorced parents who discuss Duchamp's urinals with their children over tea. Mimi, played by Sarah Alexander, is "a smart award-winning children's fiction writer" intent on 24/7 education. As one of her children says, "anything you ever want to talk about it's bingo, she's off to get a book." David Tennant as Joe frets satirically about the agony of children having to shuttle between two sets of parents, and decides to move back in. Phoebe Abbott, who sounds uncannily like Pip in The Archers, plays an irritating child very convincingly. Anyone who rues the day that "parent" became a verb will hate this, but to the rest of us it's all very recognisable. It's occasionally funny. Whether that makes it satire is another matter.

Yet, as the rose garden partnership sours in all its acrimonious glory, D.I.V.O.R.C.E is everywhere you look. Alex Jennings and Tamsin Greig were caustic and affectionate as middle-class divorcées in That's Mine, This Is Yours, Peter Souter's romantic comedy directed by Gordon House, and in this week's From Fact to Fiction, we had a couple splitting up over AV of all things. I have an unabashed admiration for the writers of this series, who have to turn around a play in days, and Hugh Costello accomplished the near-impossible task of making electoral reform tremble with sexual metaphor. English lecturer Paul, a No man, sees his wife's Sophie Yes vote as a kind of female challenge to the masculine order. "Yes. The female word, Joyce called it. Voluptuous Molly Bloom." I'd never thought of AV in Joycean terms, but put that way, it did make a kind of sense.

If you want a lasting relationship in politics though, don't go for a coalition partner, or even a dog, but a ministerial driver. In the hope, presumably, of blowing open sensational political secrets, Ben Wright used the Freedom of Information Act to acquire records of the Government car service and revealed... well, let's just say no injunctions were necessary. Geoffrey Howe's driver was one of the family, invited to stay the night and "Lady Howe cooked my breakfast". Mrs Thatcher was so nervous when going to see the Queen that she allowed way too much time. "I used to park in a lay-by down by the Thames," her driver recalled. "We'd sit there for hours." And Lord Hailsham would dump his red box in the car, à la Cameron, and bike all the way to the office from Wimbledon Common wearing a bowler hat. "I always let him win," said his driver, indulgently.

But we live in more brutal times, and it was a far more embarrassing political revelation that brought Jeremy Vine a Gold in this week's Sony Radio Academy Awards for his "bigot-gate" interview with Gordon Brown. That interview, in which Brown writhed like a tragic bull impaled by his own remark, showed Vine at his nimble best, quick, unflappable, and well deserving of his second accolade, Speech Broadcaster of the Year. Overall, though, the awards that saw talkSPORT win Station of the Year and 5Live take six Golds, was a triumph for blokiness. So if middle-class relationships aren't your thing, fear not, because in future there's going to be plenty more sport.

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