Thursday, 25 September 2008

Stay Tuned

I've been enjoying Fi Glover's I Am An Oil Tanker: Travels With My Radio recently, a book which was originally published in 2001 but which I've only just got round to reading. (I'm nothing if not tardy.) In it, the erstwhile Five Live presenter and current host of Radio 4's Saturday Live explains her love of all things radio while visiting various stations around the world and chatting to the people they employ.

Reading it has really rekindled my love of radio too (not to mention Radio 2), which is a medium a lot of us take for granted nowadays what with the internet, multichannel TV, the hula hoop, deelieboppers, the pogo stick and lots of other modern distractions vying for our attention.

There are some fascinating revelations about, umm, difficult celebrities as well, such as these encounters the author endured during her time working at GLR (a local BBC station based in London and fond of changing its name every five minutes):

I interviewed Ned Sherrin at GLR once, years ago. He greeted our producer with a hearty guffaw and a warm shake of the hand. He spurned the hand of our researcher and barely acknowledged my presence in the studio... But as soon as the red light went on, Ned went off into a hilarious medley of anecdotal splendour involving his celebrity chums, a small incontinent dog and all three books he was plugging. During the travel he ignored me. During the record he ignored me and during my questions he ignored me. So I stopped laughing at his jokes.

At the end of the interview he stormed off in a huff (which was a pretty impressive huff), for exactly that reason. Although he stopped off to have another guffaw with our producer. We had quite a few complaints that afternoon and no one phoned up to find out what his book was called. I vowed to one day get a publisher to commission me to write a book about radio and travel all around the world on a pitiful advance simply to get the opportunity to say to a wider audience that I thought he was nasty to me. These little things can eat away at you, can't they?

Sadly he was not the worst either. John Barnes came on the programme while he was manager at Celtic - and the night after they had been beaten by Motherwell... I started off by asking him what went wrong last night at the Motherwell game.
He said they had lost.
I said 'I know that, but why did it happen?'
He said, 'Because Motherwell scored a goal.'
I said, 'Yes, I know that, but why couldn't Celtic get it together to win the game?'
He said because they didn't score any goals.
It got worse. I asked him if he thought that sectarianism came from the same place within people as racism. He said he had never experienced any sectarianism. I'm not sure that you even have to know that much about football to realise that whatever deep dark mood you are in, or however stupid you want to make the interviewer look, saying that there is no sectarianism in Glasgow is a bit of an own goal.
Excellent. Now I've got that off my chest too.

Good stuff, eh? I'm really glad now that Barnes failed miserably at Celtic (and, ironically, as a TV presenter).

Another highlight for me is when Fi describes sitting in the audience at a recording of a talk show in New York presented by psychologist Dr Joy:

April and Eileen were next, a daughter and her mum... Eileen was calling her daughter fat and trying to take too much control of her life. April said something that I thought was not allowed outside of a Sons and Daughters script: 'But I am a beautiful person.'

Well it made me laugh. Talking of low-rent TV shows, there was a programme called Britain's Youngest Grannies on BBC2 last night. That's right, BBC2. Not ITV2, Sky One or Five. BBC2. Sigh.

(one of Britain's Youngest Grannies, yesterday)

It wasn't so long ago that this channel would give us decent comedy shows (Red Dwarf, Fist Of Fun, The Mary Whitehouse Experience etc) in the 9pm weeknight slot. But now only repeats of old BBC3 rubbish will do, apparently; and the "comedy" quota is filled by endless reruns of QI, Room 101, Have I Got News For You and Mock The Week. All decent shows in their own right, but shouldn't things like topical news quizzes actually be just that, ie topical, rather than featuring the news of two or three years ago, or whenever the shows were first broadcast? No, there should definitely be some sort of law against panel shows being repeated after the week of their original transmission, I say. (although I might be prepared to grant QI a special exemption. I'm generous like that.) Even tonight's "series finale" of Mock The Week is actually a compilation of the funniest moments of the latest series. So that'll be another repeat then. Remind me where our license fee money goes again?

Ooh, 'ark at me ranting away like a mad thing. Only one song will do today I think!

Ned's Atomic Dustbin - Kill Your Television mp3

You can buy I Am An Oil Tanker: Travels With My Radio by Fi Glover for as little as a penny (plus P&P) here.

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