The radio column - Rachel Cooke

While a group of nobodies sweated it out in the jungle, the airwaves were full of real stars

Trevor's World of Sport, a sitcom starring Neil Pearson, has moved from BBC1 to Radio 4 (Tuesdays, 6.30pm). Usually, it's the other way round: a comedy begins on Radio 4, develops a following and then resurfaces on television. This was the case with The League of Gentlemen and Little Britain (incidentally, Little Britain was funny on the radio; it had a few jokes). But Trevor's World of Sport has a chequered history. It was first screened in 2003, on Friday nights. A couple of episodes in, however, the BBC lost faith in it - although it had picked up good reviews - and moved it to a slot on Mondays after the Ten O'Clock News. Andy Hamilton, its writer (the same Hamilton who brought us Drop the Dead Donkey), was understandably miffed about this, and wrote a piece in the Guardian telling of lily-livered schedulers who cared more about AB males - the audience they wanted to attract - than about backing a team.

Perhaps you're wondering why I am taking such a keen interest in an obscure sitcom about a man who runs a sporting talent agency. Let me explain. Playing Trevor's wide-boy partner, Sammy, is one Paul Reynolds - the same Reynolds who starred as Colin in the 1980s ITV children's series Press Gang. Lots of journalists will tell you that the best depictions of their trade are to be found in Evelyn Waugh's Scoop or Michael Frayn's Towards the End of the Morning. But it was Press Gang, a show about an inexplicably thrusting school newspaper, that made me long for hot metal and crazy deadlines - and the best thing in it was Reynolds. I've waited for him to find fame ever since. When he was cast as Sammy, I was delighted. When no second series was commissioned, I mourned.

Now he's back, perhaps I should lie and tell you how great Trevor's World is. But sadly, it is not.

Pearson, his voice tight with failure and frustration, is excellent, but the show lacks something - confidence, I'd say, though that is probably understandable in the circumstances. Talent management, as we know from The X-Factor and Hello!, is a creepy trade. For the show to work, the scripts must be more savage, with some of the anarchic turbulence that made Drop the Dead Donkey so funny. Still, it may yet hit its stride. And Reynolds is a joy: as wide as the Dartford Crossing, as ripe as month-old Brie.

The appearance of Trevor's World of Sport in the schedules only added to my feeling that something spooky is going on. Is radio, perhaps, the new television? While a group of nobodies - David Dickinson et al - sweat it out in the jungle on TV, the week's radio held an embarrassment of bona fide stars. On Radio 2, Robert Downey Jr presented a documentary about Chaplin (Smile: the genius of Charlie Chaplin, 29 November, 8.30pm), while on Radio 4 Woody Allen told the story of the American humourist S J Perelman (Chicken Inspector No. 23, 29 November, 11.30am).

Both shows worked because their presenters had an obvious love for their subject. Allen's delivery was also unintentionally hilarious at times. "Here's Denis Norden," he said, lining up his next talking head. His tone was reverential. I pictured the great director saying to his producer: "Who is this guy Denis Norden?" And the producer, pink-cheeked, replying: "Oh, he presents this, er, British TV show, It'll Be Alright on the Night." It was a scene that I found at least as funny as anything we heard from poor old Perelman.

Rachel Cooke trained as a reporter on The Sunday Times. She is now a writer at The Observer. In the 2006 British Press Awards, she was named Interviewer of the Year.

This article first appeared in the 05 December 2005 issue of the New Statesman, The next holocaust