Saturday Live is about as risky as a padded playpen
The issue of trailers is a vexed one for listeners of Radio 4. Gillian Reynolds, radio critic at the Daily Telegraph, is always complaining about them. She believes that they leave audiences heartily sick of new programmes even before these go on air. My feelings are mixed. Sometimes, I'm all in favour. In the case of the brilliant Uncovering Iran season, surely the more people who were made aware of it, the better. In this instance, however, the trailers in question were quite enticing (though I could have done without the season also being plugged on Today, as if its mere existence were hot news). It's only when the trailers suck that I feel my blood pressure rise.
Which brings me neatly to Saturday Live (Saturdays, 9am), the long-awaited replacement for Home Truths. I started to fear for Saturday Live when I heard the trailer for it - a coquettish little teaser that left me feeling queasy. In case you were lucky enough to miss it, it featured the show's presenter, Fi Glover, "chatting" about her new vehicle, as if over coffee and a Mr Kipling's. I guess this was meant to come over as intimate and inviting. To me, it just sounded horribly coy. And Glover managed to say almost nothing about what might be on offer. At one point, she announced that, yes, it would be "very much live". Eh? Either a programme is live, or it's pre-recorded. In any case, how dumb does Radio 4 think we are? It's called Saturday Live.
If, as I suspect, the words "very much" were meant to suggest an edge of danger, Glover was sadly mistaken. At first listen, the show is about as dangerous as a padded playpen. Now, it is possible that Saturday Live will, in time, be worth listening to; it might even become an institution. As I write, however, this does not seem very likely. It has been in the planning for ages, yet the studio guests for the launch show were - wait for it - the ubiquitous Carol Thatcher, and a man who long ago negotiated with the terrorists in the Iranian embassy siege. And there was an item about a woman who likes competitions. Was this the best they could do?
The show also features a resident poet. You already know how I feel about resident poets. They're embarrassing. You are never going to get someone good - Simon Armitage, say - to agree to riff satirically about the week's events at short notice. So who do we end up with? Someone you've never heard of, whose every stanza sounds as if it was written by Les Dawson on the back of a fag packet. Resident poets went out with the Clothkits catalogue. I can't believe this idea got past the producers' first blue-sky meeting.
Saturday Live doesn't know what it wants to be. Right now, it sounds like the weedy bastard child of Midweek and Broadcasting House. As for its clever presenter, she is wasted here. I might be imagining it, but she does not sound entirely at ease in this slot. Is she perhaps wondering why she is reduced to interviewing competition addicts? My hunch is that Home Truths will never be replaced adequately, and that this gap calls for a different tack entirely. Here's a suggestion: give Glover a decent show, in a time slot when she can be her usual tart self. Then move The Food Programme, complete with a sparkling new presenter or two, to Saturday mornings, when lots of us are thinking about cooking and eating. Scheduling? Pah. I don't know why people make such a fuss about it.
Pick of the week
Martin Freeman’s the Great Unknown
Starts 3 October, 9.30pm, Radio 2
The star of The Office celebrates underrated artists, including – yes! – Boz Scaggs.
Desert Island Discs
1 October, 11.15am, Radio 4
Kirsty Young begins interrogating those rotten castaways at last.
Brighton Comedy Festival
The line-up for this stand-up extravaganza boasts such well-established stars as Russell Brand, Jimmy Carr and Paul Merton as well as newer provocative fare, including Reginald D Hunter's charmingly titled show Pride and Prejudice and Niggas. It's nothing if not eclectic.
But the cherry on this comedy cake goes to the cult TV and radio stars Mitchell and Webb (right), launching their nationwide tour in Brighton. They promise sketches featuring gritty urban anti-heroes, pantomime space villains and alcoholic snooker commentators.
The festival runs from 4-21 October at various venues in Brighton. www.brightoncomedyfestival.com