Rise and shine

Two shows bring some much-needed warmth to Saturday mornings

Say this phrase softly: Saturday morning programming. Isn't that lovely? These three words should fall on week-weary ears like manna from heaven, summoning up the ghost of DLT meandering his way daftly through a quiz. But where, in 2008, is that gentle comic touch? With TV stuffed to the gizzards with smug cookery shows, Jonathan Ross's sarcastic tongue becoming sharper by the Saturday, and Fi Glover's drollery reaching priggish heights, only two shows are giving mainstream broadcast humour the warmth it requires.

The first is the oldest dog in the pound. Sounds of the Sixties (Saturdays, 8.05am-10am, Radio 2) is often treated like the station's embarrassing uncle, the radio equivalent of a brandy-swigging codger dribbling down his pullover. In reality, the show is bright, engaging and funny.

Brian Matthew's battered armchair of a voice helps, willing you to hunker down in its soft bumps and saggy corners. It is best when reading out listeners' letters. Take Jack Russell's request for an old Hollywood Argyles song to be played for his friend Brian Gibson, currently running an antiques shop in South Africa. "Back in the Sixties, the statuesque Brian would don a leopard skin and wield a papier-mâché club to play in a band in Wales," the other Brian said, entertained by the contrast, the warmth from his voice hot enough to brown toast.

The music on the show is even better, a treasure trove of the fabulous and the forgotten. Just recently, we heard Lynne Randell's northern soul classic "Stranger In My Arms" and "Hey Bulldog" by the Gods, a rare psychedelic 45. Then, at 8.39am precisely, Matthew played the Beatles' "Revolution 9": nine minutes, he explained, of "wailing, shrieking and tape loops". Quite a digestif with your morning muesli, that one. Gentle anarchy has never sounded so wondrous.

The other glowing example of sweet-natured nuttiness comes from Adam and Joe on 6 Music (Saturdays, 9am-12 noon). School friends who have traded in pop-culture-flecked humour since the 1990s, Adam Buxton and Joe Cornish are now months away from their 40th birthdays. Not that they feel like trading in silliness for elbow patches just yet. Instead, they call woozy songs "sound douches" and have branded Gordon Ramsay "Crazy Hair Scarface"; they also play Lou Reed, old John Peel sessions, and new bands such as Friendly Fires. Their style is of the daft, amateur, student kind, and despite their age and experience, it somehow works wonderfully.

On 25 October, they also had a guest, in the shape of Roger Moore. Rather than quiz him about his autobiography ("I really can't be bothered," hammed Buxton good-naturedly), they played him their alternative theme tunes for Quantum of Solace. Cornish's electropop effort was instantly memorable ("He's a gun and great big man-tits/He's got small ears and tiny trunks," it began), while Buxton's faux-sultry song distilled Bond's way with the ladies ("We exchanged some saucy quips/ I snogged her, then I shot her").

Moore's reaction was a perfect combination of amusement and bemusement. He seemed to understand that his hosts' humour was coloured with reverence. This sort of spontaneous warmth makes Saturday radio gold.

Antonia Quirke is away

Pick of the week

Composer of the Week
From 3 November, 12 noon, Radio 3
Dvorák’s travels in the New World, examined by Donald Macleod. With performances by orchestras from Moscow, Berlin and New York.

The Media Show
5 November, 1.30pm, Radio 4
Steve Hewlett’s gutsy programme enters its second month.

This article first appeared in the 03 November 2008 issue of the New Statesman, Israel v Hamas