When is a radio show not a radio show?

Sara Cox

If you’re like me, when you picture a radio presenter in your mind, you see them wearing a big pair of headphones, sitting (or standing) at a desk, speaking into a microphone and occasionally pressing buttons.

Although the age of DJs actually ‘spinning discs’ is long gone, most of the rest still holds true… or so I thought.

Last week, however, while idly browsing iPlayer, I came across Sara Cox’s Sounds of the 80s.

Not such an 80s classic
This goes out on BBC Radio 2 on a Friday night from 10pm – midnight and it seems fairly popular.

Ostensibly, it’s just Sara Cox playing lots of a-Ha, Wham!, Billy Ocean and Madonna to dance around to, or so I thought.

You see, this radio show is also available to watch. Now we’re not talking a webcam in the corner here – I mean Sara Cox standing in a proper TV studio facing a camera delivering her script. Continue reading “When is a radio show not a radio show?”

Why UK Television needs more dramas like The Bridge

20120519-182558.jpgAs the latest Scandinavian drama sensation, The Bridge, comes to an end tonight on BBC4, what’s struck me most about the programme is that we need more shows like this in the UK. And now I’ll explain why.

For me, there are two main elements to The Bridge that mark it out as being different to much of the UK drama output.

1) The main female character is completely unfeminine
From the very first episode, when the Swedish detective Saga Noren refuses to let an ambulance containing a patient due for an urgent transplant across the titular bridge, she’s marked out as behaving in a very masculine way.

Saga picks up men in bars and has one-night stands, while her male Danish colleague is portrayed as the ‘sensitive’ one.

That’s not to say that strong, female characters don’t exist in UK dramas – the ITV cop show Scott & Bailey has three, including the eponymous S&B’s boss Jill – but they’re few and far between.

In fact, with The Killing, Borgen and now The Bridge, Scandinavia is leading the way in this regard, with possibly Claire Danes’ Carrie in Homeland making up the list.

2) My second point does relate to the first slightly. Part of Saga’s character is driven by her autism – probably Asperger’s – a fact that’s never explicitly acknowledged. And for me, this is a hugely brave and impressive thing to do in a drama.

To give a main character a medical condition to which you never actually refer and deliberately not make it the thrust of the storyline is rarely done.

A disability is normally the reason for a show, not a side issue. If more writers wrote this sort of thing into their scripts, it would help to break down the stigma about disabilities and illnesses that persist across much of society.

In the meantime, enjoy it while you can.

When TV does get social issues right

John Simm as Tom in ExileThis week saw the transmission of the three-part drama on the BBC called Exile. It was an excellent piece that featured superb acting from John Simm, Olivia Colman (who you’ll know from Peep Show and Rev) and the ever-brilliant Jim Broadbent.

The BBC’s description of the programme is thus: ‘Psychological thriller that tells a story of prodigal redemption, as a son returns to his hometown to reconnect with his father and learn the truth about what happened between them years before.’

What made this drama different was the portrayal of social issues, in this case Alzheimer’s and the burden of caring for a loved one.

This drama was ostensibly about a father/son relationship, but the treatment of Jim Broadbent’s character’s Alzheimer’s was truly heartening to see and his performance, in particular, was mesmerising.

In addition, Olivia Colman’s lot as a put-upon single carer was a matter-of-fact part of the plot, rather than the reason for the entire drama.

Even down to the small things, such as the mention of Carer’s Allowance and the way Power of Attorney is decided, made it seem very real.

The distinction here is a fine one, but normally a disability or ‘social issue’ is the fundamental building block of a plot, but with Exile, that wasn’t the case. For that reason, along with the fine writing, acting and directing, we should applaud Exile and the BBC for commissioning it.