Some snarky audio reviews

Not much to report from podcsat land at the moment, but a couple of oddly similar things on BBC Sounds (*sigh* I suppose we’re to call it that), one probably worth a listen and the other probably not.

The System

Start with the snark. You’ll have probably heard trailers for The System on anything you downloaded from the BBC lately. What’s strange about this is that The System itself can be quite hard to find on Sounds itself. It’s not in the Featured stuff at the top of the home screen, and it doesn’t even pop readily up in the Drama category. One wonders if they’re not a bit embarrassed by it after all.

What is it? Well, it purports to be a six-part thriller about a woman trying to trace her (half) brother after he goes on the run. He appears to have been involved in some cult-like self-help group, a kind of Fight Club designed to help deadbeat men bootstrap themselves into a better life. 

It’s a two-stranded narrative, partly narrated by Jake and partly by Maya. Alarms started ringing for me when it started jumping back and forth in time, a sure sign of a how-can-we-make-this-interesting approach to storytelling. The denouement when it comes is a bit of a let down. It turns out to be exactly what you thought it was in the first episode. At best, this is a two-parter, but stretched over six 30 minute episodes, it becomes a bit of a yawn. Like other things I’ve reviewed recently, this is clearly aimed at a youth audience, but how it will  reach them I don’t know. Advertising it at the end of Fortunately with Fi and Jane is not the way, though. 

And what does “Limelight” in the show’s graphic mean? It’s not one of the episode titles, so it’s a head scratcher.

The Transition

More successful for me was this (2017) reading of Luke Kennard’s novel (by Bryan Dick). Along similar lines,  a deadbeat young man in a dead end job finds himself on the wrong side of the law and then involved in some kind of mysterious self-improvement cult. 

Instead of being sent to prison, Karl is invited (along with his school teacher wife) to participate in a six-month mentoring programme. What is society to do with the vast numbers of people overqualified for the menial jobs available to them, stuck paying extortionate rents with no hope of saving money, and building up serious levels of debt?

Paranoid and suspicious, Karl is predisposed to believe things are too good to be true, while his wife Genevieve seems to be thriving on the opportunity. Perhaps because this was just a reading and not striving to be edgy and dramatic, I found this much more engaging and enjoyable.

Dinner with Dylan

Back to the snark now for this sample of the Radio 4 80th birthday celebrations for Bob Dylan. I’m all in favour of celebrating great people while they are still alive, but the whole affair made me kind of grumpy. First of all, I’ve no interest in people playing records at me. Give or take the unique and unrepeatable experience of Radio Caroline, I never have, and never will. As to the wider discourse, I found a lot of it to be boring, self-indulgent self-promotion, whether on Twitter or in The Guardian, or, as here, on the radio.

The Guardian, for example, asked a bunch of people to name their favourite Bob Dylan song. I won’t rehearse the resulting list here, but my eyes rolled at how few of the chosen songs dated from after 1965. I’m not saying the list would have been worth making if that had not been the case, but the fact that it listed all the usual suspects just revealed the emptiness at the heart of the exercise.

As to this radio play, which features three Dylan fans not ordering a curry while waiting for Bob Dylan to inevitably not turn up, sure, I get it. It’s Waiting for Godot. I listened to it whilst ironing my work shirts, and the best I can say about it is that I had an epiphany: I don’t want to iron shirts ever again. I already don’t wear shirts in the winter months, so now I’m trying to come up with a Spring/Summer replacement. Thinking about this intensely boring subject was more interesting to me than this play, which was awful. The awkwardly terrible chat between these people was self-indulgent twaddle, made worse by the members of the cast playing themselves.

So I dunno. Henley shirts? They’re quite smart aren’t they?

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