The week in radio: The Cinemile; The New Blur Album; Today
At the first-ever British podcast awards last night, the winner of the best new podcast was something of a surprise. The Cinemile is a small show: it hasn’t been widely reviewed, it’s not promoted on iTunes, there are no lengthy New Yorker essays on its brooding, gothic atmosphere and experimental subversion of long-form audio journalism. But it’s still a worthy winner.
The Cinemile has a simple premise. All that happens is this: a husband and wife have a quick chat as they walk down the road to see a film, then a longer chat about that film on their walk back. Each weekly episode is around 20 minutes long and, without exception, is suffused with charm and insight. Dave and Cathy, our hosts, are just great: they disagree, but without malice; they whizz through atmosphere, acting, plot; they make each other laugh. Cathy, especially, is hilarious.
Film reviewing is a podcast standard and, often, it drives me mad. Aside from Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review, The Worst Idea of All Time and a few other honourable exceptions, I can do without clever movie buffs unpicking the arc and character development of The Fast and the Furious 574.
Film fans often exude an odd superiority, a sense that, really, they know the medium better than any director. The Cinemile does not do this at all. It has jokes, warmth and genuine opinion. The most recent programme breaks the walk-and-talk rule – the couple don’t actually leave the house, due to Cathy’s pregnancy, but even then it’s still great. Dave and Cathy stay in and watch Look Who’s Talking, “to glean any parenting tips”: there aren’t many, other than “don’t invite a random taxi driver into your flat to look after your newborn”. “Parenting,” says Dave, “looks really easy!” Having never heard The Cinemile before the British podcast awards, I’m now a huge fan.
Another small show that I enjoyed last week was the repeat of John Osborne’s 2014 half-hour monologue, The New Blur Album. A sweet reminiscence about youth, music and friends, it had heart and soul, two elements notably missing from most 6.30pm Radio 4 programmes. I don’t know what’s happened to that slot. The established programmes are fine – Meet David Sedaris, The Unbelievable Truth, The News Quiz – but the stuff from newer contributors needs something more meaningful than well-crafted gags.
Which brings me to the Gagmeister in Chief, Boris Johnson. God, why is he still here? He and Trump are everything that is wrong with politics. Bumptious, self-serving, unprincipled, dangerous. You’d call them all ego, if they weren’t all id. Johnson’s appearance on Thursday morning’s Today programme (skip to the 2hr 10min mark) was utterly exasperating. He didn’t let John Humphrys ask his questions. He fudged – yet again – the Brexit non-fact that if we leave the EU, we get £350m a week to spend on the NHS.
Johnson distracts, trivialises, patronises. On negotiating a trade pact with the US: “They still ban British beef! They won’t take Scottish haggis!” On the election: “There may be listeners who aren’t aware there’s an election on.” On being rude about Jeremy Corbyn: “I apologise to mugwumps everywhere.” At one point, when Humphrys’s dedicated questioning started getting to him, he snapped: “Are you the chief negotiator of the EU?”, to which Humphrys replied: “I can read what they have said.” Like a performing toddler or an incontinent pet, Johnson is a time-consuming diversion from what needs to happen to make the day work. Get him off my radio.