Radio: Staying 'out foreign' in a small world of noodles and comic wit
Chain Reaction (BBC Radio 4, Tues, 6.30pm) is a great idea for a show, so good that I'm amazed at myself – even disappointed, being truthful – that I haven't come across it before now. And they're in their ninth season at this stage, so I've no excuse, really.
Basically, someone interviews someone else. The interviewee becomes interviewer in the next episode, and their interviewee does likewise, and so on, creating – you're ahead of me – a chain reaction.
It sounds like it could be hideous, admittedly; celebs chin-wagging with other celebs, stroking each other's egos in a way that's positively indecent. But Chain Reaction works because most of those involved are comedians, who wouldn't be known for overdue reverence towards their peers.
The tone, thus, is chatty but not sycophantic. And it's often funny, which might seem a given with the inclusion of comedians, but ain't always the case. (They're not all professional jokers, by the way: I was particularly intrigued to see comic-book legend Grant Morrison in the archives.)
This week Graham Linehan – he of Father Ted fame – was interviewed by songwriter Neil Innes, he of Monty Python and The Rutles fame. And thoroughly entertaining it was; I wouldn't be the biggest fan of Linehan's work, but he comes across as a grand fella, charming and witty in interviews.
Staying "out foreign", National Public Radio is, I guess, the US equivalent of RTÉ or BBC. In contrast to all those seemingly money-driven TV broadcasters and radio chains Stateside, NPR appears more inclined to pursue stories because they're interesting of themselves, not because they'll drive ratings.
Morning Edition (Mon-Fri, 12-2pm GMT) could be called their version of Sean O'Rourke or Pat Kenny's shows: a mixture of serious current affairs and "lighter" lifestyle stuff: from big issues to quirky stories. So this week we had, for instance, reports on Iraq, Syria, global economic inequality, obesity: all from the American perspective, of course, which gives added relevance and interest.
Being the contrary sort I am, though, my fancy was most tickled by a short piece on traditional Japanese cuisine and the art of making noodles. I lived on those bad-boys when domiciled in Japan. It's a small world, and Morning Edition brings it all even closer.