Entertainment Radio

Monday 22 April 2019

Playtime is over with the launch of gigantic war games


Darragh McManus
Darragh McManus
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

This week Russia launched a week of military manoeuvres on its Eastern Front, bordering China and Mongolia. With troops from China also involved, it's the largest such exercise, the Kremlin is claiming, since the height of the Cold War.

Drivetime (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 4.30pm) heard from Keir Giles, expert on Russian security matters with the Chatham House think-tank in London. The world of international affairs, specifically these types of war games, is complex, shadowy and very difficult to get to the full truth, as he explained.

For starters, the scale of these manoeuvres is "never the actual size announced in advance". When doing exercises on the Western Front, Russia underplays the numbers of men and war machines, because of various treaty obligations with the West. On the other side of that enormous landmass, they exaggerate "to impress China".

Oddly, despite the fact that Russia and China have been carrying out these joint operations for at least 10 years, the latter is now considered Russia's main military threat. If they are to face a large-scale conflict, Giles added, it will most likely be with China.

The whole thing is vaguely terrifying, if you were to think about it too much, especially the fact that this isn't just Vladimir Putin waving his weapon around and showing off what a tough guy he is. Russia has always based its self-esteem and sense of greatness as a nation, Giles said, on its military power.

Waiting (Radio 1, Sun 8pm) has now been running for five of its six weeks, and I regret to say that it hasn't improved from a fairly shoddy first episode. Each week opens with a preliminary statement about how this comedy series was commissioned after enthusiastic audience response to a live pilot earlier this year.

Methinks they protest too much; or else something drastic happened in transition from one-off to six-parter, because Waiting is pretty poor.

It shouldn't be: there's some real talent involved here, from writer Fiona Looney to actors Deirdre O'Kane, Caitriona Ennis and Rose Henderson. All have a decent track-record, but this feels tired, warmed-over and - the only thing that matters in comedy, ultimately - not very funny.

I am, though, enjoying The Last Word's (Today FM, Mon-Fri 4.30pm) music section each week. Matt Cooper plays the straight man to a lively duo of guests: broadcaster John Caddell and writer Larissa Nolan.

He's grouchy, sarky and amusing. She's feisty, smart and also amusing. He's a little nerdish prog rock, she's a little blast of grunge. They cover a wide range of topics, spark off each other most entertainingly, and most important of all, come across as genuine music lovers.

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