I downloaded 90’s Mancunian gore-fest-procedural Cracker this week. One scene inspired this less-than-serious post. It’s where Fitz, eager for information about the death of a former student, rather theatrically picks up a radio to turn it on.

As is the way in TV dramas, he is just in time to hear a whole jingle for the station concerned – on this occasion, BBC GMR, as the dear thing was called in those days. Because people on the telly, never tune in in the middle of something – always at the start.

So as a public service to any TV producers planning scenes involving radio (or just for the rest of us to point at them and laugh) here’s the 2ZY far-from-exhaustive list of “When Actors ‘doing radio’ Go Bad”. With the help of some Facebook friends.

Trevor Eve as Private Ear Eddie Shoestring

We start with the otherwise brilliant Shoestring, glossing over his playing fast and loose with broadcast law, of course. Start at 6.27 on the YouTube below.

Shoestring “Find the Lady”

1. Bizarre Segues. 

Radio West plays B. Bumble and the Stingers/Nutrocker followed by the Flying Lizards/Money. Or ‘the myth that presenters play what they like’ adds Laura Ellis. Although, hey, this was a simulation of IBA-era ILR so …

2. Presenters Always Use Presentery Voices.

3. Presenter Doesn’t Wear Headphones.

Or as Steve Martin says “Presenter wears headphones, but they’re round their necks!”

4. Receptionist Is There 24/7 And Deals With All Calls, including Those from Listeners.

All of which are recorded on reel-to-reel or even cassette.

Loving Tulah. Sorry, Toyah. Whatever.

Radio (TVS)

This radio soap was shown across the South and South West in the ’80s, set in a fictional Brighton station, Radio Phoenix. If you can tear yourself away from the gripping and realistic dialogue at 1.40ish ..

5. PPMs Not Corresponding To What’s Going Out. 

6. (and at 3.30) All Journalists Wear Raincoats,

‘like they’ve been exposing themselves in a local park’ says Jonathan Morrell.

7. (at 4.21) Random Operation of Faders.

(Although it has to be said the tragic combination of hessian, primary coloured paintwork, crippling claustrobia and dusty rubber plants are a painfully accurate rendition of generic radio station reception decor. Well done TVS. Even if the agony aunt from series one became station manager in series two. OK, so I know too much.)

Kit Curran Radio Show

Another from the ’80s, a purported comedy from Thames/Channel 4. Suggested to Tim Page, who adds, “I should imagine the people who saw Kit Curran came away with a less- than-rounded view of the industry!”

8. Underworked Producers on other side of glass.

Or at Radio Newtown it seems, at a desk opposite the presenters. Nice studio furniture too. Oh, my mistake, it’s just a table with some cart machines on it. As David Clayton says, “Engineers through the glass?! I wish.”

Andy Peebles says we shouldn’t forget KMRL star Dave Garver ‘with a little verse, a little talk and five hours of music to be very very nice to each other by …’

Play Misty For Me

AT 6.37 there’s the old no headphones thing going on. Andy: “a technical shambles but what a view through the studio window.”

And a few random extras to watch out for next time;

From Simon Pattern:

9. The final mix can only be heard in acoustically perfect surroundings, and not in real cars or homes.

10. Presenter starts a turntable and drops a needle bang onto the intro,

suggests Steve Suttie. Ever tried that?  Ha. And

11. Actor turns on radio at exactly the right time to hear news report thats directly related to his current situation.

“This just in – the Zombies are now walking up Victoria Road.” So he legs it away from Victoria Road (after switching radio off again.)

Sadly there appears to be nothing online relating to 1988’s Thin Air, a BBC 1 drama set on a radio station in London’s docklands in which the woman off the Communards plays a presenter who gets murdered in episode one and Bill Oddie’s daughter plays the cub journalist who solves it. Even if it earns a place on this list for the denouement being played out using crocodile clips and a Marantz at the transmitter site.

That was rather good, ISTR, bar some fader theatricals and the bizarre notion that a radio station would end up running a cafe/restaurant in its foyer.

Clearly that was a ridiculous idea that would never happen in real life.

And from Alex Hall, the classic

12. Ad breaks are long enough to enable the presenter to track a murderer down, have sex and grab a coffee before opening a fader at the exact minute his producer finishes a countdown.

Afficiendoes of radio on TV will note the omission of ‘Midnight Caller’. It’s because this is a list of 12 examples, not several hundred.


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