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Turn off the TV: radio choices, August 27-September 9

Desert Island Discs Long-Play: Kathy Burke Radio 4 Extra, Sunday 10am & 9pm

Kirsty Young talks to actor and acclaimed theatre director Kathy Burke in an extended repeat of a show from August 2010.

The Reunion: Boys from the Blackstuff Radio 4, Sunday 11.15am

Sue MacGregor reunites Alan Bleasdale with some of the key people who helped him bring his definitive tale of 1980s unemployment to the screen, where it became one of television’s all time great pieces of drama. Producer Michael Wearing and actors Michael Angelis, Tom Georgeson and Julie Walters contribute.

Barbara Windsor Radio 2, Sunday 1pm

With Elaine Paige concentrating on Follies in America, our Babs once again sits in on Radio 2’s show dedication to musical theatre and songs from the shows. As usual, The Stage’s Matthew Hemley will be on hand to chat about the latest news.

Afternoon Play: Arabian Afternoons Radio 4, Monday-Wednesday 2.15pm

A repeat run for three dramas, each inspired by tales from the Thousand and One Nights.

BBC Proms: Hooray for Hollywood Radio 3, Monday 7.30pm

The John Wilson Orchestra returns to the RAH for more movie-inspired magic. From the dance crazy numbers of Fred Astair and Ginger Rogers to 1960s Sondheim (Gypsy, West Side Story) this should prove to be a wonderful evening. Featured vocalists include Caroline O’Connor, Clare Teal, Matthew Ford and Annalene Beechey.

Friday Play: The Talented Mr Ripley Radio 4, Friday 9pm

Another set of repeats, but just as welcome - Ian Hart’s turn as Patricia Highsmith’s charming killer in adaptations of all five of her Ripley novels is just superb.

Turn off the TV: radio choices, July 2-8

The Saturday Play: White Nights Radio 4, Saturday 2.30pm

Anne Cleeves’ novel about a Shetland community shaken up by the apparent murder of a stranger is adapted by Iain Finlay MacLeod, starring Steven Robertson, Finlay Walsh and Anne Lacey.

Elaine Paige on Sunday Radio 2, Sunday 1pm

Once again, The Stage’s Matt Hemley will be on hand to discuss the latest theatre news with EP.

The Winslow Boy Radio 4 Extra, 1.30pm

Continuing BBC Radio’s celebration of Terrence Rattigan’s centenary, Radio 4 Extra repeats this 1981 adaptation starring Michael Redgrave. Based on a real life incident, the play concerns the attempt by a father to clear his son’s name after the boy is expelled from naval college for stealing a postal order.

Also on Radio 4 Extra this week, Clive Merrison reads extracts from Michael Darlow’s Rattigan biography in Terence Rattigan: The Man and His Work (Monday-Friday 10.45am).

Drama on 3: Widowers’ Houses Radio 3, Sunday 8pm

Ian McKellen, Charles Dance, Tim Pigott-Smith and Dan Stevens star in an adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s first play, a socially aware satire about how the love of money and exploitation of the Victorian working class went hand in hand.

Barbara Windsor’s Funny Girls Radio 2, Tuesday 10pm

A three-part series about iconic female comedic actresses starts with Hylda Baker, who progressed from the music hall to television, film and radio. Often performing monologues to a silent stooge, Cynthia (usually a man in drag, with the last performer to take the role being Lend Me a Tenor’s Matthew Kelly), Baker’s northern, catchphrase-based comedy influenced many a performer.

Afternoon Play: Life Begins at Crawley Radio 4, Thursday 2.15pm

In Roy Apps’ comedy, Penelope Keith plays the wife on an MP who has to try and make ends meet when her husband is imprisoned for fiddling his expenses — and finds herself turning to crime…

Friday Night is Music Night Radio 2, Friday 8pm

The BBC Concert Orchestra performs with musical theatre students from the Brit School of the Performing Arts. As part of the FNIMN film season, the programme includes some of the best known songs from movies.

The Radio 2 Arts Show Radio 2, Friday 10pm

With Penny Smith sitting in for Caludia Winkleman, the guests include the cast of the Arts Theatre’s Park Avenue Cat, while Hollywood scriptwriter Bruce Joel Rubin talks about adapting his screenplay of Ghost for musical theatre.

Turn off the TV: radio choices, June 4-10

Saturday Play: Little Platoons Radio 4, Saturday 2.30pm

A satire by Steve Waters, focussing on the coalition government’s “free schools” initiative, which allows groups of parents to set up their own school.

Take It From June Radio 4 Extra, Saturday 9am, 7pm

Celebrating 60 years in radio comedy and drama, June Whitfield talks about her career and shares some of her favourite performances, from Take It From Here to The News Huddlines and also including one of her Miss Marple outings. Whitfield also crops up

BBC New Comedy Awards Radio 2, Saturday 10pm

The BBC’s search for new stand-up talent has been through ten (unaired) regional heats, and now reaches the semi-final stage. The 12 finalists will present their acts over two weeks, with the best six going forward to the final on June 18.

Drama on 3: Flare Path Radio 3, Sunday 8pm

As part of the celebrations of Terrence Rattigan’s centenary, Radio 3 adapts his drama set in a hotel near a WW2 airbase. Be warned, though, this isn’t the same cast that’s currently on stage at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. Instead, we get a (similarly top notch) cast of Rupert Penry-Jones, Ruth Wilson, Rory Kinnear, Una Stubbs and more.

The Rattigan Versions Radio 4, Monday-Friday 3.45pm

Continuing the Rattigan theme, Mark Lawson talks to five people who had a close connection with the playwright.

Afternoon Play: A Monstrous Vitality Radio 4, Tuesday 2.15pm

A chapter of Margaret Routherford’s life is explored in a drama by Andy Merriman, who has also written a biography of the actress. June Whitfield, who played Miss Marple (that character which secured Rutherford’s on-screen legacy) on radio, plays Rutherford as she falls for one man while still married to fellow actor Stringer Davis.

Afternoon Play: The 40-Year Twitch Radio 4, Wedneday 2.15pm

When Yvonne (Paula Wilcox) loses her job, she starts to see her husband’s (Philip Jackson) birdwatching hobby as a threat to their marriage. Daniel Thurman’s comedy also stars Anne Reid.

Friday Night is Music Night Radio 2, Friday 8pm

A special edition of the show sees the BBC Concert Orchestra, under the conducting baton of Roderick Dunk, celebrating 50 years of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Musically, the programme features music from ballets, film, operas and stage works that have adapted the Bard’s plays, while RSC members also perform some soliloquies.

Turn off the TV: radio choices, May 28-June 3

The Goon Show at 60 Radio 4 Extra, Saturday (various times)

The digital channel celebrates sixty years of surrealism and silly voices, the first broadcast of The Goon Show having aired on May 28, 1951, with a series of programmes dedicated to Messrs Milligan, Secombe, Sellers and co.

In Goon Again (first broadcast in 2001 for the 50th anniversary) John Glover, Andrew Secombe and Jeffrey Holland recreate an original script; Eric Sykes: the Radio Years celebrates the actor and writer’s wireless career, including writing for the Goons, while The Last Goon Show of All saw the team reunite in 1972 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the BBC.

The Saturday Play: Sunk Radio 4, Saturday 2.30pm

In 1943, the German Third Reich commissioned Titanic), detailing the sinking of the cruise liner, as a propaganda film to discredit British and American capitalism. The costly production ended up, instead, being seen as a symbol for the corruption and downfall of the Reich itself. Mike Walker’s play looks at this intriguing story, and stars Richard Laing, Blake Ritson and Jason Watkins.

Afternoon Play: Corrinne Come Back and Gone Radio 4, Monday 2.15pm

An intense story from the pen of Lenny Henry — his first produced script since gaining his MA in screenwriting. Claire Benedict plays Corrinne, a Jamaican expatriate who, twenty years after she left the island for a new life in the UK, is invited to return by her now-adult daughter.

Afternoon Play: The Big Broadcast Radio 4, Wednesday 2.15pm

Husband and wife songwriting team Jean and Grant are on the cusp of divorce, but they need to write one more number to help save Grant from the mob. Josie Lawrence and Nigel Harman star in this musical set in 1930s radioland, recorded at the BBC Radio Theatre with a live studio audience (which I happened to be a part of).

Truth is, it’s not great — writer and composer Neil Brand evokes the spirit of the age, but the songs are no great shakes. But full credit to radio drama commissioners for trying something a little different. Here’s hoping they continue to commission musicals for radio.

Party Radio 4, Wednesday 6.30pm

A second series for Tom Basden’s satirical comedy about a group of young people who have set up their own political party.

Shedtown Radio 4, Wednesday 11pm

Tony Pitts and Kevin Eldon star in a four-part drama, written by Pitts, and with a cast including Maxine Peake, Suranne Jones, Johnny Vegas, Ronni Ancona and Shaun Dooley. It’s the works day out for the workers of Blakeley Industrial Museum - and something’s got to change.

Friday Night is Music Night Radio 2, Friday 8pm

To mark the move of the BBC Philharmonic to its new home in Salford, Mike Dixon conducts the orchestra in a live performance from the city. There’s a musical theatre focus to the evening, with performances from Matt Rawle, Ricardo Afonso, Alex Gaumond and Paul Spicer.

Turn off the TV: Radio choices, May 21-27

Barbara Windsor Radio 2, Sunday 1pm

A second week of our Babs sitting in for Elaine Paige, and the second week of The Stage’s Matt Hemley presenting the latest theatre news in the last half-hour of the show.

Drama on 3: Giovanni’s Room Radio 3, Sunday 8pm

Adapted and directed by Neil Bartlett and with a cast that includes Damian Lewis, Derek Jacobi, John Lithgow and Greta Scacchi, James Baldwin’s novel was groundbreaking in terms of its sensitive portrayal of homosexuality.

Afternoon Play: Whistling Wally’s Son Radio 4, Monday 2.15pm

Writer Wally K Daly, a prolific writer for TV and radio, dramatises his own childhood, including his wartime memories and his father’s return from a PoW camp.

Gilbert’s Glory Radio 4, Monday-Friday 3.45pm

To mark the centenary of playwright WS Gilbert’s death, poet Ruth Padel explores five different aspects of his work, including his operetta collaborations with Arthur Sullivan and his work as a theatre director.

The Pocket A A Milne Radio 4, Tuesday-Thursday 3.30pm

Three short pieces read by Ian McNeice that demonstrated that there was more to the author than Winnie-the-Pooh.

Afternoon Play: Torchwood Radio 4, Wednesday-Friday 2.15pm

Originally broadcast in July 2009 in the run up to BBC1’s five-day Children of Earth, Radio 4 repeats its three afternoon plays featuring the trio of Captain Jack Harkness, Gwen Cooper and Ianto “not dead yet” Jones.

The new TV series of Torchwood, subtitled Miracle Day, should start airing soon, so I guess the repeat of this plays now is understandable. But it’s only a few weeks since these same plays were repeated on Radio 4 Extra — surely the scheduling between the two inter-related channels could be a bit better than this?

Friday Play: RIP Boy Radio 4, Friday 9pm

The now defunct Friday Play slot is revived for this repeat of Red Production Company’s drama, scripted by Neil McKay, about the real life story of a young Asian boy who was beaten to death while in a young offenders institution. This moving drama recently won the Sony Bronze Award for Best Drama.

Turn off the TV: radio choices, May 14-20

Graham Norton Radio 2, Saturday 10am
Eurovision Radio 2, Saturday 8pm
Norton’s weekly Saturday show comes from Düsseldorf as the preparations for the evening’s Eurovision Song Contest final get underway. Special guests will, of course, include Blue, who are singing the UK’s entry I Can.

Norton will also, of course, be commentating the evening’s festivities. If you prefer your narration a little less frenetic and a little more Scottish, Ken Bruce does the honours on Radio 2. Or, of course, long time Stage and TV Today contributor Ewan Spence will be on hand via Twitter and many other new media platforms…

Saturday Play: Deep Down and Dirty Rock’n’Roll Radio 4, Saturday 2.30pm
Mark Davies Markham, who wrote the book for West End musical Taboo, writes this story of lifelong friends Ed (Suggs) and Carl (Burn Gorman). Both were members of the band Lost Youth, until Carl feigned his own mysterious disappearance. Fourteen years later, Lost Youth is on the verge of a big comeback — but if Carl comes out of hiding, will it ruin Ed’s chances of reviving his career and paying off his debts?

The Complete Smiley: Call for the Dead Radio 4 Extra, Saturday 6am, 4pm, Sunday 4am
Radio 4 Extra begins a repeat run of Radio 4’s adaptation of all eight John le Carré novels to feature gentleman spy George Smiley.

Desert Island Discs Revisited: June Spencer Radio 4 Extra, Sunday 10am, 9pm, 1am
Desert Island Discs: Kwame Kwei-Armah Radio 4
On Radio 4 Extra, DID continues its month-long series of interviews with actors with 2010’s edition with June Spencer, who plays Peggy Woolley in The Archers. And over on Radio 4, a new episode features actor and playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah.

Barbara Windsor Radio 2, Sunday 1pm
Elaine Paige is off on a six week long summer break, and standing in for her for the first two weeks is long time musical theatre actress Barbara Windsor (who’s also done the odd role in film and TV. I forget which.) Joining her will be The Stage reporter Matthew Hemley, who starts a new regular series looking at the major theatre news of the week.

Mr Blue Sky Radio 4, Monday 11.30am
A new sitcom — the first solo effort from Andrew Collins (BBC1’s Not Going Out) — sees Mark Benton as Harvey, a man who can’t help but be relentlessly optimistic, to the despair of his long-suffering wife (Rebecca Front).

Doctor Who: Cobwebs Radio 4 Extra, Monday-Thursday 6pm, 12am
In Jonathan Morris’s story (initially released by independent company Big Finish) Peter Davison’s Fifth Doctor returns with one of his more successful TARDIS companion rosters. The Doctor has been travelling with Tegan (Janet Fielding) and Turlough (Mark Strickson) since third companion Nyssa left. A few days later for the TARDIS travellers, they meet Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) again — but for her, fifty years have passed. The dynamic the reunited team falls into is at once familiar, but different, as they explore an abandoned genetic research facility that hold the key to curing a disease that’s taken six billion lives. Another story with the same regular cast, Stephen Cole’s The Whispering Forest, starts on Friday.

Afternoon Play: Heart Radio 4, Wednesday 2.15pm
In Mike Bartlett’s play, recently retired primary school teacher Susan (Alison Steadman) is learning to find new things to fill her time, just as husband Steve (Nicholas Farrell) is finding that pressures of work are taking him to the brink of depression. Doesn’t sound all that great on paper, but Steadman and Farrell are generally incapable of giving poor performances.

Afternoon Play: The Death of Tom Inglis Radio 4, Friday 2.15pm
Lesley Manville returns to radio drama after 30 years in the tru story of a mother whose son suffers a brain-stem injury after falling from the back of a moving ambulance. David Morely’s sensitive script follows Frances Inglis (Manville) and her husband Alex (Phil Daniels) as Frances becomes increasingly convinced that the best way to relieve her son’s suffering is to allow him to die.

Turn off the TV: Radio choices, May 7-13

Saturday Play: A Change in the Willows Radio 4, Saturday 2.30pm
Ian Buchan updates Kenneth Grahame’s riverbank characters from The Wind in the Willows. Ratty’s home gets flooded because of rising water levels, while Toad decides to turn Toad Hall into an amusement park, complete with bouncy castles, water slides and a ghost. A splendid voice cast — Tim McInnerny, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Stephen Mangan, Andrew Sachs and Issy Van Randwyck — should make this highly listenable fun.

Desert Island Discs Revisited Radio 4 Extra, Sunday 10am, 9pm
While the Radio 4 show has a new edition with writer Molly Parkin at 11.15am, over on the digital sibling the archive plundering starts a season of programmes interviewing actors. First up is a 2005 edition, with Colin Firth sharing his eight records, book and luxury item.

Of course, you can hear his edition, along with hundreds others, on the Desert Island Discs website, which is one of the biggest timewasters — sorry, I of course meant “informative archive resources” — on the internet…

Classic Serial: The Prelude Radio 4, Sunday 3pm
Wordsworth’s epic autobiogrpahical poem is read, over two weeks, by Ian McKellen.

Afternoon Play: Father Brown - The Secret Garden Radio 4, Wednesday 2.15pm
Richard Greenwood plays GK Chesterton’s unlikely detective in a new adaptation to mark the clergyman sleuth’s 100th anniversary.

The Go Betweenies Radio 4, Friday 11.30am
This new comedy series about a modern London family, starring David Tennant and Sarah Alexander as divorced parents, started last week, but don’t worry - episode 1 will be available on iPlayer, and is also repeat on Radio 4 Extra on Wednesday.

Turn off the TV: Radio choices, February 26-March 4

Saturday Play: Classic Chandler - Playback Radio 4, Saturday 2.30pm

While I’ve quite liked Toby Stephens’ take on grizzled San Francisco ‘tec Philip Marlowe, but to be honest would have preferred all four of Chandler’s novels spaced out rather than run together like this. Still, the final story in the season contains all the key ingredients - especially the mysterious woman and a client with undisclosed, and possibly shady, motives…

Classic Serial: Show Boat Radio 4, Sunday 3pm
The conclusion to the adaptation of Edna Ferber’s novel that was later adapted into a musical by Jerome Kern and OScar Hammerstein II (part 1 is repeated on Saturday at 9pm).

Drama on 3: Helen Radio 3, Sunday 8pm
Don Taylor’s unique take on Euripedes’ story of Helen of Troy gives the tale a twist, by suggesting that Paris did not, in fact, abduct Menelaus’s wife at all. A war conducted in the Middle East under false pretences? What on earth could have given Taylor the inspiration for that idea?

The Chronicles of Ait - Echo Beach Radio 4, Monday-Friday 10.45am & 7.45pm
Greg Wise and Indira Varma star in a tale of a disaffected writer who meets a mysterious woman while on a retreat. Part romance, part psychological thriller, part supernatural adventure — right up my street.

Front Row Radio 4, Monday 7.15pm
Mark Lawson interviews Michael Crawford on the eve of the press night for The Wizard of Oz.

David Jacobs: On the Record Radio 2, Wednesday 10pm
One of British broadcasting’s most enduring legends, actor and broadcaster David Jacob is interviewed by former R2 controller Jim Moir about a career that is in its 67th year. Jacobs, now 84, has presented Housewives’ Choice, Jazz Club, Pick of the Pops, Melodies for You and Any Questions - and in the drama serial Journey Into Space he played no less than 22 characters.

Afternoon Play: Good with People Radio 4, Friday 2.15pm
Maureen Beattie, Paul Chequer and Sean Biggerstaff star in David Harrower’s tale of a small Scottish town, which has turned from being a thriving seaside resort to the host of a nuclear submarine base.

Turn off the TV: Radio, January 22-28

Saturday Play: Payback Radio 4, Saturday 2.30pm
Jonathan Myerson’s drama looks at events in the US and the Middle East in 1973 as the Yom Kippur War breaks out. Golda Meir has become Prime Minister of Israel, while Richard Nixon is barely holding onto power as the Watergate scandal continues and Secretary of State Richard Nixon is in New York.

Opera on 3: Live From the Met Radio 3, Saturday 6pm
Giovanni Meoni stars in the title role of Verdi’s Rigoletto.

Desert Island Discs Radio 4, Sunday 11.15am
This week’s castaway is Betty Driver, who has played Coronation Street hotpot maker extraordinaire Betty Williams (previously Turpin) for more years than she’d probably care for any of us to remember. When she joined the Street, she was already a veteran performer, having started performing at the age of 8.

Classic Serial: The Moonstone Radio 4, Sunday 3pm
A four-part adaptation of Wilkie Collins’ novel, which some say set the template for the modern detective drama. Kenneth Cranham is Sergeant Cuff, who travels to a mysterious country house to investigate the disappearance of the titular diamond. Eleanor Bron, Jasmine Hyde and Paul Rhys also star.

Drama on 3: Living with Princes Radio 3, Sunday 8pm
Roger Allam and Jane Lapotaire star in Stephen Wakelam’s tale of Michel de Montaigne, who in 1588 journeyed around the troubled kingdom of France on a mission to reconcile the Valois King Henri the Third, a Catholic, with his likely successor, the Bourbon King of Navarre, a Protestant.

Afternoon Play: Market - Loco Parentis Radio 4, Monday 2.15pm
Gary Brown’s play Loco Parentis is the first of six self-contained dramas about people who work in and around the market stalls of a northern city. Jim (Reece Dinsdale) is having trouble sleeping, because his daughter has left for university, his business is failing, he suspects his wife is having an affair and his father’s health is failing. Understandably, he’s desperate to escape his life…

Mordrin McDonald: 21st-Century Wizard Radio 4, Wednesday 11pm
A second series for David Kay and Gavin Smith’s sitcom about Mordrin, a procrastinating wizard who’d really rather not perform the heroic acts he eventually undertakes.

Afternoon Play: Ursula and Boy Radio 4, Thursday 2.15pm
From a wizard to a witch - Ursula Kemp was an Essex woman who was executed for witchcraft in 1582, based on the testimony of her own eight-year-old son. Meg Fraser stars as Ursula in Abigail Docherty’s drama.

Friday Play: YT and the Soprano Radio 4, Friday 9pm
Hip hop rapper Sway plays YT, who falls in love with Gabrielle (Clare Watkins), a soprano opera singer, when he hears her sing Signore, ascolta from Puccini’s Turandot. When he steals a recording of her aria and remixes it, it becomes an underground hit.

Turn off the TV: Radio, January 15-21

Saturday Play: Master Harold and the Boys Radio 4, Saturday 2.30pm
South African playwright Athol Fulgrad introduces a new production of his semi-autobiographical 1982 work. Seventeen year old Hally, growing up in 1950s apartheid South Africa, spends all his time with his parents’ black servants, Sam and Willie. As the two servants practice their dance moves, some news emerges that will change their relationship with ‘Master Harold’ for ever.

Jimmy Carr’s Comedy Cuts Radio 2, Saturday 10pm
A series of masterclasses in comedy, using examples culled from the BBC radio archives, is hosted by Jimmy Carr. The first of the six-part series looks at the art of stand-up, with clips from Bill Bailey, Eddie Izzard and Rowan Atkinson amongst others.

Drama on 3: Charles and Mary Radio 3, Sunday 8pm
Paul Rhys and Lia Williams star as brother and sister Charles and Mary Lamb, whose adaptation of Shakespeare’s tales for children has been popular for over 200 years. Their own lives were no less dramatic: he was an alcoholic and she was driven insane by a combination of poverty and stress.

Afternoon Play: Haunted Radio 4, Wednesday 2.15pm
Steffan Rhodri plays Will Morgan, a professional television illusionist and Zoe Tapper a psychic medium who lock horns when asked to work on the same television show. Their very different beliefs about the spirit world are tested when Hayley (Tapper) receives a message from the other side for Will from an angry young man…

Showstopper Radio 4, Wednesday 6.30pm
The improvised musical troupe that has been pleasing Edinburgh Fringe and London audiences makes a well-deserved transition to a full radio series after a successful pilot last year.

Afternoon Play: Notes to Self Radio 4, Thursday 2.15pm
Deborah Wain’s poignant drama about Alzheimer’s is based on real experiences, and among the dramatic scenes includes recording of therapeutic music sessions recorded at care homes and day centres. Linda Bassett plays Doreen, whose failing memory seems to unlock during sing-along sessions.

Friday Play: The Wild Ass’s Skin Reloaded Radio 4, Friday 9pm
A modern day retelling of Balzac’s 1831 novel La Peau de chagrin, adapted by Adrian Penketh. An unemployed investment banker (Elliot Cowan) is given a magical animal skin which will grant him his every wish - but with the price being his own health. Don Gilet also stars as a drag queen who goes by the name of Miss Givings.

Turn off the TV at Christmas: Radio highlights

Kenny Everett and Lionel Bart remembered, Bruce Forsyth turned into a 15-minute musical, and Michael Grade going in search of the ghost of the London Palladium are among the treats for radio listeners over the Christmas holiday, writes Nick Smurthwaite

For those who remember Kenny Everett in his radio heyday, nothing has ever quite lived up to his blend of technical ingenuity and comedy mayhem. As presenter Paul Gambaccini says in Wireless Kenny Everett (Christmas Eve, 7pm, Radio 2), “Kenny was a master of both preparation and spontaneity, he was the only one of us who used the studio instead of just tolerating it.”

Everett relished all “the fiddly bits,” his term for editing, sound effects, splicing, phrasing and all manner of stereo trickery. Within his music show, he created a spoof sci-fi serial, Captain Kremmen, based on the fifties radio adventure, Journey Into Space. He went on to become even better known for his TV shows, but Everett purists will be delighted by this long overdue tribute to his pioneering radio work.

Lionel Bart would have been 80 this year and to mark the occasion, his old pal Barbara Windsor hijacks Friday Night is Music Night (Christmas Eve, 8pm, Radio 2). Bernard Cribbins, Lee Mead, Bradley Walsh and others will join her to remember Bart’s work — from the early Cliff Richard hit, Living Doll, to the familiar score from Oliver! The show comes from the Hackney Empire, apparently Bart’s favourite venue.

A new series of Radio 4’s 15 Minute Musical kicks off (Christmas Eve, 6.15pm), taking Bruce Forsyth as its inspiration. Future pocket musicals in the seven-part series will feature The Queen, Ed Miliband, Fabio Capello and the Coalition.

On Christmas Day, Radio 2 brings us The London Palladium Story (7pm), marking the iconic venue’s centenary with a look back at its colourful history and an investigation by the soon-to-be ennobled Michael Grade into ghostly goings-on backstage (see also our feature in this week’s Christmas issue of The Stage).

Boxing Day’s must-listen is French and Saunders making their Radio 2 debut (5pm) with the first of three two-hour music and chat shows, featuring records from their personal collections. Their first guests will be comedian Miranda Hart and her real-life mum. French says, “I can’t wait to go to work in my negligee, kitten heels and no make-up.”

Also on Boxing Day (Radio 4, 11.15am), sixties pop star Sandie Shaw, now a psychotherapist, will be Kirsty Young’s guest on Desert Island Discs, and Australian-born comedian turned psychologist Pamela Stephenson, lately a rather impressive contestant on Strictly Come Dancing, will be Michael Berkeley’s guest on DID’s posh cousin, Radio 3’s Private Passions (12pm). Her musical choices include Joan Sutherland, Lotte Lenya singing a Brecht/Weill song, and a Balinese gamelan instrumental.

Former Guns ‘n’ Roses guitarist Slash celebrates his Guitar Heroes on BBC6 Music (Boxing Day, 6pm) from Jimmy Page to Jimi Hendrix, while over on Radio 2 (6am), Aled Jones presents a pick of his Good Morning Sunday programmes, including Omid Djalili on the Baha’i faith, Geoffrey Durham on being a Quaker, Kate McCann on the power of prayer, and Lynda Bellingham’s comments about the trauma of domestic abuse.

Turn off the TV: Radio choices, December 11-17

Radio 2 Comedy Showcase: Fare Trade Radio 2, Saturday 10pm
Richard Wilson takes a break from the flowing robe and wig in Merlin to play Frank, a teacher turned cab driver. Starved for cash, he is reduced to working for his ex-wife’s new husband. Julia Deakin and Ralf Little also star in this one-off pilot.

Drama on 3: Gilead Radio 3, Sunday 8pm
Roger Allam stars in a play set in the 1950s American Midwest, adapted by Marilynne Robinson from her novel of the same name. The Rev John Ames (Allam) is collecting his memories and those of his father and grandfather to pass on in turn to his seven-year-old son, who he knows he will never live to see become an adult. When the charming Jack Boughton arrives, it appears that he may have designs on Ames’ wife.

Uncle Gwyn’s Posthumous Curse Radio 4, Monday-Friday 10.45am & 7.45pm
This week’s Woman’s Hour Drama is a comic tale written by Lynn Truss, set on a rainly golf course in Wales. The curse in question is that if anyone ever breaks one of the club’s many rules, they tend to end up “spikes up” in short order…

Afternoon Play: Chequebook and Pen Radio 4, Thursday 2.15pm
An imagined version of the behind-the-scenes moves on cheesy BBC game show Blankety Blank, when Terry Wogan left the show to be replaced by Les Dawson. Johnny Vegas co-writes the play with Andrew Lynch, and also stars as Dawson. Nicholas Parsons, Shobna Gulati and Mick Miller provide support.

Friday Night is Music Night Radio 2, Friday 8pm
This week’s edition of the Radio 2 staple concentrates on film, musicals and operas in which the lead character is a masked man. Verdi’s Masked Ball, Danny Elfman’s work on movies from Batman to Spider-Man, and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera and its sequel Love Never Dies all feature. As, oddly, does music from the 1938 Errol Flynn movie The Adventures of Robin Hood. Even though Flynn didn’t wear a mask in that role. Maybe whoever programmed the concert was too busy looking at his legs in those tights to have noticed?

The Friday Play: Banished - Mugabe of Zimbabwe Radio 4, Friday 9pm
As a companion piece to the previous week’s Friday Play about the formation of Zimbabwe as an independent state, Andrew Whaley has written a drama set in 2000 in which a Zimbabwean woman returns to the country from London after the death of her father. He had worked with President Mugabe years before, and Aurelia discovers the premier intends to attend the funeral.

Turn off the TV: radio choices, December 4-10

Opera on 3: Adriana Lecouvreur Radio 3, Saturday 6.45pm
A live performance from the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, with Angela Gheorghiu in the title role of Cilea’s opera. Adriana is a French actress who has her heart set on winning the affections of Maurizio (Jonas Kaufmann) — but as you’d expect, she has a rival. And her nemesis is a wealthy princess, to boot…

Classic Serial: I, Claudius Radio 4, Sunday 3pm
Robert Graves’ classic story continues (if you missed last week’s opening episode, it’s repeated on Saturday night and is on iPlayer). As Claudius is growing up, he realises the extent of his grandmother Livia’s ambitions.

Drama on 3: Perpetual Light Radio 3, Sunday 8pm
Melissa Murray writes a tale about a woman who has her dead husband recreated as an avater and uploaded to a virtual memorial site. Is his soul now digital? If so, what does death really mean? There’s a mass of philosophy and religious dogma mixed in with parallels to how we live our lives increasingly online.

Heel, Toe, Step Together Radio 4, Monday 11am
Bob Hill is a former dance champion — and at 86, he is now giving dance lessons to a 28-year-old radio producer who he met by chance at an East London market. The same producer, Katie Burningham, has made this documentary about their relationship. Whether this’ll be charming or merely self-indulgent, I couldn’t say, but I’ll be listening to find out.

Great Lives Radio 4, Tuesday 4.30pm
PR guru Mark Borkowski looks at the life of punk svengali Malcolm McLaren. Not so much a life as a larger-than-life, it’s a great start to another series of the show that looks at figures of the recent past.

The Friday Play: God’s President: Mugabe of Zimbabwe Radio 4, Friday 9pm
No, you’re not seeing things: there really is a Friday Play this week. Kwame Kwei-Armah has crafted a tale of how Rhodesia passed from British hands to become the independent republic of Zimbabwe. Lucian Msamati plays Robert Mugabe, while the playwright himself also stars as Sir Shridath Ramphal.

Turn off the TV: radio choices, November 27-December 3

It’s been too long since I’ve looked at what’s coming up over the next week in the world of radio. To try and ensure that I can be more regular in providing these previews, I’m going to try and be a little more selective in what I preview. If there’s anything you feel I’ve missed and are looking forward to, please do share with the group in the comments below!

Saturday Play: The Caretaker Radio 4, Saturday 2.30pm
Harold Pinter’s 1960 play was his sixth, but the first that can be said to have gained true commercial success. David Warner plays Davies, a tramp who is rescued from a fight in a café by the mentally damaged Aston (Tony Bell) to the concern of Aston’s brother Mick (Daniel Mays).

Drama on 3: Migrant Mother Radio 3, Sunday 8pm
Photograph Dorothea Lange’s image of a destitute pea-picker, Florence Owens Thompson, and her children became one of the most iconic images of the Great Depression in 1930s America. This drama by Michael Symmons Roberts follows Lange as she observes the workers in their makeshift camps.

Classic Serial: I, Claudius Radio 4, Sunday 3pm
Tom Goodman-Hill stars as Claudius in this new adaptation, by Robin Brooks, of Robert Graves’s novel about the lives of the Roman emperors. A lavish cast including Harriet Walter and Tim McInnerny have a lot to live up to, especialy as the 1976 TV adaptation starring Derek Jacobi is burned in the retinas of generations of broadcast drama fans. Jacobi himself is featured here, in the role of Augustus.

Afternoon Play: The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Radio 4, Thursday and Friday 2.15pm
Another couple of adaptations by Alexander McCall Smith of stories from his successful series of novels. Janice Acquah and Nadine Marshall reprise their roles as Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi as they search for a safari guide who has been bequeathed an inheritance from a wealthy American.

Friday Night is Music Night: Soaps Special Radio 2, Friday 8.00pm
Mike Dixon conducts the BBC Concert Orchestra as they perform the theme tunes to some of TV and radio’s longest running serials, to tie in with the 50th anniversary of Coronation Street (as well as the 25th of EastEnders earlier this year, and the 60th of The Archers). Tony Hatch pops up to conduct some of his own compositions from Crossroads to Neighbours, and the cast of an anniversary Coronation Street album perform as well.

Turn off the TV: radio choices, July 31-August 6

The Saturday Play: Writing on Wigan Pier Radio 4, Saturday 2.30pm
Adrian Scarborough plays George Orwell in David Pownall’s account of the author’s 1936 visit to Wigan that formed the basis of his classic work The Road to Wigan Pier. Karl Davies, bernard Cribbins and Thelma Barlow also star.

Death at the Desert Inn Radio 7, Saturday 5am & 5pm
One of Marcy Kahan’s great comedy thrillers that recasts Noel Coward as a sleuth who solves murder mysteries in between cabaret performances. Malcolm Sinclair (the new Equity president) plays Coward, with able support from Eleanor Bron as his long-suffering secretary. This week’s mystery includes Judy Garland, showgirls, Broadway agents and a US congressman.

BBC Proms: Sondheim at 80 Radio 3, Saturday 7.30pm
The radio transmission of this celebration of Stephen Sondheim’s work is going out live on radio, as opposed to BBC2’s delayed transmission which doesn’t start until 9pm. A number of celebrated musical theatre performers contribute renditions of the master’s works.

Classic Serial: The Wings of the Dove Radio 4, Sunday 3pm
Linda Marshall Griffiths adapts Henry James’ novel over three weeks. Lyndsey Marshal stars as Kate Croy, who yearns to marry her sweetheart Merton Densher (Blake Ritson) despite neither family having much money. The arrival of American socialite Milly Theale (Anna Maxwell Martin) gives Kate an opportunity to manipulate events in her favour, but as is the way with such things, complications ensue.

Yodel-Ay-Ee-Ooo: Arthur Smith and the Global Yodel Radio 2, Tuesday 10pm
Stage contributor and occasional comedian Arthur Smith explores the art of yodelling, from Switzerland to Korea and Africa.

Afternoon Play: Tetherdown Radio 4, Friday 2.15pm
Based on a real life murder in 1896, Scott Cherry and Gregory Evans have scripted a tale about the gruesome killing of a 79-year-old man in Muswell Hill. Murdered in the belief that he lived with a stash of money, the police start to track down the killer — but the new technique of fingerprint detection, which could help secure a conviction, is not recognised by politicians or judges.

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