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Friday, July 04, 2008

What have we done to deserve this?

In one of their most puzzling programming decisions in a while, Radio Four have got Lenny Henry fronting a series that asks the question "What's So Great About?". They've already done Bob Dylan. Next they're doing Method Acting.

The minute I heard about this I was galvanised not to listen. This is, I'm afraid, because the person asking the question and presumably doing duty as the man on the Clapham Omnibus (or should that be the BBC town car?) is Lenny Henry. I've nothing against him but I can't hear him as the voice of stimulating scepticism. What are his credentials? Is he known as an original thinker? Is he a brilliant radio presenter? Has he suffered conspicuously at the hands of either Bob Dylan or Method Acting?

Then there's the subject matter. It's not as if people are leaving dinner parties in a huff having crossed swords with their hosts over Marlon Brando's performance in "On The Waterfront" or the value of Bob Dylan's Christian records. They should at least have the nerve to take on sacred cows of today like Amy Winehouse or The Apprentice or the pundits on Match Of The Day.

If, say, Clive James were to front the programme, I would expect the value to arise from an examination of the premises of greatness or not-greatness. What is good music? What do we mean when we say that acting is good? That's worth hearing. But I don't want the man-in-the-street's take on Bob Dylan because I heard it in 1963 and it was like water off a duck's back then as it is now. The only difference is now I'm bored with hearing it.

And surely in taking on this project the thought must have at some time occured to Lenny Henry that thousands of wags like me would briefly entertain the possibility of applying the show's premise to his own career?