Best of the week’s radio & podcasts: Radio 2’s Funny Fortnight, Chinese Characters, The Football Ramble

Simon O'Hagan's round-up of the week's finest audio gems includes a Jeremy Vine spoof to Japan season on Radio 3

Radio 2 presenter Jeremy Vine
Of all the notable figures to have been given the Dead Ringers treatment in recent years, none has worked better than Jeremy Vine as voiced by the great Lewis MacLeod. The way MacLeod captures Vine’s mounting excitement as the Radio 2 broadcaster accelerates towards the end of a sentence is sublime, and it’s great that MacLeod’s Vine is about to get his own show, as it were.
Jeremy Vine: Agony Uncle (10pm Tuesday Radio 2) is one of the highlights of the network’s “Funny Fortnight” starting on Monday 23rd April. It’s a spoof phone-in in which Vine dispenses advice to famous people, one or two of whom may even be real.

Funny Fortnight is packed with experimental ideas like this, and it marks a big departure from the music-based programmes that are Radio 2’s stock-in-trade. Julian Clary, Sara Cox and Josh Widdicombe are other big names that have programmes structured around them – a mixture of quizzes, panel shows and sitcoms.
The Taylors (10pm, Monday, Radio 2) is a comedy pilot by Simon Carlyle, creator of TV’s Two Doors Down. In Censored (10.30pm, Monday, Radio 2) Clary and guests have fun with beeped-out words. And What If? (10.30pm, Wednesday, Radio 2) is where Cox chairs a panel show that looks at alternative histories in pop culture. I am delighted that among the panellists is Adam Rutherford, such an engaging host of Radio 4’s Inside Science.
Radio 3 has a season of its own this week that “explores the unexpected, the shadows and the counter-cultural” in Japanese music and arts. The programmes in “Night Blossoms” run from 10pm every evening and promises to transport the listener to strange and wonderful realms.
The Far East is well served by BBC radio at the moment. We’re halfway through Rana Mitter’s fascinating Chinese Characters (1.45pm, Monday to Friday, Radio 4), a 20-part series in the Neil MacGregor mound in which Mitter – who has one of the most pleasing voices around – explores Chinese history through the lives of key individuals.
Elsewhere on Radio 4, Too Young to Veil (8pm, Tuesday) looks at a fraught case involving a school in east London; The Voices Of … series (11.30am, Tuesday) concludes with a portrait of folk song sisters Rachel and Becky Unthank; All in the Mind is back for a new series (9pm, Tuesday); In Business (8.30pm, Thursday) tackles sexual harassment in the workplace; The Film Programme (4pm, Tuesday) launches a new monthly strand in which presenter Francine Stock talks to women in the British film industry; and in Guilty Architecture (11.30am Thursday) Jonathan Glancey asks whether buildings with a controversial history – such as the site of the Nuremberg Rallies – should be preserved or left to crumble.
The sporting highlight of the week is Liverpool v Roma in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final, and Radio 5 Live has live commentary from Anfield (7pm Tuesday, kick-off 7.45pm).
With that in mind, a shout-out for the unfailingly entertaining to The Football Ramble podcast which goes from strength to strength and shows that you don’t have to be a big-name ex-pro to have something worth saying about the game. Then again the Ramble’s quartet of Marcus Speller, Luke Moore, Jim Campbell and Pete Donaldson are turning into quite big names themselves.
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