Tracy-Ann Oberman: Playing the diva

“I didn’t want to be in this,” admits Tracy-Ann Oberman. “I’d suggested Catherine to the producer, I thought she’d be brilliant. But I didn’t want to be in it at all, so I was a bit nervous when the producer came to me and said Radio 4 would really like me to be.”

Oberman is talking about Bette and Joan and Baby Jane, her new play for Radio 4 which documents the bitter struggles between actresses Bette Davis and Joan Crawford during the making of Robert Aldrich’s classic 1962 psychological movie What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?.

Davis is played by Catherine Tate, a long time friend of Oberman’s (they performed together in the second series of the BBC2 comedy sketch show Big Train), with the role of Crawford taken by Oberman herself.

The interview is taking place just after a full-scale photo shoot promoting the play and the pair have been dressed in the iconic make-up and costumes from the film.
It is quite disconcerting to discuss Davis and Crawford with a woman who, her trademark blonde locks secreted under an impressively accurate wig, looks for all the world like Blanche Hudson, albeit one tucking into a chicken salad and sipping mineral water in a photographic studio in west London.

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And you can quote me on that

Over the last week or so, my name’s popped up in a couple of places. Firstly, in Sunday’s Observer I was quoted in a feature on television’s propensity to remake old series.

The Observer TV feature

My quote, taken from a much longer conversation, rounded off the article:

Scott Matthewman, assistant editor of the trade paper The Stage, who writes its TV blog, explained the sudden vogue: “A lot of these are the dramas that people commissioning at the moment grew up with, so it appeals to them. Doctor Who transformed from being the butt of so many jokes to become the BBC’s highest-rated drama, so they are trying to match that. Also, with the severe financial pressure broadcasters are under, they are going for productions that will generate the ratings.

“But you wonder if all this means better, newer ideas out there won’t be produced – there’s only so much drama that can be commissioned at any one time.”

There was a lot more I said — stuff about how it’s important to have a strong creative vision (Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica) or things could go seriously wrong (Minder, for example). None of that made it in to the piece, but I would have my opportunity to say it…

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Holmes v Sunday Times: WTF?

Something really bizarre seems to have happened to a column penned by comedian Jon Holmes, BBC [6Music DJ]( and regular contributor to Radio 4’s [The Now Show](

As can be seen in the Twitter post above, Holmes has provided a link to the [original document on his website](, and [the version that has been published on the **Sunday Times** website]( All is well initially: the piece has been subbed a little, and rather more paragraph breaks have been added than appear in the original. This is neither anything new, nor of any concern.

However, the endings to the two columns seem to be completely different. First, the original:

> I’ve checked on their website under the Freedom of Information Act and it turns out all the extra cash from the recent price hike in my car park (Canterbury City Council, in case you were wondering) is being used to take a technological leaf out of the new Transformers film and then, should you miss your ticket’s expiry time by just one second, the seemingly innocuous truck parked in the next bay will turn into a massive robot that will loom over the town centre, pluck you bodily out of Debenhams, smash you back into your car and then hurl you, and it, out of the county. Park that thought.

But that section of Holmes’ column isn’t anywhere to be seen. Instead, the following paragraphs close his column:

> It’s funny, isn’t it, that so much effort and technology are expended on catching and fining drivers for the most trivial of offences. It wouldn’t have anything to do with the fact that they are a soft target in terms of extracting money, would it? Once you have taken down or photographed a driver’s registration number you know where they live and that means you can menace them with threats to take away their house and starve their family. By contrast, if you take CCTV pictures of hoodies engaged in acts of vandalism, they aren’t recognisable and even if they were, they don’t have money to pay fines.
> So the daylight robbery committed against drivers every time they want to park will continue and probably get worse as local councils look for ways to raise more cash. I am going to write to the DG of the BBC, not to chastise him for his expenses, but to ask him the whereabouts of the machine that costs only 23p. And when I find out, I won’t be telling anyone else.

As fellow Now Show contributor [Mitch Benn noted](, the amended paragraphs look more akin to something penned “by Littlejohn, not by little Jon”.

It’s an amazingly insulting way to behave towards a contributor. Especially since online, they even spell his name wrong in the byline…

It’s nice to be noticed

A pleasant surprise to see this status on Twitter this morning from the BBC Radio 4 blog:

I’ve been doing weekly radio previews for a while now as part of the Turn off the TV section of our TV blog. Infuriatingly, this week’s has been, I think, one of the weakest: not helped by a computer crash yesterday corrupting my original draft of this week’s piece.

Still, if it brings in a few new readers it can only be a good thing. And compliments are rare, so I shall be savouring this one for a while.

Kevin Greening, RIP

When it comes to [Kevin Greening](’s sense of humour, one excerpt from his radio career will always stick in my mind. At the time, he was presenting the mid-morning show on [Xfm](, and a woman had emailed in to ask if the webcam was working. “She says, ‘When I click on the webcam icon, all I can see is a little pink square.’ … I think it’s working fine.”

Dry, subtle, not appreciated by everyone, but adored by those on his wavelength, Kev was a natural DJ who loved the medium with all his heart. I’d been a fan of his weekend shows on Radio 1, and when he popped up on Xfm in what (if memory serves) started off as holiday cover and just carried on until a new scheduler decided on a permanent presenter for the slot, I was really chuffed to have his humour permeate into my working day.

I entered a couple of competitions on his show — most notably winning a couple of VIP tickets to the Royal Premiere of _[Die Another Day]( — and from that started a series of correspondence that grew into laughs and drinks with a man who was as warm and intelligent in person as he was on air.

Sadly, after he moved first to an Xfm weekend slot and then to Smooth FM, and as I also changed jobs out of central London, we lost touch. And to hear now that he passed away this weekend is devastating.

See ya, Kev.