Drama on Radio 4 is almost invariably terrible. Perhaps there might occasionally be something good made but I’ve never come across it and I listen to Radio 4 quite a lot. At best/worst it seems to persist as a medium for Lenny Henry to carry on his attempts to be a serious actor. So we get a play with him playing a police officer. Then one with him being a street pastor, whatever the hell that is meant to be. The worst sort of smug worthiness whatever the genre whatever the plot.
The radio sitcoms are both a little better and a lot worse. Many great tv sitcoms, sketch shows and panel games started out on Radio 4. Comedy is often a matter of taste, timing or context so I can accept that there will be some duffers, possibly many more duffers than hits. Over time I’ve grown to tolerate Claire in the Community as an insipid comic insight into the life of a typical Guardian reader. It isn’t offensive. I actually found myself rather liking Mr and Mrs Smith, a series about a 30-something middle class couple going through marriage guidance counselling, generally remembering that they like each other while the initially heroic counsellor’s life gradually unravels.
However, the utter abomination that is Count Arthur Strong can only be borne by remembering that this is the same medium that brought us The Day Today and repeating that over and over again. Perhaps it is incredibly clever and ironic (the presumably clever and ironic Brighton audience seem to be lapping it up), but an elderly man who mispronounces words and keeps forgetting stuff while calling Spanish characters Flipper for Felipe and Mingle for Miguel and thinking a Geordie is speaking Spanish would have seemed gauchely offensive 25 years ago. Perhaps added to a bit of visual slapstick it might have made for a prime time TV hit in the 1970s.
Now, having its face gnawed off by hungry rats in Room 101 is almost too good for it.
[edited to say that the TV version of Count Arthur Strong is equally execrable]