Life on Mars?
‘But that face, it’s. . . it's ladies and gentlemen, it 's indescribable; I can hardly force myself to keep looking at it, it’s so awful. The eyes are black and gleam like a serpent; the mouth is . . . kind of V-shaped, with saliva dripping front its rimless lips that seem to quiver and pulsate. . . ‘
On 11 September 1938. NBC Radio broadcast a dramatisation of The War ofthe Worlds. a story by HG. Wells about a Martian invasion ofearth. The cast thought the script was old-fashioned and dull. The director hated it. As the hours ticked away before broadcast they frantically worked to bring it up to scratch — inserting real place names. changing the narrative to news bulletin and slaughtering rather more innocents than Wells had in mind.
But it was one of the actors. Orson Welles. who changed a Hallowe‘en thriller into history‘s most famous. and potentially most dangerous show. He beefed up the realism by dragging out the first part of the drama: progressively uneasy bulletins were interspersed with Latin dance music. The ‘reporter‘ modelled his horrified observations on Herb Morrison‘s emotional on-the-scene report at the Hindenburg crash. Although the President who came on the air
exhorting the nation to stay calm was 5
not named, he sounded like Roosevelt. The result was chaos. The real problem was that. twelve minutes into the drama. an estimated 3—6 million people who had been listening to another show
retuned to NCB just in time to hear Readick‘s traumatised reports of the alien invasion. Immediately they panicked. In Newark people wrapped their faces in wet towels and ran into the street. Newspaper staff were called back to work on an extra edition. In Pittsburgh a woman tried to commit suicide and in Boston people gathered on the roofs to watch New York burning. Across the country Americans gathered in churches to pray.
Welles knew something was wrong when he saw police in the corridors
outside the studio. He closed the show with an assurance that The War ofthe Worlds was simply a ‘radio version ofdressing up in a sheet and jumping out of a bush and saying boo.’ Luckily for him, no one had been hurt, in fact the show made him famous. It could have been worse. When a South American radio station broadcast Welles’s drama, angry listeners set fire to the radio station and killed several announcers.
Radio 5 broadcasts The War of the Worlds at 5pm, Sun 27 Dec.
Not the baby seals!
I Simply Bed Special The rarely-interviewed Mick Hucknall tosses his pride and his curly locks aside for Paul Gambaccini. (Radio 1.8a! 19.2pm)
I The Alterlile John Updike reads one of his own stories. inspired by the 1987 storm that wreaked havoc on the south of England. and by
1 some of the questions
raised by the event.
(Radio3.Sat19.9.55pm) 1 I Christmas Spirits
Christmas drama starts
here with Charles
Dickens‘s The Haunted Man and The Ghost's Bargain. Still to come: A Christmas Carol. After
Supper Stories. by Jerome K Jerome. Noel Coward‘s Blithe Spirit. Wilde‘s The
Canterville Ghostand Henry James‘s The Turn of the Screw.
I Death and the King’s
Horseman The most
famous play by Nobel prize-winner. Wole Soyinka, based on the real events that took place in
Nigeria in the l94()s.when
a European official tried to prevent the ritual suicide ofa Yoruba chief. (Radio 3. Sun 20. 7.30pm) I Camus’s American Journals L'Etranger author Albert Camus at
his most sardonic and
enigmatic. as revealed in the diaries he wrote in 1946 and 1949. when he visited first North. then
Soth America. (Radio 4.
Sun 20. 8.30pm)
I What the Butler Did Siobhan Synot ventures downstairs to hear the stories ofex-butlers to Harold Wilson. JFK and Lord Roseberry. (Radio Scotland. Fri 25. 5pm) I Hogmanation Stuart Cosgrove invites you to join him at a Scottish National Party where some ofthe country‘s
Forthe average Australian, The Doug we" Anthony Allstars are to comedy what Kylie is to pop. Videos, TV shows,
iilms, records and books are all part at
on an American minority dwart show, | you’ve got the moral at the end of it. So : pale and insignificant. I used to loathe
sharpest minds are airing ideas of nationhood.
fuelled. no doubt. by a few wee drams. (Radio
the DAAS phenomenon-three men, a guitar, one heavenly voice and one
hellish sense at humour combining to make a lethal comic cocktail. They’re
stadium stand-ups with a reputation
iuliilled by their live act, a three-told comic assault that turns bad taste into an artiorm and leaves audiences helpless with laughter. In Britain, that success has been matched by sell-out shows over live years on the Edinburgh Fringe but, despite their tireless commitment to the comedy cause, they’re still on the cult side of
television, thought it was a disgusting lormat. never really wanted to be involved in it, but aiterseeing what you could do with it . . . the ability to be rude is great!’
Not surprisingly, McDermott makes little attempt to apologise tor the group’s capacity to shock. It’s not that they go out of their way to upset, he says, they just can't help it. ‘You can go on television and iust speak your mind and somebody’s going to get attended. It you say you don’t like milk, the macrobiotics are going to hate you; iI you’re talking about Catholicism, the
; Scotland. Fri 25. 7.30pm)
g I 33YPM Tabloid parody
shock ~ an imaginary hack
attempts to gather allthe
I major world stories ofthe
; last 2.000 years into one
hour. at the rate of33 years per minute. (Radio 4. Sun 27. 7pm).
I Hamlet Branagh.
E Jacobi. Dench. Briers.
, Thompson and Elphick do
the Danish drama (unexpurgated). (Radio
33. Sun 27. 7.30pm)
I Murderon the Orient
Express Francesca Annis.
Moffatt and JossAckland
star in the perennial
Agatha Christie‘s most
famous creation. Poirot.
3 can only benefit by
l transferingto radio; not
being able to see the little
i git has to make him less
I irritating. (Radio 4. Mon 28. 11am) J
That is set to change, however, when on Hogmanay, revellers will be shocked into sobriety by the Allstars‘ lirst British TV showcase. Having caused a stir on Aussie TV, they’re not about to let their act be watered down, though they're aware oi television’s restrictions. ‘It’s how you use it,‘ says Paul McDermott, the impish one with a voice of gold. ‘It's so pervasive a thing, it goes into almost every house in the
Catholics don’t like you; it you talk about burning Salman Rushdie the Muslims do like you. We have a drop-oil rate. People’ll go: “I didn’t mind the stuil you did about the Catholics, the Fascists orthe skinheads, but I turned oil when you did that stuff about the baby seals!" ’ (Mark Fisher)
Alsta: the Hogmanay alternative
Western world, and it’s good to be in that league. Just the reaction in Australia to The Big Gig, which because it was live, had an intensity that I don't think televison has had since it lirst started. It’s a great medium lor mediocrity, lor meagre
. The Doug Anthony Allstars, BBC2, Ideas and thoughts. Every time you turn l
Thurs 31 Dec. 1
The List 18 December—1992 — 14 January 199581