Wednesday 13 December 2017

The week in radio: Rumours of return for cult TV

Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny in The X-Files
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny in The X-Files

As I type these words the sky without is startlingly blue. “Irrelevant!” you (possibly) bark. “This is a radio column. Describe the sounds without.”

“Mostly traffic,” says I, obligingly. Mixed with the distant buzz of hedges being trimmed. Or it could be the sound of lawns being cut? Or, perhaps, the sound of chainsaw massacres a-

Whatever it is, it sounds delightful. Kind of springy and fecund (if things can sound fecund). If you’re feeling fanciful – and ‘squint’ your ears a bit – you might even detect the sounds of things being rebooted, re-imagined and recommissioned.

Things like The Teletubbies – returning later this year to delight/bewilder (delete as appropriate) stoned students and (hopefully) non-stoned infants. Or a thing like Twin Peaks – joyously back (hurrah!), and then not so sure it was back (hmmm...), and now seemingly gone again (sob). Or a thing like The X-Files, which is definitely returning for a six-episode run sometime soonish. And by ‘definitely’, I mean ‘maybe’. And by ‘maybe’, I mean ‘possibly not’. That’s show business, innit?

Conor Brophy, host of The Media Show, clearly (ahem) wanted to believe – taking the return as read and asking guest Sinead Gleeson if she thought The X-Files 2.0 would “find a new audience”.

“I think it will,” Gleeson replied, pointing to the fact that though Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny were “relative unknowns” when the show debuted in 1993, they were both, by now,  established stars and proven draws.

More interestingly, Gleeson highlighted how atypical the show’s casting and gender dynamics were (particularly back then). “Nobody... wanted her to be cast as Scully,” said Gleeson, of Anderson. Adding that the show’s creator, Chris Carter, had to “fight very hard” to convince conservative network types that a female scientist (on TV) could be something other than a leggy glamour puss who occasionally held a clipboard.

“She’s the yin to his yang,” was how Gleeson summed up the Scully/Mulder relationship – though “yang to his yin” might have been more accurate (or not, I’m a bit rusty on me Chinese philosophical dualities).

Either way, the basic point was this: while Mulder was (often) credulous, irrational and emotional, Scully was (usually) scientific, logical and dispassionate. An explicit (and conscious) reversal of the stereotypical gender dynamics that had long dominated TV (and much else besides).

So forget the sweeping (often tedious) story arcs about abductions, anal probing and governmental obfuscation – that refreshing bit of reversal was (and is) the show’s real lasting legacy.

Brian McIvor sounded like a man channelling his inner Mulder (or inner Dan Brown maybe) on Friday’s The Lyric Feature. He was, he told us, off to Rome “in search of musica arcana... the secret music of the Vatican”.

Those anticipating sensational third secret of Fatima-style revelations probably ended up feeling short-changed, but for anyone with even a passing interest in choral music, this was a fascinating hour.

McIvor didn’t uncover much that was arcane, but he did unravel the tangled history of “one of the most famous pieces of sacred music ever written”, Allegri’s Miserere. A piece that’s been in a state of almost constant flux since it was first composed.

“A constantly changing organic mystery”, McIvor called it. Lovely.

The Media Show, RTE Radio 1, Sunday

The Lyric Feature, Lyric FM, Friday

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