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The week in audio: Everything to Play For; There’s Only One Michael Mosley; Everything I Know About Me; Cocaine Inc – review
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The week in audio: Everything to Play For; There’s Only One Michael Mosley; Everything I Know About Me; Cocaine Inc – review

Everything to Play For | Wondery
There’s Only One Michael Mosley (Radio 4) | BBC Sounds
Everything I Know About Me | Daily Mail
Cocaine Inc | The Times and True Crime Australia

There are umpteen podcasts out there that tell the life stories of fascinating famous figures, in what I think of as a “funny bedtime story” format. Alice Levine and Matt Forde’s British Scandal is a great one, the BBC’s Sport’s Strangest Crimes is an odd one, and newbie Everything To Play For, from Wondery, is a cheerful addition to the genre.

Its subject matter is interesting sportspeople, and it’s hosted by top-of-their-game presenters Colin Murray and Elis James. Their first subject: Wayne Rooney. You may have heard of him. To be fair, nothing much in this show is unfamiliar, but Murray and James make everything riotous fun. The opening, where Murray gets James to introduce the show in different presenting styles, had me laughing out loud, especially in episode 2, where James gave us his local newsreader voice. It’s hard to convey how hilarious this was, so you’re just going to have to listen.

In terms of story, there are moments in Rooney’s life that I’d forgotten (mostly how interested the press was in him, from the start: lots of tabloid comments on his bad diet, on his 2004 Euros performance, when he was just 18). The show really pushes the idea that there will be revelations about their subjects, but really, you’re listening for the fun. And, with these two at the helm, there’s a lot of that.

Colin Murray and Elis James.View image in fullscreen

Fun was what the late Dr Michael Mosley brought to broadcasting. I’ve never been too enamoured of self-improvement shows, but Mosley’s 15-minute health podcast Just One Thing was hugely successful, popular with all ages from the moment it came out three years ago. I reviewed it then, and I felt exactly as I do now, that he could make anything sound jolly: eating a little bit of dark chocolate, getting some house plants, playing video games or just imagining that you’re fitter. It’s a true talent, translating science into something useful and understandable, and he was great at it.

On Friday, Radio 4 gave us a There’s Only One Michael Mosley: an interview that he did with Prof Paul Bloom, a psychology expert, for the Hay festival in May. Mosley was his usual delightful self, enjoying both the interview and the interaction with the audience, and he brought the best out of the equally lovely Bloom. At the end of the interview, which was about how to live a great life, Mosley pointed out to Bloom that in order to be the healthiest and happiest you can be, then “the single most important factor” is “the strength of your relationships with friends and loved ones”. The tributes to him after his death, particularly from his wife, shows just how strong his own relationships were.

Far less fun, though interesting throughout, is Everything I Know About Me: Stormy Daniels, in which Stormy tells her own life story, in her own words. Excellent interviewing by producer Osk Petursdottir means that we get an in-depth picture, and episode 1 concerns Stormy’s childhood and adolescence; so if you’re looking for a detailed discussion of the Trump todger, you’ll have to wait a couple of weeks. In the meantime, you may well find yourself absorbed by Stormy’s straightforward, no BS, account of what was, by any standards, a sad upbringing. Her mum and dad split up when she was four, and her mother neglected her, disappearing for days when Stormy was young, without leaving her any food or money (“I can’t stand to be really hungry, even now. I panic, it’s such a trigger”). She was sexually abused by a paedophile neighbour, but nobody believed her when she told an adult (unlike other children, who were believed).

Stormy Daniels poses against a backdrop of framed pictures at the Cambridge Union.View image in fullscreen

An awful start in life, but Stormy is far from self-pitying. She’s tough without being hard, interesting without being self-indulgent (though she does go on about horses: she loves them). It’s a great listen. Previous series of Everything I Know About Me strand have featured reality stars Spencer Matthews and Gemma Collins in their own words, and future subjects include Maggie Oliver (the whistleblower for the Rochdale child abuse ring) and Graeme Souness. None of these is for me, but Stormy, so far, is my gal.

Logo for the Cocaine Inc podcastView image in fullscreen

The Times and Sunday Times have teamed up with News Corp Australia to make Cocaine Inc, an investigation into the world cocaine trade. The opening episode doesn’t really mention the drug; instead it concentrates on Elle Edwards, the 26-year-old beautician and dental assistant who was shot outside the Lighthouse pub in Wallasey, Wirral, on Christmas Eve 2022. We get a sensitive interview, by David Collins, of Elle’s dad, Tim. Tim’s description of what happened is very upsetting (he and Elle were going to spend the evening wrapping Christmas presents, but she changed her mind and went out with her younger sister). Though the murderer is caught: “I’ll never mention his name,” says Tim. “Doesn’t deserve the breath out of my mouth”) and sentenced to 48 years, the family’s devastation is palpable and ongoing.

After that, episode 2 is a bit jarring. Australian reporter Stephen Drill goes to Colombia to interview a police officer who’s been working to stop the drug gangs. There are some interesting statistics in the programme – did you know that the amount of land used to grow coca plants has trebled in the last decade? – but it’s let down by its tone. It’s all too jolly and silly, with supermarket till noises used to illustrate a very laboured metaphor about drug prices. And the music, in both episodes, is wrong too. In the Elle Edwards episode, we get bass-driven Hawaii guitar funk; in episode 2, it’s jaunty Serial 1-style piano chords. (I’m making a list of all the offending podcasts that do this, there are so many.) This, along with Drill’s script (“I’ve managed to convince our bean counters, and a nervous HR department, to send me halfway across the world for this podcast,” he says, with glee) undermines the seriousness and dedication of this investigation.

Source: theguardian.com