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The week in audio: The Bachelor of Buckingham Palace; The Price of Paradise and more – review
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The week in audio: The Bachelor of Buckingham Palace; The Price of Paradise and more – review

The Bachelor of Buckingham Palace | Wondery
The Price of Paradise | Wondery
Beef and Dairy Network episode 109: Ted Danson | Maximum Fun
Split Ends Radio 4 | BBC Sounds

Reality TV shows. How did we ever live without them? (Answer: we managed fine.) In the 24 years since Big Brother was first broadcast, reality shows have become the UK’s everyday media fodder, providing genuine news as well as silly gossip. And now: prime source material for podcasts.

Podcasts about reality TV are mostly immediate-reaction-to-an-episode programmes, such as Love Island: The Morning After. You have to be a proper fan to listen to these. But there are others that take old reality shows and give them the cold case murder treatment – such as 2021’s excellent Harsh Reality: The Story of Miriam Rivera, about Sky TV’s 2004 series There’s Something About Miriam. These, I like.

The Bachelor of Buckingham PalaceView image in fullscreen

So hooray! Here are two cold case reality investigations for us to get our ears around. First, The Bachelor of Buckingham Palace. This concerns an American series from 2013 called I Wanna Marry “Harry”, on which several lovely young ladies competed to win the romantic attentions of a then 29-year-old Prince Harry. This was Harry’s party boy era – the Vegas strip poker years – so him being on a reality show seemed plausible, at least to Americans. Of course it wasn’t him, but a lookalike called Matt Hicks. To give Hicks his due, he did pretty well, matching the voice, the looks (if you squinted a bit) and the polite, Sloaney diffidence.

The Bachelor of Buckingham Palace takes an in-depth look at how I Wanna Marry “Harry” affected not-Prince Harry (Hicks) and his hapless ladies. Our host is the clever and charming media journalist Scott Bryan, who works hard. He analyses the series, episode by episode; considers the press and audience reaction; and interviews Hicks, three of the contestants and the show’s British creators.

The layers of “reality” are unpeeled. Did the women really believe that Hicks was Prince Harry? Did the audience think they believed it? What does it take to create the “reality” of reality shows? “What does the term ‘reality show’ even mean?” wonders Bryan at one point. A fair question when, as the series progresses, we learn how real issues, such as sexism and racism, played into the show (the one woman of colour questions if she is even “princess material”). Not to mention the huge list of unreal issues: storylines manipulated by producers, disagreements between the women overdramatised or even created in the editing. The more you listen, the more any idea of reality collapses into dust. An enjoyable show that should be required listening for anyone who thinks reality show contestants are stupid or in on the joke. They’re not.

The Price of ParadieView image in fullscreen

The other cold case podcast is The Price of Paradise, and, blimey, it’s a hot one. The fabulous Alice Levine presents. Levine is one of the best hosts out there, and her humorous delivery and script tweaks are a highlight. “There will be moments in this story,” she says, five minutes in, “where you want to pull off your headphones and stamp on them, and maybe cry out on the bus or in the car, Noooo! And there might even be some swearing, in the programme and possibly in your car. Because a lot of the things that happen… are pretty extreme.”

She’s not wrong. Meet Jayne Gaskin, a colourful character who decides, on a complete whim, to sell up the family home and drag her partner, Phil, and her three kids to a tiny island off the coast of Nicaragua. Why? Because she’s bought the island! She christens it Janique (a combination of Jayne, Mustique and unique, apparently). There is nothing on Janique, other than the family’s one-room shack and some mangrove trees. Oh, and a telly crew, busily filming for the Channel 4 TV show No Going Back.

Alice LevineView image in fullscreen

Not much goes smoothly: the podcast opens with Levine describing the entire family being kidnapped by gangsters (they make a dramatic escape). A group of angry Nicaraguans arrive and explain that Janique is theirs and shouldn’t have been sold; the family discover that the island and its shack is a regular stopoff point for cocaine smugglers. The whole story is completely bananas. The Price of Paradise reveals nothing about the time the show was made (2002, if you’re interested); it’s simply a madly freaky rollercoaster tale, made even more fun by Levine’s genuinely “they did whaaaat?” commentary. A binge-er.

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Beef and Dairy Network Podcast

Here’s a lovely thing: the Beef and Dairy Network, one of the UK’s longest-running and best indie comedy podcasts, has landed a scoop with its latest episode. What do you mean, you don’t know the Beef and Dairy Network? I just checked, and I first wrote about it in 2015. It’s a surreal, deadpan and genuinely hilarious satirical show; an entire mad-but-sane universe built around a podcast about all things beef and dairy, created by Ben Partridge.

Ted DansonView image in fullscreen

One of the longstanding jokes is that the show is in deep debt to actor Ted Danson, because Danson is also a grain-based loan shark and the Beef and Dairy Podcast owes him 460m tons of grain. And last week, the actual Ted Danson appeared! It was genuinely impressive, as well as properly laugh-out-loud funny. Danson is excellent, plus there’s an interview about Hollywood actors having cows’ teeth that will stay with me for quite a while. If you’ve never listened before, give this week’s episode a try. Guaranteed fun times for all, even scary Ted.

Finally, to Radio 4’s Split Ends. A series about the end of bands is a great idea, and here, Kitty Perrin, a singer-songwriter and BBC Music Introducing presenter, discusses breakups with a wide variety of musicians. Dr Feelgood and Liberty X were the first two bands, and the Fall are next up, which is some strange festival lineup. Perrin is sweet, though her questions aren’t very searching. Can she or her producer really have no idea about the crazy-making effects of success, and the intense combination of touring, chemicals and egos that accompany it? The result is a fairly interesting series, but it lacks wow moments.

Source: theguardian.com