Like a Premiership team with lots of cash in the coffers and a few characterful players, Goalhanger Podcasts has had a fabulous few seasons. Its biggest titles, The Rest Is History and The Rest Is Politics, are rarely out of the UK Top 5, with the latter’s hosts, Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart, selling out the Royal Albert Hall faster than the Foo Fighters (albeit with more centrist dad handwringing than centrist dad headbanging).
Now, Goalhanger’s co-founder Gary Lineker gets his own run up the charts with The Rest Is Football, a twice-weekly podcast kicking off days before the big league matches return. His Match of the Day and BBC Sounds colleagues Alan Shearer and Micah Richards are his sidekicks, which will surely raise Auntie’s eyebrows and blood pressure.
First impressions are woozy: was this recorded in the post-match bath? In video clips online, apparently not. Our bantering boys recline on taupe furniture in an airy taupe reception room, tiny mics clipped to their tops. I’m all for laid-back atmosphere, but the sound quality felt rubbish rather than relaxed.
Opening discussions about Manchester City being the only footballing force to be reckoned with this year also felt like bad timing: a day earlier, City had lost the FA Community Shield to Arsenal on penalties, of which there was no mention. No reference to the Women’s World Cup on the morning England were playing Nigeria felt like another faux pas, before some entertaining tales from the transfer market sausage machine saved the day.
Lineker recalled how signings of players were celebrated differently in the 1980s. He was bought four bottles of champagne from Sainsbury’s, which he shared on a train out of London with his new boss, Everton’s Howard Kendall, before they ended up “somehow” at a Chinese restaurant in Southport. Shearer remembers driving through insalubrious streets after he’d signed to Blackburn Rovers, and the reaction of his heavily pregnant wife: “What the fuck have you done to me?” (You sense Shearer’s joy in being able to swear, as much as Richards is loving letting out his brilliant, filthy laugh.)
A chat about the ethics of playing for Saudi Arabian teams needed more welly – you sensed Lineker nervously considering audience metrics as Richards said it was “tough” to not accept £250,000 a week from a repressive regime. “We’re not politicians, are we?” countered Richards. “Oh, I don’t know…” was Lineker’s self-aware response. “Well, me and Alan are not politicians!” Richards laughed. This match is only in its opening minutes, to be fair. Let’s see how they fare after a few more kickabouts.
Wondery has a new celebrity series for summer, Terribly Famous, in which hosts Anna Leong Brophy and Emily Lloyd-Saini (perky comedians and best friends) delve into the lives and careers of “our most iconic stars”, beginning with Adele. It’s a great idea, filling in formative moments in bright colours, such as the singer’s gig outings as a child with her young mum, or her first time at the Grammys, where she took off her shoes and forgot to put them back on to accept her awards.
Its tone – sometimes sentimental, sometimes zany – won’t be for everyone, but traits in Adele’s character are revealed in interesting ways. For instance, she shelved her first US tour to save a relationship with a boyfriend, years before her last-minute cancellation of a Las Vegas residency.
There have been some gems on Radio 4 this week. There was 88-year-old folk singer Shirley Collins’s appearance on Desert Island Discs – she picked a solar-powered fridge full of ice-creams and lipsticks as her luxury – and a powerful documentary on the forced adoption scandal by comedian and presenter Jon Holmes. His File on 4 begins as a personal story as he speaks to his mother, who adopted him as a baby in 1969. His search for his birth parents then coincides with a parliamentary report revealing that 185,000 babies were put up for adoption between 1949 and 1976, many against their mothers’ will.
An interview with one of the mothers affected, former Labour MP Ann Keen, is a shocking, sad and vitally important five minutes of radio. So is the discovery of a 1951 letter from an umbrella body of adoption organisations to the Ministry of Health, expressing concern about the number of mothers being “driven to adoption”. This was “noted” by the Ministry of Health, but not acted upon. To date, the government has said there was no active state support for this treatment of women. This programme feels like the beginning of a longer battle for Holmes. Good luck to him.
This Cultural Life, Radio 4’s best arts show, in my opinion, also returns this week. Telling the story of a leading creative’s life through epiphanic moments and experiences, it is, amazingly, made by a two-person team: host John Wilson and producer Edwina Pitman, who books the guests, researches, writes scripts, edits and mixes the programme. Stephen Fry is the sixth season’s first guest, brimming over with moving, hilarious and disgusting stories, like when he played a witch in a school production of Macbeth, dressing himself in a bucket of guts he bought from a butcher.