BBC RADIO 2: THE MICHAEL BALL SHOW
SUNDAY, APRIL 23, 2023
THE MYSTERY OF THE BOILED SWEET by Michael Ball
Before I get into the above title of this show …
It amazes me how, in the middle of intense rehearsals for ASPECTS OF LOVE and working on the sequel to his first novel, Michael has the time to prep and broadcast his weekly radio show. And yet there he is at the microphone each Sunday, his voice a bundle of energy, whisking us away on a 2-hour romp. Of course he has a crackerjack team around him, most importantly his long-time producer, Ste Softley. No, Michael doesn’t do it alone, but he makes it all look so easy …
“Yes, I’m here. Let’s get off to a good start, shall we? With a bit of energy.” And Michael begins the show with the Spice Girls. I feel my energy rising already at this early hour in the States!
Now. About that boiled sweet … Michael tells us that when he came into the studio this morning, he found a boiled sweet stuck solid to the desk. Horrors!! Now he’s on the prowl for the culprit!
Am struck again by Michael’s speaking voice. When he comments on the first song in The Family Album, adding, “How romantic!” the timber in his voice is so melodic, so rich. It’s the perfect voice for the radio. Perfect. You just want him to keep on speaking so you can continue to enjoy it.
Michael can’t let go of that boiled sweet. Sometimes he really is a little boy. He brings on another BBC radio host and asks if he left it on the desk. The man denies it, and then they banter about who it could have been. You have to hear this conversation!!! All over a boiled sweet??? These 2 guys are determined to find out who did this. I apologize for not catching this man’s name.
On the Ball. First contestant is Gary, who is getting married in Las Vegas next week and staying in the US for 5 weeks. Michael is so excited for him. Gary plays against his fiancé, Ben, who discusses the power of music with Michael. I won’t give away who wins. Both forfeits are quite interesting. Hint: Michael resurrects the “Shark” song!
Orna is in the studio. Michael immediately mentions the boiled sweet, of course. And he brings on two BBC radio hosts and interrogates them, with Orna joining in the mix. Another conversation NOT TO BE MISSED!! The plot thickens … This show has gone off the rails! And my theme this week is about the difficulty of doing a radio show – Wow. Michael is REALLY keeping me on my toes. Thanks, Michael, you ornery little … ! This recap is getting longer by the minute. I’ll be putting you all to sleep soon …
Michael threw me a curveball today with a guest not previously announced. I hope you’ll bear with me as I scramble to keep up … Lemar, well-known vocal artist for over 20 years, has a new album out “Page in my Heart”. He discusses with Michael the changes in the music industry. He’s now moved into acting, and he’s quite successful at it, one of his movies, “Little Darlings.” He also has something coming out on Netflix soon, but he’s not allowed to talk about it yet. Of course, Michael goes crazy, doing his best to get Lemar to spill the beans. Lemar reveals he has tinnitus, a ringing in the ears, and talks about how he fights it. Michael closes the segment with playing Lemar’s song, “Dust” from the new album. It’s a fabulous conversation that I feel I have shortchanged.
Michael’s second guests are siblings Stephen & Anita Mangan. Their new collaboration, “The Unlikely Rise of Harry Sponge,” a laugh-out-loud, funny children’s story, debuts on April 27th and is destined to be a best-seller. Stephen is an acclaimed author & actor, having appeared on TV, stage and film, such as “Green Wing Episodes” & “The Split.” He’s also currently starring in Noel Coward’s PRIVATE LIVES at the Donmar (Long conversation here with Michael about that). Anita is a celebrated graphic artist who has designed dozens of books. Stephen & Anita’s prior work was the best-selling children’s book, “Escape the Rooms”. What a fascinating duo. They discuss the collaboration of writer/artist, interesting stuff. And they talk about the importance of books for children who, they point out, spend far too much time in front of large and small screens. They describe the challenge of keeping a young mind interested in turning the page. There’s so much laughter, so much easy conversation. A wonderful and naturally flowing interview.
Now Sally Traffic comes on the air, denying she left the boiled sweet. And so it continues …
Moving on with my theme … There’s a great deal of prep that goes into making Michael’s show a success. Booking and researching the guests. Scheduling contestants for On the Ball. Selecting a ‘Family Album’ and all the Sunday Boasts. And of course, choosing the music and setting it. This takes time. And speaking of time, every minute, every second on a broadcast has to fit perfectly into the 2-hour time slot. The production team makes sure Michael keeps on schedule (I’ll bet that’s a challenging task – today is proof of that!) but Michael is the captain of the ship, coordinating all the factions. Michael is the one going out over the airwaves, tasked with ensuring he has a smooth broadcast. One would assume this is a snap for someone like Michael Ball, accustomed to balancing a dozen things at once. Maybe it is, but you can be sure that Michael works his you-know-what off.
It takes a vibrant personality, an entertaining and intelligent presence to host a talk/music show on the radio. It takes a lovable guy, a ‘regular’ guy who people can relate to easily, to earn loyal listeners. It takes a wacky sense of humor (and an infectious laugh!) to banter with and tease the contestants of ‘On the Ball.’ It takes a man who understands the importance and comfort of family to describe the Family Albums with such compassion. It takes a quick wit, someone who can think on his feet – who can adapt to anything in a split second (Again – like today) to remain in the moment at all times. It takes a man with music in his soul to choose songs from the decades, a combination of oldies that conjure warm memories and current hits that may introduce singers to a new audience. It takes a natural curiosity and a mind like quicksilver to be a gifted interviewer, to engage a guest and keep the conversation flowing. It takes a man like Michael Ball to pull it all together each week and make it work.
In closing, Michael pays tribute to the passing of the great Barry Humphries. RIP, gifted man. You entertained so many over the years.
Sadly, the show ends with the mystery of the boiled sweet still unsolved …
There’s an abundance of stellar talent out there on the radio, one of the reasons the medium has survived despite the advent of TV, film, live streaming, etc. But there are very few artists who can juggle a dozen career demands at one time – and still have a successful radio show.
Only Michael Ball can do that.
And he does it brilliantly.