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The week in audio: One Person Found This Helpful; Straight to the Comments!; The Rise and Rise of the Microchip; Capital Breakfast – review

<span>‘Nonstop funny machine’ Frank Skinner, host of new Radio 4 panel show One Person Found This Helpful.</span><span>Photograph: Antonio Olmos/The Observer</span>
‘Nonstop funny machine’ Frank Skinner, host of new Radio 4 panel show One Person Found This Helpful.Photograph: Antonio Olmos/The Observer

One Person Found This Helpful (BBC Radio 4) | BBC Sounds
Straight to the Comments! (Daily Mail) | Apple Podcasts
The Rise and Rise of the Microchip (BBC Radio 4) | BBC Sounds
Capital Breakfast | Global Player

Here’s an odd coincidence: two new high-profile shows based around below-the-line comments. You know the sort of stuff: reviews of a product, disgruntled or otherwise; top-of-the-head thoughts of people who’ve skim-read an article; the sentimental rambles found under 1990s YouTube rave videos. Finally, they’re useful!

On Radio 4 on Monday, in the ever-tricky 6.30pm comedy slot, we find One Person Found This Helpful, a panel show hosted by the nonstop funny machine that is Frank Skinner. He is a uniquely listenable audio presence. His Absolute weekend show (with Emily Dean and Alun Cochrane as his foils) is consistently hilarious, yet he doesn’t do much more than tell listeners what he’s been up to over the previous few days. The other week, he spent a lot of time chatting about his gigs. “I’m gonna have to take the dog to the next one. She’ll be by the side of the stage. I hope she’s not frightened by laughter. Or she may die.” Rubbish written down, but it’s the way he tells ’em.

Misha Glenny communicates with such ease and clarity that you too feel clever just listening to him

In OPFTH, Skinner is as super-relaxed and witty as always. The idea behind the show, devised by panel member Simon Evans and writer Jason Hazeley, is that the guests guess what’s being discussed from the online reviews Skinner reads out. It’s all good clean fun, plus the panellists (Evans, Jessica Fostekew, Amy Gledhill, Ahir Shah) seem to enjoy themselves, which is about 90% of any panel show’s appeal.

Reviews were read out for household items (one, which sounded saucy, turned out to be a spatula), as well as novels and films. Another round had the panellists giving a funny response to a Tripadvisor slating, before Skinner gave us the real response. One of these, where a customer had slagged off the size of the pizza they were served, was: “Hello, Jean. We are an animal rehoming centre and do not serve pizzas.” Genuinely funny and entertaining, One Person Found This Helpful may actually be a panel show that lasts.

And so to… the Daily Mail. Not usually where I look for podcast fun: the newspaper’s most popular podcast offerings are all along the lines of its blow-by-blow account of the Lucy Letby trial. There’s a similar show about the trial of Brianna Ghey’s murderers, as well as the trial of Constance Marten and Mark Gordon, which is still going on. Absolutely not my podcast cup of tea; I’m far too easily upset.

But! Here comes a more enticing offer: Straight to the Comments! YouTube pranking stars Josh (Pieters) & Archie (Manners) – a South African and a posh English guy – interview a celebrity using the Daily Mail’s online comments as a jump-off point. So Josh reads out a comment about the celebrity, and the celebrity involved, along with Archie, has to guess what the comments are about – what they were doing or saying or appearing in. For the first show, the celebrity was 2018 Love Island winner Dani Dyer. Having read plenty of the Mail’s below-the-lines rantings in my time, I imagine it took producers a while to find anything that could actually be read out about Dyer. Mail commentators don’t tend to like pretty, perky, working-class women.

Not that Dyer would care. She’s resilient, quick-witted and sweet, as well as able to take the mickey out of herself; the perfect first guest. I could have done without Archie having to guess who she was from the comments before she arrived (and surely listeners will already know, just from the title information), but once that was done the show lickety-splitted along with plenty of laughs and upbeat revelations.

You could make a (slightly tortured) connection with these series to The Rise and Rise of the Microchip, Misha Glenny’s new documentary series on Radio 4. Who would have thought that the microchip would lead to us all being so interconnected that we can leave reviews of people’s actual lives? To be honest, Glenny might have. He’s so clever, and communicates with such ease and clarity that you too feel clever just listening to him. In The Rise and Rise… he dances through the history of the microchip and explains a different international interconnection: an iPhone is “created in the US, with a chip designed in the UK, manufactured in Taiwan and assembled in China”.

There are so many amazing facts here, just casually mentioned: nearly all microchips are made in Taiwan, so an escalation of its government’s conflict with China would “default globally”, says an expert “with a much greater impact than Russia’s war on Ukraine”. Fantastically interesting stuff, beautifully delivered.

Much hoo-ha about Jordan North leaving Radio 1 to front the Capital Breakfast show from April. It’s a high-profile gig; he follows in the footsteps of Roman Kemp, who has been an excellent main host for the past 10 years. But North has actually worked at Capital before, in the north-east and Manchester. Obviously there’s always fuss when Global poaches BBC stars (Chris Stark, who’s on Capital Breakfast, was Scott Mills’s sidekick for many years), but it should be remembered that the BBC has often snapped up commercial music presenters too. Vick Hope, North’s co-host at Radio 1 in the teatime slot, used to be on Capital Breakfast herself, from 2017 to 2020.

Though I’ve no doubt North will be excellent, he’s protected from any failure by the enormous success of his podcast Help, I Sexted My Boss, which he hosts with William Hanson. Help… is made by Audio Always, an indie production company. Perhaps such a show sits more easily alongside hosting on a commercial station rather than the BBC? Either way, the warm and jovial North is flying right now, and Capital must be very happy to have landed him.