Friday, 1 February 2013

Thin Air

TV has only rarely used a radio station as a setting for comedy or drama; perhaps it’s not a glamorous enough setting.  Off the top of my head I came up US offerings of WKRP in Cincinnati, Midnight Caller (overdue for a repeat surely), News Radio (recently on Sony TV) and, of course Frasier.  In the UK there’s been Shoestring (‘The Private Ear’), Agony and Ken Stott in Takin’ Over the Aslyum. No doubt you can think of a few more.

One ‘forgotten’ series is Thin Air set in the fictitious Urban Air radio station in which intrepid news reporter Rachel Hamilton (played by Kate Hardie, left) uncovers local corruption.

In 2008 the Guardian’s Gareth McLean wondered about the TV shows that time forgot and of Thin Air wrote: “I remember bits of it vividly - mostly the sometime Communards collaborator Sarah Jane Morris lying dead in a radio studio. I also recall having a crush on Hardie but that's less relevant here."

McLean's post continues: "Obviously now, thanks to IMDb, I know there was much acting talent involved in the drama including Robert Pugh, Kevin McNally and Clive Merrison (who, his turn as Sherlock Holmes aside, always seems to play a baddie). And it was directed by Antonia Bird, who went on to direct Priest, Care and The Hamburg Cell. But it's so obscure that it doesn't even have a Wikipedia entry and there's not a whiff of it on YouTube. Thin Air was one of those dramas that vanished into, well, the ether”.

Urban Air boss Richard Hellier (Nicky Henson), Rachel hamilton (Kate Hardie)
 and activist Mark Gentian (Kevin McNally)
The five part thriller aired on BBC1 in the Spring of 1988 and was written by Sarah Dunant and Peter Busby. A Radio Times feature described it as follows:

Thin Air could hardly be more rooted in the present. Set in a commercial radio station in an enterprise zone called ‘Riverside’, it involved property development on a massive scale, the disruption and forced exodus of a local community, the stripping away of local authority powers, left-wing activism, designer drugs, media hacks.

James Aubrey as disc jockey Zac Diamond

Sam Kelly as harassed news editor Henry Campbell

Brian Bovell as night-time DJ Joe Jeffries
I was convinced I had at least a clip of the programme tucked away on videotape but if I did I can’t find it. However I have located this location report from Pat Rowe from Woman’s Hour on 4 April 1988. As well as Hardie, Henson and Dunant you’ll hear producer Caroline Oulton


Niko Batallones said...

ITV had FM with Chris O'Dowd, about, well, a radio station. Aired back in 2009, I think. Ran for six episodes and featured a bunch of cameos from DJs and musicians alike.

Styggron said...

How could you forget "I'm Alan Partridge"?

Unknown said...

I was a facilities driver on Thin Air Mostly filmed on the Isle of Dogs.
You wouldn't recognise the area now.

Mark said...

I wish this would resurface. I'd totally forgotten about it til they showed a brief clip on the Antonia Bird documentary on BBC4 last night. If anyone does have it, I would love a copy!

Unknown said...

I loved this when it came out, I thought Kate Hardie was brilliant and the music rocked. I had the last episode on tape and audio tape but can no longer locate either. I'd love to see this again.

John Flitter said...

One of TVS's first programmes, in 1982, was 'Radio', set in a fictional ILR station called 'Radio Phoenix'. It ran, for 2 series, both in the same year, I think. Among the impressive acting ensemble were; Philip Jackson, Dudley Sutton, Sherrie Hewson, Clarke Peters and Gwyneth Strong. Plus, I'm told tat Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, were among the writers. This was not networked, but was shown, regionally, across the ITV network.

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