Elisabeth Mahoney 

A week in radio: Saturday Live

Irksome David Cassidy was a nightmare booking and the last thing the newly extended Saturday Live needed in its first 90-minute incarnation, writes Elisabeth Mahoney
  
  

"We are," David Cassidy told new co-hosting duo Sian Williams and Richard Coles on Saturday Live (Radio 4) "prisoners of the moment". Prisoners of the guest would have been more apt as the 70s heart-throb engulfed the show with his constant interruptions and self-obsessed answers longer than geological epochs.

He was particularly irksome when the focus turned to author Jane Johnson and he riffed on everything she said, dragging attention back to him. "If you've connected with someone you don't need to speak," he opined. You did yearn for him to take his own advice.

This nightmare booking was the last thing the newly extended show needed in its first 90-minute incarnation. Changing to this length, straddling the 10am news and replacing Excess Baggage, are bold, risky moves, even if you have the most engaging guests. But when Williams crashed the pips at 10am, there was a chilling realisation: there is going to be more Cassidy.

The show will flow better with an easier main guest. Williams has a good, crisp radio voice and an engaging way about her. The co-hosting works fine, but at times, with so many voices in the studio and celebrities in the mix, it feels very close to Midweek. Where the show has excelled in the past is by bringing to the fore jaw-dropping, affecting tales from ordinary people and giving them the space to tell them. That's not quite the same as Cassidy sharing his thoughts on Elvis Presley: "He was very sad and lonely and empty, and I saw it and I'll tell you about it." Oh no, please don't.

The loss of Excess Baggage is a blow. It was a quintessential Radio 4 programme: quietly intelligent and unlike anything else. Having John McCarthy doing items within the new programme is a muddle and fudge. Worse still, in the biggest revamp of this slot in a good while, the gruesome poems ("Gossip over a garden wall/ bank holiday, bank holiday") remain.