BBC Radio 4

    Appreciating Smiley

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    Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy part three has been and gone for me - though if you missed it you get the repeat next Saturday evening at 2100 and you can listen again on the Radio 4 web site.

    And I thought it was fabulously good.

    We have an audience measurement system for appreciation - called AIs - which should not be taken as religion. Sometimes the sample sizes are small, some genres (new comedy) always do less well than others... old favourites etc... and I do not use AIs as a mainstay of commissioning. So I risk inconsistency when I point out that the AIs for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy were 91. This is astonishingly high... indeed, about as high as it gets.

    This is my third bout of Smiley-mania. First came Alec Guinness in the TV adaptation in 1979 - then I read the books - and now this with Simon Russell Beale as Smiley. I think he's been extraordinary. And the dramatisers - Robert Forrest and Shaun McKenna - have done wonderfully well in striking a balance between faithfulness to the text and necessary compression.

    Do catch it.

    Mark Damazer is Controller of BBC Radio 4

    • The Complete Smiley, Radio 4's season of dramatisations of John le Carré's Smiley stories, carries on until Summer 2010.
    • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is part of the BBC's 'series catch-up trial' so you can listen to all three episodes on iPlayer or on the Radio 4 web site until seven days after the final episode is transmitted (20 December). Read about the series catch-up trial here.
    • Jeremy Howe, Commissioning Editor for drama at Radio 4, wrote about the Smiley season here on the blog.
    • There's a Wikipedia entry about the BBC's Appreciation Index.
    • The picture shows Simon Russell Beale from a set of production pictures taken for the season by Phil Fisk. There are more here.

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