Thursday, 12 July 2012

Chris Moyles; the loud-mouthed "Saviour of Radio 1" leaves the flagship breakfast show

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Chris Moyles, BBC Radio 1's love-him-or-hate-him DJ, is hanging up his headphones after a record-breaking 8 years presenting the station's famous breakfast show. Now aged 38, it was inevitable he'd go sooner rather than later, after 15 years with the stattion, although his most recent contract would have kept him on-air until late-2014 (when he'd have turned 40).

Radio 1 may be pitched at 16-34 year olds, but it has a habit of keeping DJs around who are far beyond that age bracket. Jo Whiley was 46 before she left in 2011; the late John Peel was still presenting a late-night show at the age of 65 when he died; and 54-year-old Tim Westwood has only recently transferred to hip sister station 1Xtra. Will Moyles move to BBC Radio 2, which is seen as a logical next-step for middle-aged DJs? Or will Moyles do something more unusual post-Radio 1? It's long been rumoured that he may take a job in the States, although such talk peaked in the days when Radio 1 was accessible across America via Sirius satellite radio. These days, does Moyles have anything of a fan-base to build on? It perhaps helps that high-profile radio shows have podcasts freely available to the world, that's true.

Presenting the Radio 1 breakfast show is widely seen as a pinnacle of a British entertainment-based DJ's career (certainly the dream of most radio-nerd teenagers in their bedrooms), so anything that follows can't help feeling like a step on a downward slide. It'll be very interesting to see what Moyles does next, that's for sure. I somehow doubt a permanent move to television, despite the surprising success of his Chris Moyles' Quiz Night series for Channel 4. (Let's not even talk about Sky Living's atrocious Love Wheel.) Moyles has definitely improved on camera since his embarrassingly self-conscious Channel 5 series Live with Chris Moyles, but it's clear that radio's where he belongs.

And yes, I like Chris Moyles. I know many people don't share that feeling, but to be honest most people's criticism doesn't reflect the guy I hear on radio most mornings. Maybe if you only listen to just a few of his shows, out of context, it doesn't work. I think you need to keep listening to notice when he's being flippant, tongue-in-cheek, or intentionally trying to bait his listeners. Plus a lot of his Radio 1 show relied on callbacks and in-jokes amongst the team. There are quite often references and discussions about things that happened years ago, which would be lost on newer listeners. After 8 years doing three hours every weekday morning, around 7 million people certainly got the show and understood Moyles' persona—which I don't think is as brash, loud, obnoxious, and stupid as his critics would have you believe. Although he's definitely been guilty of that at times. But haven't we all? When you have hours of air to fill every single day, five days a week, you're bound to have the occasional dumb or misjudged moment. I've always enjoyed his presenting style on the radio, though. And, believe me, I've occasionally spun my dial to sample his rivals—from Radio 2's Terry Wogan and now Chris Evans, to Absolute Radio's Christian O'Connell—but I keep coming back to Moyles. The lack of commercials helps, admittedly.

But I don't begrudge Moyles him leaving the flagship station. It's time. It's been time for a good few years, frankly. He's 38 and it was getting tough to justify being the figurehead of a station that's meant to be targeting viewers 10-20 years younger. That said, I don't think many 18-year-olds dislike Moyles because of a generational divide with his humour of references. But it's best to quit while you're ahead; especially on your own terms, breaking the news exclusively to your listeners, and hot-footing it within a few months. Moyles will leave this September.

What's perhaps more alarming than Radio 1 losing golden boy Moyles is their choice of replacement: Nick "Grimmy" Grimshaw (above); a deeply unfunny man, who only appears to have been ordained because he's under-30 and has fashionable hair. Undoubtedly, Scott Mills would have the gig if Moyles had left 5 years ago, but he's in his mid-30s and fighting the same losing battle as Moyles, and is perhaps lucky to have been shunted from drivetime to an early-afternoon slot this year. It's a little strange Greg James didn't get the call, too, but my guess is Radio 1's top brass don't think he has enough experience yet, and will need to spend a few more years on drivetime. I'd have preferred James taking over from Grimmy, that's for sure, although he'd be similarly insipid compared to Moyles.

So yes, signing up Nick-bloody-Grimshaw doesn't feel like a good move to me. Or maybe I'm getting old at 33, and don't understand how much today's youth love whatever tumbles from Grimmy's lips. But it smells like crap to me. I guess we'll see what Radio 1 does with the breakfast show now it's in Grimmy's hands, because it'll almost certainly move away from the "zoo" format that's been popular since Chris Evans in the late-'90s. But there are only so many ways you can present a radio show, so I'm not expecting Grimmy to rewrite the rulebook. My pessimistic prediction is a morning of inane waffle and chatting to callers, perhaps bouncing off a sidekick/producer in the studio. I just don't see it being that funny, or imaginative. A safe pair of hands is all Grimmy is, from what I've heard of him. But we'll see. I'm not closed-minded, and hope he proves me wrong.

One thing's for sure: it's the end of an era. The self-proclaimed "Saviour of Radio 1" has decided to ascend before bosses crucify him. Wise move. I just wish Moyles' departure left me excited about Radio 1's future without him; because with Grimmy joining the daytime ranks of disingenuous Fearne Cotton, past-his-prime Scott Mills, and dull-as-dishwater Greg James, Radio 1 come September doesn't look inviting in the slightest.

Maybe I should admit defeat, embrace my thirties, and point my aerial in a new direction entirely. Classic FM, anyone?

(Oh, and I hope Comedy Dave doesn't end up in a homeless shelter come Christmas.)