Review: Americana BBC World Service & Radio 4

“From coast to coast, Matt Frei presents an insider guide to the people and the stories shaping America today.”

Matt Frei is one of the BBC’s most intelligent and self-effacing presenters of political and cultural programmes. Currently a chief correspondent in the US, Frei co-anchors BBC World News America and the Americana show for BBC World Service Radio / BBC Radio 4…

Able to blend gravitas and good humour, Frei gently interrogates guests and explains with authority, without ever resorting to cheap testosterone-fuelled hectoring (Paxman and Sackur take note). Resident in the US since 2001, on his Americana show, Frei tackles a wide cross-section of topics across a country that clearly fascinates him.

What is Americana?
Matt Frei describes what America means to him: “America is so vast that almost everything you say about it is likely to be true and the opposite is probably equally true…” quoting novelist James T. Farrell.

“The list of contradictions is practically endless… Americana hopes to answer these questions by telling you what America is talking, arguing, fretting, laughing and, yes, dreaming about. We hope to surprise, entertain and inform. And by letting America itself do most of the talking we promise never to be dull.”

Matt Frei presents Americana every Sunday evening at 7.15pm on BBC Radio 4 and at varied times on BBC World Service Radio. AJS

Recent shows still available in the BBC podcast archives include:

  • Americana asks why English culture isn’t as widely celebrated across the United States, as other European ancestries. (05/06/2011)
    • Founding Culture: Matt Frei talks with author and historian Maya Jasanoff and Brenton Simons of the New England Historic Genealogical Society about what aspects of English heritage are recognized and why.
    • Founding Sexuality: Author Michael Bronski explains how English Puritans framed the history of homosexuality in America,
    • Founding Manners: Etiquette instructor, Sandy Muscopf Hyde, offers a few lessons in manners from the Midwest.
    • Morris Dance in Minnesota: And Americana visits a traditional Morris dance studio where Minnesota residents show off their cultural roots.
  • In the melting pot of the US, Americana explores the heated debate over immigration. (29/05/2011)
  • Americana asks why English culture isn’t widely celebrated across the United States. (22/05/2011)
  • From the Kennedys to the Obamas, Americana looks at the impact of Irish roots on the USA. (15/05/2011)
  • Presenter Jonny Dymond examines America’s knack for reasoned debate. (08/05/2011)
  • Is a university education in America still worth the debt incurred by students? (01/05/2011)

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