Saturday 18 June 2016

Something to Shout About

If you thought Legal, Decent, Honest and Truthful (1982-6) was the only radio comedy series set in an advertising agency, think again. Between 1960 and 1962 the Light Programme offered listeners "a light-hearted look at the advertising world" in Something to Shout About. Now, more than fifty years later, its getting its first ever repeat starting next month on BBC Radio 4 Extra.

Something to Shout About was penned by scriptwriter and songwriter - Right said Fred and Hole in the Ground being his best known - Myles Rudge and Ronnie Wolfe - think On the Buses. It had a cast of well-known actors: Michael Medwin, straight out of The Army Game and years before Don Satchley, as account executive Michael Lightfoot, Fenella Fielding as his secretary Janet, Eleanor Summerfield, Joan Sims, Nicholas Phipps, Warren Mitchell and, in the final series, Sheila Hancock.

Set in the agency of Apsley, Addis, Cone, Barbican, Blythe, Giddy & Partners the programme ran for three series. Sound Archives kept very few episodes so the repeats are taken from the Transcription Services discs.

At the start of the second series on 2 January 1961 the Radio Times published this article, though it actually tells you very little about the programme:

"From the outset listeners were quick to express their appreciation of this show, and its revival after so brief a lay-off is further proof of its popularity. Myles Rudge, who with Ronald Wolfe, writes the scripts of Something to Shout About did some pretty intensive investigations in the world of advertising before starring to write and, he says 'infiltrated into the offices of several of my friends in that line of business. Actually, to present that quite unique world as it really is would utterly bewildering to the uninitiated. Nobody would understand what was going on, and, if they did, they wouldn't believe it. Our show presents a sort of compromise.

"As before Michael Medwin has three leading ladies, Eleanor Summerfield, Fenella Fielding and Joan Sims, and those who held their breath at the prospect of the sparks that could fly around the studio when three start comediennes were cast in the same show have been disappointed. the girls are the firmest of friends, and woe betide any of the men in the cast who don't keep in line. As Eleanor Summerfield puts it: 'If the men tread on any of our toes, we girls gang up on them, and they have a very rough time!'

Series 1 of Something to Shout About starts on BBC Radio 4 Extra on Friday 8 July at 8.30 am. You can read more about the programme on Laughterlog.

Tuesday 14 June 2016

Dear BBC, Why Oh Why...?

Having a moan about the BBC seems to be something of a national pastime. The corporation itself has long sought criticism, and praise, for its own output from TV viewers on Points of View (1961-71/79 to date). In this post I turn my attention to the radio equivalents.

Listeners to the BBC World Service were first invited to send in their letters to Hugh Tattersall when Letterbox was launched in 1965. By 1974 former The World This Weekend and You and Yours reporter Margaret Howard was welcoming the correspondence. The Letterbox theme (Handel?) and Margaret's warm voice became familiar to listeners worldwide for just over a decade. When World Service bosses cancelled Letterbox in April 1986 the programme's correspondents were far from happy. "It's our forum"  and we're "one big family of world-wide listeners" they protested.

Here is that final edition of Letterbox from 25 April 1986. The Radio iPlayer has four editions from the archive available to listen to again.

In the event the World Service did bring back a listeners' correspondence show almost a year later. In May 1987 the legendary Paddy Feeny was in the hot seat for Write On. Shorter, snappier and often calling BBC producers and bosses to account the programme continued with Dilly Barlow and others until 2006.

The World Service website has this second edition with Paddy from 13 May 1987.

In 23 March 2006 Write On was itself given the chop to be replaced by Over to You, which continues to this day. The last edition of Write On, presented by Penny Vine, is also online here.

The earliest available edition of Over to You - by now well and truly in the social media age, there's no mention of writing in - is from 20 April 2006. The presenter is Rajan Datar.

On the domestic side BBC Radio 4 has been airing listener's grievances on Feedback since 1979 but before that was Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells - a title that surely smacked of the Home Counties, you could almost hear Middle England dipping their nibs. Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells ran for nine months between February and November 1978 with the network controller Ian McIntyre hoping that fierce criticism "might have the tonic effect on complacent producers." The programme was dropped among accusations that presenter Derek Robinson betrayed too much "crusading egomania."

This edition, kindly sent to me by Richard Tucker, dates from Sunday 29 October 1978 and aims its sights on A Word in Edgeways, Any Questions? Radio 3 music policy and the "personality cult" of news presenters, with Peter Woon, head of news and current affairs, answering the criticisms.

The following year Feedback offered listeners the opportunity to send in their bouquets and brickbats though the programme aimed "as much to inform the audience about broadcasting matters as to provide an opportunity for airing criticism".  

Regular Feedback presenters have included Tom Vernon, Colin Semper, Susan Marling, Chris Dunkley and the present incumbent Roger Bolton.

Rewind to 10 March 1985 for this edition of Feedback with Colin Semper. Up for consideration are such minutiae as the use of "what" and Susan Rae's accent to the "blasphemy" of The Wordmiths at Gorsemere and that perennial issue of the licence fee.  

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