Saturday, 22 May 2021

Cons and Laws


"How well do you know the law? Find out by joining us for The Law Game. Along with our celebrity panel you can hear details of law cases and judge which side you think won. And on the bench as usual presiding over the programme is your chairman Shaw Taylor."

Back in the day when panel games had a regular place in BBC Radio 2's schedule The Law Game was one of the best known and longest-running - 17 series over 16 years. The premise was straightforward enough: three playlets were acted out by three members of the BBC's Drama Repertory Company in which matters of the law are played out in various settings or in court. After chairman Shaw Taylor dings his bell to end the sketch the celebrity panel have to identify what laws have been broken and by whom. Team members then bet points, from their starting pot of 50 points, on the outcome of the case. "It's quite educational, not just an excuse for three celebrities to fool about", said Shaw Taylor to the Radio Times in 1985. 

The Law Game was devised by comedy writer Brad Ashton and he wrote all the mini-dramas, offering injecting the odd comedy line. Ashton had been writing since the mid-1950s on radio shows such as Show Band Show, London Lights and later series of Life with the Lyons. On TV he wrote for Tommy Cooper, Dick Emery, Mike and Bernie Winters, Lennie Bennett and Jerry Stevens and for Little and Large. The format of The Law Game was perhaps inspired by the guess who committed the crime programme Guilty Party (1954-62). See John Arlott blog post.

Shaw Taylor, best known on TV for Police 5, seemed a natural choice as series chairman with a mix of light-hearted authority. He was not unfamiliar in this type of role having presented a number of ATV game shows in the late 1950s/early 1960s when commercial television was devouring as many US formats as it could get through. On Radio 2 in the 1970s he also chaired The 78 Show and Pros and Cons, more of which later.

The Law Game
first aired on Radio 2 in September 1976. The celebrity panel usually featured at least one actor together with journalists, broadcasters and comics, though not as many as today's panel games are stuffed with. Favoured panellists were Claire Rayner, Denise Coffey and Nerys Hughes. Produced by the Light Entertainment department initially under the guidance of Richard Willcox, though over the years several young producers who went on to bigger things got a chance to work on the show including the late Danny Greenstone, Paul Mayhew-Archer, Richard Edis, Jan Ravens, Andy Aliffe, Dan Patterson, Lissa Evans, Sioned William, Sarah Smith and Caroline Leddy.

The Law Game hasn't been repeated since it ended nearly 30 years ago so here's an opportunity to hear a couple more (in addition to the two I've already uploaded to YouTube in 2015 and 2020.

From 23 November 1981 this edition has a panel of Diane Keen, John Junkin and Lance Percival. Acting out the scenes are Miranda Forbes, Nicholas Courtney (so one for Doctor Who fans)and Ronald Herdman.

From the following year, 19 July 1982, we have Sandra Dickinson, Matthew Kelly and Fred Housego sitting in judgement. The actors are Steve Hodson, Miranda Forbes and Vincent Brimble.   

The other Brad Ashton creation was Pros and Cons. In fact it started the year before The Law Game but had a shorter run, just seven series over eight years. A number of the cons were experienced by Brad himself, including one in the 1982 edition below. Many others came from contacts he'd made at Scotland Yard. Writing in the Radio Times in 1980 he admitted that "I get strange looks when I tell people that my hobby is collecting confidence tricks. So far I've got 340 and used 144 of them in the sketches aimed as fooling the panel." His interest began on a trip to new York in 1956. "I was a prototype for all innocents abroad. The airport cab driver circled the whole of New York State to get me to my hotel just two miles away. He was about to do a lap of honour when I recognised a store we'd passed three times."

The format of Pros and Cons was the same as The Law Game, three short sketches played out with enough clues to help or mislead the three celebrities on the panel to identify the con, the person(s) doing the conning and the person(s) being conned. The panellists were a pretty mixed bunch (see series details below) but included a fair number of personalities from the sister show. The series  producers included some very experienced BBC hands such as Alistair Scott-Johnson of The Navy Lark fame, Ian Fenner and Trafford Whitelock, as well as Ros Bartlett, Jamie Rix and Richard Edis.    

In this edition from 17 November 1980 the sleuths are Claire Rayner, David Jason and Roy Hudd. The repertory company are Rowena Roberts, John Church and Trevor Cooper. 

The second recording comes from 24 February 1982. The panellists here are Kenny Everett (that week's Radio Times cover star), Stephanie Turner (at the time known for her lead role in cop drama Juliet Bravo) and Derek Nimmo. Acting out the scenes are Adrian Egan, Miranda Forbes and George Parsons.

The Law Game Series Guide

Series 1: 22 September-27 October 1976

Diana Dors, Pete Murray, Leslie Randall, Rachel Heyhoe-Flint, Patrick Mower and Bob Wilson 

Series 2: 30 March-27 April 1977

Margaret Howard, Francis Matthews, Pete Murray, Rachel Heyhoe-Flint, Barry Norman, Claire Rayner, James Burke and Patrick Mower

Series 3: 30 November 1977-4 January 1978

Claire Rayner, Francis Matthews, Dr Magnus Pyke, Rachel Heyhoe -Flint, Patrick Mower, Leslie Randall, Henry Cooper, William Franklyn and Anoushka Hempel

Series 4: 4 December 1978-15 January 1979  (no tx 25 December 1978)

Claire Rayner, Francis Matthews, Peter Purves, Shirley Anne Field, James Burke, Dr Magnus Pyke, Diana Dors, Russell Davies and Patrick Mower

Series 5: 7 January-18 February 1980 (no tx 4 February)

John Junkin, Aimi Macdonald, James Burke, Peter Purves, Diane Keen, William Franklyn, Lance Percival, Shirley Anne Field and Francis Matthews  

Series 6: 20 January-24 March 1981

Julia McKenzie, David Jason, Andrew Sachs, Liza Goddard, John Junkin, Lance Percival, Judy Carne, Graeme Garden, Don Maclean, Patricia Hayes, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Frank Windsor, Nyree Dawn Porter, Ray Alan and Duggie Brown

Series 7: 16 November 1981-11 January 1982 (no tx 28 December)

Diane Keen, John Junkin, Lance Percival, Stephanie Turner, William Franklyn, Alfred Marks, Joyce Blair, Patrick Mower, Matthew Kelly, Diana Dors, Lionel Blair and Glyn Worsnip

Series 8: 19 July-6 September 1982

Sandra Dickinson, Matthew Kelly, Fred Housego, Janet Street Porter, Nigel Dempster, Wendy Richard, Patrick Moore, Denise Coffey, Christopher Biggins, Rob Buckman, John Peel and Paddy O'Byrne

Programmes listed on BBC Genome in 1983 are repeats of series 7 and 8

Series 9: 12 March-30 April 1985

Christopher Biggins, Denise Coffey, Patrick Moore, Bill Oddie, Aimi Macdonald, Ian Lavender, Stubby Kaye, Bettine Le Beau, Andrew Sachs, Gyles Brandreth, Katie Boyle and Dr Magnus Pyke

Series 10: 4 March-6 May 1986

Barry Took, Patricia Hodge, Steve Jones, William Franklyn, Jean Rook, Nigel Rees, David Hamilton, Anna Carteret, Martin Jarvis, Mark Curry, Toni Arthur, Chris Serle, Iain Johnstone, June Whitfield and Christopher Biggins

Series 11: 28 April-7 July 1987 (no tx 26 May)

Ian McCaskill, Pat Coombs, Peter Jones, Jimmy Perry, Claire Rayner, Steve Jones, Denise Coffey, Colin Baker, Brian Johnston, Stephen Fry, Anna Raeburn, Morwenna Banks, Neil Mullarkey, John Junkin, Patrick Moore and Su Pollard

Series 12: 5 January-23 February 1988

Nerys Hughes, Kenneth Williams, Ian McCaskill, Brian Johnston, Denise Coffey, Derek Nimmo, Stephen Fry, Patricia Hodge, John Gordon Sinclair, Alfred Marks, June Whitfield and Alan Titchmarsh

Series 13: 21 November 1988-23 January 1989

Barry Cryer, Ian Hislop, Nerys Hughes, Denise Coffey, Alan Titchmarsh, Susan Rae, Sally Burton, Graeme Garden, Trevor McDonald, Martin Jarvis, Ian McCaskill, Claire Rayner, John Gordon Sinclair and Alfred Marks 

Series 14: 3 October-21 November 1989

Lynda Bellingham, Duggie Brown, Bob Holness, Joe Brown, Barry Cryer, Claire Rayner, Sue Cook, Chris Emmett, Nerys Hughes, Polly James, Wendy Richard and Tim Brooke-Taylor  

Series 15: 14 November 1990-9 January 1991

Mark Steel, Jenny Eclair, Barry Cryer, Rob Newman, Tony Slattery, Claire Rayner, Bob Downes, Nerys Hughes, Denise Coffey, Barbara Windsor, Wendy Richard and Graham Garden

Series 16: 24 September-12 November 1991

Michael Melia. Cynthia Payne, Craig Charles, Emlyn Hughes, Helen Atkinson-Wood, Geoffrey Durham, Lesley Joseph, Ken Livingstone, Neil Mullarkey, Susie Blake, Frances Edmonds and Craig Ferguson

Series 17: 9 September-4 November 1992 (no tx 14 October)

Anna Raeburn, Peter Jones, Paul Ross, Bill Pertwee, Denise Coffey, Bill Tidy, Fred Housego, Jan Leeming, Chris Dunkley, Miles Kington, Sandi Toksvig and Chris Stuart

Pros and Cons Series Guide

Series 1: 24 July-28 August 1975

Marj Proops, Pete Murray, Sydney Tafler, Bettine Le Beau, Leslie Randall, Fred Trueman, Eleanor Summerfield, Tony Brandon, Sheridan Morley, Norma Ronald, Brian Johnston, Leonard Sachs, Charmain Innes, Percy Edwards, Alfred Marks, Isobel Barnett, , George Layton and Barry Took

Series 2: 31 December 1975-24 March 1976

Kathleen J. Smith, Sheridan Morley, Ian Wallace, Jessie Matthews, Brian Johnston, Ned Sherrin, Miriam Karlin, Noel Edmonds, Barry Took, Eleanor Summerfield, Robert McKenzie, John Julius Norwich, Sheila Van Damm, Peter Bull, Patrick Moore, Bettine Le Beau, Deryck Guyler, Bill Jupe, Jonathan Miller, June Whitfield, Fred Trueman, Linda Blanford, George Layton, Wynford Vaughan-Thomas, Patricia Hayes, Milton Shulman, Michael Bentine, Thora Hird, Professor Eric Laithwaite, Sydney Tafler, Katie Boyle, Jonathan Aitken, Larry Adler, Beryl Reid, David Jacobs, Dan Maskell, Marj Proops, Pete Murray and Leslie Randall

Series 3: 7 July-25 August 1977

Patricia Hayes, Michael Robbins, Jean Rook, George Chisholm, Pat Coombs, Sheila Scott, Henry Cooper, Jenny Hanley, Yootha Joyce, Keith Fordyce, Liz Fraser, Claire Rayner, Lionel Blair, Sara Leighton, Aimi Macdonald, Joyce Blair, John Snagge, Bob Todd, Bettine Le Beau, Patrick Moore, Marj Proops, Bill Owen, Wendy Richard and Terry Wogan

Series 4: 16 April 1979-9 July 1979

Leslie Phillips, Thora Hird, Paul Jennings, Roy Hudd, Dora Bryan, Roy Plomley, Peter Jones, Sheila Van Damm, Barry Took, Jack de Manio, Mirima Karlin, Ian Wallace, Johnny Morris, Mollie Sugden, Barry Cryer, Leslie Randall, Sheila Hancock, Bill Oddie, Brian Rix, Janet Brown and Terry Wogan

Series 5: 10 November-29 December 1980 

Roy Hudd, Claire Rayner, David Jason, Nerys Hughes, Bernard Cribbins, Francis Matthews, Ray Alan, Lorraine Chase, John Craven, Liza Goddard, Don Maclean and Ian Lavender

Series 6: 27 January-3 March 1982

Honor Blackman, Terry Wogan, Tony Haygarth, Diana Dors, Martin Jarvis, Lennie Bennett, Kenny Everett, Stephanie Turner and Derek Nimmo

Series 7: 5 January-9 February 1983     

John Junkin, Stephanie Turner, Roger Cook, William Franklin, Liza Goddard, Garfield Morgan, Jeremy Beadle, Joanna Munro and Matthew Kelly


Ferncombe said...

Hi Andy,

Nice article and thank you for the additional couple of episodes of TLG. You probably don't remember but we swapped a few quiz show episodes a few years ago, the above and Dealing with Daniels amongst them. I was just wondering if you'd unearthed any kind of archive these two episodes of The Law Game came from? As you say they haven't been repeated since originally broadcast so finding them is as rare as hens teeth! My usual e-mail is as I hardly ever check the google account that has logged on for me to comment here!

Look forward to hearing from you.



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