By Ian Greaves and Justin Lewis
In the spring of 1970, BBC Radio 4 premiered a new late-night topical sketch show. Initially an unassuming antidote to the week’s events, Not The Nine O’Clock News, Spitting Image and beyond. It also provided an early platform for Britain’s best-loved performers, amongst them Steve Coogan, David Jason and Tracey Ullman. However, by its eventual demise in 1998, had become a neglected and much-maligned programme. What caused it to lose ground as the respected entry point, and how did it sustain itself for so long?grew to become the nerve-centre of new writing in British comedy. It existed in part as a place for scriptwriters to learn the ropes, before graduating to
In– the substantial opening article – researchers & unpack the series’ long and convoluted history with the assistance of more than fifty contributors, including Sally Grace, Andy Hamilton, Armando Iannucci, Nigel Rees, David Renwick, Sheila Steafel, Bill Wallis and series co-creator Simon Brett. This background story reveals a constantly evolving programme, often rocked and ravaged by the ambitions of an apparently endless parade of new producers, not to mention a Radio Light Entertainment department in varying states of health.
What follows is a comprehensive guide to all 1132 regular editions of, as well as compilations, specials and merchandise. The archives of the BBC have been raided for an exhaustive account of who wrote what and when, and under which producer. Fully cross-referenced, the early work of major writers and performers – Douglas Adams, David Baddiel, Jeremy Hardy, Harry Hill – is given in-depth treatment for the very first time. provides a window on a major ‘lost history’, and finally casts light on many artists’ early days in what Stewart Lee dubbed ‘the saltmines of comedy’.