I haven’t done a radio review for awhile, so I thought I’d write a bit about Hut 33. It’s a sitcom set during WW2 at Bletchley Park, featuring a team of code breakers there, such as the posh Oxford don, the working class Marxist, the young maths prodigy, the dim military man, the amorous landlady and the terrifying Polish secretary. I’ve actually written about it before, back when I first listened to it just over a year ago. So really I had only just listened to it relatively recently, but I suppose you could take the fact that I was keen to listen to it again to be a sign that it is a good show. It definitely stood up to hearing it again for a second time, I really enjoyed listening to it all. It’s got a great mix of characters, an interesting setting, and sharp, witty writing. I’ve heard quite a few different Radio 4 sitcoms and while all of them have been good, this is definitely one of my favourites. There are only three series and it’s a shame that they haven’t made more because there was still a lot of potential in the show. Still I suppose I can always listen to it all again in a year or so!
I just listened to the first episode of the new radio adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. I love the book and I generally love all things Radio 4 so I was very excited to learn of the plans for this radio show, and my excitement grew with the announcement of the cast list which includes James McAvoy, Benedict Cumberbatch, Anthony Stewart Head and many other great actors. It’s a six part programme: the first episode was an hour long and is currently still available on iPlayer, while the remaining five episodes are half an hour long each and will be broadcast every day this week on Radio 4 Extra, and of course will be up on iPlayer afterwards as usual. I really enjoyed the first episode and I am looking forward to listening to the rest of it this coming week.
A few random points about various radio things:
- The latest series of Cabin Pressure has been brilliant - and you really need to use that word to describe it! I continue to be amazed by how funny John Finnemore is, and between this and his sketch show he’s really an excellent writer and performer.
- A new series of Elvenquest has started. It’s another great radio sitcom that I enjoy. I know it’s not as popular as some of the other radio shows that I like, but I do really recommend it (here is an older review I wrote a couple of years ago).
- New Quiz regular Susan Calman has a new radio show called Susan Calman Is Convicted. The first episode was very good and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.
All of those are (I think) still available on iPlayer so do check them out if you’re a fan of radio comedy like I am.
Interesting short article about everyone’s favourite antidote to panel games, I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue.
Particularly on the subject of television adaptations:
Plans for a TV version of I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue were dropped – because executives thought the teams were too old.
Tim Brooke-Taylor said: ‘We did a pilot for ITV, and they said “Yes, we’d like to go along with it… but can we have some younger people doing it?” I think they missed the point somewhat.’
Definitely missed the point, I’d say!
(That being said, if you do want some visual ISIHAC, the Live On Stage DVD is brilliant too.)
Good news! Cabin Pressure is returning for a new series in the not-too-distant future. Also I just noticed that a new series of I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue started on Monday. So I have been catching up with that on iPlayer now, and listening to it has made a significant improvement to my day. All in all it is good to be a fan of radio comedy.
This is a short stop motion animation video, based on the Radio 4 show, Old Harry’s Game. I love how they’ve even made the Devil look a bit like Andy Hamilton (writer and star of the show). If you like the radio show then check this out. Even if you haven’t heard the show you should give it a watch anyway, it’s ace.
So I have just finished watching The Bleak Old Shop of Stuff. When I heard that they were adapting the radio show Bleak Expectations for the television I was excited but also a bit skeptical. There was a Christmas special on over the holidays which I enjoyed, and I thought it was good but not as brilliant as the original show overall. After a bit of a break the television show returned with three new episodes which have now finished airing. Again, I enjoyed them, they were funny in places and good enough, but they just seemed to lack whatever it was that made the radio show so brilliant. Overall I liked The Bleak Old Shop of Stuff and I would watch more of the same, and if I had never heard the radio show then I know I would have loved this one a lot more. But ultimately I was also somewhat disappointed and I am looking forward to the next (and sadly probably last) series of Bleak Expectations more than ever.
I just listened through all of Cabin Pressure again. This is
one of my favourite Radio 4 comedy. I’ve heard all of the episodes quite a few times now, what with listening to it as it was broadcast over the past few years and then listening to it again at times like this. I wrote a bit about it before so I won’t go in to too much detail here because this isn’t really a review.
I’ve been feeling pretty down lately, and I’m very stressed with university stuff, so what I usually do is listen to an episode of a radio comedy show when I go to bed, which helps me get sleepy without just lying in bed with my mind racing. Also I try to get in a 30 minute walk a day, which is the perfect time to listen to a half hour radio comedy. So you may have noticed that I’ve reviewed quite a few radio shows recently.
I had run out of new stuff to listen to which is why I decided to listen again to this show. So here is a pretty good recommendation: even when I am utterly miserable, Cabin Pressure can make me laugh and put a smile on my face for 30 minutes a day. I really don’t know what else you would want from a comedy show.
Here is another post reviewing some radio comedies that I have been listening to. Because of course my reviews of obscure radio programmes are always so popular! </sarcasm>
- The Castle is a radio sitcom which describes itself as, ‘a comedy set in the filth, stench and grime of the middle ages, with some nice music’. It was quite funny, and there were a few great jokes here and there, but overall it was nowhere near as good as some of the other Radio 4 sitcoms out there. But since I am rapidly running out of radio comedies to listen to, it was good to hear it anyway.
- Elvenquest is a parody of Tolkienesque fantasy epics. I wrote about it here when I listened to the show last year, so I won’t repeat myself, just see that review for a fuller summary of the show. The third series was recently broadcast so I listened to the whole show again including the new episodes. I really enjoy it, it is definitely one of my favourites of the radio sitcoms that I listen to, and if anything I enjoyed it more the second time through. I’d really recommend this one.
- Bleak Expectations was one of the first radio sitcoms I listened to last year; before that I was mostly tuning in (er, to iPlayer) for the panel shows and sketch shows. Again, you can read my earlier review for a proper summary. I listened to it all again over the recent holidays, and it is still superb. I am looking forward to the fifth series hopefully coming up this year, and to the spin off television show.
- I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue is Radio 4’s ‘perennial antidote to panel games’. It was pretty much the first radio show I started listening to, and it is still the finest panel show on the radio. I have quite a few old episodes that I have been listening to, and I realised that I have never really mentioned the show before, so I should at least include a mention of ISIHAC if I am doing a post about radio shows!
I’m not sure what I’ll be listening to next but I do love my Radio 4 comedies at the moment.
Time for another radio review (for when I want to write something even more obscure than my book reviews and board game reviews!). I have been listening to a lot of radio at night, I find that if I put my iPod on and turn off the light, I can happily listen to an episode or two as I am trying to get to sleep. I also listen to radio shows quite a lot when I’m out walking now too. What I’ve just finished listening to is Old Harry’s Game.
The show is written by comedian Andy Hamilton, and he also plays the role of Satan. The series starts when two new arrivals in Hell start to cause problems for him. One is Thomas, a despicable, amoral, vile man who is regarded by Satan as the worst human ever to exist. The other is the Professor, who appears to be in Hell only because he is an atheist. He gets caught up in a philosophical debate with Satan over the nature of humanity and existence. The other main character is Scumspawn, Satan’s right-hand demon, who is in love with Satan (apart from the first series, which features the demon Gary, who disappears after he led a demon rebellion).
The first four series revolve around Satan and his arguments with the Professor, generally with Satan trying to highlight humanity’s contemptible actions versus the Professor’s idealism. However, the Professor left at the end of the fourth series (the actor had to leave, and this was written into the show as the Professor being transferred to heaven). Series five was shorter and instead focused on the efforts of Satan, Scumspawn and Thomas to deal with issues of overcrowding in Hell. The last two series introduced a new character, Edith, Thomas’ former mother-in-law. These two series had more long-running plot arcs. Series six dealt with Satan’s investigation into Edith’s murder, in exchange for getting her to write his autobiography, and also continued the themes of overcrowding in Hell. Series seven largely focussed on an administrative error which led to a dog and a baby appearing in Hell. There have also been several specials, including a Christmas special last year.
Although there have only been seven series, the show has been running from 1995 (BBC radio scheduling is even more erratic that BBC television scheduling, and the series are just as short!). I can only hope they make a new series soon, because I absolutely loved the show. I thought it did a great job of using a setting that people have preconceptions of already, and managed to make it interesting and unique. I loved the characters, both the main cast and the various recurring characters who have been consigned to Hell (such as the wonderfully foul-mouthed Jane Austen!). It was consistently funny, interesting and entertaining. Of the various radio sitcoms that I’ve listened to over the past few months, I would rank it very highly.
This is a link to Iain Banks discussing his book The Wasp Factory (which I reviewed here) on BBC Radio 4’s Bookclub show. I’ve heard Banks speak on a number of occasions in person, and listened to other interviews with him as well (but no, I am not some obsessed stalker!) and he always has interesting things to say whilst being entertaining at the same time. If you’ve read The Wasp Factory and want to here what Banks has to say about it, now is your opportunity! As a dedicated fan, shall we say, this was a great show to listen to.