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BBC Radio
Posted on Sunday 21 July 2013 at 12:50 pm

Rachael's Week in BBC Radio Vol. 26

I listened to a bunch of recurring sitcoms this week (e.g. Flying the Flag and ElvenQuest). I'm downloading a bunch of random stuff that sounds sort of interesting in the upcoming week but the only things about which I'm really excited are an adaptation of a Harlan Ellison science fiction story and an adaptation of Pierce Egan's Regency/ late Georgian era Life in London stories with Mark Gatiss.

Listened to 14 to 20 July:

Flying the Flag Series 1
This is a sitcom from the mid to late 1980s, shortly before the fall of the Iron Curtain. It is set at a British Embassy in an unspecified small Soviet satellite country and is absolutely hilarious. The antics of the embassy staff are ok in their own right but the general setting with the digs at the ideas of Detente and Communism vs. Capitalism, the Americans occasionally popping in and trying to treat the Brits like their puppets, etc. Series 2 is currently re-airing and I'm recording it and will eventually get around to it. I also have series 4 already, which I think is the last one, but I don't have 3.

ElvenQuest Series 1
I listened to this a long time ago and have the rest of the show but haven't listened to any further. I decided it had been so long that I needed to relisten to series 1. It was quite fun. This one is pretty popular so I suspect many of you know it, but for those who might not, it is a spoof of fantasy quest stories like Lord of the Rings. A fantasy writer from our world gets taken with his dog to a fantasy realm. The dog become human in that world and is believed to be the Chosen One so off they go on a quest with the typical cast of fantasy adventurers, an elf, a dwarf, etc. I bought this one and the entire series is available at AudioGo.

Rumpole's Return: Rumpole and the Right to Privacy
No secret that I love Rumpole. There are a few (three?) two-part storylines but most are 45-minute one shots. I think without a single exception I like the two-parters best of everything I've listened to thus far but this is one of the better one-shots. There is a fun case and some fun stuff going on in the background for Rumpole's character and his relationship with his wife (I love their bickering). I think I've got one two-parter with just Timothy West's Rumpole (which is what this one was, too) and the four most recent one-shots (which are West as older Rumpole and Benedict Cumberbatch as younger Rumpole) left and then I'll be out of Rumpole until they make some new ones. I'll probably listen to the two-parter this upcoming week then give it a rest for a bit to try to make it last. The only Timothy West Rumpole adaptations for sale are the first four stories in Rumpole and the Primrose Path at AudioGo. I have bought them and wish I could buy more, including this one, but it just isn't available.

Deep Trouble Series 1
This is one of those "group of incompetents try to do some task" kind of sitcoms. The particular situation here is operating a nuclear submarine. I listened to the first two of the four episodes of the first series. It was OK. I'm undecided. It might be a slow starting sitcom and still setting up the "sit" as it were or it might just be an OK but not fantastic one. I'll finish the first series this week and I'm recording the second which is airing starting this week but I might or might not listen to it, depending on how the second half of this first run goes.

The Penny Dreadfuls Present Series 1
Penny Dreadfuls is a character-based sketch comedy kind of program. Sketch isn't really my thing, but the more character-based one or ones that are closer to sitcoms and have unifying themes are usually better. I only listened to the first episode and I liked it and will listen to more eventually but it works better for me if I go at it slowly and take a break before doing more.

Comedy Panel Shows
The News Quiz 81:4: Perfectly nice episode. Nothing particularly outstanding or worthy of comment, but highly entertaining in the usual ways.

In Search of Mornington Crescent: Last week I listened to a half-hour version of this fake documentary and explained all the background on it so go here if you missed that and want to know what this is all about. I also mentioned last week that AudioGo has an extended two hour version that I was going to get. I listened to three-quarters of that this week. The first hour of that is an extended version of the half-hour show. It is the ssame as the other with some bits just being longer and other bits that were completely cut from the half-hour version. I enjoyed some of the cut stuff quite a bit so I'd say go for the longer one if you have the chance and the time. The second hour is some of the usual ISIHAC panelists reading short stories about people playing Mornington Crescent. I listened to the first two of these, one about a Charles Dickens vs. Lewis Carroll game and one about a Mad Jack vs. Prince George game during the Regency. I enjoyed them both and will definitely get two the other two stories this week.

Downloading 21 to 27 July:


Harlan Ellison - I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream
This is a science fiction classic from one of the masters of the genre. The story is from the 1960s, is set in a dystopic future, and is regarded as one of the best future horror stories of all time. I'm very much looking forward to this dramatization of the story.

Alan Ayckbourn - Events on a Hotel Terrace
BBC is going to be running four or so Alan Ayckbourn plays in the next few weeks. This one doesn't sound all that exciting (unhappy marriage blah blah), but I'm generally interested in Alan Ayckbourn's work so I'll grab them.
EDIT: I did a bit more looking into this play and found the wikipedia article on Ayckbourn's Intimate Exchanges and now I'm way more interested in this. Turns out Intimate Exchanges is like a Choose Your Own Adventure version of a play. There is a starting scene then two options for a scene set 5 second later. From each of those, there are two options for a scene set 5 days later, then 5 weeks, and finally 5 years. This makes for 16 possible endings to the same beginning scene. Wikipedia claims that the plays are often thought of as eight versions based on the next-to-last scenes with each of the eight having two possible endings. Events on a Hotel Terrace is one of the eight and BBC is apparently airing four of the eight. Sounds like an interesting experiment in playwriting, something Ayckbourn does a lot.

Neurotics Anonymous (Aft Drama)
A little play about a man with OCD trying to date. I'm completely anal retentive so not actually OCD but leaning that way so I connect with these kinds of stories usually.

Rowena the Wonderful (Aft Drama)
This sounds like an interesting experimental kind of story. It is about a young magician's assistant who can't speak and the drama is kind of her thoughts and her other means of communicating. I'm not sure how it will work as radio but it could be worth a try.

Irongate (Aft Drama)
Random play about which I know nothing beyond the BBC description: James Fleet and Emma Fielding star in Nick Warburton's two-hander play about love and loss. A woman walks once a year along the Thames, from Kew to Tower Bridge. Why?

Frank Marcus - The Killing of Sister George (Sat Drama)
This is an adaptation of a stage play from the 1960s. The play is about a long-running serial radio series (think The Archers) that is dropping off in the ratings so the powers that be decide to kill off the main character. There are some important undertones such as whether or not the actress playing the main character is a lesbian. Sounds interesting.

One-Week Multi-Episode Programs

Anthony Trollope - The American Senator (Classic Ser)
This book has long been on my To Read list. It is a basic high-society novel with the family falling on misfortune scheming for the best wealthy match for the daughter, but it is supposed to be a bit more than most on that theme in its explicit condemnation of the classist and sexist problems of the system, though by no means sympathetic to the female protagonist. There is also a great deal of American-British Gilded Age / Victorian era relationships and critiques of the political problems of both.

Daniel Defoe - Robinson Crusoe and his Further Adventures
I've read the original Robinson Crusoe and have the BBC's radio dramatization of it but haven't listened to it yet. I've never read the sequel but will happily grab the dramatization of it.

Mark Tavener - High Table, Lower Orders 2
They just reaired the first series of this and I downloaded it but haven't listened to it yet. I hope to get to it within the next couple of weeks. I've liked other Mark Tavener stuff which tends toward comedic thrillers / mysteries and this one about academics is obviously in my areas of interest so I'm grabbing the second series on the assumption I'll like the first.

Multi-Week Multi-Episode Programs Starting this Week

Life in London
Life in London was a series of short stories about city Tom and his country cousin Jerry and their crazy adventures in London in the early to mid 1800s. I've read a few but not many of the serialized adventures and have heard good things about this adaptation with Greg Wise and Mark Gatiss so I'm very much looking forward to it.

Mordrin McDonald: 21st Century Wizard
Fantasy comedy series about a 2,000 year old wizard hanging around dealing with 21st century hassles in addition to old school fantasy magic. Could be fun.

North by Northamptonshire 1
Basic small town sitcom. It stars Sheila Hancock and while I'm not familiar with a ton of her work, I've enjoyed what I do know.

Desolation Island (Classic Ser)
Dramatization of a War of 1812ish story about a ship of convicts being sent to Australia, including a female American spy. Sounds exciting and fun.

Deep Trouble 2
See above for my thoughts on this program since I only just listened to the first half of series 1 now that series 2 is airing.

The Maltby Collection 2
Just another of those "I have series 1 but haven't listened yet so might as well grab series 2 in case I like the first one."

Comedy Panel Shows
This week, It's Not What You Know, I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, and The News Quiz are all somewhere in the middle of their latest runs. I've Never Seen Star Wars Series 3 is doing a repeat run.

Anything good y'all listened to recently or looking forward to next week?


(Anonymous) at 4:40 pm on 26 July 2013 (UTC) (Link)

BBC Radio Plays

Thanks for posting your ramblings, especially the Week in BBC Radio. I came across your page while trying to find substitutes for Radio Downloader, which I miss dearly. My only "complaint" was the easy downloads resulted in many plays which were stored with the hope of listening to them someday.

My love for radio plays and specifically BBC plays goes back to before the internet and having to rely upon the shortwave transmissions of the BBC World Service. I could keep up with that because there were only two or three plays a week.

I teach Introduction to the Humanities at a state college and one of my assignments is for my students to listen and write about one radio drama. Some of the plays I've assigned are: Mike Walker's Alpha, J.B. Priestly's An Inspector Calls, Lee Hall's Spoonface Steinberg, and Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were watching God. More than half seem to really enjoy the experience.

bratty_jedi at 9:13 pm on 11 August 2013 (UTC) (Link)

Re: BBC Radio Plays

That's great using the radio programs in an Intro to Humanities class. There's a bunch of good programs dealing with literature, history, etc.
this_other_life at 9:25 pm on 07 August 2013 (UTC) (Link)
One of our television channels is showing the television series from the beginning and it's lovely to watch them all again. I have all the books and can 'hear' all the characters when I read them thanks to the marvellous cast. I can't hear mention of a Queen's Counsel or Circuit Judge without hearing Rumpole quietly mutter Queer Customer or Circus Judge in my ear :)
bratty_jedi at 9:15 pm on 11 August 2013 (UTC) (Link)
Rumpole's Circus Judge is one of my favorite of his regular snide remarks! I love his speeches when he gets on his high horse.

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