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About the Programs

The Navy Lark

The Navy Lark was a radio sit-com about life aboard a British Royal Navy frigate named HMS Troutbridge, (a pun on HMS Troubridge, an actual Royal Navy destroyer) based in HMNB Portsmouth; in series 1 and 2 the ship and crew were stationed offshore at an unnamed location known simply as "The Island". In series 2 this island was revealed to be owned by Lt Cdr Stanton. The series was transmitted on the BBC Light Programme and subsequently BBC Radio 2. It was produced by Alastair Scott Johnston. Laurie Wyman conceived the idea and wrote the scripts (with George Evans from quite early on, but who was not named until the 12th Series onwards). For most of its run, it starred Jon Pertwee, Leslie Phillips and Stephen Murray.

The TV Lark

Before you get the wrong idea, this was a radio series about the goings on at a TV station - Troughtbridge TV Ltd. The series came between series four and five of The Navy Lark, and retained the same 'crew', just altering the setting and titles to breathe some new life into the show. The fact that there was only the one series before everybody was back in the Navy and aboard HMS Troughtbridge shows that the idea was not a complete success, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. The premise of the show was that Captain Povey finally managed to persuade the Admiralty that Troughtbridge, and her entire company, were surplus to the Navy's requirements and as such could be disposed of. All well and good, he thought, but in doing so he managed to throw the baby out with the bath water and convinced them that he, too, was surplus, and as a result became redundant. With Mister Henry Povey now the Troughtbridge TV Ltd.'s Deputy Controller, with a staff of Mister Stephen Murray as his Producer, Mister Leslie Phillips, Director, and a certain Mister Jon Pertwee as the Floor Manager, Troughtbridgeshire can look forward to hours of excellent broadcasting, provided they erect the enormous aerial needed to pick up the very weak signal, that is.

The Embassy Lark

The show was set in the British Embassy in the fictional country of Tratvia and was concerned with the various (mis)adventures of the British Ambassador Sir Jeremy Crichton-Buller (Derek Francis) and his First Secretary Henry Pettigrew (Frank Thornton) as they tried to keep smooth relations between Tratvia, Whitehall and the other Embassies (China, the USSR and the U.S.). Plots included a sudden requirement to hold a multinational concert in Tratvia with a major hydro-electric contract going to the best entertainment, a boundary dispute over oil fields and numerous examples of the Tratvian authorities attempting to get as much money or services from the Embassy staff as possible. Although written as a broad farce and straight-ahead sitcom, there was thus an undercurrent of xenophobic satire also present. Tratvia was an absolute monarchy, ruled by the fat and greedy, but always very sly, King Hildebrand III. Although never specifically located, Tratvia seems likely to have been a loose parody of the Balkans.

Like all Wyman's comedy, a lot of mileage was gained from peculiar accents, with the other Ambassadors being the most frequent target. Unlike later spin-off The Big Business Lark, there was a crossover between this and the parent series with Derek Francis appearing in both series and Leslie Phillips making an appearance in his Navy Lark character of "silly ass" Sub-Lieutenant Phillips in the spin-off. Also in one episode, HMS Troutbridge visits Tratvia with Ronnie Barker as Commander Bell and Able Seaman Johnson, Stephen Murray as Lt Murray and Lawrie Wyman as Tiddy, all reprising characters from the Navy Lark, though there were no other characters from the previous series in the show. Richard Caldicot and Heather Chasen also both appeared in separate episodes, though not as their Navy Lark characters.

The Big Business Lark

The Big Business Lark was a radio comedy sitcom of partly satirical form, broadcast in 1969. It starred Jimmy Edwards and Frank Thornton and was written by Laurie Wyman as a spin-off from The Navy Lark, although no characters cross over between the two shows. In a sense, the spin-off element was in the The Foo Lark name format.

The show was set in the boardroom of fictional company Allied British Plastics and was concerned with the business machinations of the chairman (Jimmy Edwards) and his son and deputy chairman (Frank Thornton). Plots included landing an order to provide the Red Army with plastic tents, a trip to America to make a good deal from another board member's mistake and an attempt to find a plastic novelty made by the firm for breakfast cereal boxes.

The comedy was more broad farce than subtle satire with Edwards playing a bluff, hard-drinking, chauvinist old rogue character and Thornton his more proper sidekick, analogous to the same role he played against Derek Francis in the other Navy Lark spin-off, The Embassy Lark.

Steptoe and Son

Steptoe and Son is a British sitcom written by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson about two rag and bone men living in Oil Drum Lane, a fictional street in Shepherd's Bush, London.

The series focussed on the inter-generational conflict of father and son. Albert Steptoe, a "dirty old man", is an old rag and bone man, set in his grimy and grasping ways. By contrast his 40-year-old son Harold is filled with social aspirations, not to say pretensions. The show contained elements of drama and tragedy, as Harold was continually prevented from achieving his ambitions. To this end the show was unusual at the time for casting actors rather than comedians in its lead roles, although both actors were drawn into more comedic roles as a consequence.

Dad's Army

The Home Guard consisted of local volunteers otherwise ineligible for military service, either owing to age or by being in professions that were exempt from conscription (Dad's Army deals almost exclusively with the former), and as such the series starred a number of older of British stars of film, television and stage, including Arthur Lowe, John Le Mesurier, Arnold Ridley and John Laurie. Relative youngsters in the regular cast were Ian Lavender, Clive Dunn (who was made-up to play the elderly Jones), Frank Williams, James Beck (who died suddenly during production of the programme's sixth series, despite being one of the youngest cast members), and Colin Bean.

Parsley Sidings

Parsley Sidings was a BBC Radio sitcom created by Jim Eldridge. It starred Arthur Lowe and Ian Lavender (who were also starring in the television wartime sitcom Dad's Army at that time), together with Kenneth Connor from the Carry On films. The scripts are by Jim Eldridge. The show is set in a sleepy out of the way railway station on the main line between London and Birmingham, in the Midlands. The main characters are the station master, Mr Horace Hepplewhite (played by Arthur Lowe); his son, Bertrand (Ian Lavender); station porter Percy Valentine (Kenneth Connor); Mr Bradshaw, the signalman (also played by Kenneth Connor); and station tannoy announcer Gloria Simpkins (Liz Fraser, who was also in the Carry On films, and appeared in the Dad's Army feature film). The guest cast in some episodes included Bill Pertwee and Roger Delgado.

It Sticks Out Half a Mile

It Sticks Out Half a Mile was a BBC Radio sitcom created by Harold Snoad and Michael Knowles as a sequel to the television war sitcom Dad's Army, for which Snoad and Knowles had written radio adaptations.

The original pilot episode, set in 1948, involved former bank manager and Home Guard Captain George Mainwaring (Arthur Lowe) deciding to renovate a decrepit seaside pier in the fictional town of Frambourne-on-Sea, only to find when applying for a bank loan that the manager of the local branch is his former chief cashier and Home Guard Sergeant Arthur Wilson (John Le Mesurier). The pilot, recorded in 1981, was not used and Lowe died in April 1982, ending production. But Lowe's widow had enjoyed the show and persuaded the writers to start again with a new cast.

The new version involved Bert Hodges (Bill Pertwee), former ARP warden and nemesis of Mainwaring's Home Guard unit, approaching "stupid boy" and former Home Guard Private Frank Pike (Ian Lavender) with a proposal to renovate the pier at Frambourne. In order to finance this plan Pike has to approach bank manager Wilson (Le Mesurier), who just happens to be his "uncle" (publicly a friend of his mother's, but strongly hinted to the audience to be Pike's father), for a loan. Wilson suspects the only reason Hodges approached Pike was to get to the bank's money through him. Nevertheless, Pike and Wilson put aside their wartime quarrel with Hodges - more or less - and the renovation begins.

Some different actors were used for some of the minor parts, for example Mrs Fox, who was played here by Mollie Sugden.

Hancock's Half Hour

Hancock's Half Hour was a BBC radio comedy, and later television comedy, series of the 1950s and 60s written by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson. The series starred Tony Hancock, with Sid James; the radio version also co-starred, at various times, Moira Lister, Andr饠Melly, Hattie Jacques, Bill Kerr and Kenneth Williams. The final television series, renamed simply Hancock, starred Hancock alone.

Comedian Tony Hancock starred in the show, playing an exaggerated and much poorer version of his own character and lifestyle, Anthony Aloysius St John Hancock, a down-at-heel comedian living at the dilapidated 23 Railway Cuttings in East Cheam.

Round the Horne

Round the Horne was a BBC Radio comedy programme, transmitted in four series of weekly episodes from 1965 until 1968. The series was created by Barry Took and Marty Feldman - with others contributing to later series after Feldman returned to performing - and starred Kenneth Horne, with Kenneth Williams, Hugh Paddick, Betty Marsden and Bill Pertwee. The show's announcer was Douglas Smith and from time to time he took part in the sketches. It had musical interludes by close harmony singing group The Fraser Hayes Four, and accompaniment by the big band of Edwin Braden ("the great, hairy fool" according to Kenneth Williams), known as Edwin Braden and the Hornblowers. The band were nominally the BBC Radio Orchestra but were never billed as such. In the fourth series, all the musical duties were performed by the smaller Max Harris Group. Took and the cast had worked on the predecessor series Beyond Our Ken. The name is a pun on the nautical phrase for sailing around Cape Horn.

Beyond Our Ken

Beyond Our Ken (1958-1964) was a radio comedy programme, the predecessor to Round the Horne (1965-1968). Both programmes starred Kenneth Horne, Kenneth Williams, Hugh Paddick, Betty Marsden and Bill Pertwee, with announcer Douglas Smith. Musical accompaniment was provided by the BBC Revue Orchestra. The name is a pun on Kenneth Horne's name and the (now mainly Scots/Scottish English) word ken, meaning "knowledge or perception".

Stop Messing About

Stop Messing About was a BBC radio series broadcast in 1969 and 1970. Forced by circumstance into being a follow-up to Round the Horne, a number of key talents from the previous show were retained and recast, with Kenneth Williams as the new show's main star.

The sudden death of Round the Horne star Kenneth Horne at the end of series four prompted a rewrite of the material intended for series five which then found its way into Stop Messing About alongside new sketches; Round the Horne writers Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke are therefore credited with series one of Stop Messing About, while series two, which was entirely original, was written by Myles Rudge.

Stop Messing About was recast as a vehicle for Kenneth Williams, who on the day of the first transmission wrote in his diary that "It was mediocre and played to a half empty house ... Joan said 'Let's face it dear, our careers are in the ash can...'". Of a later edition, however, he wrote that "It went like a bomb. I was very pleased with the marvellous reception ... and it's a triumph in the face of the terrible adversity of KH's death."

The title was a catchphrase coined for Williams by Galton and Simpson back in the days of Hancock's Half Hour. Hugh Paddick and announcer Douglas Smith were retained from Round the Horne, starring alongside Joan Sims, who had already signed on for the fifth series of Round the Horne in place of Betty Marsden and therefore made a smooth transition to Stop Messing About.

The Likely Lads

The Likely Lads was a black-and-white British sitcom created and written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, and produced by Dick Clement. Twenty episodes were broadcast by the BBC, in three series, between 16 December 1964 and 23 July 1966. However, only eight of these shows have survived.

The original show followed the friendship of two working class young men, Terry Collier (James Bolam) and Bob Ferris (Rodney Bewes), in North East England (assumed to be Newcastle upon Tyne) in the mid 1960s. Both Bob and Terry are assumed to be in their early 20s (when their ages are revealed in the later film, this puts both characters at around 20 when the series started).

After growing up at school and in the Scouts together, Bob and Terry are working in the same factory, Ellison's Electrical, alongside the older, wiser duo of Cloughie and Jack. The show's gritty yet verbose humour derived largely from the tensions between Terry's cynical, everyman, working class personality and Bob's ambition to better himself and move to the middle class.

Take It From Here

Take It From Here (often referred to as TIFH, pronounced 砡nd sometimes humorously spelt 砼em>"TIFE") was a British radio comedy programme broadcast by the BBC between 1948 and 1960. It was written by Frank Muir and Denis Norden, and starred Jimmy Edwards, Dick Bentley and Joy Nichols. When Nichols moved to New York City in 1953 she was replaced by June Whitfield and Alma Cogan. The show is perhaps most famous for introducing The Glums. Through TIFH Muir and Norden reinvented British post-war radio comedy - amongst other influences, it was one of the first shows with a significant segment consisting of parody of film and book styles, later used extensively in programmes such as Round the Horne and many television programmes.

Whacko

Whacko was a British sitcom TV series starring Jimmy Edwards. Broadcast 1956 to 1960 and 1971 to 1972. The series (in black and white) ran on the BBC from 1956 to 1960 and (in colour) from 1971 to 1972. Edwards took the part of Professor James Edwards M.A., the drunken, gambling, devious, cane-swishing headmaster who tyrannised staff and children at Chiselbury public school (described in the opening titles as "for the sons of Gentlefolk"). The Edwards character bore more than a passing resemblance to Sergeant Bilko as he tried to swindle the children out of their pocket money to finance his many schemes.

There was also a radio version, on the Light Programme, 45 episodes of 30 minutes broadcast from May 1961 till July 1963, with Vera Lynn starring as herself in the second episode.

The Men from the Ministry

The Men from the Ministry was a British radio comedy series broadcast by the BBC between 1962 and 1977, starring Wilfrid Hyde-White, Richard Murdoch and, from 1966, when he replaced Hyde-White, Deryck Guyler. The series was about lazy, bungling, incompetent civil servants, 'Number One' - Roland Hamilton-Jones (Wilfrid Hyde-White) and later Deryck Lennox-Brown (Deryck Guyler), 'Number Two' - Richard Lamb (Richard Murdoch), with their dim, typo-prone, teenage secretary, Mildred Murfin (Norma Ronald), all watched over by the lecherous, pompous, self-seeking Permanent Under-Secretary Sir Gregory Pitkin (Roy Dotrice and later Ronald Baddiley), all members of the British Civil Service based in Whitehall. The stories centered on their General Assistance Department (analogous to the 'Department of Administrative Affairs' in the later Yes Minister), which helps other governmental departments. Instead of assistance, the department creates mix-ups, misunderstandings and cock-ups that lead to a telling-off from Sir Gregory, who sees his 'hard earned' Civil Service career and pension disappearing.

Paul Temple

Paul Temple is a fictional character created by British writer Francis Durbridge. Temple is an amateur private detective and author of crime fiction. Together with his journalist wife (Louise Temple, nee Harvey, affectionately known as 'Steve' after her pen name 'Steve Trent'), he solves 'whodunnit' crimes with subtle, humorous dialogue and rare 'action'. Always the gentleman, his use of the phrase "by Timothy" was the nearest he ever got to swearing. Between 1938 and 2011, the Temples featured in over 30 BBC radio dramas.

Ray's a Laugh

Nedlo, the Gypsy Violinist, started his own show in 1949 and made a success of it. Ray's a Laugh did not include Nedlo's name in the credits, nor indeed that of Charlie Olden (Ray's real name). Nedlo/Olden was, by 1949, calling himself Ted Ray (after the golfer) - and that was how he billed himself for his radio series. Ray's a Laugh was a domestic comedy. Ray's wife was played by Kitty Bluett. Fred Yule played his brother-in-law. Patricia Hayes appeared, as did Kenneth Connor as Sidney Mincing. In later series Ray had left the Cannon Enquiry Agency and joined the Daily Bugle as a reporter. Jack Watson and Charles Leno joined the cast and new characters included Mrs Dipper and Roger Curfew, the paying guest with songs by John Hanson and The King's Men.

Ted Kendall (The Kendall Goons)

Ted Kendall (The Kendall Goons) is a British musical restorer and a mastering engineer. In the 1980s, Kendall was a recording engineer working for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). His is credited with having rediscovered lost transcription recordings of several episodes of a BBC Radio science fiction programme, Journey Into Space, which he carefully cleaned up and remastered. Recently, he has been credited with having assembled a unique collection of the highest available quality source material from The Goon Show, which he once again carefully cleaned up and remastered using modern digital equipment and techniques. The sound effects from The Goon Show had to be transcribed from original disc lacquers and shellac. The infamous 'Fred the Oyster' effect required declicking and decrackling as the source was a Columbia shellac 78. Kendall removed large and small clicks, and the crackle from all of The Goon Show sound effects, except those scratches which were part of the gag.

Doctor in the House

Doctor in the House was a hilarious programme that was staged in a teaching hospital. Based on the novel by Richard Gordon, Doctor in the House was full of humour - from nurse chasing to examme-room hilarity. Richard Briers played Simon Sparrow and Geoffrey Sumner played Sir Lancelot Spratt. So get ready to bust open those stitches, because you will be laughing non-stop throughout the doctor's visit.

Doctor at Large

Doctor at Large debuted as a sequel to Doctor in the House. After thirteen uproariously successful episodes, it became a television programme. Adapted from the novel by Richard Gordon, Doctor at Large stars Richard Briers as Simon Sparrow and Geoffrey Sumner as Sir Lancelot Spratt. Full of belly laughs, this collection includes every show during Doctor at Large's short thirteen-episode radio reign.

It's That Man Again

It's That Man Again (or, commonly, 'ITMA') was a BBC radio comedy programme which ran from 1939 to 1949. The title was a contemporary phrase referring to ever more frequent news-stories about Hitler in the lead-up to World War II, and specifically a headline in the Daily Express written by Bert Gunn. This was humorously transferred to Tommy Handley, the popular comedian around whom the programme was developed. The scripts were written by the prolific Ted Kavanagh. 'ITMA' is believed to have played a major role in sustaining morale on the UK's 'home front' during the Second World War. Other performers included Jack Train, a master of voices; Clarence Wright, who played the commercial traveller and the man from the ministry; Deryck Guyler, Hattie Jacques, who played Sophie Tuckshop (the earliest of Jacques' roles dependent upon her physical size) and Joan Harben (sister of Philip Harben) as Mona Lott. The programme featured dozens of other characters, such as Mrs Mopp and Colonel Chinstrap. The speed at which the performances were delivered is still considered remarkable, even given later technical developments. Many gags were dependent on breaking news - Ted Kavanagh once admitted to being unable to understand some jokes in earlier scripts.

Life with The Lyons

Life with The Lyons was unusual in that it featured a real-life American family. Ben Lyon and his wife Bebe Daniels settled in London during the Second World War and featured with the comedian Vic Oliver in the radio series Hi, Gang! that ran from 1940 to 1949. Life With the Lyons followed on from this and, together with Ben and Bebe, featured their children Richard and Barbara Lyon. Although scripted, it expanded on real-life events.

Bulldog Drummond

The Bulldog Drummond stories follow Captain Hugh "Bulldog" Drummond, D.S.O., M.C., a wealthy former WWI officer of the fictional His Majesty's Royal Loamshire Regiment, who, after the First World War, spends his new-found leisure time as a private detective. He places an advertisement in the local newspaper: Demobilised Officer finding peace incredibly tedious would welcome diversion. Legitimate if possible; but crime of a humorous description, no objection. Excitement essential.

Sherlock Holmes

The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes was an old-time radio show which aired in the USA from October 2, 1939 to July 7, 1947. The show first aired on the Blue Network but later moved to the Mutual Broadcasting System. The radio stories were action packed, filled with atmosphere, and featured great music by Lou Kosloff, as well as excellent sound effects.

Originally, the show starred Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson. Together, they starred in 220 episodes which aired weekly on Mondays from 8:30 to 9:00pm. Commercialism seeped into the radio show from the start, as Watson himself, played by various actors, took on the co-host role with a spokesman for G. Washington Tea as a visitor ready to hear a Holmes story. Before a blazing fire with tea always at the brew, Watson reminiscences the great tales between comments on how good the tea is! Bromo Quinine sponsored some of the earlier programs on the NBC Blue Network and for a period Parker Pen was the sponsor.

Basil Rathbone's last episode as the famous detective was "The Singular Affair of the Baconian Cipher". He was eager to separate himself from the typecast of Holmes, and even though the show's sponsor Petri Wine offered him generous pay to continue, he decided to move on. Once he did, the sponsor did as well, and Tom Conway took the starring role, though Nigel Bruce got top billing and was always announced first. The new sponsor was Kreml Hair Tonic for Men, and the new series only lasted 39 episodes.