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Radio 5

POST-PYTHON option-weighing-up Eric Idle, then very much the rock scene’s comedian of choice, fills in time by playing at being a DJ and creating a wacky zany show about the BBC launching a threadbare and cash-strapped fifth national radio station full of dull meandering output. This, obviously, could never have happened in reality.



  1. Glenn A

    July 7, 2009 at 10:43 am

    Actually the BBC did in 1990 when the original Radio 5 was launched with a mixture of sport from Radio 2, educational programmes from Radio 5, regional programmes, some pop music and rebroadcasts of BFBS programmes. It wasn’t that bad, even though audience figures were tiny for non sports programmes, but the BBC weren’t impressed with the dustbin nature of the station and relaunched it as 5 LIve as a rolling talk and sport station with the music and regional oddities removed. From then it has never looked back.

  2. Tom Ronson

    November 13, 2022 at 4:45 am

    Eric Idle was always at his best when he had the other Pythons, or a strong-willed co-writer, to rein him in a bit. Rutland Weekend Television displays his strengths as a writer (superb puns, wordplay, forensic attention to detail, Spike Milligan-style groaner puns side-by-side with programme controller-worrying dodginess) just as boldly as it parades his weaknesses – half-arsed shapeless rambling whimsy, and surreal juxtapositions that sadly don’t lead anywhere. His first novel, Hello Sailor, was a very sad read because it’s just one incident after another with no point or structure, like a story told by a child – ‘and then what happened was…’
    Radio Five, from what I’ve heard of it, was more of the same – when it was good, it was really good, but when it was bad, it was simply painful.

  3. Glenn Aylett

    November 13, 2022 at 4:45 pm

    Monty Python could either be brilliant and completely hilarious, or a tedious, pretentious show where jokes were few, and sadly many of the shows could be like this. People only remember the best bits of the series, but half of the time, it was boring and Idle and his friends seeemed to have free rein to do what they wanted.
    Spike Milligan was the same: Adolf Hitler, My Part In His Downfall, was hilarious, some of his television sketches were pure genius, but other times, it was the same tedious jokes about Nazis and swastikas popping up ever five minutes. I will say, though, his last sketch series for the BBC in 1982 was top notch.

    • Tom Ronson

      November 14, 2022 at 12:30 am

      The Q series is definitely a mixed bag, but Milligan was never one you could rely on for consistency. If he was feeling inspired, you’d get genuinely excellent material. If he wasn’t in the mood, you’d get charmless corn or sketches based around endless puns. Q9 in particular goes from breathtaking brilliance and bare-faced effrontery to being borderline unwatchable and back again several times within one episode. The above-mentioned 1982 sketch series, There’s A Lot Of It About, was much stronger overall because Andrew Marshall and David Renwick added some much-needed fresh blood in the writer’s room, and Spike was paired with a strong-willed and conscientious director in Alan J.W. Bell, who filmed large chunks of it without a studio audience, knowing that one laugh could completely throw Spike’s attention (and how prone he was to hamming it up if he sensed a sketch was going badly).

      As for Python, I don’t think I ever found it massively funny as a kid. It was the attitude, the energy, the performances, and the skew-whiff view of the world that reeled me in and kept me watching.

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