Saturday, 20 February 2010

Dad, what's a 'Father and Son'? Well, it's a very specific sort of sketch with a hugely elaborate set up, piling up lots of information up front...

This week I've been reading a lunatically good book. Let's be honest though, you need something approaching my level of lunacy to really appreciate it.

It's "Prime Minister You Wanted to See Me?": A History of "Week Ending" by Ian Greaves and Justin Lewis.

Week Ending was of course BBC Radio 4's long-running, only occasionally funny,topical comedy show. Anyone was allowed to write for it, and I was one of the thousands who did, like many of its contributors sending in sketches by post on a Monday or Tuesday that I hoped might still just be topical by the weekend (towards the programme's end I'd graduated to faxing sketches often as late as a Wednesday). It was where we began to learn the form.

The book kicks off with a brilliant and lovingly researched extended essay on the series and its history with some lovely script extracts and then kicks into over-drive with lists, great big detailed lists, an index, and pleasing nerdery on Week Ending spin-offs, spoofs and music.
It's alarming just how many tightly coiled memories reading it unravels.
Perhaps the greatest joy in it is the listing of sketch and newsline titles, tantalising reminders of past political and cultural concerns, sometimes functional, sometimes punning or obscure, sometimes absolutely undecipherable.
It's also allowed me to map precisely the Week Ending contributions of three ex-colleagues,three Facebook friends, all sorts of writer heroes including Douglas Adams, Tony Sarchet, Marshall and Renwick and of course Tim Hincks of Endemol, and discover that my first ever broadcast sketch was performed by Josh Darcy, the guy who organised the celebrations of Ken Campbell at the Metafex festival in 2008.

Somehow, reading it made me feel having had a second sketch recorded for Radio 7's Newsjack recorded and then cut before transmission a week or so back was a good thing- part of a continuum, for me and BBC radio.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

"Like I said..."

"Like I said..." has to be the single piece of dialogue I most loathe.

It turns up a lot these days on TV and Radio drama and I've taken vehemently against it.
Perhaps it's my problem, not the line's, but here anyway are my top reasons for hating it-

1. It often doesn't fit the character who's supposed to be saying it.
For example, almost any character who's over 40, or who we're expected to believe is 'posh' (ie. a baddie), is more likely to go with "As I said," (or possibly "as I say") instead.
It's, to my ears, quite a young character's line, and not one I usually expect to hear authority figures use.

2. It's so self-conscious, a character referring to themselves and their actions as though standing back, summing themselves up.
Sometimes that's fine. Mainly, it isn't.
Most characters are driven by forces they don't understand, and as soon as they start talking like this they're on a journey towards either being the kind of complex, realistic, slightly dull people who never get anything done, or unutterably smug and self-regarding cartoon characters- the kind of people who know they're a major character and are acting up.

3. It quite often precedes those horrible bits when you see the writer peeking through and you'd rather not.
"Like I said, that apparently throwaway line before is actually so thematically important I'm going to repeat it now, revealing its significance." I hear gears grind and don't like it.

4. You can normally cut it and lose nothing (bar my annoyance).

5. I'm irrational and ridiculous, but, like I said, "perhaps it's my problem, not the line's."

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Repeat 'Til Fade

Hello, I'm back, please feign awareness of my absence, and the year is already accelerating downhill towards Spring.

Lovely break in Cuba, of which I may speak when I have something suitably pithy and glib to reductively label it with.
I've also come back lighter than I went (I got absolutely massive over the Summer and Autumn last year), this is a good fact, thanks to my continued work with a revolutionary diet plan- less food, more exercise, no alcohol. Who would have ever thought a crackpot scheme like that could work?

Anyway, I'm back with a new idea to work on (as well as some old ones to keep flogging away at), so I'll probably continue being a rubbish correspondent for a little while, but while you're waiting for all-new mildly disappointing material from me I've come back to discover BBC Radio 7 is re-running No Tomatoes again, some of my mildly disappointing 2007 material, a fourth airing (which I believe now, means I'm due some extra money). Episode 2 is still on-line until about midnight on Sunday.

Hope to have more for you soon.