Friday, 15 February 2013

Radio Minus 50: 15 February 1963

The TV Lark: House of Commons

Robin Boyle, the announcer for The TV Lark,  always sounds incredibly pleased with himself to be on the show, the ghost of a self-satisfied chuckle underlying pronouncements like "manning a television station isn't all Steptoe and Ena Sharples".  He's sometimes endearing, sometimes grating - just like the show, in fact.  In this week's episode Boyle briefly turns up as a person rather than a disembodied voice.  As an actor he makes a very good announcer.

House of Commons is an episode that veers toward grating rather than endearing, unfortunately - the jokes not heroically bad enough to break through the slight atmosphere of smugness.  And there aren't even any Hanna Barbera references.  Yes, it sounds like the cast are all enjoying themselves, but as anyone who's had rowdy drunks outside their window at 4 AM on a weekday knows, listening to other people enjoy themselves isn't necessarily all that entertaining.

This week sees the return of Troutbridge West's chinless wonder MP Sir Jimson Whitaker-Smythe, as TTV's crew head off to Westminster to film him in a party political broadcast.  First there's the problem of getting their outside broadcast van back - Pertwee's lent it to his Uncle Ebenezer, who's taking advantage of the freezing weather by driving around London selling tiny bags of coal and coke at vastly inflated prices.

When they finally get the van back, the team have to cope with Sir Jimson's inability to speak without Big Ben going off and silencing him, and the loss of the script for his cosy, off-the-cuff fireside chat.  Michael Bates, who always gets frustratingly little to do in the show, turns up briefly as an officious policeman - a role he played quite often and which always makes me yearn to see his performance as Inspector Truscott in Joe Orton's Loot.

The BBC's CD release of this episode includes the continuity announcement that followed it - by far the most entertaining thing about it.  The announcer goes into almost forensic detail about what will be happening in the next episode.  It's not Robin Boyle this time, but a man who sounds like the concept of humour makes him feel thoroughly uncomfortable.  I hope he's given a part in a future episode.

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