Friday, 1 February 2013

Radio Minus 50: Friday 1 February 1963

The TV Lark: The Prestige Show

Since its spectacular opening night last week, Troutbridge TV has failed to attract a single advertiser - except for the local grocer, who "floor manager and fiddler of this parish" Pertwee gave airtime in exchange for 150 tins of Romanian baked beans in brine.  Deputy Controller Povey decides the best way to attract advertising, and to get the other ITV networks to pick up TTV's programming is to make a prestige show: "something nobody fancies, but it's terribly good for them".  The initial plan, to adapt Furious Young Man John Petitbeurre's kitchen sink drama Fly Me a Grisly Gargoyle - made even more prestigious by performing it in Greek with no sets or costumes - is scuppered when it turns out it's far too sexually explicit for the screen (and besides, the script's the perfect size to prop up Mr Murray's filing cabinet).  Plan B is Head-On Challenge, presented by Ronnie Barker as the obnoxious Bernard Yeast, a spoof of Bernard Levin's interview segment on That Was the Week That Was (Levin - leaven - yeast, get it? Oh never mind).  Obviously Levin's most infamous TV moment - being punched by angry audience member Desmond Leslie, is referenced here as Yeast gets involved in a punch-up with his guest, Troutbridge MP Sir Jimson Whitaker-Smythe.

There's nothing subtle or clever about The TV Lark's parodies of contemporary television - the show is comedy at its broadest, making the average Carry On script look like The Importance of Being Earnest.  What, above all else, makes it great fun rather than completely exasperating is the studio audience.  They sound genuinely delighted by the show's ancient jokes and silly voices, and in their laughter is a real and touching affection for the performers and their characters.  And what's more, The Prestige Show gives us some classic Leslie Phillips, his number one priority being to chat up the Controller's secretary.  He's a joy as always, and worth listening to the show to in himself.

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