"Prime Minister, You Wanted to See Me?"
In the spring of 1970, BBC Radio 4 premiered a new late-night topical sketch show. Initially an unassuming antidote to the week’s events, Week Ending grew to become the nerve-centre of new writing in British comedy. It existed in part as a place for scriptwriters to learn the ropes, before graduating to Not The Nine O’Clock News, Spitting Image and beyond. It also provided an early platform for Britain’s best-loved performers, amongst them Steve Coogan, David Jason and Tracey Ullman. However, by its eventual demise in 1998, Week Ending had become a neglected and much-maligned programme. What caused it to lose ground as the respected entry point, and how did it sustain itself for so long? In “Prime Minister, You Wanted To See Me?” – the substantial opening article - researchers Ian Greaves & Justin Lewis unpack the series’ long and convoluted history with the assistance of more than fifty contributors, including Sally Grace, Andy Hamilton, Armando Iannucci, Nigel Rees, David Renwick, Sheila Steafel, Bill Wallis and series co-creator Simon Brett. This background story reveals a constantly evolving programme, often rocked and ravaged by the ambitions of an apparently endless parade of new producers, not to mention a Radio Light Entertainment department in varying states of health. What follows is a comprehensive guide to all 1132 regular editions of Week Ending, as well as compilations, specials and merchandise. The archives of the BBC have been raided for an exhaustive account of who wrote what and when, and under which producer. Fully cross-referenced, the early work of major writers and performers – Douglas Adams, David Baddiel, Jeremy Hardy, Harry Hill – is given in-depth treatment for the very first time. A History of Week Ending provides a window on a major ‘lost history’, and finally casts light on many artists’ early days in what Stewart Lee dubbed ‘the saltmines of comedy’. Introduction by series co-creator Simon Brett. A revealing and expansive opening article which explores the series’ history. A complete episode guide for every broadcast - close to 600 pages in total – including recording information, transmissions, durations, sketch titles and itemised programme breakdowns with full writing and performing credits. Based on the holdings of the BBC’s Written Archives Centre, as well as surviving recordings, this is a groundbreaking account of a series which spawned almost 25,000 broadcast items. A fully cross-referenced index of series contributors - actors, writers, producers, studio managers, production secretaries, editors etc. - indicating their precise appearances throughout the programme’s 28-year history. Signature Tunes: background information for all four series themes. Merchandise Guide: details on the show’s spin-off book and cassette release. Archive Details: an at-a-glance guide to missing episodes, partially recovered material and the survival rate of broadcast master tapes. Miscellany: lists revealing the answers to such burning questions as ‘Who was the most prolific writer?’, and ‘Who produced the most editions?’ Documentaries: a look at TV and radio features about Week Ending. Parodies: analysis of several spoofs of Week Ending, including exclusive research regarding On The Hour and The Burkiss Way.
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