Video Killed the Radio Star…Or Perhaps Not.

23 Apr

Early in my interest in Sherlock and Benedict Cumberbatch I came across a photo of Benedict in pilot’s uniform. This piqued my interest.  A little wandering around the net elicited the information that he was in a BBC radio show called “Cabin Pressure”.

This discovery delighted me.  I love BBC radio comedies and dramas.  When I was growing up there was a radio network in New Zealand, National Radio, that played light classical music, specialised radio shows such as The Night Sky (astronomy) and a huge selection of BBC comedies.

Sunday night’s were the best.  That was the night that National Radio really cut loose with about 2 or 3 hours of classic British humor.  From an early age I was acquainted with “Round the Horne” (I adored Julian and Sandy), “The Goon Show”, “I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again,” “The Men from the Ministry” and “The Navy Lark”.

There is something about radio comedy that television just can’t touch.  It’s the way it lets the imagination slip free and play.  It has to be clever.  Prat falls don’t work on radio.  Sound effects and your imagination do.  Bangings, rumblings and explosions followed by a pause, then an acid comment along the lines of “Did you have to have beans for lunch?” sets the imagination running wild.  Not to mention sending the funny bone into overdrive. 

Radio comedy scripts have to be more carefully crafted than television.  You can’t see the actor, so a pointed look or eye roll doesn’t work.  The actor has to use his voice to maximum advantage.  This is one of the reasons I loved “The Navy Lark” so much. Wonderfully talented actors like Jon Pertwee, Leslie Phillips and Ronnie Barker gave so much to make that show work. 

The scripts were also so very memorable.  Lines from episodes of “The Navy Lark” will still slip out from time to time in the right circumstances.  Watching a directionally challenged driver trying to park will usually elicit an acid comment of “Left hand down a bit!”

“The Goon Show” too has left my vocabulary peppered with phrases.  Someone acting the idiot will often receive a silky “You silly, twisted boy.”  Darkly muttered comments of “There’s a lot of it about” tend to wander through any discussion on politics.  And an occasional “Owwwww” for no reason at all.

Now there is “Cabin Pressure”.  I have ordered the first season on CD.  Am waiting with less than my usual patience for them to be delivered.

I am breathless with anticipation over an entire radio series with Benedict’s distinctively delicious voice the main attraction.  I am also sure that “Cabin Pressure” will be adding its own unique twist to my vocabulary in short order.

2 Responses to “Video Killed the Radio Star…Or Perhaps Not.”

  1. bruce Atchison - author May 14, 2013 at 11:06 pm #

    Oh those memories. Though I liked some of the shows you mentioned, I became a Goon Show fanatic in A flat. Each Sunday evening, I fired up my steam-powered radio to tune in another half hour of pure comic madness. I also cut loose with a few goonisms as well as muttering like Mr. Banerjee when my computer offends me. I haven’t heard of Cabin Pressure but I’ll Google it. By the way, check out Idiots Weekly on YouTube. Spike Milligan, from the man of the same name, did a wonderful job on his wonderful job. And that’s all for now. Tune in again, yesterday evening at 9:00 A.M., for the Noon report.


    • margysmusings May 14, 2013 at 11:50 pm #

      If you can find Cabin Pressure, do so. I have the first series on CD and it is literally laugh until you cry material.

      Do you have a favourite Goons episode? I think my favourite is the Shifting Sands of Waziristan.


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