TV: MILLIGAN ON TELEVISION

by PETER TATCHELL (reprinted from LAUGH MAGAZINE #11, 1995)

spike milliganSpike Milligan revolutionized British comedy in the 1950s with his radio series The Goon Show. Since then, most of his work has appeared on television, with a number of highly original, though at times uneven, sketch comedy shows.

In the mid-1950s Britain’s newly-arrived commercial TV tried to capture the lunacy of the Goons with Sellers and Mil­ligan taking part in such programmes as Idiot Weekly Price 2d., A Show Called Fred and Son Of Fred, but the venture wasn’t entirely successful. An antipodean special The Gladys Half Hour (made during one of his earliest visits down under in 1958) was also in the same vein.

By the 1960s Milligan could be seen on the B.B.C. with an occasional special and heard voicing his old radio charac­ters for their puppet equivalents The Telegoons. He appeared in two seasons of commercial television’s Milligan’s Wake (the first batch featuring scripts by Ray Galton and Alan Simp­son) and when BBC2 was launched he hosted a mixture of poetry and jazz called Muses With Milligan and was at the helm of The World Of Beachcomber.

His 1969 series Q5provided inspiration for the soon-to-begin Monty Python team and, apart from occasional unsuccessful forays into the sitcom field with shows like Curry And Chips (scripted by Johnny Speight) and the shelved Melting Pot and Jewel In The Crown projects, the format for Milligan’s later work was set.

Though perhaps format is too strong a word for the farrago of sketches, links, unrelated jokes and adlibbing that contributed to the shows. It was definitely a hit-and-miss ap­proach, but at times the lunacy was heaven sent.

Oh In Colour, the subsequent Q series and There’s A Lot Of It About (so titled when the B.B.C. refused to accept Q10) were all scripted by Milligan and Neil Shand and featured a regular repertory company of performers and friends like John Bluthal, David Lodge and piano-player Alan Clare.

By the 1980s the B.B.C. considered the idea played out, and Spike retreated to his career of one-man stage shows, chat-show appearances and writing a veritable library of books.

The Goon Show will always be his major claim to fame, but his contribution to television should not be underrated.

 

TELEVISION GUIDE

Idiot Weekly Price 2d.
Associated-Redifussion February 24 to April 6 1956 (not Mar 30)(6 x 25 min)
with Peter Sellers, Eric Sykes, Graham Stark, Valentine Dyall, June Whitfield, Kenneth Connor, Patti Lewis

A Show Called Fred
Associated-Redifussion May 2 to 30 1956 (5 x 25 min)
with Peter Sellers, Valentine Dyall, Kenneth Connor, Graham Stark, Patti Lewis, Max Geldray

Son Of Fred
Associated-Redifussion September 17 to November 5 1956 (8 x 25 min)
with Peter Sellers, Valentine Dyall, Kenneth Connor, Graham Stark, Patti Lewis, Max Geldray, Johnny Vyvyan, Cuthbert Harding, Mario Fabrizi

The Gladys Half Hour (30 min)
A.B.C. (Sydney, Australia) August 27 1958

Spike Milligan Offers A Series Of Unrelated Incidents At Market Value (30 min)
B.B.C. September 5 1961
with Graham Stark, Bill Kerr, Mario Fabrizi, Valentine Dyall, Alec Bregonzi, Bob Todd

The Telegoons
featuring the voices of Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe and Spike Milligan
(re-performing their original radio scripts)
Series #1: B.B.C. October 5 to December 28 1963 (not Nov 9 or 30)(11 x 15 min)
The Ascent Of Mount Everest
The Lost Colony
The Fear Of Wages
Napoleon’s Piano
The Last Tram
China Story
The Canal
The Hastings Flyer
The Mystery Of The Marie Celeste – Solved!
The International Christmas Pudding
The Choking Horror

Series #2: BBC1 March 28 to August 1 1964 (not Jun 20 or Jul 4, 11 and 25) (15 x 15 min)
Scradje
The Booted Gorilla
The Underwater Mountain
The Dreaded Batter-Pudding Hurler (Of Bexhill-On-Sea)
Tales Of Old Dartmoor
Lurgi Strikes Britain
Captain Seagoon R.N.
The First Albert Memorial To The Moon
The Whistling Spy Enigma
Tales Of Montmartre
The Africa Ship Canal
The Affair Of The Lone Banana
The Nadger Plague
The Siege Of Fort Night
The Terrible Revenge Of Fred Fu-Manchu

Milligan’s Wake
with John Bluthal
Series #1: A.T.V. September 5to 26 1964 (4 x 25 min)
Series #2: A.T.V. July 3 to August 14 1965 (7 x 25 min)

Muses With Milligan
BBC2 December 25 1964 (40 min) and January 6 to March 24 1965 (12 x 30 min)

The World Of Beachcomber
Series #1: BBC2 January 22 to April 22 1968 (13 x 30 min)
with George Benson, Clive Dunn, Hattie Jacques, Patricia Hayes, Julian Orchard, Sheila Steafel, Frank Thornton
Series #2: BBC2 September 22 to October 27 1969 (6 x 30 min)
with Julian Orchard, Frank Thornton, Ann Lancaster, Leon Thau, Paul McDowell, Josephine Gordon, Thelma Taylor

A Tale Of Men’s Shirts
Thames August 8 1968
with Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe, John Cleese

Q5
BBC2 March 20 to May 5 1969 (7 x 30 min)

Curry And Chips
London Weekend November 21 to December 26 1969 (6 x 25 min)
with Eric Sykes, Norman Rossington, Kenny Lynch, Geoffrey Hughes, Fanny Carby

Oh In Colour
BBC2 September 27 to November 1 1970 (6 x 30 min)
with John Bluthal

The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine
A.T.V. October 1 1971 to January 14 1972 (14 x 50 min)
with Marty Feldman, Orson Welles, Bob Todd

Spike Milligan Takes A Made Up Look At Australia
A.B.C. (Australia) January 26 1972 (35 min)

Carry On Spike In Australia
Nine Network (Australia) March 24 1972 (50 min)
with John Laws, John Meillon, Little Patti, Buster Fiddess, Maggie Grey, Wendy Blacklock

Milligan In …
Autumn: BBC2 October 1 1972 (30m)
Winter:  BBC2 December 24 1972 (30m)
Spring:  BBC2 May 13 1973 (30m)
Summer: BBC2 August 27 1973 (30m)
with John Bluthal, John Antrobus, Patricia Ridgeway, Alan Clare

Parkinson Meets The Goons
BBC 1 October 28 1972 (65 min)

The Last Goon Show Of All
BBC 1 December 26 1972 (40 min)

The Last Turkey In The Shop Show
BBC2 December 23 1974 (35 min)

The Melting Pot
BBCI June 11 1975 (30 min)
with John Bird, Peter Jones, Harry Fowler

Q6
BBC2 November 6 to December 11 1975 (6 x 30 min)
with John Bluthal, Robert Dorning, Peter Jones

Q7
BBC2 January 3 to February 21 1978 (not Feb 2) (7 x 30 min)
with John Bluthal, Robert Dorning, Alan Clare, David Lodge

Q8
BBC2 April 4 to May 9 1979 (6 x 30 min)
with John Bluthal, Bob Todd, David Lodge, Alan Clare

Q9
BBC2 June 17 to July 22 1980 (6 x 30 min)
with John Bluthal, Bob Todd, David Lodge, Alan Clare, Keith Smith

There’s A Lot Of It About
BBC2 September 20 to October 25 1 982 (6 x 30 min)
with John Bluthal, Keith Smith, David Lodge, Alan Clare

Spike Milligan Live In Perth
A.B.C. (Western Australia only) August 1984 (90 min)

Famous Last Words – Spike Milligan
BBC2 June 29 1986 (30 min)

Without Walls – The Obituary Show
CH4 December 10 1991 (30 min)

 

BOOKS

Q Annual
scripts from the Q series by Spike Milligan and Neil Shand
(Michael Joseph and M & J Hobbs, London, 1979)

Get In The Q Annual
more scripts by Spike Milligan and Neil Shand
(Michael Joseph and M & J Hobbs, London, 1980)

There’s A Lot Of It About
scripts from the series by Spike Milligan and Neil Shand
(with additional contributions by Andrew Marshall, David Renwick and John Antrobus)
(M & J Hobbs and Michael Joseph, London, 1983)

The Melting Pot
scripts from the series by Spike Milligan and Neil Shand
(Robson Books, London, 1983)

 

DISCOGRAPHY

Milligan’s Wake
Pye LP NPL 18104
soundtrack excerpts from the first series, with Spike Milligan and John Bluthal

The Olympic Team/Epilogue
Pye single 7N 15720

Muses With Milligan
Decca LP LK 4701, SCLA 7087
soundtrack excerpts from the series, wherein Milligan reads poetry

The World Of Beachcomber
Pye LP NPL 18271
soundtrack excerpts from the first series

Q5 Piano Theme/Ning, Nang, Nong
Parlophone single R 5771

Spike Milligan And Ed Welsh Sing Songs From Q8
United Artists LP UAG 30223
Q8 Theme
Woe Is Me
Love To Make Music By
Silly Old Baboon
I Don’t Have A Song About Jesus
Living Again
Taken You For Granted
One Sunny Day
Lady
I Couldn’t Wait To Tell You
The Carpet’s Always Greener (Under Someone Else’s Bed)
I’ve Got That Photograph Of You
Q8 Theme (reprise)

One Sunny Day/Woe Is Me
United Artists single UP 36489

 

VIDEOS and DVDs

Spike Milligan In The Best Of Q
BBC Video 4061
features 87 minutes of highlights from Q6, Q7, Q8 and Q9

The Best of Spike Milligan
BBC DVD
highlights from BBC series

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