RADIO: SOMETHING TO SHOUT ABOUT

by Jeremy Stevenson (reprinted from LAUGH MAGAZINE #24, 2005) 

It was deep midwinter, 1960. The new decade had just begun. The sixties had started. Started, that is – but they had not yet become known as “the swinging sixties”! The disaster currently hitting British radio comedy was no less than three fold.

Hancock’s HaIf Hour had finished on the 29th December 1959. The Goon Show folded on the 28th January 1960 and Take It Front Here was transmitted for the final time on 3rd March 1960. Three programmes, each of which grew to become a British institution, had gone within a few weeks of each other. There were dire predictions that Radio Comedy would never recover.

For a time it looked as if these gloomy forecasts were going to be correct. Then on the 5th July at eight o’clock in the evening, a number of listeners turned on the Light Programme when the first episode of Something To Shout About was broadcast. It was the welcoming light at the end of a long tunnel. Over the next few years it was to run for a total of 54 episodes, and what treats they all were! It is reassuring to be able to report that recordings of every programme exist.

The series told the adventures of the London-based advertising agency Apsley, Addis, Cone, Barbican, Blythe, Giddy and Panners – a small company that thought big!

The scripts were written by Myles Rudge and Ronnie Wolfe, with production handled (variously) by John Simmonds (series one to August 30 and series 3), Trafford Whitelock (the rest of season one) and Eric Miller (season two).

The characters varied little throughout the run with Michael Medwin as Michael Lightfoot, an account executive, Fenella Fielding as his secretary, Janet Harris and Eleanor Summerfield played TV exec Maggie Tufnell. Others in the cast were Joan Sims as shorthand typist Mavis Willis and Nicholas Phipps, heard as a copywriter named Adrian Beales. Also featured (in various character parts) was man of many voices Warren Mitchell with. for the first season only, The Jingle Belles and The Bernie Fenton Quartet (under the direction of Cliff Adams) providing the opening music and the signature tune.

The first series also welcomed several guests, with Michael Barrington and Tony Fayne making appearances (on July 5 and 12 respectively), Graham Stark on August 9, Bill Pertwee on September 13 and Peter Hawkins the following week.

On an occasional basis, Sheila Hancock was cast as Mavis’s cousin Shirley, replacing Joan Sims for the final two programmes of series 1 and taking over from January 15th 1962 until the end of the run. And on the 13th March 1961 Roy Dotrice stood in for Warren Mitchell.

Even the show’s lead, Michael Medwin, managed to miss one programme (December 4 1961) – whilst filming in France he was stranded at a fogbound Orly Airport. The recording session went ahead with a hastily rewritten script barely mentioning his Michael Lightfoot character and distributing his lines amongst the other players.

It was an extremely clever exercise. Indeed, what more fitting a phrase than this could be used to describe the radio classic that was Something To Shout About.

All episodes were broadcast in the BBC Light Programme

Series 1: July 5 to September 27 1960 (13 episodes)
The Arrival Of Mr. Pimslow
The Squench Account
Slimmer Slice Bread
Charlie Higgin’s Play
The Kipper Marketing Board
Mr. Giddy Jr. Visits The Firm
The Gritley Bay Holiday Camp
A New Brand Of Cigarettes
Niblo Foods’ Biscuits
A Bonus For The Employees
Brick Stanton
The Parrot
Fruity Henderson

Series 2: January 2 to May 22 1961 (21 episodes)
Presto Cold Cure
Door Locks
The Elephant
Janet’s Flat
Michael’s New Job
Cousin Martha’s Cake Mix
Mr. Blythe’s Assistant
The Trip To Paris
Brian Sackville
Janet Learns To Drive
The Kitchen Sink
Mr. Blythe’s Examination
Instant Welsh Rarebit
Mr. Williams’s Product
The Russian Product
The Caravan
Burridge’s Store
The Bedtime Drink
Turnips
Niblo’s Savoury Squares
Mavis’s Holiday

Series 3: October 2 1961 to February 12 1962 (20 episodes)
Dog Biscuits
The Firm’s Annual Dinner
The Firm’s Nurse
Income Tax
Dinner With Mr. Spearman
Janet’s Birthday
The Shampoo Commercial
Adrian’s Ceiling
Janet’s Uncle
The Italian Contract
The Song Contest
The Horse Trough
The Christmas Party
Mr. Park’s Exercises
The West End Play
Mavis’s Cousin Shirley
The Scottish Stout
The Seaside Town
The Artist
The Cow

* all titles are unofficial

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