Weak At The Top (BBC Radio 4, 2005-2006)
Let’s start this series looking back at some of my radio highlights then. This is a sitcom that I was attracted to because it starred Alexander Armstrong, long before he spent most of his time asking people if they could name an African country beginning with C. Weak At The Top is a satire on the business world written by Guy Browning that centred around John Weak (Armstrong), a marketing director for the processed food company Smokehouse PLC, who thinks rather a lot of himself, and does anything he can to actually avoid doing any work.
He has worked his way up to the top (so he insists), has a big car (although he always wants an ever bigger one), fancies himself as something of a womaniser, and in the brief time that he actually is in the office he is mostly irritating his secretary Hayley (Clare Perkins of My Wonderful Life fame), where his jokes fall flat. At least he doesn’t call her “an old trout” like some of his colleagues. John also spends a lot of time in meetings and is challenged to work on projects including creating an advert, designing a website, having to fire people, or trying to understand contracts.
His boss is Sir Marcus (Geoffrey Whitehead). Now we are going to come across Geoffrey rather a lot in these reviews, he has contributed to a huge amount of radio shows as well as TV over the years, although the average person might not recognise him, he definitely deserves to have much more credit. Sir Marcus is rather clueless though, but he did have some good catchphrases, always bursting into the room and saying “whatever you’re doing, stop it now!”, and he answers almost every question with “don’t blind me with science!”. He always insists that every project, however complicated, is ready “by Friday!”.
When John begins to get rather flustered, he always looks for some answers from his colleague Bill Peters (Ron Cook). John and Bill often have a liquid lunch at a nice restaurant, and Bill never seems to be sober, always beginning scenes by demanding wine and saying “just stop at the brim”. Ooh, another catchphrase! Bill always comes up with an unexpected way to get John out of trouble, much to his relief, it’s just a shame that he has to be permanently sozzled to do this.
John definitely thinks that he is terrific and all the ladies in the office fancy him, but this is definitely not the case. John also narrates the story as he goes in and out of his various awkward situations. There were eight episodes of Weak At The Top in two series. I can’t pretend to know much about the business world myself, but I did enjoy the range of characters, the bizarre situations, and I’ll never be able to resist a catchphrase or two.