The Sunday Format (BBC Radio 4, 1996-2004)
This is another comedy series that I didn’t hear first-time round, but I did hear a repeat run as BBC7/BBC Radio 4 Extra came to the rescue once again, and I did think that this one was rather interesting. The idea of this show is based on something that I don’t know a huge amount about, but it was clear that this was a rather amusing parody.
In the 90s, broadsheet newspapers on Sunday seemed to expand in size by a large amount, and this was an attempt to retain their readers by offering them more and more sections on subjects that they supposedly wouldn’t find anywhere else, and hoping that they would keep going through everything until it was time for the next issue the following week.
Suddenly there were pull-outs on culture, travel, property, finance, and much more, maybe even some news if they were lucky. These sections needed to be filled every week of the year with articles, interviews, and lists, and this meant that as the weeks passed a lot of ground had to be covered. The Sunday Format styled itself as being “a newspaper on the radio”, and this condensed the highlights of everything that we needed to know, all into only half an hour. Remember, it’s a newspaper, not a snoozepaper.
We constantly jumped around all of the features, creating a bizarre sound, so people answering questionnaires, crossword clues, and art exhibitions being reviewed would all become intertwined, accompanied by additional “turn to page 39 for more”-type comments. This was all read by the soothing voices of comedy talent including Rebecca Front and Alexander Armstrong among others, and there was also some constant ambient music in the background.
The Sunday Format ran for a few series and won some awards. I did enjoy the wordplay, and the way that all of the features bizarrely mixed into each other, which was enhanced by everything being played totally straight. It’s probably no surprise to realise that this show was created by the same team behind radio comedy series People Like Us, which had a similarly creative idea.