Children’s Hour (BBC Radio 4, 1998)
This is a comedy show featuring the double-act of Alexander Armstrong and Ben Miller. Around this time their profile was rising thanks to their late-night Channel 4 sketch show, and they also did something rather similar on BBC Radio 4 around the same time, but this is the one that I heard in a repeat run a while ago, and I thought that it had a rather interesting idea.
Children’s Hour featured Craig Children of The Independent On Sunday (Miller), and Martin Bain-Jones of The Daily Telegraph (Armstrong), presumably the joke being that they were at opposite ends of the newspaper political scale, but they both considered themselves to be important cultural writers. It should also be noted that despite the title, the show wasn’t aimed at children, and it didn’t last for an hour.
Our presenter duo saw themselves as trendy media people, who have been invited to host a show aimed at younger people who liked to get on down, and they would take the opportunity to play songs in various genres that were big at the time and discuss their value. So one week they might debate the merits of boy bands in-depth, and another week they’ll be looking back at the impact that Britpop made. It’s also a reminder of where pop music was in the late-90s. They only had a small number of fans who listened, but despite that they always seemed to be bumping into them.
As well as playing records in the studio, we found out what Craig and Martin got up to behind the scenes, which included being unkind about Andy Thomas, a host on rival station Radio 1, and we also hear them as they do things like attend music festivals and award ceremonies, which often leads to some awkward moments. Martin’s whiny voice also irritates people. Also among the cast were Charlie “Stuart” Condou and Tony Gardner, and there were guest appearances from that bloke who used to be in Bros and Jamie Theakston.
Also notable is that Mitchell and Webb were among the writers, another double-act who about a year or two later would start to have some success on the TV themselves in various comedies. Rather surprisingly, there were only four editions of Children’s Hour, but this wasn’t the last time that we came across Craig and Martin, as they also appeared in the Channel 4 TV series, still going on about how much they know about pop culture.