Radio Active (BBC Radio 4, 1980-1987)
This is a show that has a good claim to being one of the most successful radio comedy series of the 80s. Radio Active featured a talented cast, who were Angus Deayton, Geoffrey Perkins, Michael Fenton-Stevens, Philip Pope, and Helen Atkinson-Wood, and the basic idea was a parody of the style of local commercial radio stations (something that had barely been going for a decade in this country by this point).
The cast played various hosts, who were all levels of ineptness, and most of them were called Mike (Mike Channel, Mike Flex, Mike Stand and so on), who were happy to be with you whenever they were needed. As well as their shows on the station, there were parodies of just about every other aspect of local radio, whether it was news reports, awkward interviews, lots of jingles, and also adverts. Most of these were parodies of adverts that were around at the time, along with several for Honest Ron (“the others are a con”).
One of the most popular elements of the show were the musical parodies (usually performed by Pope, who had the ability to impressively imitate several several singers and pop music styles), and he was also part of The Hee Bee Gee Bees, whose hit single “Meaningless Words (In Very High Voices)” caused a sensation, and even earned them a page in Smash Hits. Yes, really.
As the series progressed, there were several episodes dedicated to various themes, including a look behind the scenes, debates about important things in the news, badly put-together plays, award ceremonies, and you probably won’t be too surprised to learn that one of my favourite episodes is The Gigantaquiz, a parody of overblown game shows. Also starring in the later episodes was the truly hapless Martin Brown. Because remember, when it comes to entertainment, they stop at nothing.
Most episodes also ended with a rather unusual statement or a piece of noise, and this was an attempt to catch out the plummy Radio 4 announcer, although such antics didn’t faze the the much trendier up-to-date BBC7 host (which was were I heard most of the episodes for the first time). There were seven series of Radio Active, including a few specials.
There were also some books released, and several episodes have also been performed on stage in various tours. And of course there was also the BBC2 spin-off KYTV that mocked the early days of satellite TV and ran for three series (and Deayton became the host of Have I Got News For You and this time too). The show is still fondly thought of, and it could be said to be the 80s equivalent of On The Hour, another popular series that I’ll review soon.