Q (BBC2, 1969, 1975-1980)/There’s A Lot Of It About (BBC2, 1982)
You might have realised that I am interested in the rather more bizarre side of TV comedy. This is a sketch show that was originally shown before my time, but I do remember watching a compilation a long time ago and thinking it rather strange, and I wanted to see more of it. And there’s only one person really who could’ve brought such a thing to TV, winning over a new generation of fans.
Spike Milligan is someone who was hugely influential to generations of comedians with his groundbreaking work in comedy, and this was his longest-running TV series, that aimed to go where sketch shows hadn’t gone before, and it’s all rather hard to describe really. Even the title was rather cryptic, Q5 (as the first series was called) launched six months before the similar Monty Python’s Flying Circus on BBC2, and was accompanied by the famous theme music.
There were various sketches (the majority were written by Milligan), but they didn’t feature any regular characters, and they varied in quality even by the average sketch show standard, but you were never too far away from something that you couldn’t help but take notice of. There was also a rather large supporting cast over the series, and it’s a safe bet that they really didn’t know what was happening in their scripts half the time. Or maybe even all the time.
Most editions began with Spike looking into the wrong camera with some rather corny jokes. The studio audience didn’t mind though. Another thing that was notable about Q was the look of the show, really messing about with the structure of TV like few other shows have, with bizarre costumes and make-up, and plenty of big noses, leaving in all the corpsing, sketches would sometimes be abandoned halfway through, and the credits would be run at the wrong time as well. And there would often be an interval were music was performed, usually by Ed Welch, who went on to compose many familiar TV themes.
There was a big gap between the first and second series of Q, during which the entirety of the run of Monty Python’s Flying Circus was shown, it’s almost as if BBC2 couldn’t accommodate two surreal comedy shows on the go at the same time. There were six series of Q altogether, with the first five being titled Q5–Q9, the sixth one was retitled There’s A Lot Of It About.
There were 38 editions of Q, but only three editions of the first series survive, and only one of these in colour. Series 2-5 are in full on the DVD release though, but There’s A Lot Of It About doesn’t feature. Maybe someone didn’t realise that this is a continuation of the format and is practically Q10 so it should be there, and there are no extras either. But it was still very interesting seeing this uniquely odd comedy show.