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Waving farewell to Genius

Mark Damazer Mark Damazer 13:01, Thursday, 12 March 2009


Some more Radio 4 comedy is transferring to BBC television. There is a long tradition of some of R4's best shows (but by no means all of them) moving across - and thus we wave farewell (for a while at least) to Dave Gorman's 'Genius' (which will start on BBC2 on 20th March) and Marcus Brigstocke's 'I've Never Seen Star Wars' which will start on BBC4 tonight at 2230.

It is hard not to have mixed feelings about this. Genius was doing a great job on Monday nights at 6.30 (with its repeat on Sunday at midday) - a big slot - and Star Wars is a very clever new R4 format. But it's always been part of R4's role to give new comedy ideas a chance and then let them flourish elsewhere and if it strengthens the BBC Comedy portfolio on TV - so be it. I need also to acknowledge that the financial rewards are greater on TV than on R4. We do pay -- but it's not a fortune.

The transfers have been going on for a while - think Tony Hancock, Goodness Gracious Me, Little Britain - and many others. But the principal job for a R4 comedy is not to be an experiment for a putative TV show - but rather to entertain the R4 audience at the time it's broadcast. A 6.30 comedy will be listened to by about 1.3 million people and if you take the Monday and Friday 'biggies' like Clue, Just a Minute, The News Quiz or The Now Show - which are all repeated - then the total audience is more than two million per edition. Not many BBC 2 programmes get that size of audience.

But one good thing about the BBC Comedy universe is that there is a two way & continued flow of off-air talent between TV & R4. So although I may feel as if Radio 4 had lost a show we are still able to keep the talent and minds on both radio and television. A brilliant example is the continued radio and TV life of Mitchell & Webb.

And as shows transfer - so the gaps left should be filled by talented producers and other ideas. Which means the "never-going-anywhere biggies" are balanced by a healthy churn of new ideas.


  • Comment number 1.

    Also nice to see The Bottom Line on TV as well as Radio 4.

    It seems a good way to adapt Radio 4 programmes for the television, perhaps we will see some more of these "live, serious studio talk" programmes on the TV, perhaps "In Our Time" could be next?

  • Comment number 2.

    As a sounding ground for great comedy, Mark, BBC Radio 4 is second to none, anywhere in the world. Congratulations!

    Oscar Wilde once remarked that the only thing to do with good advice is pass it on. It is never any use to oneself!

    So it is, I suspect, with Comedy. If you can pass on 'Genius' to television (and the rest of the world), Mark, you will have achieved a lot. Cheers (morning coffee)!


  • Comment number 3.

    Have we seen the last of Dead Ringers (either on Radio 4 or BBC2)? It's been an awfully long time since the last series, and I heard a rumour that it's been cancelled.

  • Comment number 4.

    Just to add, some of these progs may still appear on R4 form time to time, e.g. Genius specials, or some may even continue to have radio series as well as a life on TV… it can be a revolving door, and we have more to learn about what works where...

    (Tony is R4's Head of Planning and Scheduling)

  • Comment number 5.

    Unless you want to listen to The Now Show repeat unspoilt by the result of the Comic Relief Radio 4 fundraiser Stand-Up With The Stars, click http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/comedy/standupwiththestars.shtml

  • Comment number 6.

    I'm not sure that Toe Knee Hand Cock transferred "successfully" to TV. YMMV.

  • Comment number 7.

    Just read the news about Down The Line transferring to BBC2 - another Radio 4 gem transferring to TV. I'm pleased for the production team in one sense of course, but I do wonder whether adding visuals could improve the genius content in the radio format.

    I much preferred Dead Ringers on radio. The radio medium allows a level of surreality that the visual medium can't cope with.

    When the team have had their fun on TV, I do hope you will commission a new series for Radio 4.



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