Bob Block: Life with the Lyons on 4 Extra
Bob Block was a comedy writer whose name might not be familiar to you, but you've more than likely heard or seen some of his work.
Here's a clue to one programme you might remember if you're of a certain vintage: "It's Friday! It's 5 o'clock! And it's...... Crackerjack!"
Apart from Bob's quirky scripts for this long-running BBC TV children's favourite - he was also the creator and writer of Roberts Robots, Pardon My Genie, Galloping Galaxies, and the hugely popular BBC TV series Rentaghost.
Bob also wrote scripts and gags for comedy greats of his day such as Dave Allen, Ronnie Barker, Kenneth Connor, Kenneth Williams, Terry Thomas, Hattie Jacques, June Whitfield, Hylda Baker, Rolf Harris, Ken Dodd (and the Diddymen) and many more.
In radio, he was best known for co-writing the domestic sit-com Life with the Lyons, featuring real life married couple Ben Lyon and Bebe Daniels along with their children Barbara and Richard. The supporting cast included the inimitable Molly Weir as Aggie the housekeeper (you may remember Molly from her long-running 1970s TV commercials for a famous floor cleaner, and she also played Hazel McWitch in Rentaghost).
Ditching the typical musical interludes in BBC radio comedies of the time, Life with the Lyons ran for ten series between 1950 and 1961. Each series had a very long run. Series three was on-air for an incredible 33 weeks. And so successful was the show, that it later switched to TV.
Unfortunately, as with so many series, not all of the radio programmes were retained. Only three Life with the Lyons programmes are currently in the BBC Sound Archive. These were broadcast on Radio 7 in March this year, and following the broadcasts, we received an interesting note from Bob's daughter Tricia.
Here is part of her email:
You have just started broadcasting Life with the Lyons weekly on your excellent station and I was delighted to suddenly discover it was on last Wednesday. My Dad, Bob Block was the co-writer of the show right through its life and the particular one you broadcast last week from January 1955 was one in which he also acted (as Harold, Barbara's wet boyfriend). I was born in the October of 1955 and Dad had told me about the episodes he'd acted in, but I had never heard any before. I have listened to it several times on the iPlayer..... it also featured my Godmothers, Molly Weir and Doris Rogers, both of whose voices I hadn't heard for such a long time. It would be very special for my family and me to have a copy of this as my Dad is 89 now and hasn't been very well recently. I have to admit the programme brought tears to my eyes.
Sadly, we heard last week that, on 17th April, Tricia's father, Bob Block had died. He was in his 90th year. But in a further twist to the story, a listener/collector in Scotland had also heard the programmes that week, and contacted us to say that he had over 200 episodes of Life With the Lyons, all taken from Ben Lyon's original reels and all in very good condition. As a tribute to Bob we'll be scheduling a season of Life with the Lyons, which we'll be freshly digitising from the "Scottish collection" and you'll be able to hear them in the near future on Radio 4 Extra.
Mary Kalemkerian is Head of Programmes at BBC Radio 4 Extra
- Read Mary's previous post Celebrating the lives of great entertainers: Radio 4 Extra's May anniversaries on the blog
- The picture's from the BBC archives. Caption info: "Life With The Lyons 16/02/1955 © BBC picture shows : The Lyon Family : Barbara, Richard, Bebe Daniels and Ben Lyon"