Best-est BBC Radio shows eve
January 31, 2011 3:59 AM   Subscribe

If you had to make a "mixtape" of the best BBC Radio shows that you've ever listened to, what would you put on it?

In general, I love the, Brits. Wodehouse, Shakespeare, Austen, Christie, Fry, Cleese, Laurie, Black Adder,Yes Minister, In our Time. But ever since the blue introduced me to the fabulous The Goon Show, I keep thinking to myself that I've missed out on a lot....
posted by rahulrg to Media & Arts (26 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
The Mighty Boosh were originally on radio & Hitchhikers of course.
posted by oh pollo! at 4:01 AM on January 31, 2011

On The Hour by Chris Morris et al was a very funny news parody programme that prefigured his brilliant TV programme The Day Today. In a similar vein, Knowing Me Knowing You with Alan Partridge is a chat show parody that also made the leap to television and is well worth listening to.

You can always count on Just a Minute for laughs.

All of these programmes are readily available to download from your favourite P2P filesharing software. I feel justified in doing this because I pay my taxes and TV licence like a good subject.
posted by Ted Maul at 4:35 AM on January 31, 2011

In the genre of quintessential British radio comedy, you must include some Round the Horne. It's very much of its time, but brilliant.

I would also include a few of the choicer episodes of Just A Minute. The common factor is Kenneth Williams, who, if you can get past the Carry On ouvre, was a truly brilliant comic. (I'm also a huge fan of Clement Freud, another of the show's regular participants.)

After Williams' death, he was replaced on Just A Minute by Paul Merton, who you will also find on another classic Radio 4 comedy, I'm Sorry I haven't A Clue, a show that ages like a fine wine as you grow accustomed to the regular features and in-jokes.

And to (almost) bring us up to date, you must must include some Mitchell and Webb — I only know of one radio show (That Mitchell and Webb Sound) but I think you could probably slip an audio version of some of their later TV comedy in there if you wanted :)
posted by londonmark at 4:38 AM on January 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

"Hold Your Plums" on BBC Radio Merseyside.
posted by biffa at 4:39 AM on January 31, 2011

I note Old Harry's Game isn't on your list...

BBC Radio is something of a proving ground for programmes that make the jump to TV. You could try this list:
posted by Leon at 4:42 AM on January 31, 2011

Chris Morris. Ooh. Blue Jam. But I just can't see it on a mix tape.
posted by Leon at 4:44 AM on January 31, 2011

Along the lines of Just A Minute, if you like David Mitchell you should also check out The Unbelievable Truth.
posted by like_neon at 4:45 AM on January 31, 2011

Blue Jam is fantastic in places. Better than the TV adaptation by a country mile. I liked a lot of the music, too. The best bits were the monologues. I'm sure this isn't helping OP but it's nice to reminisce, isn't it?
posted by Ted Maul at 4:46 AM on January 31, 2011

The 99p Challenge. Best comedy panel show ever. There used to be a website that had the entire series in mp3 for download but it seems to be gone now, sadly.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:47 AM on January 31, 2011

All the Sherlock Holmes stories done with Clive Merrison (though the full set is rather more than a mix-tape worth).

I really don't like Just a Minute (not meaning to diss Ted Maul, but rather point out the subjective nature of all recommendations), but I love I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue, and I think the strangeness would appeal to someone who likes the Goons. I'd second the Mighty Boosh's radio show for the same reasons. A Brief History of Timewasting is a reminder of what a comic genius we lost in Linda Smith. The four episodes of Ectoplasm are fun.
posted by Coobeastie at 4:48 AM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hancock's Half Hour
posted by ComfySofa at 4:50 AM on January 31, 2011

Ouch! was pretty entertaining to listen to while working - although it was very awkward explaining to coworkers that my laughter was from listening to a radio broadcast about people with disabilities... [via the blue.]
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:03 AM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Adam and Joe's show is on hiatus at present, but there are several recent podcasts available for download on their BBC 6Music page. It's my favourite thing in the universe, and I'm desperate for them to return.

Jon Ronson also used to have a show on Radio 4; you can download episodes from his site.
posted by hot soup girl at 5:22 AM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Lord Of The Rings (classic adaptation)
Earthsearch (classic sf serial... of its time but still great)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:37 AM on January 31, 2011

Seconding Coobeastie - Linda Smith is a sad loss.

I don't know if they'd fit on a best-of mixtape, but I like Milton Jones' shows - they are a strange work to put a comedian notable for his one-liners into an episodic format. Ed Reardon's Week is an enjoyable account of an unsuccessful writer's Olympic-level procrastination, and I like the early work of Nick Revell - The Million Pound Radio Show (with Andy Hamilton, the source of much of the goodness of Radio 4 comedy) and The Nick Revell Show.

Most of these are sort of by-the-numbers Radio 4 comedy - surreal departures from the notional life of the writer. Another common theme is the period comedy (the British love of parodies of period drama being matched only by the British love of period drama) - House of the Spirit Levels, and the more recent Bleak Expectations, which is notable primarily for a terrific turn by Anthony Head as the ingratiating and insinuating Victorian villain.

These are more likeable than they are classic, in the way The Goons or On the Hour are classic, but they are good representative examples of Radio 4's comedy output - the reassuring humour of the 6:30 slot.
posted by DNye at 5:49 AM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was a big fan of Harry Hill's Fruit Corner back in the 90s. Would also like to second A Brief History of Timewasting and anything else with Linda Smith. Jeremy Hardy Speaks To The Nation is well worth checking out as well.
posted by tomcooke at 5:58 AM on January 31, 2011

I add this cautiously, as I haven't listened to People Like Us. I enjoyed the tv series, and think the show I know would work as well on radio.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 6:35 AM on January 31, 2011

Seconding The Timewaster Diaries: Another comedy both my husband and I adore-- just had a relisten the other day and giggled constantly.

While I listen to all the comedy panel shows previously mentioned, my favorite show is The News Quiz especially since Sandy Toksveld became the host.

As for trivia quiz shows, you can't do better than the Write Stuff which devotes part of each week to one particular author.

If you like history, some of the best are:
Invention of Childhood which is about how childhood in Britain has been shaped since prehistory.
A History of Private Life which is about the last 400 years of life in the home using first hand accounts (diaries, letters.)
The Musical: An 8 part series about Musicals both American and British, the past, the future, the writing, the staging. Note, I am not a fan of Musicals but I really enjoyed this series.

As for comedies, there are so many out there I could spend hours listing them. It really depends on your taste, however. Do you like broad satires? Parodies? On-going sagas? Comedy-dramas?

One of my favorites is an oldie: The Small, Intricate Life of Gerald C. Potter is one of my favorite comedies. Ian Carmichael plays the lead.

A more recent series (which really holds up well to repeated listening) is Fags, Mags, and Bags about a corner shop, the owner, his family, his customers, and the small Scottish town they live in. It is "both hilarious and great."
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:51 AM on January 31, 2011

Flight of the Conchords had a 6 episode run on BBC Radio before the HBO series. Rhys Darby's phone call to Trevor regarding the bull in the pub (episode 4?) is the single funniest thing I've heard on the Beeb.
posted by apparently at 6:58 AM on January 31, 2011

John Peel's "Home Truths" (archive).

If you need a one-shot to round out a side of the tape, Roger Deakin's "The House" is one of my all-time favorite BBC moments (listen to it in the dark.)
posted by ryanshepard at 6:59 AM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seems to be a comedy leaning list at present and not sure if that is what you are after or if you are open to other types of programming.

For me and not withstanding all the great shows already mentioned:

Desert Island Discs
The Shipping Forecast
From Our Own Correspondant
Any Questions / Answers
The Reith Lectures
Front Row

Dead Ringers
Down the Line
Ross Noble Goes Global
posted by numberstation at 7:17 AM on January 31, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks so much, great replies thus far.

To clarify, I have no particular genre preference. Anything goes, so fire away!
posted by rahulrg at 7:46 AM on January 31, 2011

Apart from "Home Truths" I would dig through some of John Peel's musical output. The problem is knowing where to start with decades of material. "Peeling back the years" is a 6 hour long retrospective he made in 1987 for example.
posted by rongorongo at 8:26 AM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

We Are Klang did some radio before their TV shows (both are sadly underestimated in my opinion!).

'Explorer' was my favourite, if the episodes can be found anywhere.
posted by citands at 10:16 AM on January 31, 2011

To begin at the beginning:
Under Milk Wood.
Also Beachcomber...By the Way.
posted by Dr.Pill at 12:29 PM on January 31, 2011

For some reason I saw the mention of the Goons in your OP, rahulrg, and went tunnel-vision on comedy.

How about A History of the World in 100 Objects? Generally considered to be the kind of thing the BBC does very well and other stations tend not to do at all - "this is what you pay the license fee for" stuff... I don't know if the podcasts are available for free outside the UK, unfortunately, but then I also don't know that they aren't.
posted by DNye at 3:17 PM on January 31, 2011

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