The Cambridge Geek


[UPDATE - 8th October 2019]: Another one that I'm pleased to have back, as the ludicrously surreal satire of Agendum is a welcome relief from the just basically awful nature of current politics.

Its return also handily sparked a neuron somewhere hidden in the back of my brain which finally realised that Quinlan is essentially once again playing Patsy Straightwoman, as in John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme, but with a bit more power and a few more of the jokes. But still delivered with that rather impressive deadpan style which means she can get some very silly things out very quickly.

The first episode of this second series obviously has to have a Brexit parallel, and it does that through the argument of whether or not Britain should be put on wheels. It's wheely funny. (Sorry.) But also pokes fun at the ever expanding MCU, the need for politicians to pretend to be interested in popular things, and the "greenwashing" that people do without really thinking about the wider picture. Satire, but at a slight remove. Still excellent.

[ORIGINAL - 21st August 2018]: In the same vein as shows (or at least bits of shows) such as Delve Special, Life, Death and Sex with Mike and Sue, and Radio Active, this is a spoof news show, brought up to date with our 24 hour news cycle and the obsession with social media.

It's helmed by Carrie Quinlan as Alexandra Palisades, with a full cast of voices turning up as guests, fellow reporters and vox pops. The imaginary show covers a range of topics, including superwater, Noel Edmonds' military advancement across the country, the fact that no-one really likes oranges, and the death of an actor who despite being renowned for stage, TV and film, will always be remembered as the person who played a fuzzy bear in a Star Wars knockoff.

Yep, it gets silly.

That's a good thing. As you might imagine, it's presented as a perfectly straight news show, so the risks inherent to superwater (H22O), which is 100s of times "wetter than water", are given serious consideration by experts, especially critics of its creator, Frankenwater. Luckily, it also has its defenders, such as the thinktank "Profitos", who I'm sure are utterly unbiased. This also has one of the best moments of the show, with a shoutout to the old "did not inhale" defence.

The current arguments about what is an acceptable topic for discussion on the internet has certainly been an inspiration, with "what-about-isms" being applied to the concerns of Edmonds' military coup and the fact that Vernon Kaye has his own island. This sort of satire can feel heavy handed, but here it's got such an absurd twist, that it doesn't struggle.

It does highlight the problem though of making comedy in such a fast moving world, with a character called Andrew McBoatface. Funny enough, but at this point we've had so many variants on the "Boaty" joke that it was a groaner. It's no wonder comedy is getting written closer and closer to the event it's mocking, twitter having already run the joke into the ground before the day is done.

That problem with twitter also causes issues when what would have been satire a year ago (maybe two), is now just what happens. The concept of oranges causing cancer and people being a bit worried about this falls neatly into the "Daily Mail: cancer yes or no?" topic that's been around for a while, but the "the internet is angry about this, what are you going to do about it?" concept is effectively reality. For examples, see any major company's PR department.

All those worrying real world issues aside, this is a bloody funny programme. There's one joke in particular that had me practically spitting coffee, and entertainingly, that joke probably counts as a cherished antique. And it feels pleasingly politically neutral for all that. I know the current opinion of what the BBC puts out (at least as seen in my echo chamber) is that the news is right-leaning and the comedy is left-leaning. There's definitely a place for that sort of thing, but this appears to be mostly unaligned, which feels oddly refreshing. Definitely a series to listen to all of.

And if you've got here too late to catch it on iPlayer, you can get it here.

Score 5

Tagged: Radio Comedy Cast Informative News/Political