1 9 6 6 – 1 9 6 7 (UK)
23 x 40/30 episodes
Premiering on Saturday 15 October 1966, this attempt by the BBC to recapture the success of the political satire programmes That Was The Week That Was, Not So Much A Programme . . . More A Way Of Life and BBC 3 was but a pale imitation.
Satire is meant to be funny, but the humour was hard to detect amidst the long, boring, carefully-rehearsed discussions on topics of the day, flogging the subject to death with words, words and more words.
The sharp, short sketches did introduce some humour but were it not for John Bird and Eleanor Bron, the series would have been a complete flop.
Bird, Bron, John Fortune, former Private Eye editor John Wells, and Australian Barry Humphries were joined by two American newcomers – Anthony Holland and Andrew Duncan.
Malcolm Muggeride was seemingly hired for a Bernard Levin-style spot to spout witty polemics on current events.
The Late Show featured the debut appearance by Barry Humphries of his Edna Everage character, who was still just a prosaic Australian housewife at the time, scattering offensive remarks and girlish giggles.
The series was savaged by critics – who called it “feeble” – and the format was changed to drop the long-winded discussions and focus more on sketches linked by impressions from Bird, who added the character of ‘Gunter’ to his repertoire
When the show returned after the Christmas break on 14 January 1967, it was cut from 40 minutes to 30 minutes and featured a new recruit, Alma Cogan‘s kid sister Sandra Caron. Eleanor Bron now only made occasional guest appearances.
It staggered along for three more months, occasionally triggering controversy but never high viewer figures. The final episode aired on April Fool’s Day, 1967.
By October, Bird and Fortune had their own new BBC series – A Series of Bird’s.