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On The Margin

1 9 6 6 (UK)
6 x 30 minute episodes

The brilliant Alan Bennett was allowed full rein in this short-lived but well-remembered series from BBC2.

Comedy sketches, poems and songs featured each week, as did archive clips of famous music-hall acts. A recurring sketch, ‘Streets Ahead’, eavesdropped on the ‘life and times in NW1’, dwelling on two couples, Nigel and Jane Knocker-Threw, and the Touch Paceys, resident in that London district.

Bennett’s ability to weave deceptively savage satire into apparently innocuous sketches, and his delight in ‘camping up’ his characters, were both apparent in this clever series.

In addition to a regular supporting cast, Jonathan Miller (Bennett’s former Beyond The Fringe colleague) and John Fortune made guest appearances during the six editions.

The BBC liked On The Margin so much that it was twice repeated within six months of the original run but then, in a colossally stupid move, it saw fit to destroy the only existing prints – by no means the Corporation’s only such act of vandalism at this time but definitely one of its worst.

Years later, on 1 January 1990, a television archive celebration mounted by Channel 4, The A-Z Of Television, featured a section lamenting the wiping of so much of the medium’s past. Utilising the original script, Bennett re-performed a skit from On The Margin.

Alan Bennett
John Sergeant
Roland MacLeod
Madge Hindle
Virginia Stride
Yvonne Gilan