Ed Reardon's Week

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Ed Reardon's Week is a sitcom on BBC Radio 4 recorded semi-naturalistically in the style of a radio drama. It concerns the story of a curmudgeonly 50-something writer described in the show's publicity material as an "author, pipesmoker, consummate fare-dodger and master of the abusive email". The title, while referring to the past week of the protagonist's life, is a pun on "Ed Reardon is Weak", as the character's actions repeatedly demonstrate. The names of two central characters, Ed Reardon (played by Christopher Douglas) and Jaz Milvane (played by Philip Jackson), are references to the characters Edwin Reardon and Jasper Milvain, who appear in George Gissing's 1891 novel New Grub Street,[1] which is set in the hack-literary London of the late nineteenth century, although Edward was revealed to be his given name in the second episode of the third series and Milvain is referred to as Jaz Milvane.

The central conceits of the comedy are that Ed lives in precarious circumstances with his cat, Elgar, scraping a living as a hack by working through commissions for coffee table books such as The Brands Hatch Story and Pet Peeves, a book of celebrity pet anecdotes. Much of this work comes through his agent Felix (John Fortune) and Felix's assistant Ping (Sally Hawkins, played by Barunka O'Shaughnessy in the second and fifth to seventh series), an archetypal Sloane Ranger who rejects the amorous advances he makes occasionally in early episodes.

He makes a small income from running a creative writing course at the local night school, where his lessons frequently mention the single episode of Tenko that he wrote. Ed also earns an occasional £10 fee for taking part in identity parades at his local police station. He is an alumnus of Shrewsbury School. The programme contains many references to the location of Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, where Ed lives.

The series is written by Chris Douglas and Andrew Nickolds, and produced by Simon Nicholls (first three series) and Dawn Ellis (fourth to seventh series).

Origins of the character of Ed[edit]

Speaking on Pick of the Week [2] Christopher Douglas explained where Ed's character came from: "Simon Gray's published diaries were mainly about how badly treated he'd been by producers, actors, critics and electronic machinery. His impotent rage against his employers was one of the inspirations for Ed Reardon, the character I co-write, perform and in some ways resemble. Ed often rants from the point of view of appalled gentleman author, but he can also play the thwarted radical."

Ed's literary background[edit]

Ed considers himself a serious writer but the evidence is suspect. His one and only novel, Who Would Fardels Bear?, was published in the 1970s, and was adapted into a film (Sister Mom) by Ed's friend, Jaz Milvane (played by Philip Jackson). Since the setting was moved from Oldham to California and the lead role was taken by Sally Field, the movie's faithfulness to the novel is in doubt. Milvane is a successful British Hollywood film director in the mould of Tony Scott or Adrian Lyne. Ed's only other screen credit is a 1982 episode of the BBC wartime drama, Tenko ("Escape from the Bamboo Noose") and, based on the evidence provided in the drama so far, this may well be his only other non-coffee table book project. During his early career, Ed also wrote various stage plays, all of which seem to have been both unfortunately timed and titled, bearing striking (yet apparently accidental) resemblances to works by Willy Russell and Mike Leigh.

Ed's books[edit]

Ed's radio work[edit]

  • The Amazing True Story Of The South Tring Bubble
  • The South Tring Bubble (Reworking of the above for Hemel Sound)
  • Cheese Cricket (Pilot for a radio panel show)

Ed's stage work[edit]

  • Educating Peter
  • Stanley Valentine
  • Blood Sisters
  • Alistair's Party

Ed's tv work[edit]

Ed's family[edit]

Ed has a son and a daughter, Jake and Eli, who make occasional appearances. An insight into Ed as a father is given in "The Operations", where Jake complains: "that's all we ever got from you... a sarcastic one-liner followed by a 'now leave me alone to sink into drunken stupor of self-loathing."

Ed's father, Sidney, made an appearance in the episode "Dad". Appearing just as bad-tempered and impatient as Ed, Sidney demonstrated more understanding of popular culture by being familiar with the children's television programme Dick and Dom in da Bungalow. He emigrated to Australia for tax reasons with a new partner, following Ed's failed attempt to secure his inheritance.

Ed's current life[edit]

Ed teaches a screenwriting class, held weekly at the local sports centre. This adult education group spends a lot of time giving him advice and making comments about his general lack of achievement, between complaints about being forced to watch his Tenko episode endlessly. Ed also plays in a Dixieland jazz band with his more successful friends, his instrument of choice being the jug. In the first episode Jaz sits in with them on trumpet, making Ed's contribution seem anaemic by comparison.

Ed has lived in a one-bedroom flat with his cat Elgar in Berkhamsted, in the borough of Dacorum, Hertfordshire, ever since he sold his London home after a messy divorce. This is described as "living at the cutting edge, or to be more accurate, "above The Cutting Edge", as he has a flat over a hairdressing salon of this name."

Ed was seen heading into surgery for coronary bypass (necessitated by his lifelong affair with "beer and baccy") at the end of the second series, with Felix on the one hand, abetted by Jaz, pushing him to start on a new novel for Jaz to film ("Put plenty of cricket in it." says Felix) while Ping is urging him to commit to Pet Peeves 2, the fee for which will be needed to pay his hospital bill.

At the end of the fourth series Ed became involved with the popular novelist Mary Potter (Sally Grace), spending several nights a week together by the start of the fifth series.

Humour[edit]

Much humour comes from Ed's rants and inability to stop himself getting carried away in his angry tirades, often triggered by learning that somebody younger than him is proving more successful (such as the author of Eats, Shoots and Leaves, Lynne Truss; one tirade finds Ed receiving several copies of the book as gifts for his birthday and working out how much in royalties Truss will have received because of the book sales).

Writers[edit]

Ed Reardon is played by actor Christopher Douglas, who also co-writes the series with Andrew Nickolds. A spin-off book was published in November 2005.

Awards[edit]

Ed Reardon's Week has twice been voted Best Radio Programme by the Broadcasting Press Guild, at their 32nd Annual Television and Radio Awards in 2006 and at the 37th in 2011.

Critical reaction[edit]

The Telegraph called Reardon a "sublime creation" who was becoming "a national treasure".[4] The Independent also praised it saying it "crackled with great lines, without any of that telegraphing you get too often in Radio 4 comedy".[5] Miranda Sawyer in the Guardian found Reardon brilliantly observed but more annoying than funny.[6]

Stage Version[edit]

Christopher Douglas and Andrew Nickolds have written a stage version, Ed Reardon: A Writer's Burden, which played at the Pleasance Courtyard during the 2011 Edinburgh Fringe Festival and was directed by Adrian Lloyd-James.[7]

Episode list[edit]

Series 1 was originally broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in January and February 2005. Series 2 ran from December 2005 until January 2006, Series 3 from 15 December 2006 to 19 January 2007 and Series 4 from November 2007 to December 2007. Series 5 began weekly transmission on Radio 4 on Monday 6 October 2008 at 11:30am. Each episode is available as streaming audio over the internet, through the BBC's Listen Again service, for one week after broadcast.

Series 1 was repeated in August–September 2007 on BBC 7. The latest series started airing on BBC Radio 4 in November 2013.

Series 1[edit]

Episode Title Original Airdate Guest star
1 The Swim 7 January 2005
2 Pulp Non-Fiction 14 January 2005
3 Holby City 21 January 2005
4 The Old Lock-Keeper 28 January 2005
5 The Winona Defence 4 February 2005
6 King of the Road 11 February 2005

Series 2[edit]

Episode Title Original Airdate Guest star
1 Rogue Mail 21 December 2005
2 The Speech 28 December 2005
3 The Last Laugh 4 January 2006 Andy Hamilton as Terry Savage
4 Our Man In Berkhamsted 11 January 2006
5 A Hint of Calvados 18 January 2006 Chris Addison as TV boss
6 The Operation 25 January 2006

Series 3[edit]

Episode Title Original Airdate Guest star
1 The Name-Check 15 December 2006 Sean Lock as The plumber
2 Dad 22 December 2006 David Warner as Sidney (Ed's father)
3 Undercover 29 December 2006
4 The Dig 5 January 2007 Mark Watson as Tom
5 Murder Most Rewritten 12 January 2007
6 The Libel Action 19 January 2007

Series 4[edit]

Episode Title Original Airdate Guest star
1 31 January 16 November 2007
2 Ruth and Reconciliation 23 November 2007
3 The Wrong Fleece 30 November 2007
4 The Old Boys Network 7 December 2007
5 Role Reversal 14 December 2007
6 Trimarans That Pass in the Night 21 December 2007

Series 5[edit]

Episode Title Original Airdate Guest star
1 The Last Miaow 6 October 2008
2 The CV of Dorian Gray 13 October 2008
3 Anger Management 20 October 2008
4 Educating Peter 27 October 2008
5 The Great Escape 3 November 2008 Rebecca Front as Carol, Lewis MacLeod as Aussie
6 Granddad 10 November 2008 Lisa Coleman as Eli

Series 6[edit]

Episode Title Original Airdate Guest star
1 The Charterhouse Redemption 11 January 2010
2 Charity Begins Next Door 18 January 2010
3 The Cruise 25 January 2010
4 Cheese Cricket 1 February 2010
5 A Bottle of Ulterio Motivo 8 February 2010
6 Elgar Writes 15 February 2010

An Audience with Ed Reardon[edit]

Episode Title Original Airdate Guest star
1 An Audience with Ed Reardon 20 October 2010

Series 7[edit]

Episode Title Original Airdate Guest star
1 In The Current Climate 10 January 2011
2 From Bean To Cup 17 January 2011 Paul Merton as houseowner
3 Become a Successful Writer 24 January 2011
4 Parsnip Junction 31 January 2011 Geoffrey Palmer as Charles
5 Writer in Residence 7 February 2011
6 Summer of '76 14 February 2011 Jenny Agutter as Fiona

Series 8[edit]

Episode Title Original Airdate Guest star
1 Have a Great Weekend 3 April 2012
2 Original British Drama 10 April 2012
3 It's a Nude Nude Nude Nude World 17 April 2012
4 Making a Difference 24 April 2012
5 Rosicrucian Armageddon 2 1 May 2012
6 Keeping the Flame Alive 8 May 2012

Series 9[edit]

Episode Title Original Airdate Guest star
1 The Personal Statement 11 Nov 2013 Melanie Hudson as Interviewer
2 The Intern 18 Nov 2013
3 The Berkhamsted Job 25 Nov 2013
4 Blood of the Reardons 2 Dec 2013 Claudie Blakley as Dr Liz Newcombe, Lisa Coleman as Eli
5 Intellectual Fireworks 9 Dec 2013 Felicity Montagu as Rosemary, Carolyn Pickles as Maureen
6 The Bride of Auntie 16 Dec 2013 Duncan Preston as Neil Hardacre, Vicki Pepperdine as Laura Pope

Cast list[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Dominic Maxwell "Re-opening the grouse season", The Times, 11 December 2006
  2. ^ "Pick of the Week" (Web). BBC Radio 4. BBC. 2010-07-18. Retrieved 2010-07-22. 
  3. ^ a b Broadcasting House - Ed Reardon in Hemel, BBC Radio 4, 18 Aug 2013
  4. ^ Reynolds, Gillian (17 Apr 2012). "Ed Reardon’s comic rants speak for all curmudgeons, radio review". The Telegraph (UK). 
  5. ^ Maume, Chris (31 January 2010). "Ed Reardon's Week, Radio 4 (review)". The Independent (UK). 
  6. ^ Sawyer, Miranda (22 April 2012). "Rewind radio: Ed Reardon's Week; Mr Blue Sky; My Name is Not Hey Baby; Today; Shakespeare's Restless World – review". The Observer (UK). 
  7. ^ "Ed Reardon: A Writer's Burden (review)". 

External links[edit]