Radio Active (radio series)

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Radio Active
Genre Sketch show
Running time 30 minutes
Home station BBC Radio 4
TV adaptations KYTV
Starring Angus Deayton
Geoffrey Perkins
Michael Fenton Stevens
Helen Atkinson-Wood
Philip Pope
Writer(s) Richard Curtis
Angus Deayton
Geoffrey Perkins
Producer(s) Jimmy Mulville
David Tyler
Air dates 8 April 1980 to 17 October 1987
No. of series 7
No. of episodes 53

Radio Active was a radio comedy programme, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 during the 1980s. The first episode was broadcast in 1980, and it ran for seven series. The show starred, among others, Angus Deayton, Geoffrey Perkins, Michael Fenton Stevens, Helen Atkinson-Wood and Philip Pope.

Programme format[edit]


The show was based on a fictional radio station (described as "Britain's first national local radio station") and the programmes that it might transmit. Characters on the show were mostly named after pieces of sound equipment, including:

  • rising star Mike Flex (Perkins),
  • aged fading star Mike Channel (Deayton),
  • "children's favourite" "Uncle" Mike Stand (Stevens)
  • the food-obsessed Anna Daptor (Atkinson-Wood)

Also on the station's staff were:

  • the incomprehensible Nigel Pry (Pope),
  • the incompetent hospital-radio trained Martin Brown (Stevens),
  • the carefully enunciated "oh-so-daring" Mike Hunt (Deayton),
  • brusque owner Sir Norman Tonsil (Deayton),
  • Norwegian correspondent Oivind Vinstra (Perkins), whose command of English was negligible
  • Head of Religious Affairs The Right Reverend Reverend Wright (Deayton), who had a mail-order bride

Other regular characters included:

  • unsympathetic agony aunt Anna Rabies (known as 'Joanna Jaundice' in series one, and 'Claire Rabies' in series three) (Atkinson-Wood)
  • singing doctor Philip Percygo (Pope)


Angus Deayton and Geoffrey Perkins wrote most of the material, with significant additional contributions from, at various times, Jon Canter, Richard Curtis, Terence Dackombe, Michael Fenton Stevens, Jack (then John) Docherty and Moray Hunter, and the various musical elements provided by Philip Pope. Four producers worked on the series over the years (Jimmy Mulville, Jamie Rix, Paul Mayhew-Archer and David Tyler).

Theme Tune[edit]

Out To Lunch by The Client a 1979 RCA single PB5214, originally used for a Nat West Bank Advert.

Recurring elements[edit]

The show had its origins in the University of Oxford student drama community, especially in the musical parodies of Philip Pope, which were regularly featured on Radio Active. The best known of these is the Bee Gees parody The Hee Bee Gee Bees, with their song "Meaningless Songs (In Very High Voices)", which became a moderate hit.

Each programme would start and end with a comical handover to the Radio 4 continuity announcer.

Other parodies included very long and very contemporary jingles presenting the station telephone number for phone ins (with a false ending) and introducing the commercials.

The "commercials" had many parodies of current TV adverts and other running jokes - "Hello Mary. (Door noise) Hello June"; "Honest Ron - the others are a con"; an unfortunately named throat lozenge ("Suck Quilly's, suck Quilly's, they make your mouth feel great") and a blindingly obvious patronising public service announcement ("Do not throw boiling water over a child").

Mike Flex presided over the rigged "Master Quiz" with ever changing rules and format, although the prize remained the same: a chateau in the Loire Valley, which curiously went un-won from week to week. The Radio Active Drama Repertory Company usually gave a performance with wild misreadings of the scripts ("She's seriously one hundred and eleven. (Pause). She's seriously ill.") and ("So what? Do we have to go on?" (pause) "So - what do we have to go on?") and miscued sound effects.

The programmes often pitch the "modern-media" regular characters against older stereotypes of foreigners and "establishment types" such as generals and politicians; however, the programme rarely strays into the "alternative comedy" vogue of contemporary political comment.

In the Nuclear Debate episode, Angus Deayton hosts a panel session (a mass debating session) which was later to be the inspiration for his performance on Have I Got News for You.


The original broadcasts took place on BBC Radio 4 between 1980 and 1988 (as detailed in the table below), with one programme (The Hee Bee Gee Bees Special) from the same team premiering on BBC Radio 2.

Episodes from the series were repeated on Radio 4 in late 2002, and again on classic comedy radio station BBC 7 in 2003, late 2004, early 2005 and mid-2006 and again in 2007.

A new one-off episode of Radio Active, the first for 15 years, was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in December 2002.

The third episode of series 7 ("The God Alone Knows Show") caused many complaints on its first transmission and so was edited for the mid-week repeat and all later broadcasts. In particular, in the broadcast church service near the start of the episode the inability of any of the congregation to recite the Lords prayer correctly was replaced with a request for two girls in the front row to turn off their Sony Walkmans. The new translation of the Bible (by "Honest Ron") was also heavily edited, the new 10 commandments were changed to remove two which were originally of a sexual nature (replaced by "thou shalt not listen to the Beastie Boys" and "thou shalt not support Arsenal"). A description of the cover was deleted completely. To make up the lost time the preceding article was lengthened with a few extra lines.

Television adaptation[edit]

Main article: KYTV (TV series)

The show transferred to TV as KYTV, which produced 20 episodes (a pilot, three series and one Children in Need special) between 1989 and 1993. The TV show was written and produced by largely the same team as had worked on Radio Active, and Angus Deayton, Helen Atkinson-Wood, Michael Fenton Stevens, Geoffrey Perkins and Phillip Pope again comprised the main cast.

Some of the Radio Active scripts and/or plot devices originally heard on the radio series were reused for the TV show, though the central setting changed from a local radio station to a satellite television broadcaster, and a number of new features and scenarios which parodied television convention were added. Spoof commercials continued to broadcast, along with parodies of the self-promotions and branding which were a common feature of television stations at this point.

Several key characters from Radio Active transferred to KYTV largely unchanged from their radio incarnations, including Mike Channel, Mike Flex, Anna Daptor and Martin Brown, who formed the central presentation team for KYTV's programmes; other characters including Anna Rabies and the Right Reverend Reverend Wright also transferred across. Phillip Pope's main character in KYTV was as the station's unnamed continuity announcer, although as with the radio series he (and the other regulars) appeared in multiple roles. The station's owner was again played by Deayton, though the character name was changed from Sir Norman Tonsil to Sir Kenneth Yellowhammer for the TV series, to serve as one of the show's thinly-veiled references to Sky TV.

Episode list[edit]

Series Episode Title First broadcast
Pilot 1 The Oxford Review 8 April 1980
1 1 The Late Show (aka Late Night Radio) 8 September 1981
2 Bedrock (Mike Flex Breakfast Show) 15 September 1981
3 Midday Show (with Anna Dapter) 22 September 1981
4 Radio Active Roadshow 29 September 1981
5 What's News? 6 October 1981
6 Radio Active Awards 13 October 1981
Special 1 The Hee Bee Gee Bees Story[1] 19 December 1981
2 1 The History of Radio Active 16 August 1982
2 Radiothon 23 August 1982
3 Good Day Sport 30 August 1982
4 What's Going On? 6 September 1982
5 The Nigel Pry Story 13 September 1982
6 Pick of the Week 20 September 1982
3 1 Euroshow 12 July 1983
2 Probe Round the Back (Behind the scenes) 19 July 1983
3 Radio Active's Funday in Blackport 26 July 1983
4 Repeat After Three (Late Show) 2 August 1983
5 Lunchtime with Anna (Buy British Exhibition) 9 August 1983
6 Edinburgh Festival (What's Going On?) 16 August 1983
Special 2 Radio Active's Christmas Turkey 20 December 1983
4 1 Salute to New York 9 July 1984
2 The Martin Brown Show 16 July 1984
3 Round Your Parts (in Humpingham) 23 July 1984
4 Radiovision Breakfast Show 30 July 1984
5 Minorities Programme 6 August 1984
6 The Bio Show (Sir John Leslie) 13 August 1984
7 Gigantaquiz 20 August 1984
8 Martin Chizzlenutt 27 August 1984
5 1 Wimbledon Special 5 July 1985
2 Nuclear Debate 12 July 1985
3 Out of Your Depth 19 July 1985
4 Big Down Under Show (Australia) 26 July 1985
5 Get Away with You 2 August 1985
6 Wey Hey, It's Saturday 9 August 1985
7 Music Festival 16 August 1985
8 Did You Catch It? 23 August 1985
6 1 Thodding By-Election 11 October 1986
2 The Fit and Fat Show 18 October 1986
3 Bogey Awards 25 October 1986
4 The D Day Show 1 November 1986
5 The Nice Film Festival (aka Radio Active Goes to the Movies) 8 November 1986
6 Stop That Crime UK 15 November 1986
7 In-House Documentary 22 November 1986
8 Backchat 29 November 1986
7 1 It Was Twenty Years Ago (Last Tuesday) 29 August 1987
2 Radio Radio Programme 5 September 1987
3 God Alone Knows 12 September 1987
4 Probe Round the Back (Spycatcher) 19 September 1987
5 Here's a Bit of Talent 26 September 1987
6 The Flu Special 3 October 1987
7 You and Your Things 10 October 1987
8 Mega Phone-In 17 October 1987
Special 4 Digital Turn-On 17 December 2002
  1. ^ Broadcast on BBC Radio 2

External links[edit]