Lenin of the Rovers
Lenin of the Rovers was a BBC Radio 4 comedy series from 1988 written by Marcus Berkmann, produced by Harry Thompson and starring comedian Alexei Sayle as Ricky Lenin, Russian captain of Felchester Rovers - Britain's only communist football team. Other regular players in the team were Stevie Stalin (Andrew McClean) and Terry Trotsky (played by Keith Allen in series 1 and by Phil Cornwell in series 2). The team was managed by Ray Royce and Colonel Brace-Cartwright (played by veteran actor Ballard Berkeley for Series 1 episodes 1 and 2. Berkeley died during recordings for the series and the part was then played by Donald Hewlett thereafter) who were frequently interviewed by Frank Lee Brian (played by real-life football commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme). John Sessions and Jim Broadbent made character appearances in Series 2. The title is a parody of the long-running football-themed comic strip, Roy of the Rovers.
Although a knowledge of football was useful for the appreciation of the series, it was not essential. The show parodied many aspects of British football culture in the late 1980s, such as the increasing presence of mass commercialisation in the game, intrusive and rarely accurate media, and fan violence. The script also made frequent use of Ricky Lenin's attempts to fit in with what he saw as a 'western lifestyle', in a similar way to some of Sayle's appearances as the Balowski Family in The Young Ones. Situations included the trouble caused by the ghost-writing of Ricky's column in The Daily Tits (parodying The Sun) - a complicated political treatise arguing in favour of collectivism in Lenin's original text is transformed by the newspaper's ghost writer to "I hate all paddies, but I wouldn't mind giving that Gloria Hunniford one" in the paper; the North-South economic divide in England ("In Crunchthorpe there's a hundred and three per cent unemployment. The Government uses the place to dump nuclear waste...they pile it up in the town centre, outside Freeman Hardy and Willis") and films The Titfield Thunderbolt and Apocalypse Now.
The script regularly took great delight in the unsophisticated nature of British football, with its traditional emphasis on strength over skill:
- Northern pundit: "The average Crunchsider knows his football like the back of his hand. And what he really likes to see is really elegant, skilful one-touch players...out in the middle of the park, screaming in agony, clutching their gonads."
- Commentator: "So Crunchthorpe don't really go in for one-touch play, then?"
- Northern pundit: "Oh, aye, they do. Provided the one touch is delivered just below the kneecaps like a steam hammer hitting an avocado..."
A running gag in the show was various characters (particularly Sayle) speaking lines from well known pop songs as dialog. The fictional town of Felchester was presumably itself a joke: a reference to felching, conflating that term with Melchester, the fictional home of Roy of the Rovers.
In one episode, "The Fifth Man", the Cambridge Five spy scandal is mocked when Felchester plays Cambridge in the FA Cup and wins as a result of Cambridge players, including a mysterious fifth man, scoring own goals against their own team.
Lenin of the Rovers ran for two series, each comprising four shows. The original scheduled broadcast dates of the final two episodes of series 2 were postponed due to coinciding with the Hillsborough disaster.
1st series, first broadcast February - March 1988
- "Up for the Coup". Midfield football maestro Ricky Lenin's battle for Britain's first all-communist football team. Ricky introduces his radical thinking to Felchester Rovers.
- "Felcherama". Ricky Lenin's new economic policy kicks in at Felchester Rovers football club.
- "The Fifth Man". Felchester Rover's midfield-maestro Ricky Lenin tackles fearsome Cambridge by infiltrating their team.
- "Max Gut". Britain's first communist football team tackles Germany. But what about the revolution?
2nd series, first broadcast March - April 1989
- "Ghosts and Goolies". Ricky's new tabloid newspaper column teaches him some hard lessons about life and Gloria Hunniford.
- "The Felchester Firm". Ricky's boys are drawn in the FA Cup against the North East's most notoriously hard team, Crunchthorpe United.
- "Apocalypse Des". Felchester Rovers take a well-earned break in the socialist idyll of El Telvador, but a civil war is raging.
- "The Final Solution". Will Ricky's million-pound sponsorship deal wreck Felchester's hopes of a FA Cup victory at Wembley?
The whole of series 2 was released by the BBC as a double-cassette set in 1992.
- epguides.com Lenin of the Rovers on epguides.com