The Harpoon was a BBC Radio 4 series broadcast between 1991 and 1994, written by Julian Dutton and Peter Baynham. It consisted of three four-part series and two Christmas specials, and was performed by Julian Dutton, Peter Baynham, Susie Brann, Alistair McGowan and Mary Elliott-Nelson, and was produced ("on stretched goat's vellum") by Sarah Smith. The series was nominated for a British Comedy Award for Best Radio Comedy, 1992.
The programme was a spoof of boys' comics from the Empire days of the 20th century, featuring "Your old chum" the Editor (McGowan) presenting regular features, adventure stories, practical advice, readers letters, etc., complete with advertisements. An enthusiastic young reader (Baynham) could be heard turning (and once accidentally tearing) the pages and occasionally commenting. The humour dealt with the anachronistic, politically incorrect attitudes towards education, class, sex, race, war, etc. and patronising style represented by such publications as Boy's Own Paper. That the name referred to whaling was made graphically clear on the illustrated front cover of the magazine, in other words in the opening music/sound effects of the programme.
Writing and performances on The Harpoon were of high quality, as was technical production, using 'authentic' voices, sound effects, and music to evoke the era and create the impression of a magazine being read. No commercial release was made, probably because of the use of copyright music, however episodes from all three series are regularly repeated on BBC7, now BBC Radio 4 Extra.
Among other pieces, some music found during the series:
- Soldiers of the King by Leslie Stuart (used as opening theme).
- Who's Been Polishing the Sun by Noel Gay, sung by Jack Hulbert (closing theme).
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