Radio: Son of Cliché

This was a radio comedy show on the BBC that ran for several series in 1983-85 and which was written by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor. Produced by comedy veteran John Lloyd, the show was presented by Nick Maloney, Nick Wilton and a young and relatively un-known Christopher Barrie, at that point famous only for being a vocal impressionist talent on Spitting Image. Musical interludes and comic songs were by Peter Brewis.

The show followed what was by now a well-worn path in subverting both the introduction and the end credits. As often as not, the end credits would be re-arranged into a song parody performed by Brewis with vocals by Chris Barrie, one week in the voice of Neil Young singing the credits to a tune not unlike After The Goldrush. The next week, the gravelly voice of Bob Dylan performed the credits to a tune not unlike Knockin' On Heaven's Door. This was not the end of the parody: at the end of the credits, where you might expect normal Radio Four service to resume, the second series featured a grovelingly apologetic Maloney or Wilton returning to the mike and apologising for the absence of the continuity announcer, who was indisposed for one reason or another.

As time passed with no sign of normal continuity, Wilton would get more acerbic and go into a detailed reason as to why the CA was indisposed. It might be due to a bad curry they'd had the night before, for instance, meaning they'd had to, er rush out of the studio in a hurry. Wilton would then be heard leaving the studio, walking down a corridor, pausing to say "sorry about this" to the listeners, and then a one-way conversation would ensue as to whether or not he could pass the mike over the cubicle door and you can, you know, do the link without getting up — and then the recording would end and the real continuity announcer would take over, often in a well-disguised huff because they hadn't been warned.

The show prided itself on "series within the series" in the best BBC radio comedy style.

At any one time there could be up to four of these, which included

  • Asso - Spanish Detective! a parody of Spanish television.
  • Captain Invisible and his sidekick the See-Thru kid! - a parody of the Marvel Comics Series and its stereotypical characters.
  • Adventures of the League of Stupid Heroes! - a spin off from Captain Invisible.
  • Dave Hollis, Space Cadet!

Although Son of Cliché only ran for a relatively few series, it was a seminal moment in British comedy for two reasons. The in-show serial Dave Hollis - Space Cadet! provided enough material for a pilot show of a sit-com set in space that was to make the names of Grant/Naylor and which, starring Chris Barrie, was to run for ten series. Grant/Naylor would regularly plunder old Son of Cliché scripts for material, and on one occasion a Peter Brewis song, Tongue-Tied, for their space comedy.

This show provides examples of:

  • Accent Upon The Wrong Syllable: the Running Gag concerning those cheap awful local commercial radio adverts, where against all advice the business owner voices the commercial himself and makes a total pig's ear of it. The show's resident used car dealer was once allowed to voice the closing credits using his radio presentation voice.
  • Credits Gag: the examples quoted above, where the end credits might be set to a well-known pop song, or the opening credits might be a spoof of some other show. And then there were the post-credits jokes at the expense of the poor continuity announcer, who might be hungover, drunk, indisposed in the toilet after a tainted curry, or else having sex with the continuity announcer from Radio Three...
    Look, could you stop just for a seoond, get your breath back, and do the link? oh, and you've got to announce the Rachmininov Piano Overture in D from the Philharmonia Hall. Thank you. ''(Cut to C.A.)
  • Gratuitous Panning: the Weird Dimension sketch (a parody of The Twilight Zone) where your stereo radio system is taken over by forces outside of your control. Except for the fact that your right-hand speaker isn't working.
  • Headphones Equal Isolation: the Walkman Brothers sketch, in which two men are forever by tragic acident locked into Sony Walkmen which, to compound the misery, are locked to BBC Radio One. "Russell Harty" (aka vocal impressionist Chris Barrie) tries to interview them for a late-nights Arts programme, discovering they are making the best of it as an interpretative performance act conveying what they hear on Radio One to a paying audience. But it is true that anyone trying to sing along to what they are listening to on a Walkman is not going to be especially good at it, as their interpretation of Billy Joel's "Uptown Girl" proves...
  • I Can't See Myself: Captain Invisible and the See-Thru Kid were prone to this. A lot. One sketch has them relaxing trying to play tennis...
  • My Instincts Are Showing: The sketch where a young man raised by wolves is being resocialised to human society. Unwisely, he is taken to an upscale restaurant and asks for lamb which is very, very rare. (Beat) In fact, preferably still bleating and with the fleece on.
  • Planet of Steves: Encountered at least once by Dave Hollis - Space Cadet.
  • Sound to Screen Adaptation: Dave Hollis:Space Cadet was re-written and expanded into an obscure and little-known sci-fi comedy series. The television sci-fi series regularly plundered old Son of Cliché scripts for material, such as Attack of the Killer Italian Y-Fronts and the Tongue-Tied song.
  • Tongue-Tied: "The Tongue Tied Song", naturally.
  • You Say Tomato: Subverted in a sketch where the two singers perfoming "Let's call the whole thing off" go to the producer complaining the song doesn't make sense. One, an American, complains the lines are nonsense - she proves her point by singing "You say tomayto and I say tomayto", using the "tomayto" pronunciation throughout. Her Engish co-singer similarly says "You say poh-tay-to and I say poh-tay-to" is just as silly. He frankly can't see the point of the song either...

Alternative Title(s):

Son Of Cliche