I'm generally suspicious of rebranding – same book, different cover, usually. But the transformation of BBC7 into Radio 4 Extra promises to be slightly more than that: much of it will be the same (85 per cent, we're told), with the likes of Tony Hancock, the Goons, Stanley Baxter and Paul Temple still safely ensconced. But there'll be some original programming to beef up the archives, mainly add-ons such as Ambridge Extra and The Now Show Extra.
Top of the bill in yesterday's relaunch was Let's Get Quizzical, the first of three hour-long programmes in which Russell Davies explores the history of quiz and panel shows on BBC radio. I say "explores", but it wasn't a historical documentary as such, but rather, as Davies cheerfully admitted, "a rummage among the archives". I'm Sorry, I Haven't a Clue dominated; I was expecting something more rigorous, I have to say, with reminiscences, analysis and contextualisation – but that, on the early evidence, is more Radio 4's style than Radio 4 Extra's. Documentary techniques were mostly eschewed in favour of simply transmitting large chunks of Clue from the 1970s – which, I must admit, worked a treat.
The format (devised by Graeme Garden) was clearly all there from the start, in the 1972 pilot (entitled I'm Sorry, They're at it Again) with its calypsos about cucumbers and armadillos, and Dr Findlay scripts read in excruciating Aussie accents. If it ain't broke, as they say... Clue was recently voted second-best radio programme ever, behind The Goons. Personally, I'd reverse the order.Reuse content