Radio review: A Menace to Society - How the Bash Street Kids squared up to the Hun


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The Independent Culture

Had Germany invaded Britain during the Second World War, apparently it would have been curtains for The Beano. So assiduous was the comic in poking fun at Hitler and his "Nasties" that it was down for immediate closure, its editor to be taken out and shot.

An asset to the nation, then – and a huge part of comedian Danny Wallace's childhood (mine, too). It's 75 this year – and Dennis the Menace with it – and in A Menace to Society, Wallace paid tribute by trying to sell the editorial team a story that combined Dennis and the Bash Street Kids in an unprecedented mash-up.

A clue to Beano's longevity was surely to be found in the loving attention to detail that shone through at DC Thomson when Wallace went up to Dundee to pitch his story. The editor Mike Stirling and his team measured the script against their "Beanofesto" – a book of rules and back stories, essentially – deciding, for example, that Wallace's updating of Gnasher's preferred diet to burger and chips was unnecessary, so it was back to sausages. And the Abyssinian wire-haired tripe-hound would never steal a tenner from Dennis, so that plotline had to be tweaked. But they liked Wallace's ideas, and the result appeared in a recent issue. Wallace was rightly proud.

There was more supposed kids' stuff in Just So Science (Radio 4, Monday-Friday). Over five instalments, Vivienne Parry explored the science behind Rudyard Kipling's oddly wonderful stories – how the leopard really got its spots, that kind of thing. In this instance it may have something to do with Turing patterns (yes, that Turing, clearly a Renaissance man), though it's a matter of heated debate.

On Tuesday, Parry looked at how the whale got its throat – or more specifically, scientifically speaking, why whales mostly have striated throats. Again, it was inconclusive, but some wild stats were thrown up along the way: a blue whale can, for example, swallow half-a-million calories' worth of food in one gulp.

Sam West's readings were superb – not having read the Just So Stories, I clearly had a deprived childhood. He brought to mind Martin Jarvis doing Just William – and praise doesn't come any higher than that.