This tape opens with the end of Did You See featuring Brian Rix, John Wells and Edna Healey, presented by Jeremy Paxman.
There’s a trailer for Monday Night’s programmes.
Then, an adaptation of Simon Gray’s stage play, Common Pursuit (stripped of its definite article in the adaptation).
I saw this play when it was staged in London in the mid 80s, with an all star cast including Stephen Fry, John Sessions, John Gordon Sinclair and Rik Mayall. Of these, only Stephen Fry survived the transition to TV – this was in the days when he and Simon Gray liked each other, before the infamous breakdown during the production of Cell Mates.
The play concerns a group of people who meet at Cambridge, where Kevin McNally has assembled a group with the intention to publish a literary magazine, The Common Pursuit.
Tim Roth plays Nick Finchley, the louche future theatre critic. I think this was Mayall’s role in the original.
James Fleet plays Peter Whetworth, writer and serial philanderer, always using his friends as alibis as he cheats on his wife.
He’s billed as Wentworth in iMDb but he’s Whetworth in the Wikipedia article, and on an on-screen note.
American movie star Andrew McCarthy plays Martin Musgrove, who’s not the intellectual giant that the others seem to be, but he can offer financial support.
Stella Gonet plays Marigold, McNally’s girlfriend, who frankly doesn’t get much of a character here – a general problem with the whole plot.
Ian Bannen plays famous poet Hubert Stout, who offers the magazine some support at the start.
While we’re obsessing about the spelling of people’s names, Stephen Fry’s character is billed in iMDb as ‘Humphrey Taylor’ but his name is shown on screen (twice) as ‘Humphry Tayler’. Now, I’ve no idea if that spelling is correct, or if it’s the work of a slightly sloppy set decorator. Given that the on-screen credit is ‘Humphry’ I think it’s more likely that the iMDb credit is wrong, and Gray just chose an odd spelling for Tayler.
This is a nice play, about thwarted literary aspirations, the pressure of having (or not having) a family, infidelity and moral philosophy, and has a melancholy ending. It takes place over a span of about 20 years, from its beginning as the group meets for the first time, through various points in time when they all happen to coincide again, and there’s a nice structural conceit where the last few minutes of the very first scene aren’t actually seen until the very end of the play. This isn’t for some shock revelation that changes the meaning of everything we’ve watched, merely a bittersweet reflection of the people we’ve been watching, while they were still young and relatively carefree.
I would highly recommend reading Simon Gray’s writings, by the way. He’s written extensively about the production of various of his shows, including this one, and he’s very candid.
BBC Genome: BBC Two – 8th March 1992 – 22:00
After this, recording switches to a Sunday Morning, with the end of See Hear who have a political debate in the week preceding a General Election.
There’s a look ahead to more programmes for the morning.
Then, The Trojan Mouse, a look at ten years of the BBC’s Computer Literacy Project. Ian McNaught Davies presents a look back at how the BBC taught a whole generation of people (me included) to program computers.
Among the luminaries interviewed are the two main designers of the BBC Micro (and subsequently the ARM chip that now powers most smartphones) Steve Furber
And Sophie Wilson
They tell the now infamous story of how Acorn boss Herman Hauser told each of them separately that the other knew how they could build a prototype micro for the BBC in a week, hoping to play them off against each other.
Another famous face from the BBC world was Nazir Jessa, boss of Watford Electronics. I bought my first floppy disk drive from Watford Electronics, while they were still in a small shop down a residential street in Watford.
From the BBC, there’s Executive Producer John Radcliffe
And the Editor of the project David Allen
In the section about the vicar who uses his Archimedes to create a parish magazine, it’s nice to see him using Impression, the desktop publishing package I worked on at Computer Concepts.
Here’s the whole programme.
BBC Genome: BBC One – 5th April 1992 – 10:30
After this, there’s a brief flash of an advert for Acorn User magazine, quite unusual for the BBC.
Then recording switches to an episode of The Comic Strip Presents – The Red Nose of Courage. It’s the story of John Major’s rise from failed circus performer to the heights of British Politics. Major is played by Adrian Edmondson.
Alexei Sayle plays his father.
Jennifer Saunders plays Margaret Thatcher.
Dawn French plays Glenys Kinnock (in Neil Kinnock’s place as leader of the opposition).
Rik Mayall plays the Shadow Home Secretary.
Nigel Planer plays the Home Secretary
Robbie Coltrane plays the Speaker
It’s not a bad outing, and ends on a very cynical note. “Is it not true that the labour party have thrown off the mantle of socialism in favour of a much more practical and realistic ‘I want it and I want it now’ way of thinking?”
And then Alexei Sayle tears the Magna Carta in half and blows up the Houses of Parliament.
BBC Genome: BBC Two – 9th April 1992 – 22:30
After this, there’s a very brief bit of recording from the Election Night coverage – nothing interesting, I’m afraid – before that recording stops and underneath there’s some concert footage from someone I don’t recognise in The Session.
The tape ends during this.
- Carling Black Label