Yet another old Grant Naylor radio sit-com is dragged kicking and screaming from the archives.
As with Wrinkles, Wally Who? is an early radio sit-com straight from the pens of our beloved Rob Grant and Doug Naylor. As such, it’s something that is of great interest to G&T and, hopefully, to you all. Well, good news, everyone: thanks to the excellent and possibly sexy Kevin Askew we have five episodes for you get your grubbing, pawing mitts on. But first, let’s try and summarise as much information as we can about the show and where better to start than the only mention of the show from one of its creators:
We worked our way up to full blown radio sitcoms. We created three of them, which were all commissioned for series, though we only got round to writing two of them, Wrinkles and Wally Who? before we were whisked away to the glamourous world of television, where our mistakes would be more expensive and higher profile and much less forgivable.
That’s taken from Rob Grant’s lovely message to the fans to mark Dwarf‘s 20th anniversary and reveals a grand total of one thing: Wrinkles and Wally Who? are the only radio sit-coms they created, wrote and got to air. Nothing revealing, but it’s handy to know that with these episodes we now have at least a taste of all their significant past work. We’ve come a long way, baby.
We’ve briefly mentioned the show before on G&T when John hunted down some details on the now sadly offline BBC Programme Catalogue. THIS IS WHAT HE SAID:
We’ve mentioned this before, but not really dwelt on it, so… bloody hell. A six-part radio sitcom written by Rob and Doug, broadcast on Radio 2, and produced by Mike Craig and featuring Nick Maloney – exactly like Wrinkles. The description for the series: “Sitcom starring Tony BRANDON as Wally Thornton, a man living in a scrapyard and going nowhere in life apart from the local pub, run by landlord John JARDINE.”
So from that we have an official description of the show, and it’s pretty much all you need to know (although Mike Fey is the producer and not Mike Craig.) It’s a simple setup and one ideal for some gentle comedy based on the various boredom induced exploits of Wally. Also featuring in the show is a light sprinkling of peripheral characters including Ronnie, Colin and WOMEN.
Wally – Wallace Thornton is our ‘hero’. After his divorce he now resides in a caravan situated in a scrap yard (hence the Who in the title, I shouldn’t wonder) and he makes his living buying and attempting to sell hilariously inadequate items. He’s ambitious, not a little stupid and his character mainly extends to being the foil to whichever of his cohorts he’s currently interacting with. That’s when he’s not off on some hilarious endeavour in the real word. Wally is played by Tony Brandon, a long standing radio veteran even at the time of Wally Who?‘s recording.
Eric – Eric is Wally’s put-upon best friend. Aside from Wally, Eric is the character we spend the most time with, which makes the fact that he’s not all that funny or interesting a little too obvious.
Ronnie – Ronnie likes women. He likes women so much the entirety of his dialogue consists of low rent, one note jokes about this fact. It seems “Phworr, eh?” is some sort of hideous catchphrase for this character.
Colin – Colin is a nerd. In the first episode he is heard obsessing about the correct routes/roads to take to their fishing destination and splitting the cost of things, all of which is done with his hilarious nerd voice.
Various women – Played by Rosalind Knight. And they say Rob and Doug can’t write for women…
Below is a review for each episode of Wally Who? we have in our possession. Download links can be found here or in the relevant Downloads section.
E01 – Just The Way You Are
Or: Rob and Doug teach us the evils of women.
In episode one we are introduced to the titular Wally Thornton and his band of friends: Eric, Ronnie and Colin. Wally is single, you see, so he is all too aware of his friends’ being hamstrung by ‘the wives’. I’m sad to say the phrase “Who wears the trousers?” pops up its ugly head at one point. Wally eventually meets a lady of his own, thus removing himself the lads’ traditional Thursday night fishing trips in favour of a number of more high brow activities with Miranda. The romance, however, don’t quite go as planned…
In this first episode, there’s a great reliance on the dialogue and gags being as funny as possible, as the plot itself is fairly straight. Unfortunately this doesn’t quite work, on account of it not being very funny. At all. Reading the character summaries above should give you a good idea where most of the humour attempts to come from and as a result the episode exhibits all the worst traits of ‘traditional’ comedy, in a way that Wrinkles exhibits all the best. This does not feel like a show written by Rob & Doug, our future heroes of alternative sit-com.
It’s surprising to see that Wrinkles and Cliché both pre-date this show, as Wally Who? feels so under-developed. Things do improve as the series progresses, though, and every episode has enough to like in it to make it worth a listen – this is Rob and Doug after all so the show can’t fail but make the odd joke land, but it’s far, far too rare.
It’s interesting (but not all that surprising) to see early ideas for jokes that would be later used in Dwarf, and in this episode’s case the lads’ philosophy about fishing certainly sounds familiar…
E02 – The Whiz Kid
E03 – I Want To Be In The Movies
E04 – The Painting
E05 – The Caravan
So, let us know what you think. We’ll continue to publish a new episode and review on a weekly(ish) basis, so I hope you’ll listen along with us and share your thoughts. So far we have the first five episodes out of a total of ten in our possession, and we would very much like to get hold of the rest, so if you do have the means to provide us with one or all of the Final Five, we’d be very grateful.
You have been listening to Wally Who? starring Tony Brandon as Wally with John Jardine, Chris Ellison, Nick Maloney and Rosalind Knight. Wally Who? is written by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, theme and incidental music by Debbie Katz and the programme produced in Manchester by Mike Fey.