1999 (five programmes)
This series was based around classical music, which has been an unusually popular inspiration for radio comedy in the past few years; it made an original contribution to the format, however, in that it ignored its subject matter completely. What we were listening to, supposedly, was a Radio 4 interview show hosted by the husband-and-wife team of Patrick and Maureen Maybe (Patrick Barlow, who also wrote the series, and Imelda Staunton); but within the first minute or so, any hope of erudite discussion disappeared out of the window, thanks to the couple’s incessant petty bickering. The situation was generally aggravated by the guest musicians and composers (played by various guest comic performers), who were always extremely attractive and/or of a deeply sensual disposition and would invariably attract the attention of one presenter and the rampant jealousy of the other, although not necessarily in that order.
As in Barlow’s earlier series, Desmond Olivier Dingle’s Compleat Life and Works of William Shakespeare by Desmond Olivier Dingle, the shows also featured further guest appearances from real-life celebrities playing themselves, who would be thoroughly alienated and confused by the Maybes’ unique presentational approach. Indeed, Patrick Maybe came across as a very close cousin to Barlow’s theatrical creation Desmond Olivier Dingle, as he tried to coerce the celebrities into co-starring in his self-scripted ‘Scenes from the Lives of the Great Composers’, on which they had never been briefed and which, like everything else in the show, collapsed into chaos within the first twenty seconds.
As the series progressed, Patrick and Maureen’s relationship deteriorated: after three weeks, they were presenting the show in the presence of a trained marriage guidance counsellor (who accidentally provoked a startlingly realistic bust-up between that week’s guests, fellow celebrity couple Mike Smith and Sarah Greene); by the final show the Maybes had decided their differences were irreconcilable and were presenting from separate studios, with the changeovers marked by a buzzer. Struggling to make his voice heard over the confusion was the show’s one regular guest, Dr Willow-Withings (another immaculate Peter Jones turn), an elderly musicologist who would be persistently ignored throughout the broadcast — occasionally being locked in a broom cupboard — and then hastily recalled in the last few minutes to present his spot, an archive feature in which he presented rare early footage of well-known classical composers, all of whom had unmistakeably died well before the invention of the tape recorder.