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The Skivers
Radio 4
Series One 1994 (five programmes)
Series Two 1995 (five programmes)
Series Three 1997 (five programmes)
Billed as coming “from the same stable as And Now In Colour”, the only real connection between the two shows was the presence of Tim de Jongh, who carried elements of his unique brand of humour (probably best described as ‘silly’) into this sketch series, co-written with newcomer Nick Golson.  If The Skivers lacked the polish of similar Radio 4 shows, it was also more than usually creative: a typical routine would begin, “Now, most driving instructors are humans, aren’t they, but I had one once who was a dog…”  The sketches, which also featured Pete Bradshaw and Melanie Giedroyc (replaced by Sally Phillips in Series Three), were interspersed with snatches of music, link-pieces from Tim and Nick, and authoritative but baffling voice-over announcements (“For identification purposes: I am not a toucan”) from, amongst others, Patrick Allen.  But the most important component of each week’s show was the special guest feature.  Lining up to appear as Tim and Nick’s “hero for one day” — and taking part in their surreal, disconnected crosstalk — was a succession of celebrities of, shall we say, a certain status (suffice it to say that Lewis Collins, Rodney Bewes, Britt Ekland and Peter Stringfellow have all appeared).

The Skivers has gained itself a permanent footnote in radio comedy history: the final programme of Series Two was the last Radio 4 show ever to be recorded at the Paris Studio, the BBC’s main venue for audience recordings for several decades.  To mark the occasion, the show featured a special guest who was more special than usual: Spike Milligan, arguably the greatest and most influential figure in British radio comedy.

© JB Sumner 1998