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The Mark Steel Solution

Radio 5
1992 (six programmes??)
Radio 4
Series One 1994 (four programmes)
Series Two 1995 (four programmes)
Series Three 1996 (four programmes?)

Satirical series fronted by stand-up comedian Mark Steel and originally appearing on the now-defunct Radio 5.  The show (original slogan: “Give me thirty minutes and Iíll convince you of anything!”) was based around the idea that each week, Steel would propose an absurd solution to a contemporary social problem and then convince the audience, by highlighting the problems of the existing system, that it was obviously the best course to take.  The solutions read like bizarre cut-ups of current social concerns and right-wing preoccupations: “Everybody born in England should be deported”; “The royal family should be chosen by a weekly lottery”; “Anyone with a job should be sent to prison”; “Everybody should be forced to be gay for two years”.  And yet, somehow, he always managed to convince…

The show was co-written by Pete Sinclair, formerly a principal writer on Spitting Image and the man who for several years wrote Ned Sherrinís monologues for Loose Ends.  Sinclair also appeared in the show, as did Maria McErlane and, in the later series, Kim Wall.  The show transferred to Radio 4 after the destruction of the younger network: some of the scripts from the original series were reworked or reused.  Steel returned to radio in 1998 with a new series, presented in lecture format and entitled The Mark Steel Revolution.

See also: Markís experiences at the hands of a humourless producer during the recording of this show are hilariously described in a short section of his book, Itís Not A Runner Bean... (Dispatches from a Slightly Successful Comedian) (Do-Not Press 1996, ISBN 1 899344 12 8). The book itself, basically an account of life in the mid-to-lower reaches of the comedy profession, is shot through with Steelís heartfelt social observations, as well as being very funny, and is emphatically well worth a look.  The producer in question is left nameless in the text and will remain so here, although Iím fairly sure he crops up in another role in connection with other programmes described on these pages.

© JB Sumner 1998, 1999.  Last altered 1/3/99