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The Young Postmen

Radio 4

Weird, wonderful and, alas, utterly neglected comedy which ran for just one six-part series in late 1992.  The Young Postmen was created by Ben Miller and focussed on the activities of Brian (Miller), Derek (John Thompson) and Sue (Felicity Montagu), a group of plucky postal workers who spent each episode engaged in some arduous quest, be it the conquest of Everest, seeing off an alien threat or composing a novelty song for the celebrated French cyclist Bernard Ineaux.  Assassinating innocent librarians, writing sure-fire hit musicals and kneecapping Gary Lineker were no obstacle to the intrepid trio from Swansden Central Post Office, who actually managed to deliver about one letter in the course of the series.  

The show’s brilliance lay in its total accordance with the principles of internal logic.  For instance, in every episode, whatever circumstances unfolded, and wherever they ended up, the postmen would always happen to meet an exact doppelgänger of their supervisor, Mr Tilbury (and fail to notice the resemblance).  Tilbury himself, played by Jim Barclay, talked in a continuous stream of Victorian mill-owner clichés with absolutely no bearing on anything anybody said to him.  Also in the cast was the impressionist Alistair McGowan; internal logic decreed that each episode featured a character MacGowan could do an impression of, which led to some very strange encounters (Jack Nicholson in the Arabian desert, Sgt Wilson from Dad’s Army in a Tolkeinesque fantasy world, etc).

Ben Miller’s work from around this period also includes a successfully-received tribute to Blue Peter presenter John Noakes, performed at the Edinburgh Festival.  He has since formed the double-act Armstrong and Miller with Alexander Armstrong: they have recorded one TV series, transmitted on Channel 4, and subsequently a rather low-key Radio 4 series.  John Thompson, meanwhile, has become well-known thanks to his appearances with Steve Coogan (in his Paul Calf incarnation) and on BBC2’s The Fast Show.

See also: Armstrong and Miller

© JB Sumner 1998