The Idiot Weekly (Priced 2d)

1956 | United Kingdom

As early as 1956 Associated Rediffusion tried to cash in on the popularity of The Goon Show in this attempt to recreate the lunacy of radio comedy's finest half hour. The Idiot Weekly (price 2d) was a tatty Victorian tabloid run by Peter Sellers and each week its headlines were used as a convenient link for a number of off-the-wall sketches featuring Sellers and Spike Milligan, who also wrote a majority of the scripts. However, Associated London Scripts, a co-operative of talented scriptwriters of whom Milligan was a member, also contributed. The rest of the team was comprised of John Antrobus, Eric Merriman, Brad Ashton, Lew Schwarz, Dick Barry, Dave Freeman, Ray Galton, Alan Simpson, John Junkin, Terry Nation, Johnny Speight and Eric Sykes, although it is unlikely that they all contributed. 

Sykes appeared in front of the cameras as did Valentine Dyall (radios infamous 'Man in Black'), Kenneth Connor, Graham Stark, June Whitfield, Patti Lewis and Max Geldray. The series ran for five episodes until April 1956 and by May, Milligan and Sellers were back with A Show Called Fred. For A Show Called Fred, Spike Milligan went solo with the scripts and on-screen support came from Dyall, Connor, Stark, Lewis and Geldray. Like the previous sketch show this one was only seen by London viewers and ran for five episodes ending on May 30th. In September it re-emerged as Son of Fred (from which the above photograph is taken).

Son of Fred was, some thirteen years before, the precursor to Milligan's celebrated 'Q' series. Milligan announced that he was bored with conventional TV boundaries and began to experiment with surreal concepts using minimal scenery, simple props and the use of animation to link between sketches. But the format that would eventually become cult watching in the hands of the 'Monty Python' team in the late 1960's, were a little premature for the audience 1950's, or so ITV thought and Son of Fred was cancelled after 8 shows. It would be eight years before Spike Milligan would return to British TV with a full series. Sellers was contracted to do one more series for Associated Rediffusion and returned in 1957 for Yes, It's the Cathode-Ray Tube Show! All three series were produced by Dick Lester, who would later direct numerous feature movies, perhaps most famously the two Beatles films, A Hard Day's Night and Help! In 1963 ITV screened a 30-minute compilation of the two Fred shows entitled Best of Fred.

Published on December 22nd, 2018. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.