ARCHIVE TV ADVENT CALENDAR DAY EIGHTEEN: 18 December 1989

A rare pre-watershed airing for a repeat episode of Alexei Sayle’s Stuff (BBC2).

Well, it had just won an International Emmy. That sparked a repeat showing of the show’s first episode (going by the cast list on Genome), plus a special episode description in the Radio Times:

BBC2 TV Listing: 
8.30 Alexei Sayle's Stuff (R)

Dear Radio Times,

Hip hip hoorah! International recognition for the corpulent illegitimate! How I cheered when this year’s comedy Emmy was awarded to Alexei Sayle!’

Alexei Sayle,
End of Bloomsbury Dole Queue,
Wigan.

Alexei Sayle replies:

Who gives a damn what I think?

Renwick and Marshall had form for including such inaccurate programme descriptions, following in the grand tradition of Spike Milligan’s Q, and continued to nearly-this-very-day by Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell.

Here are a few other examples from Stuff, as compiled by a previous life of this blog:

Co-written with unstoppable sketch comedy pensmiths David Renwick and Andrew Marshall, Sayle’s Stuff was unfairly maligned in some quarters when first hitting our screens, variously maligned as being too rude or too reliant on channelling Flying Circus, but happily it was a winningly inventive series packed with barbed satire, sumptuous surreality and an always welcome willingness to play with the conventions of television. Jokes delivered via the medium of Ceefax, messing around with the BBC Two ident and even faking out the viewers by placing fake programme trailers after the end of an episode.

That invention even went as far as the Radio Times listings, which took the form of outraged letters to the RT itself. Here are a few examples:

Leibnitz – Man or Biscuit?
Dear Radio Times,
What a delight Alexei Sayle ‘s Stuff was this week! My family and I were enraptured by the two young puffins and their hilarious attempts to build a nest using old newspapers. Please, please repeat this soon as it was such a tonic for the eyes in these days of fat b*****ds and shaved heads whining on about Mrs Thatcher.
(Mrs) Josie Pencil
Stratford-under-Lyne
ALEXEI SAYLE replies: Who gives a damn what you think! 
10 November 1988 21.00

How to Point at Chickens

Dear Radio Times,
I switched on my TV set at 9.00pm on Thursday expecting to see another edition of Alexei Sayle ‘s Stuff as advertised. What a disappointment! Due to the whim of those mandarins in programme planning, the series was not cancelled to make way for last-minute coverage of the Embassy Pro-Am Snooker final from the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield.
Spare a thought for the poor sporting viewer, please!
(Mrs) Daisy Hatch
Doncaster
ALEXEI SAYLE replies: Who gives a damn what you think!
17 November 1988 21.00

2: From Avogadro to Ava Gardner
Dear Radio Times,
Why oh why do TV producers insist on subjecting us to the inane cackle of audience laughter, completely drowning programmes with an endless cacophony of mindless braying at the slightest provocation?
Fortunately this is not the case on Alexei Sayle ‘s Stuff where, joy of joys, the studio audience always remains in stunning silence throughout! More of this please!
(Mrs) Sandra Robespierre ,
Chislehurst ALEXEI SAYLE replies: Who gives a damn what you think!
Featuring Alexei Sayle with Leslie Crowther 
20 October 1988 21.00

2: Westward H2O
Dear Radio Times,
Being right-wing crypto fascists with fixed ideas and loud screeching voices, my husband Pip and I sat down to watch this week’s
Alexei Sayle ‘s Stuff on BBC1 with Great Trepidation (our 14-year-old labrador). Imagine our delight when we realised that Mr Sayle had lost several stones and spent the entire show sitting behind a news desk reading hilarious government ‘plans’ for education and health services – keeping us in stitches for the entire half-hour. More of this please!
Mrs Wilhemina ReesMogg ,
Dungeness, Kent
ALEXEI SAYLE replies: Who gives a damn what you think! 
26 October 1989 21.00

4: Six Body Builders of the Italian Renaissance

Dear Radio Times,
When, oh when, will the BBC stop concocting these appalling fake Radio Times letters from obviously bogus people called ‘Mrs Noreen Gripper -Rod’ and the like to publicise Alexei Sayle ‘s Stuff. Even I am completely dummy and do not exist in any rational sense – so stop printing this at once!
Dame Judi Dench , The Bafta Awards,
Attenboro’tfgh-on-Hankies, Surrey.
Alexei Sayle replies: Who gives a damn what you think?
9 November 1989 21.00

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