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3.0 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 11 August 2010
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
What we have here is a gem of a series that clearly passed me by completely when it was broadcast on Radio 4 back in 1998. Armstrong & Miller play the two presenters of a music programme that Radio 4 controllers might imagine would appeal to 'the young' - and, you've guessed it, the results are as cringe-worthy as they are hilarious.

The structure of the show is quite clever - it usually starts 'as if' they are broadcasting an episode of 'Children's Hour', and then fades into various 'flash-backs' of what led up to the broadcast. So you may get a throwaway remark from one of them during the 'broadcast' section, that takes on a whole new meaning when you realise what was REALLY going on. This actually ensures good replay value, as you may well miss one or two of the references the first time through.

You also get some of their supposedly 'off-air' conversation, while they are theoretically playing a record, which gives yet another perspective on the events surrounding the show. Watch out for some of the record 'fade-outs', as there will often be a snippet of conversation, usually self-incriminating, hurriedly cut-short as they realise they are back on air.

Of course, given that this was written & performed in 1998, many of the music references are out of date now, but it truly doesn't detract from the comedy - there is a fantastic piece of comic timing when a hotel receptionist is using a head-set phone whilst still trying to check the presenters in - they are never quite sure whether she is talking to them or into the phone. It's cleverly written, and brilliantly performed.

They claim that the four episodes on these 2 discs are the complete series, which seems a strange number to make. But no matter - enjoy these for what they are - a promising early indication of even greater things to come.
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Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
First broadcast on the 2nd December 1998, British comedians Alexander Armstrong and Ben Miller's comical radio sketch entitled 'Children's Hour' lasted for just one series comprising of four half-hour long episodes.

The show is a spoof Radio 4 programme in which the lead characters Martin Bain-Jones (played by Armstrong) and Craig Children (played by Miller) are two pompous music critics, who present a culture show on current popular music aimed at a youthful audience. The show is named `Children's Hour' (after the character Craig Children as well as a patronising summing up of the subject matters target audience).

The duo's overbearing superiority on the flaky subject of current pop music, allows for an Alan Partridge style of satirical comedy. The episodes each explore a particular avenue of modern popular music (Boy Bands, Middle Of The Road, Brit Pop & Solo Artists). The result is a very hit and miss comedy that predominantly plays with the same joke throughout the entire two hours, with small peaks of quite clever wittiness set amongst an otherwise barren landscape of mediocre comedy. Indeed, the additional writing from David Mitchell and Robert Webb may well have been one of the comedy's saving graces.

Although a lot of the humour is now somewhat outdated, the basis of the comedy - smugly chuckling at the banality of pop music brought to surface by two camp and out-of-touch culture journalists - is still something that can be related to. The jokes do often veer towards a more childish nature, however, every now and again a real gem of wittiness comes gleaming out of the show, often as a subtle backhanded laugh in the face of the particular music being examined.

The audio presentation spans two CDs, each one containing two episodes which are in turn broken down into ten tracks. The sleeve notes are the usual BBC Audio Book affair, with little in the way of notes or insight into the series.

All in all, the series is a very 'middle of the road' comedy, that will keep the listener reasonably entertained (but not entirely captivated) with some camp and often unavoidable obvious humour. Still, you're guaranteed at least a couple of laughs and chuckles every now and again.
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Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The comedy landscape has changed quite considerably since the late 1990s, with post-ironic material such as "The Office" and envelope-pushing standup comedians moving the laughs in new directions. These Armstrong and Miller shows from Radio 4 date from 1998 and have, presumably, been released by the Beeb to cash in on the recent - and very funny - Armstrong & Miller TV series. The cover even features a picture of the pair based on the opening sequence of the TV show (the one with the 1960s record player and silly dancing). Some of the material on this 2-CD set has aged gracefully, other sections less so.

Like many current TV formats (Mitchell & Webb, Little Britain), A & M started out on the wireless, where they perfected their part-observational, part character-based comedy. "Children's Hour" takes the form of a show-within-a-show spoof music programme, hosted by Martin Bain-Jones (Armstrong, putting on a William Hague accent for no obvious reason) and Craig Children (Miller, camping it up slightly). The script alternates between 'broadcasts' of the spoof show and a kind of traditional sitcom involving the allegedly wacky, showbiz life of the two presenters.

In general, I found the spoof shows very funny (the throwaway lines about Simply Red, Peter Andre etc. are superb) whilst the parallel sitcom setup, about the presenters' life off air, sounded a little too quaint - more "Are You Being Served" than "The Office". I think it's just the format and the fact that tastes have moved on, as the gags are - for the most part - very funny. There are some hoary old jokes about breasts etc., although A & M do those with a certain tongue-in-cheek panache.

So, overall, a fascinating insight into the formative years of a very popular comedy duo, some excellent laughs for music fans and anyone who enjoys a pop at popular culture, and just a teensy amount of old-skool sitcom padding thrown in.
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Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
First broadcast in 1998, this is a spoof radio series written by and starring Ben Miller and Alexander Armstrong in the days before they found success.

Ben Miller plays Craig Children, the host of Children's hour - a music show on radio four. Armstrong plays his intellectual snob co-host Martin Bain Jones. Some chaos ensues as we follow the two presenters in their attempts to win an award, and make shows which show off their out there taste and pointless musings on the meaning of the music.

This is probably of interest to devoted fans trying to complete their M&A collection. For the casual listener there isn't really a lot here. The main joke, the various word plays around the name `Children' is stretched to breaking point across the four episodes. The rest of the material is pretty thin. Mildly amusing in parts, it is not unlistenable, but there are really not enough laughs to keep one interested. Compared to their later sketch shows it really fares badly. Not even the involvement of Mitchell and Webb as writers can help it.

Much as I hate to diss anything by my two favourite comics of recent times, in all honesty I can only give this two stars. Released by the Beeb to cash in on their recent success, I feel it would have been kinder to leave it in the vault. Listeners new to Armstrong and Miller should try heir self named radio sketch show or their TV shows instead.
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Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
For the first ten or so minutes of Children's Hour it's hard to understand all the mediocre reviews here: it's funny and has plenty of enjoyably silly jokes ("What's this ghastly thing we're going to?" "It's called Leeds."). But the longer you listen, the weaker the joke gets and the more stretched the rather limited characters feel. Pop culture journalists Martin Bain-Jones and Craig Children started life as characters in a sketch show, and that's really where they should have stayed - there's just not enough meat on their bones to hold an entire show successfully together, which may be why this only lasted four episodes. The structure is okay, intercutting their radio broadcasts patronisingly expounding their wisdom on pop music to the kids ("Peter Andre would be in a boy band if he had any mates") and sniping at their more successful rival ("No he's not popular, he's just on the radio a lot! Those are two very different things!"), and there are enough good jokes amid the rather predictable situations to keep you listening, but Armstrong and Miller are capable of much better and this feels too much like a stopgap between TV shows. OK for the A&M faithful, but even for them it's far from an essential purchase.
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Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A couple of years ago Armstrong & Miller did a Times Online podcast called "Timeghost", quite an edgy satire on high-brow art critics starring Armstrong as Martin Bain-Jones and Miller as Craig Children. It was full of fast, sharp wit and worth downloading. They've since done BBC Comedy video clips called "The Node", with the same characters, that you can also catch online. I didn't realise at the time that Armstrong & Miller were reprising characters that they had used on Radio 4 ten years earlier, in "Children's Hour". I was looking forward to hearing it- but then it turns out, the characters have developed a long way since 1998. In 1998, they weren't very good.

There's the odd great one-liner in here, especially in episode 4, but a lot of the time this is a surprisingly derivative and predictable attempt at self-referential comedy, a radio comedy about radio that doesn't quite work. It's the first Armstrong & Miller show I've heard and not really enjoyed. David Mitchell & Robert Webb were involved in some parts of the writing as well, apparently- which would make it the first Mitchell & Webb show I've been disappointed by too.

There's too much similarity to other comedy characters like Alan Partridge and Smashie & Nicey. The attempt to 'Radio 4'-ify the idea, a mock attempt to get crass out-of-touch upper-class twits to present a 'yoof' show that appeals to 'da kids', is one joke stretched across almost two hours, without enough pay-off.

Obviously re-released to cash in on Armstrong & Miller's current popularity, this is a series that maybe should have stayed in the vaults. When it gets a bit edgier it gets funnier but it could have done with a few more rewrites before recording.
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on 1 July 2010
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This 2 disc set, containing 4 episodes, details the travails of Craig Children and Martin Bain-Jones, self-declared highbrow presenters of a spoof Radio 4 youth programme, in which they patronise and analyse popular culture. Reality and fiction are blurred, in that this comedy series WAS broadcast on Radio 4, and was, in the end, genuinely aimed at a more youthful audience than most of its output. I had not heard of the series before, but it was originally broadcast in 1998. Only these 4 episodes were ever made. Armstrong and Miller are doing rather well now, and this was co-written by Mitchell and Webb too, so I can see why the BBC have decided to bring it out.

I rather liked the curious way the episodes were structured, with bits of the Children's Hour programme interspersed with the events of the days before and after the programme, each providing enlightenment to the other, so you had to work out the chronology and as it unfolded, the significance of earlier comments was revealed.

As with the rest of the Armstrong & Miller output the comedy is quite broad and at times unsubtle- take Craig's queeny campness, for example. Martin is a bit more of an intriguing character with an incongruous backstory which I feel they could have explored in more depth. Some of the jokes are overplayed, such as the fact Craig is always caught saying something filthy when it cuts back to him after a song on their programme. Nonetheless, while not the greatest thing ever, this is an amiable and fairly amusing proposition, and I could have stood listening to more of these.
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VINE VOICEon 30 June 2010
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
'Children's Hour' is a curiosity from the early back catalogue of Armstrong & Miller - originally broadcast in 1998 the four programmes sees A&M playing pompous pseudo-intellectuals, casting their eye over various pop music culture strands of the time. Excerpts from their radio programmes are interleaved in each episode with a running storyline.

When it's good, it's very good - the BritPop episode is probably the most successful, with the explanation of the difference betrween Blur and Oasis probably provising the line of the whole series. The 'accidentally-overheard' end of conversations as they come out of records are also sometimes very good. I'd have preferred more of the radio shows and music criticism and less of the inter-running stories, as they tend to become a little unfocussed, and repetitive across the four episodes: it's almost as if they didn't have the courage to really follow the idea through and added the running stories as a counterweight.

There are laughs and smiles to be had here, but large sections of this is fairly inconsequential stuff; and the elephant in the room is of course Steve Coogan's Alan Partridge, who was well established by 1998 and looms over the whole conceit of slightly incompetent, pompous, self-obsessed radio nobodies.

If you're a fan of Armstrong & Miller, this series is probably an interesting artefact from their development. For everyone else it's wryly amusing and (very) occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, but lacks the snap and tightness you might expect.
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Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I've been a fan of Armstrong and Miller's particular brand of comedy since their first TV outing in conjunction with Channel 4 and the Paramount Comedy Channel, but this 1998 Radio 4 comedy series doesn't really hit the mark. The main characters are presenters Martin Bain-Jones and Craig Children, the latter of which's name is currently guffawed over during the four episodes. As well as hosting the eponymous spoof Radio 4 `popular culture/music' programme, both presenters are also journalists on major broadsheet newspapers. If you're a bit of an Armstrong and Miller aficionado you'll recall the characters being used in one of the C4 series, where it worked much better as a shorter five minute sketch.

Basically, it's both dated and not really funny. There are some cringy `smile' moments, but sadly nothing more substantial than that, which is a shame. I kept thinking that other comedy performers had done similar and to be honest, much funnier versions of the genre A&M were trying to gently mock. I'd really question why the BBC decided to release it as one of the episodes would slot nicely into a `Best of A&M' collection, but doesn't really cut the mustard on its own.
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Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is actually a fairly old radio series - it dates from 1998, according to the sleeve notes - which has presumably been released now to capitalize on the success of Armstrong & Miller's TV programme.

Anyone expecting something of the calibre of the excellent RAF Airmen sketches from the TV programme will be disappointed. Armstrong & Miller's TV programme has always seemed quite patchy to me - very good in parts and very disappointing in others. This radio series is even more patchy - there are some very funny moments, but they are submerged in a mass of camp voices and rather obvious (and in some cases quite childish) humour. The idea of the show - two intellectual Radio 4 presenters trying to present a "yoof" programme about pop music but not actually quite able to hide their lack of understanding and sense of superiority - isn't bad, but a lot of the writing around it is lazy, and the voices put on by the two leads are just irritating after a while.

Not entirely without merit, but not really something to seek out either unless you are a really big fan of Armstrong & Miller.
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