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Workmanlike but not his best,
This review is from: Spike and Co (Paperback)
Any Graham McCann book is work reading if you're a fan of classic British/English comedy, but this isn't his best and regular readers may find it disappointing. Graham McCann has carved a small but valuable niche as a reliable and positive historian of the golden post-war age of mainly BBC radio and TV comedy. You won't find sensation or expose in any of his books, just a positive and partisan but still objective record of a period falling further away from us and group of people who are increasingly "absent friends".
A detailed and insightful record of the "Associated London Scripts" group of writers would be fascinating to read and a treasure-trove to anyone who loves the comedy of this period, but sadly this book isn't it. Only the first chapter really deals with the history of ALS, and the bulk of the book is made up of short biographies of individual writers and then essays about their best known series. The book also doesn't really stick to its brief, as the period it covers extends far outside the lifetime of ALS and the individual biographies barely refer to their presence, memories or contribution to the collective.
Graham McCann's book on Frankie Howerd and Eric Sykes's autobiography cover a lot of the same ground in as much if not more detail, and are a more interesting and rewarding read. The Howerd book in particular is an excellent biography which doesn't fall into the trap of pillorying the man at the expense of celebrating his work, and covers the full sweep of BBC and English comedy from the post-war period to the 1990s.
Spike and Co is really a bound edition of eight or nine "pocket essentails", trustworthy and well-written capsules on separate subjects, and it works best as a primer for the uninitiated into the history of BBC radio and TV comedy of the late 1950s and early 1960s.