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New radio adaptation of Three Men in a Boat

This Sunday on BBC Radio 4 at 3.00pm you can hear the first of a two-part dramatisation of Three Men in a Boat. It stars Steve Punt and Hugh Dennis (from the Now Show) and the excellent Julian Rhind-Tutt. I’m not holding my breath. The trails on Radio 4 have sounded about as funny as putting on a pair of wet swimming trunks, ponderous, reverential and with clunky non-Jeromian dialogue. The Radio Times bills it as an ‘Edwardian adventure down the Thames…’
I’m delighted to see that JKJ is on the radio once more but why does it always have to be the same book? In 2009 I tried to get Radio 4 to mark the 150th birthday by dramatising something else of Jerome’s. But no. Not a flicker of interest.
I may be wrong about this latest adaptation – I hope so. But let us know what you think!

5 replies
  1. Hennypenny
    Hennypenny says:

    I am very much looking forward to this but am convinced there will never be anything to match Jeremy Nicholas’ performances and wonder why on earth the BBC does not repeat those. Also I totally agree that other JKJ works should be aired. Surely, if read by Jeremy, they would not only match the satire broadcast today but in most cases be more relevant and entertaining. Silly BBC..but sadly typical.

    • Jeremy Nicholas
      Jeremy Nicholas says:

      Hennypenny – I don’t know you, we are not related, nor has any money changed hands, but I think I’m in love with you! Thank you for your kind words – much appreciated. In fact BBC Radio 4 Extra (never been able to find it myself) apparently repeated all 3 broadcasts of Three Men in a Boat and all 3 of Three Men on the Bummel last year.

      But you have provided me with the opportunity to repeat a post from the old Forum. My commercial recordings of Boat and Bummel are available from me direct: £10 (inc. p&p in the UK) for each 2 CD set or £15 if you buy both. NB These are not the BBC performances in front of an audience but studio recordings. At present, the CDs come with no frills or photos – just the discs in a jewel case – but I’m looking into producing something a bit fancier.

    • Ashmole
      Ashmole says:

      I too was looking forward to this until I heard the trail. The book is full of joy, nostalgia, jokes and anecdotes. It’s a joy. Three young pals, that I feel I know, setting off on an adventure. From what I heard of the radio 4 trail they sounded like they were off to a favourite aunt’s funeral. I’m not optimistic…

  2. Hennypenny
    Hennypenny says:

    If I knew how to do those things called “smileys” on here I would. No, not related and far too miserly to bribe but delighted to receive love from afar! It was an interesting broadcast on Saturday; my husband thought it quite good but then he does not know the books as I do. For me it did not achieve the character and sense of the time in which it was written or the development characters themselves. It was interesting to see which bits of the book were included and made me check how accurate and true the words used were. It reminded me of that film from years ago which was a vehicle for comedians of the time but a total disappointment for anyone who loves JKJ’ s book. Another bit of BBC dumbing down, methinks,to appeal to the masses but not at all sure if the masses listen to Radio four on a Sunday afternoon anyway. I was busy making jam, yes, and that is said with the proper emphasis on “jam” . Incidentally I am lucky enough to have a copy of those cd’s And with no bribery or corruption involved they are wonderful! My Desert Island choice and lifeline.

    • Jeremy Nicholas
      Jeremy Nicholas says:

      I too tuned in…but left after 25 minutes because life is too short and it was boring. Boring! It takes a special kind of talent to make Three Men in a Boat boring – but there it was, sounding like a bit of second-rate Ibsen. If Three Men in a Boat fails to raise even a smile in the first quarter of an hour then something is seriously wrong. Did no one tell the adapter, cast and producer(s) that it’s a comedy? It’s supposed to make people laugh.
      So why did it fail? First, the way it was dramatised. Take away too much Jerome and add too much of your own stuff and you do so at your peril. Secondly, radio shouid make your imagination work. Here, if the sea was mentioned, we had a sound effect of the sea. In the visit to the British Museum we had to have people going ‘Ssssh’ – which became the focus of the scene instead of J discovering how ‘ill’ he was. Montmorency was given a voice. Fatal. Though perhaps children might have appreciated it (not that children listen to drama on the radio any more).
      Cast? Julian Rhind Tutt – quite wonderful last week in Ian Hislop’s BBC TV Drama The Wiper’s Times – uncharacteristically didn ‘t get it. Neither did the over-rated Steve Punt. His chum Hugh Dennis did, but not enough to salvage it. I suspect they fell under the heavy hand of one or both of the two [sic] producers. It was an independent production for the BBC. More experienced (in-house BBC) producers in the pre-Birt days would have kicked some life into the thing from the start instead of letting it drift along with all the energy of a sedated labrador. When narrative and dialogue proceed at such a snail’s pace, with such literal treatment of the script, then any light touch, any comedy goes out the window.
      Why is it Three Men attracts such disastrous adaptations? Look no further than the Jimmy Edwards / Laurance Harvey / David Tomlinson disaster, my own sabotaged attempt for Channel 4 (I blame the director!) and the dismal travesty involving Griff Rhys-Jones et al a few years ago (a lucky escape for me – but at least I got paid).
      And lastly, why does the BBC website refer to the book as an Edwardian caper while noting that the book was published in 1889? Truly, madly, deeply dispiriting all round.

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