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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Life with the Lyons (BBC)

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This BBC radio comedy series, probably the first sitcom in Britain, ran for twelve years between 1950 and 1961, and starred American movie stars Ben Lyon and Bebe Daniels, and their children Barbara and Richard. It broke the mold of BBC radio comedy of the day, which usually comprised sketches alternating with musical items or guest star spots.
Bebe Daniels, the creative side of the couple, came up with the format of the Lyons playing themselves, with Ben working for a film company, living in London, bringing up their children, even giving their (almost correct) home address. From 1950 to 1961 we listened to them raising their children, watching them mature, get engaged and married. She made them larger than life, but basically they played themselves. Bebe was the scatterbrain, Ben the authoritarian father, Barbara the teenager flitting from romance to romance with the catchphrase "I'll die...... I'll just die" when things went wrong. Richard would do anything for a shilling but never spent one. They had a hard time with Barbara & Richard who didn't want the discipline of a regular radio show, with Bebe's rules - no nights out, no onions or garlic, before a broadcast. Barbara especially became a "star" in her own mind until Bebe sorted her out. Bebe worked as script editor from the writers' layouts, honing the scripts until she was happy. They recorded rehearsals, playing the acetates that night to cut out unsuccessful lines, or make improvements. Acting was second nature to her, but praise for her scripts brought her real pleasure. Bebe finalised the scripts in her basement at Southwick Street, from drafts by Bob Block, Ronnie Hanbury and others, including at one time Bob Monkhouse. Brad Ashton was brought in to help following Ronnie Hanbury's death in a car crash in France. During out-of-season breaks each year, they went back to America where in 1954 Bebe was surprised by "This Is Your Life", thinking she was going to praise Louella Parsons. (from Phil Watson OTRR)
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References: Old Time Radio Researchers Group, Wikipedia, Frank Passage & Others OTR Logs, Archive.org, Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio by John Dunning, Australian Old Time Radio Group



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