John Finnemore’s Double Acts: Penguin Diplomacy. Radio Review.

Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * * *

Cast: Martin Clunes, Tom Goodman-Hill.

There is always the chance that the storm in the South Atlantic could once more blow cold, that any disputed island off the South Americas might find itself part of an invasion or at least the warmth and cordial act of diplomacy and the polite conversation regarding the sexual appetites of Penguins.

One never knows what sense of beautiful, intelligently written comedy might come from the pen and mind of John Finnemore, the man to whom the radio comedy Cabin Pressure, starring a young Benedict Cumberbatch, the matriarchal wit of Stephanie Cole and the smooth tones of Roger Allam, was an absolute hit, yet somehow still unceasingly manages to produce great humour and comedic situations that rival anything that comes across on television.

It is almost as if the masters of television comedy could not cope with having someone as creative as Mr. Finnemore on the screen, and in an age when it feels as if British television comedy is dying a terrible slow death, something as demanding and funny as John Finnemore’s Double Acts should be lauded as suitable to have viewers entranced and positively encouraged to watch.

In the second series of the light entertainment programme, Penguin Diplomacy stands out as being a half hour that rivals some of the greats of British comedy’s great moments, the word play between its two characters, Søndergaard and Bunning, performed with incredible timing by Tim Goodman-Hill and Martin Clunes, is not just enjoyable and sparring but it stands up against the very best of Hancock’s Half Hour, Blackadder and even Only Fools and Horses for its use of situation, believability and sense of legitimacy in which all comedy must adhere too, of it cannot be thought of as being stoked in integrity then it falls into farce which is always at least honourable or just pandering to trickery which is unforgiveable.

Both Mr. Goodman-Hill, no stranger to very good radio comedy in Hut 33, and Martin Clunes produce a verbal appreciation of the script which is absolutely sincere and timed to perfection and the situation is one that not only rings true but has style woven through its core.

Penguin Diplomacy is a fantastic addition to radio comedy but one that with regret might never be seen by many more as a true masterpiece of television half hours.


Ian D. Hall