Toby Hadoke’s Now I Know My BBC

There can now only be a few die-hard Doctor Who fans that are not familiar with Toby Hadoke (or, indeed, friends with him on facebook).  Hadoke came to prominence a few years ago with his one-man comedy show Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf, the success of which has facilitated regular ‘appearances’ on BBC DVD commentaries, Big Finish audios and DWM review pages.

Doctor Who fan Toby Hadoke's new show, Now I Know My BBCMoths was a warm retrospective of Hadoke’s formative years, told through his experiences as a Doctor Who fan; its immediate success was largely down to Hadoke’s genuine and entertaining love for his subject and his sincerity as a comedian; but, straddling the zeitgeist, it came along at exactly the right time and had a ready-made audience.  It was probably always going to be a tough act to follow.

Now that Moths is winding down, Hadoke has finally released his ‘difficult second album’, in the form of Now I Know My BBC, currently playing in the Edinburgh Festival.

Having read the title some months ago, I did wonder where Hadoke was going with this new show – would it feature clever jokes about Maggie Philbin or Philip Martin?  Would it be peppered with references to Gangsters, The Lotus Eaters, Jackanory, Target, Tenko, Morgan’s Boy, The Forsyte Saga, Juliet Bravo, All Creatures, Blue Peter and Rentaghost?  Would I be able to nod sagely at witty one-liners about Top of the Pops sets in Carnival of Monsters or the Play School clock strike of 1979?  Would this be Moths for the ardent student of all that stuff we old-time Who fans already know about (largely through osmosis, Pixley and Bentham)?  Would it, in short, only appeal to Doctor Who spods of mine and Toby’s TV generation?

Well, no, it didn’t.  And that, if you haven’t already realised, is actually A Very Good Thing.  Now I Know My BBC is a delightful piece of work, as engaging and funny as it is thought provoking.  If anything, BBC is less spoddy than Moths in that it doesn’t necessarily rely on the audience’s deep knowledge of its wide subject.  Bumbling along like some barmy media professor, Hadoke covers enough BBC output to fill a small retrospective TV show (but with charming authority).

They’re all here: Grange Hill, The Generation Game, The Singing Detective, Howards’ Way (did I get the apostrophe right, Toby?), The Clangers, the shipping forecast, and so on; but you don’t need to know anything about them, because Hadoke pulls you right in and gives you everything you need to know.  Like the best teacher you ever had, he brings to life the BBC’s rich back catalogue, couching things in terms of our modern preoccupations such as the internet or Hollyoaks.  That he is able to brilliantly and cleverly elicit sparkling humour from the larger drama inherent in both the production and home viewing of these programmes is nothing short of wonderful.

That said, Hadoke shouldn’t be afraid of filling in a few more details.  When talking of The Clangers he describes Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin as ‘two men in a shed’, without ever telling us their names.  Given that the audience were cheerily nodding along with other such details when they came, I think this would add to the collective experience of those watching ‘in the know’.

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Elton Townend-Jones is a journalist, playwright, actor, theatre producer and philosopher. He does ‘80s zeitgeist at

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