Michael Bentine was one of the original line up of the Goon Show, from the first broadcast in May 1951, until the end of the second series in July 1952. He left, not as some newpapers of the time reported, due to a 'bust up' with Spike, but because he though three would work better than four (and the success of the Goon Show can only support this), and because although he had similar ideas of comedy as Spike, there were differences.
After his time with the Goons, Bentine had done other things and one of them was a tour of Australia and whilst there did a show called Three's A Crowd. When he returned, he was telephoned by Pat Dixon and asked if he would like to do a show. Bentine agreed and reused the best bits from the Australian show and wrote the rest with David Nettheim, enlisted to write down his ideas for him, admitting he did not really like doing the typing. The show started in October 1959, was a thirteen part series, went under the title of Round the Bend in Thirty Minutes, and was broadcast on the Light Programme, what is now Radio Two. The line up was of Bentine, Nettheim, Benny Lee and Marie Benson, with Pat Dixon producing the show.
The show did do well, but was a non-audience show, and therefore was not as well received or as popular as the still running Goon Show, however, a further 26 episodes were commissioned. All was well, but then Pat Dixon was diagnosed as having terminal cancer. The show went on with Charles Chilton (who created and wrote the legendary Journey Into Space series) taking over as the producer and made as a private tribute to Pat. Althought the humour resembles that of the Goons in as much as it is very offbeat and abstract at times, Bentine was always one to attempt all sorts of techinical effects and would do this far more logically than Milligan (who would think nothing of taking his sock off, filling it with custard, and whacking it against the canteen wall!). Material of Bentine that does survive on tape shows the sort of voice effects and ideas that he used. most notably the recording without an audience and the multi tracking to create crowds with only a few people.
In Bentine's 'The Reluctant Jester' he recalls that it was through this series that he first met Dick Lester. Those who are Goon fans will remember the name as it was Lester who produced the Milligan and Sellers teaming on London Region commercial TV in Fred and Son of Fred. The information I have though says that when Sellers was contacted for a further 6 episodes, Bentine replaced Milligan, and the series went under the title, Yes, It's the Cathode Ray Tube Show. Unfortunately, this latter series didn't do as well as the other two, but lead directly to a friendship between Bentine and Lester that was to develop the return of Round The Bend.
Although The Reluctant Jester does not mention Cathode Ray, his earlier biography, The Long Banana Skin does, and it says that Sellers approached him to write and appear in Cathode Ray (surely scotching the rumours that there was any acrimony between him and the other Goons!) as he was still contracted for a further six shows, but Lester had left the company producing it, Associated Rediffusion, and Spike was busy on a film. Bentine agreed and brought in David Nettheim to commit to paper what was in Bentine's head. He then goes on to say that it was through Cathode Ray that he brought Lester in for the Round The Bend series - all a bit confusing really. What can be said is that Dick certainly influenced a lot of the techinical side of Bentine's approach to his comedy, including the speeding up of voices, and mutli-recording sounds.
During the second run, David Nettheim left to join the cast of a West End production and John Law, a Scottish journalist, took up the reigns, and it was also at this time that a female was added to the, up to then, all male cast. This was a suggestion of Chilton so that the series would have a broader appeal.
The cast included Bentine, Lester, Peter Hawkins (who was to later supply the voices of the cybermen and Daleks in Doctor Who), Clive Dunn (Of Dad's Army fame), Benny Lee, Judith Chalmers (Clitheroe Kid and numerous holiday programs) and Janet Waters. Guests on the show also included Ronnie Barker and Ron Moody.
Unfortunately only the show broadcast on the 10th June 1960 actually exists in the BBC Sound Archives. Please contact me if you think you have any other editions of this show.
:: Round the Bend In Thirty Minutes
Broadcast on a sunday evening ont he Light Programme, between, 6.30-7.00pm (except 12 which went out half an hour later), the series was billed as above with some shows having the rider, 'The Radio Digest Show'. The cast were Michael Bentine, Benny Lee, David Nettheim, Marie Benson, with announcements made by Ronald Fletcher, music by Nat Temple and his Orchestra, and music arrangement by Ken Thorne. Michael Bentine and David Nettheim wrote the scripts and Pat Dixon produced the show.
:: Round the Bend - Series 2
This series was broadcast on a Friday eveing on the Home Service, now Radio 4, between 7.00-7.30pm with a block of repeats on a Monday evening on the Light Programme some months later, at 8.30-9.00pm. The original run had a fairly irregular time slot though and the broadcast times are given below. For this series the cast had changed slightly and now consisted of Michael Bentine, Benny Lee, Peter Hawkins, Dick Lester, Jean Campbell, and saw Judith Chalmers as a guest in episode 2, and Rosemary Squires in episode 4. Tim Gudgin was the announcer, and Nat Temple and his Orchestra continued to provide the music. Due to the untimely death of Pat Dixon, Charles Chilton produced the show, and the scripts were by Michael Bentine, Dick Lester and John Law.
:: Round the Bend - Series 3
This, the final series, was broadcast on a Friday eveing on the Home Service, between 9.45-10.15pm (except show 6 which went out 30 minutes later, and show 12. 15 minutes later). The cast now Michael Bentine,Ron Moody, Clive Dunn, Benny Lee, Janet Walters, Dick Lester, Judith Chalmers with the music still provided by Nat Temple and his Orchestra and announcements by Tim Gudgin. The shows were scripted by Michael Bentine and John Law and Charles Chilton produced.