THE BETTY WITHERSPOON SHOW

A selection of screen grabs from Frost On Sunday This show was the idea of David Hatch, with production by Simon Brett, but this wasn't the first time that Williams and Ray had paired up. In 1959 they had both appeared in Carry On Teacher, Ray as the Headmaster of the School and Williams as the English Teacher. Nearly a decade later in 1968, they appeared together on LWTs interview show, Frost on Sunday - a rather peculiar edition as there was a technicians strike, so the show was recorded by the management. Whilst there was a certain chemistry both times, the working relationship was not the same in The Betty Witherspoon Show.

It appears the title of the show was a one joke parady of the Simon Dee show, so popular at the time, but Betty didn't appear, either as a person or a character, instead being introduced every week, only to have Ray start his monologue. A pilot show was made on 25th June 1972 at the Playhouse Theatre, and lead to the series of, originally 13, susequently edited down to 10 episodes, of which the first was recorded on Monday 16th October 1972. The series was recorded on a Monday Morning at the Paris in Lower Regent Street, with Nigel Rees, and Miriam Margolyes in support, but this is perhaps where the rot set in, as Monday morning recording sessions are not the best time of the week to find an enthusiastic audience!
Whilst Williams and Ray were able to play characters within a film, and even share the limelight on a chat show, there were tensions about sharing the star billing of a radio programme. Williams comedy usually came from the contrast of his outrageous characters and a figure of authority (such as in Round the Horne, with the respectible Kenneth Horne at the helm against Chou En Ginsberg or Julian and Sandy, or in Hancock's Half Hour, with the pompous Tony Hancock and the snide character), and in BWS this figure was absent. Ray was more at home telling gags or fronting his own show (Joker's Wild, Does The Team Think, and Ray's a Laugh) and was uncomfortable in the role of a straight man. This obviously led to complaints from Ted about the lack of funny lines, and the balance of the show was subsequently changed. Williams, characteristically, wrote in his diary that he considered the show to be a write off, but although he said this about practically everything he was in for any length of time, especially stage productions, he had hit the nail on the head with this.

Although the show limped on, by the 27th November, new writers were being sought, and after the last show was recorded on 22nd January 1973, no more were made, and there was a gap of a year between the recording and broadcast of the series. There were a total of 13 recording sessions for the series, confirming the original plan for the 13 episode run, but we can only wonder at what was cut to make the show acceptible. None of the shows were originally retained by the BBC archive, but following the Treasure Hunt campaign, nine editions of the show were returned and have now been broadcast on BBC7, whilst the other edition has also been found and offered to the BBC, but is not in broadcast quality.
The Betty Witherspoon Show With Ted Ray, Kenneth Williams, Miriam Margolyes and Nigel Rees Piano Accompaniment & Composition...Neil Innes Written By...Michael Wale and Joe Steeples Produced By...Simon Brett BBC Radio 2 Saturday's 1.00pm Repeated Sunday's at 7.00pm Betty Witherspoon Show 25.06.72 Pilot recorded at The Playhouse, produced by David Hatch 16.10.72 23.10.72 30.10.72 06.11.72 13.11.72 20.11.72 27.11.72 04.12.72 11.12.72 18.12.72 08.01.73 15.01.73 22.01.73 13 shows recorded at The Paris, produced by Simon Brett Only 10 of the 13 shows were transmitted on Saturdays on Radio 2 in April-June 1974 some of the less successful ones were amalgamated: 1. 20.04.74 2. 27.04.74 3. 04.05.74 4. 11.05.74 5. 18.05.74 6. 25.05.74 7. 01.06.74 8. 08.06.74 9. 15.06.74 10. 22.06.74
EpisodeTX. DateRpt. DateRec. DateEpisode Identifier
1*27.4.7428.4.74I won't need any more help
24.5.745.5.74How about the Aardvark song?
3*11.5.74How about the Penguin song?
418.5.74Ted plays 'Danny Boy
5*25.5.74How about the Sennapod song?
6*1.6.74Can Ted really play the violin?
78.6.74The Echelon song
815.6.74I am a great virtuoso on the violin...
922.6.74Join the Procrastinator's Club
1029.6.74Ted plays "The Party's Over
* Date confimed 16-10-72 20-04-74 MUSIC HALL SONG Ted Ray (violin) - There's No Business Like Showbusiness / Cast - 'Music Hall Song' / Inspector Spewes - Eric Twack Charges / Witherspoon's World - Medicine / The Joke Marketing Board / Theatre Of The Air - A Tale Of Two Cities Additional material by Derek Farmer and Ray Lowry 11-12-72 27-04-74 COUNTRY AND WESTERN GERM SONG Ted Ray (violin) - The Party's Over / Cast - 'Country and Western Germ Song' / Musical Link - Girls In Grey, Chopsticks (Neil Innes piano) Additional material by Fred Metcalf, Tom-Magee Englefield and Chris Miller 04-12-72 04-05-74 WHY DON'T THEY WRITE SONGS ABOUT RUNCORN? Ted Ray (violin) - 18th Century Drawing Room (Mozart) / Inspector Spewes - Give The Local Police A Ring / Cast - 'Why Don't They Write Songs About Runcorn?' / Witherspoon's World - Children / Theatre Of The Air - Russia (Last Days Of The Tsar) Additional material by Fred Metcalf, Keith Williams and David McKellar 18-12-72 11-05-74 IT'S THE POP STARS MAKE THE MONEY Ted Ray (violin) - The Lambeth Walk / Inspector Spewes - Regents Canal / Cast - 'It's The Pop Stars Make The Money' / Nudism / Witherspoon's World - The Good Old Days / Mobile X-Ray Unit / Theatre Of The Air - Henry VIII Additional material by Peter Spence, Fred Metcalf, Chris Miller and David McKellar 30-10-72 18-05-74 NOSTALGIA RAG Ted Ray (violin) - Danny Boy / Inspector Spewes - Locked Out Of Flat / Door To Door Doctor & Optician / Cast - 'Nostalgia Rag' / Witherspoon's World - Transport / Strange Restaurant / Theatre Of The Air - Romeo & Juliet Additional material by Tom-Magee Englefield and Peter Spence 08-01-73 25-05-74 OH YOU GOTTA LAUGH Ted Ray (violin) - Beautiful Dreamer / Inspector Spewes - Ice Age Woman / Cast - 'Oh You Gotta Laugh' / Nightclub Attendant / Witherspoon's World - Stress & Worry / 30 Second Cold Cure / Estate Agent / Theatre Of The Air - Wuthering Heights Additional material by Peter Spence, David McKellar, Fred Metcalf and Chris Allen 06-11-72 01-06-74 I'D JUST LOVE TO BE FAT Ted Ray (violin) - Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes / The Hills Are Alive (K.W. brief song) / Cast - 'I'd Just Love To Be Fat' / Inspector Spewes - Policemen Are Human / Fortune Teller / Witherspoon's World - Europe / Theatre Of The Air - Cleopatra Additional material by David Renwick 15-01-73 08-06-74 NURSERY RHYME SONG Ted Ray (violin) - You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby / Inspector Spewes - Letters / Commercial Break / Cast - 'Nursery Rhyme Song' / Driving Test / Witherspoon's World - Sex / Cabinet Letters / Restaurant / Theatre Of The Air - Noel Coward Additional material by Fred Metcalf, David McKellar, Tom Magee-Englefield, Derek Famer, Ray Lowry and Peter Spence 27-11-72 15-06-74 DEAR MARGE SONG Ted Ray (violin) - Down At The Old Bull & Bush / Inspector Spewes - Liquorice Theft / Cast - 'Dear Marge Song' / Witherspoon's World - Drink / Mind Reader / Cowboys/ Theatre Of The Air - Nelson & Lady Hamilton Additional material by David Nobbs, Peter Vincent and Fred Metcalf 22-01-73 22-06-74 EUROPEAN SONG Ted Ray (violin) - Fascinating Rhythm / Inspector Spewes - Man With One Eye... / Cast - 'European Song' / Honeymoon Hotel / Witherspoon's World - Celebrations / Leaving Prison / Theatre Of The Air - Blackpool Night Out Additional material by Fred Metcalf, Peter Spence and Chris Allen References: The Kenneth Williams Diaries,
The Kenneth Williams Letters,
The Carry On Companion, Robert Ross, B T Batsford Ltd, ISBN 0 7134 8439 X 1998
Screengrabs taken from the recording of Frost On Sunday, 4.8.68. Used for illustrative purposes only with no infringement of copyright intended.
I would like to thank Ricahrd Harrison for his help in compiling the log and for locating a number of the recording before BBC7 transmitted their holdings.