In the UK, the cartoons and toys for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were called Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles. Ninjas were not considering appropriate kids TV fare. And nor were nun-chucks or throwing stars, both banned from sale in the UK. Why I bring this up will be clear shortly.
John Finnemore may be Britain's greatest living writer. Certainly when Tom Stoppard karks it. As well as contributing to many other folks' projects, he has the three created series Cabin Pressure, Double Acts, and John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme to his name, on BBC Radio 4, While in lockdown, he created spinoff Cabin Fever on YouTube, and also a new series of his sketch show Souvenir Programme, recorded without an audience and so changing its structure. The previous series of the show had an emphasis on no continuing characters or catchphrases, aside perhaps for the shaggy dog storyteller, played by Finnemore, who would exclaim "well, if you are asking me for a story about…" while clutching a glass of wine while a cello and flute play the introduction to the bizarre narrative that spews forth.
This ninth series does something different. It begins with a family, meeting during lockdown. In then takes one of those characters and tells sketches from their life, each episode focusing more on one character than the other. And courtesy of John Finnemore, a byzantine series of references of one character's life to the other, the reversal of cause and effect with hilarious consequences and maybe, just maybe, the closest thing I've seen to what Alan Moore attempted with Big Numbers, but only had three issues completed and two published. Oh and yes, John Finnemore still playing the old storyteller, now given the name of Newt. And in the first episode, satisfying the needs of young Russ for a "Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles" story. See, I told you we'd get back to that. From the perspective of someone who has no idea what the Turtles are, though he is informed their names are Raphael, Michelangelo, Donatello and Leonardo, chooses to set the tale in 15th century Italy. And it may be the best Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles adaptation ever told – though in this, as we said, they are heroes not ninjas. And from someone who has no idea what they are.
You can hear episode 1 here. If you want to skip to the Heroes in A Half Shell, jump 16 minutes in. But I'd go for the whole half hour. It's on the BBC Radio Player, free, globally streaming, no restrictions. I just sent it to Kevin Eastman, I wonder what he will make of it.
And episode 2 just dropped last night as well. After all, you'll want to get more on the origins of that very special version of A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square. Another episode next Thursday. Collect the set…