How Radio Times saved The Fast Show according to Charlie Higson

Actor, writer and comedian pays tribute to John Peel's magazine column for saving the iconic nineties sketch show

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It was the defining sketch show for a generation, a comedy that gave the world the unrequited love story of aristocratic Ralph and his faithful gamekeeper Ted. 

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But Charlie Higson, who played Ralph in The Fast Show opposite Paul Whitehouse’s Ted, says the hit sketch series was nearly axed by the BBC after just one series.

In an interview in this week’s magazine, Higson claims the BBC would have dropped the show after the first series if it weren’t for John Peel’s support of it in Radio Times.

“It was John Peel’s column,” he says. “Peel was a big supporter of The Fast Show in it – that’s why we got a second series.”

The radio DJ wrote a column in Radio Times for almost a decade, until his death in 2004. The Fast Show ran from 1994 until 1997, but the sketch team reunited in 2014 to mark 50 years of BBC2.

Although there have been two specials since, Higson regrets that The Fast Show ended when it did. “Everybody was pulling apart and pushing off and wanting to do other stuff,” he says.

“You look back and you think, actually, no, we should have concentrated on that, stuck at it. I wish we’d done at least one more series. We could have fitted it in but we didn’t really know what it was we were making, whether it was big and important or not. We thought we were going to do another million TV projects and the next one would be even better. There was an arrogance, but also we were reasonably new to it.”

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Read the full interview in this week’s Radio Times magazine, on sale from Tuesday 20th October