Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Its That Man Again (ITMA)

It's That Man Again (ITMA) was a BBC radio comedy show that ran from 1939 to 1949.Despite it's popularity, and it's wartime verve, US networks never carried the program. However, the 1943 film interpretation starring Tommy Handley did see U.S. distribution. But the radio shows were only heard over the BBC network.

The title of the program refers to a the contemporary phrase concerning the increasingly frequent WWII headlines regarding a certain German F├╝hrer. The phrase actually originated in a headline in the Daily Express written by Herbert Smith Gunn. One of the show's many running gags was the re-purposing of this phrase to refer to Tommy Handley. The show was a meme-generator. It created numerous short lived catch-phrases including the ironically intended "It's being so cheerful that keeps me going." The character Colonel Humphrey Chinstrap had his own catchphrase "I don't mind if I do." which lived on as well.

The programs sense of humor was sublimely British, possibly the only cultural microcosm more British than Chap-hop, except possibly Douglas Adams.  The scripts were written by the prolific Ted Kavanagh. Kavanagh had been writing for Handley since 1924. They were both longtime BBC contributors, and both had been script-writers. But Kavanagh was the better writer, and Kavanagh knew how to write for Handley.

The program debuted with the cast in the setting of a "pirate" commercial station and kept that for the first 4 episodes from that location. After war broke out the program found new life and relocated to the Office of Twerps, with Handley in the role of "Minister of Aggravation." In 1941 the setting moved to a seedy beach resort and the show name was changed to "It's That Sand Again."The didn't jump the shark, and instead returned to the studio setting. Post-war the program changed settings regularly mostly to absurd ends.

ITMA is remembered as a comedy program that was good for war-time morale on home front.The program came to an end January 6th 1949. Handley was to die just three days later of a brain hemorrhage. Kavanagh published Handleys biography that same year.