Radio 4’s The Secret World is billed as a ‘comedy series that offers an insight into the private lives of the famous’, but don’t let that rather off-putting description put you off. Pitching its tent somewhere between Radio 4 classic Dead Ringers and Chris Morris’ sublime mongfest, Blue Jam, it’s anthracite dark funny stuff that I highly recommend.
On first impression the show might seem like an unofficial Dead Ringers spin-off, insofar as it features Jon Culshaw in a variety of roles and is produced by Bill Dare. Like Dead Ringers, it’s also full of Radio 4 in-jokes (in one sketch, we’re introduced to the seedy world of sectarian intimidation that goes on behind the scenes at Thought for the Day). Unlike Dead Ringers, however, the comforting cackle of the studio audience has been replaced with ambient music and the material is much darker in tone.
The highlight of last night’s episode, the second in a six-part series, was a sketch in which the venerated Britflick director Mike Leigh was depicted as cynical conman who hires out gullible actors to companies like Wal-Mart as cheap labour. Leigh pockets the wages while the likes of James Gandolfini and Keira Knightly, believing they are researching a role for Leigh, are happy to work for free.
The Secret World is on Radio 4 on Tuesday nights at 11pm. Last night’s episode is available on the BBC iPlayer between now and 28th April from here.