Goodbye Flagship Wittertainment. A Personal History and Starter Pack for the UK’s Favourite Film Programme.

On one level there will always be a level of emotional resonance when something important or formative to a fan announces a conclusion. It doesn’t matter if you’ve aged out or moved on from whatever that piece of content was. The parts of the content that last in our minds are those that we will always have an attachment to.
Part One. Golden Hour
This writer’s late mother was always likely to have BBC Radio Five Live in the background of whatever she was doing. The dulcet tones of Simon Mayo’s afternoon show and the following drive time slot would accompany whatever we were doing after school. Mayo’s friendly but firm and fair interview style was always incredibly listenable. For this budding film lover, the golden time was the hour between 3:00 and 4:00 PM on a Friday and available on-demand afterwards) where Mayo would be joined by Mark Kermode to discuss the week’s new releases films. That initial hour-long slot was dynamite to listen to. The banter between host and contributor was playful and engaging but never mean spirited. The divide between presenter and contributor was clear but neither was ever looked down upon. It was great to see listeners engage with the various running gags but there was always a firm focus on covering the week’s new cinematic offerings There was plenty of classic era ranting and creative verbiage from Kermode Acknowledging the films he loved and Not holding back on the films that deserved a good kicking. This was all presented in an engaging, easily digestible package that did not outstay its welcome. Podcasts may be an easily acceptable form of release in 2022 but they were still a relatively new phenomenon in 2005 long before the age of media oversaturation we find ourselves in today. Between the launch of the podcast in 2005 and 2009 the show progressives in the way it essentially always has done. That said there was change just around the corner. This was not necessarily for the better.
Part 2. Double Length. What Do We Do Now? In December of 2009 Mayo announces he is leaving the afternoon slot on Five Live. His show with Kermode would continue with a dedicated and expanded two-hour slot on a Friday afternoon. This was treated as a big deal at the time. It effectively allowed the Kermode and Mayo film review show to settle into the programme modern listeners know it as today. There was one critical change. Progress various running gags and reoccurring segments had been garnished to augment the review section. With more time to fill from 2010 onwards these reoccurring jokes, we’re a lot more central in terms of their presence within the running time. There was Benjamin Sniddlegrass and the Cauldron of Penguins. A fan film based on a throwaway joke made by Kermode about the Percy Jackson franchise’s similarity to Harry Potter. An ever-increasing list of… “hellos “to famous fans of the show ( Jason Isaacs is the most famous one to mention here) An increasing list of fans listing their education credentials when writing into the show. An extended period where there was a reoccurring segment about the Co-hosts performing miracles. This occurred after one of their favourite Kermodeian rants caused a listener to wake up from a coma. An eventually excruciating running gag about an imaginary Wittertainment cruise. On a certain level, It’s hard not to have a certain level of sympathy with the production team. Having done radio work in the past it’s one of the best platforms for levelling the playing field in terms of the range of voices and stories that can be given a platform. That said filling a show with content audiences will want to listen to is much trickier than it looks. Especially on a station like Five Live, where the on-air talent has a full back of having extended blocks of music. In October 2014 this author stopped listening to the podcast in full. He kept up with the review segments posted to YouTube and a selection of Mayo and Kermode side projects. The days of Feverishly listening to the show as soon as it went out or after the podcast dropped were long gone.
Part 3. A Selection of Kermode Solo Work.
Throughout the years there have been plenty of Mark Kermode adjacent media to look at beyond the main show with Mayo. It would take an entire essay to cover it all in full. There were the Uncut video blogs. These were in house BBC produced videos with Kermode briefly outlining a talking point related to one of the new releases for that week. Alternatively, he and the production team would utilize it’s some kind of call and response with Kermode reading the comments in a follow-up video. The video blog ended after 10 years in 2017. Thankfully a lot of them have been archived as simultaneous upload’s to the Kermode and Mayo YouTube channels. The questions Kermode was responding to may have been lost to time with the discontinuation on the specific video blog platform but The videos themselves are pretty good. Especially in the way Kermode will engage with and respond to the questions with his trademark gusto. There was also Kermode’s themed memoir writings. These can also be found on Audible with narration by the man himself. These are very much an extension of Kermode’s on-air style and presentation. Maybe not as decidedly self-indulgent as the show would end up becoming but a fan-pleasing endeavour first and foremost. Kermode certainly has a big enough audience for this not to be a major problem.
As a replacement for the videoblogs, Kermode eventually started his solo podcast in 2018. This reviewer may not have listened to all the 180 plus episodes. He likes to think he has sampled enough of it to give an opinion. Kermode on Film is mostly a massive disappointment. There are some highlights. As a huge fan of the film, I enjoyed watching Kermode express his love for the preservation work undertaken by director Questlove and his team in their stunning documentary Summer of Soul ( Or When the Revolution Could Not be Televised.) These are the exception, however. A lot of the podcast feed are audio versions of his monthly BFI show An extension of his slightly baffling working relationship with Jack Howard. Many people will look at these podcasts. See the age difference between the two contributors and assume that’s the automatic problem. This water doesn’t think that is necessarily the case. This author is willing to bet that certain younger #filmTwitter types would give that left ear to work with someone of Kermode’s platform and influence. The more specific problem is trying to make the entirely different pool of references between the two hosts gel in a way that comes across as a regular podcast style conversation. A lot of it comes across as forced and awkward. The Howard shows feel like Kermode’s attempt to be “down” with the kids in a way His flagship radio show used to mock relentlessly.
If you want a much better example of Kermode’s work with a younger contributor his recent Radio Four series Screenshot is worth hunting down. The basic premise is the Kermode hand fellow critic Ellen E Jones take a broad premise From the media space and examine the influence of that particular style or piece of the media release and examine the creative DNA that has made whatever is being discussed influential in some way. Having listened to five of the nine episodes first season this writer how much he enjoyed these. Tight, well-produced and engaging with a focus on strong interviews and a light friendly tone during the linking segments. Recommended. The best piece of Non-Mayo related Kermode audio content in recent memory.
This Is only scratching a very small amount of Kermode solo work. If this author was to cover Everything we would be here forever. So let’s move on

Part 4. What Happens Now?
The decision to end Kermode and Mayo as a partnership on Five Live was always going to come at some point. The surprising thing from this writer’s perspective was that looking at the feedback to the announcement the main show appears to still have a very dedicated cult audience. Well, there are acknowledgements that it has gotten stale for some enough still love the inane witterings for the announcement to get national media coverage. The obvious move from here is to take the dynamic of the hosts into the field of commercial radio. They both already do commercial shows separately from their BBC work. Give the two of them format where they are not as contractually obliged to fill two hours every Friday and you could return some of the initial magic that made the show so special throughout the mid-2000s and early 2010s Beyond the broadcast of the final show on April 1st at this point we don’t know exactly what the future holds for Kermode and Mayo. This fan is certainly willing and waiting to find out.
Part 5. Kermode and Mayo Starter Park.
This isn’t necessarily a definitive list of the best Kermode and Mayo reviews on segments. These are just the ones this author would choose to offer listeners a solid introduction to the show and Kermode’s review style.
Zidane: A 21st-Century Portrait/ Film Socialism/ Charles Dickens England.

The best reviews can give the listener/ reader an insight into the mindset And the intended audience are of a film even if they have not heard of it before. Nothing illustrates that better than these three hilarious takedowns.

Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)

The energy of watching your grandparents try and understand gaming culture all boiled down to one review segment. Shambling. all over the place but kind of endearing in how unfocused and out of their depth Mayo and Kermode feel.

The Bayformers Five Piece.

Stuffed full of ridiculous quotes and appropriately controlled aggression towards one of the worst filmmakers in modern movies. These are some of Kermode’s best-known works for a reason.

Sucker Punch.

No singular review has ever summed up the purely aesthetic drive of a particular filmmaker as well as this one.

Pirates of the Caribbean 3.

A suitably epic review for one of the most incoherent and baffling Hollywood blockbusters this viewer has ever seen. It’s still hard to believe that’s a Disney production opens with a scene of a child hanging 15 years later.

Fred. The Movie.

There was a period long before YouTube channels like Quinton Reviews made it trendy to sit and overanalyse the lore of early internet content for hours on end. At the height of Fred’s popularity the UK distributor arm of Lionsgate thought it was a good idea to give the first film a full UK theatrical run. This led to Kermode’s glorious Fred impression. You’ve got to love how Mayo tells the engineers behind the scenes to fade Mark’s microphone whilst on air. A classic moment in the show’s history.

Mamma Mia.

Kermode’s love the much more restrained and noticeably less fun Here We Go Again might be a little overzealous. That said nothing captures the cheesily incoherent majesty of the ultimate guilty pleasure film better than Kermode’s original review.

The Robert Langdon Trilogy

It’s kind of insane to think that 21 years after his first appearance and 16 after the first Tom Hanks film Dan Brown’s character of Robert Langdon is still considered a valuable IP. For now, enjoy Kermode’s enormously entertaining reviews of the Ron Howard/ Hanks movie trilogy. TURN THE LIGHTS ON has always been a particular favourite Kermode quote.
The Danny Dyer Saga.

In the period before he essentially rebranded into a soap actor Danny Dyer was busily churning out low budget UK crime films. These would get a limited theatrical release. The ire with which Kermode treated these was always worth remembering. To the extent that when Dyer himself got wind of kermode’s impression of him he threatened violence against him. Also of note is the one major instance this author confined of Kermode giving Dyer a positive review.
House of Gucci.

How do you deal with a performance destined to potentially go down as one of the worst of all time from Jared Leto? You mock it mercilessly given the sense of prime ridicule Leto’s embarrassing turn as Paolo Gucci deserves.

And Finally.

Sex and the City 2.

This starter pack was in no particular order. Apart from this final entry. In this humble fan’s opinion, this is the greatest Kermodeian rant ever put to audio. There’s very little to be said about it that hasn’t already been said. If one had never experienced the joy of witnessing this utterly glorious rail against the worldview put forward by this particular franchise press play and enjoy. You certainly won’t be the same person you were 10 minutes before it started having experienced what is quite possibly the greatest film review ever.

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