In a nutshell:- Silly jokes and stupid innuendo in one of Radio 4's finest institutions.
The Basics:- It's a simple format and yet it has worked so well since 1972. Graeme Garden and Tim Brooke-Taylor (of Goodies fame) alongside Barry Cryer and, since 1996, a guest comedian (replacing Willie Rushton who was part of the line-up until his death in 1996) are given silly things to do by chairman Humphrey Littelton. The show has running gags, such as the scorer Samantha whose innocent activities could possibly be seen in a slightly dirtier light and games such as Mornington Crescent, for which the rules have never been explained, and the flipside to that, One Song To The Tune Of Another, for which the rules are lengthily and tortuously explained every time.
Why's It So Great Then?:- It's a lovable, cuddly British institution which exudes a sense of joy all the way through. As most of the panel have worked together for so many years, there's a sense of ease and genuine enjoyment amongst them. It can be proper laugh-out-loud funny at times, too, and surprisingly rude for a Sunday lunchtime radio show. It also has a fine comic creation in that of Humph, the chairman persona that Littelton adopts for the show. As he aged with the show, in recent years, he morphed into a weary and slightly curmudgeonly deadpan character but without ever coming across as nasty or mean-spirited. Sadly, Humph passed away last year at the grand old age of 86 and the show was put on hold.
Surely Some Of It Must Be Rubbish:- Oh yeah, some of the jokes are real duds - proper stinkers. But most of the time, that's precisely the shows charm. It revels in the bad jokes, the awful puns, the dodgy innuendo and makes a virtue out of it. People line up to be guest stars - Stephen Fry, Bill Bailey, Paul Merton, Harry Hill, they've all taken turns in the guest chair (in fact, Stephen Fry, Jack Dee and Rob Brydon are all lined up to rotate as guest hosts for the next series in place of the dear departed Humph).
So We Should Seek Out This Thing Of Which You Speak?:- If you're in the mood for old-fashioned silliness with a healthy dose of good, clean smut then yes, go find some old episodes. I'd say the episodes from 1996 to date tend to be the funnier stuff, to be honest 9no offence to Willie Rushton). It does remain to be seen, however, whether it can carry on without Humph - his contribution to the overall show can't be overlooked and isn't something that can be replaced (and definitely shouldn't be imitated).