Regular listeners to the BBC Radio 5 Live film show must bid tinkety tonk old fruits to presenters Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo, who have announced that the show will come to an end after 21 years on air.
The church of Wittertainment will hold its final service – before setting off into the sunset on one of its fabled cruises – on 1 April.
Mayo announced the news at the beginning of Friday’s live show. “Twenty-one years is a long time to be clogging up the schedules and we have decided – and to be clear, no one else has decided – to … step away, to withdraw, to spread our wings, to exit pursued by a bear. We are way too expensive and there are much better things for the BBC to be spending their money on.”
Mayo stated that the 1 April edition would be “our last show on 5 Live”, and Kermode tweeted a photo of Spinal Tap captioned, “But like Tap, we’ll be back … stay tuned”, hinting at the possibility that the pair’s cinematic double act might find a new home elsewhere.
The news marks Mayo’s conclusive departure from the BBC after he left the Radio 2 Drivetime show in October 2018 – following a controversial pairing with Jo Whiley – first moving to Scala Radio and later Greatest Hits Radio. Kermode hosts the weekly television Film Review on the BBC News channel and will continue to present Screenshot alongside Ellen E Jones on BBC Radio 4. They are the latest high-profile talent to depart the BBC for the commercial sector: Emily Maitlis and Jon Sopel have joined Global for a new show, and footballer Peter Crouch is taking his podcast to Acast.
Station controller Heidi Dawson said: “Mark and Simon’s unique partnership has been an important part of BBC Radio 5 Live for 21 years. Their decision to end the programme is a sad moment; they will be much missed by our listeners and everyone at the station.”
Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review began life as a segment on Mayo’s 5 Live radio show in 2001 and later a podcast in 2005. It became a fully fledged two-hour show in 2010. In 2014, it was the BBC’s second most-downloaded podcast, although it did not appear in the broadcaster’s top 10 programmes last year – now facing much stiffer competition from the broadcaster’s renewed focus on podcasts and BBC Sounds – or Baby Sea Clowns, as a withering Mayo would put it.
The format of the show includes a digressive countdown of the UK’s Top 10 films – often starting with a low-charting outlier that previously received praise from Kermode – an interview with a film star or director, usually conducted by Mayo, in-depth reviews of the week’s new films, and much interaction with listeners.
The oft-bickering duo also consider the TV movie of the week, as well the “so bad it’s bad” TV movie of the week, and assess new DVD releases – a feature that had ostensibly been limping to its end as physical media dies out.
Over its duration, the show has established a vast amount of in-jokes and lore with its listeners – rather, members of the church – who may identify as STLs (short-term listeners), MTLs (medium-term) or LTLs (long-term), depending on the length of their relationship with the show.
They might write in to say hello to actor Jason Isaacs, a friend of the show; to confess to the tiny cinematic hill they wish to die on; or to report violations of the show’s Code of Conduct for cinemas, which includes “no eating anything harder than a soft roll” and “no irresponsible parenting” – and certainly no eating a full Mexican meal, as once witnessed by a scarred Mayo.
The show has also kept track of listeners’ births, deaths and marriages, testament to the personal relationship that many have cultivated with it. That bond was strengthened during the UK’s lockdowns. Despite cinemas being closed, the show continued on a weekly basis with Kermode and Mayo broadcasting from their respective homes – the former usually doing battle with a noisy boiler – and reviewing digital releases and coining new forms of merriment to make up for the lack of new material to cover.
While film-makers such as Michael Bay and those behind the movie adaptations of Entourage and Sex and the City may breathe a sigh of relief at the acerbic pair’s departure from the BBC, online, the tributes were manifest – and unredacted by the show’s producer, usually merciless with scrubbing praise from the end of listeners’ emails.
Live on Friday’s show, Kermode followed Mayo’s announcement with the invocation of a line familiar to Wittertainees (and Tom Hanks): “Just to add, as we’ve always said, it’ll all be alright in the end – and if it’s not alright, it’s not the end.”