Robin and Wendy's Wet Weekends is set primarily in the home of Robin and Wendy Mayfield, on a anonymous housing estate in Stevenage, although it moves away from home on a regular basis.
The sitcom revolves around the lives of its four main characters, Robin and Wendy and their next door neighbours and best friends Derek and Maureen. Robin is an obsessive, self centered and controlling individual, while his wife Wendy is long suffering as far as her husband is concerned, and deals with him admirably.
Derek is an ex super-salesman who has suffered a nervous breakdown and now seems to be a guinea pig for every chemical cosh known to the medical profession. His wife Maureen is much younger than him, and was the other woman before Derek left his ex-wife for her. She is always involved in some dodgy get rich quick scheme and usually manages to involve Robin and Wendy in her failed ventures.
Robin and Wendy's hobby, or obsession in Robin's case, is 'Mayfield', the model village they have constructed in their garage. Robin's other major obsession is his ancient and mechanically dilapidated Triumph Herald which he describes as a classic British car. Wendy's greatest wish is to have children, but she has been trying to get pregnant for years without success and this causes her great sadness.
Since his breakdown, Derek just sits around the house watching TV all day (in one episode he describes his new occupation, to an ex colleague, as Leisure and The Media), or goes next door to bother Robin and Wendy. Maureen often leaves Robin and Wendy to administer Derek's medication, usually with unfortunate and often hilarious results. Maureen is a feisty character who doesn't suffer fools gladly and tends to use everyone in her plans and schemes, often against their better judgement. Maureen and Robin have a particularly prickly relationship and Maureen regularly delivers devastating one liners at his expense.
Each episode tends to focus on a particular event or activity and over the course of the four series, among many other things, we are treated to a battle re-enactment, a salsa weekend, a seance, a suspected paedophile ring and alien abductions.
The humour is gentle but the wit is sharp and some of the story lines are downright surreal.
Robin and Wendy's Wet Weekends is unusual. On the face of it, it appears to be a conventional Radio 4 domestic comedy, but scratch the surface and there is a seam of dark humour running through it that at times borders on surreal. Listening to the programme you suddenly become aware that something very odd is happening in the normally mundane lives of our four regular characters, Robin and Wendy and their neighbours Derek and Maureen.
The programme develops convincingly as it goes on. Series 1 is certainly very funny, but in the later series, the characters are better developed and the story lines have more depth. My favourite episodes are from Series 3 and 4, and that is certainly unusual, as many comedies start strong, but lose their edge after a couple of series.
One thing that I felt improved the show for Series 2, 3 and 4, was the introduction of two new actors into the roles of Derek and Maureen. Martin Trenaman made the part of Derek his own from his first lines in S02E01 and for Amelia Bullmore, the role as Maureen fitted like a glove from the same episode.
It's a credit to Kay Stonham, the show's writer and star, that the very high standard of writing continued and even improved in Series 3 and 4, after her writing partner Simon Greenall left the show. Simon Greenall was certainly a hard act to follow in the role of Robin, but Brian Capron did a good job after joining the cast at the start of Series 3, and improved as he settled into the role.
To sum up I believe it is a very funny, imaginative and vastly underrated radio show that deserves a higher profile and I commend it to the listening public.