Many a Slip



Roy Plomley

Graeme Garden (1996 pilot, remake)


Pianist: Steve Race

Regulars: Lady Isobel Barnett, Eleanor Summerfield, later Gillian Reynolds, David Nixon, Richard Murdoch, Tim Rice, Lance Percival


BBC Home Service/Radio 2/Radio 4, 18 March 1964 to 6 December 1979

TV version: BBC2, 26 July to 27 September 1965


Panel game where teams of Ladies vs. Gentlemen had to identify a number of mistakes in a series of passages read out by the host. The mistakes might be factual or grammatical. Ladies usually consisted of Lady Isobel Barnett (later Gillian Reynolds) and Eleanor Summerfield. The boys were usually David Nixon (replaced after his death by Lance Percival for the final 1979 series) and Richard Murdoch (later, Tim Rice).

One round concerned a memory test, where a short poem or jokey story was read out, then returned to later in the show with various facts changed which the team had to spot and correct. Another common round - often a quickfire round towards the end of the programme - featured a wonky typewriter, where the teams had to buzz if, for example, the typewriter was said to have no "h" but the host had said "After all, boys and girls have...". Occasionally, a round concerned sound effects (animal noises and the like) which the teams could get a bonus point for providing an impersionation of the correct noise.

Eleanor Summerfield and Isobel Barnett get ready to buzz

About half-way through each show Steve Race, the "Musical Mistakes Man", challenged the teams to spot errors in musical pieces he played on the piano, either playing wrong notes to light classical or easy listening songs, or giving inaccurate factual statements about the pieces or composers in question.

Teams got 1 point for buzzing at the correct point when a mistake had been made, and another point for correcting the mistake. If you buzzed and/or answered wrongly, the points went over to the other team automatically. Very occasionally, if a team spotted a mistake that was correct but not intentionally wrong they would get 3 points. Many of the passages used complicated or arcane-sounding words, a few of which were completely made-up by the question writer Ian Messiter and were often referred to as Messiterisms.

The show was very fast-moving, with scores of over 100 not uncommon, and the lead frequently changed hands during the programme. Obviously, the team with the most points at the end won.


Ian Messiter, who also wrote the passages.


The title comes from the English phrase "Many a slip twixt cup and lip" (i.e. many things can go wrong between start and finish).

Plomley and Race hosted the programme throughout the 14 years on air.

Steve Race said that he felt quite exposed since he had to sit on stage in front of the audience for most of the programme until his bit came around. He also says that it was against his better nature, and quite difficult, to play things incorrectly.

A remake was piloted around 1996 with Graeme Garden in the chair but it wasn't successful. Garden was a one-time guest on the original programme.

Web links

Episode guide - compiled by the Global British Comedy Collaborative


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