Simon Mayo (presenter) and Mark Kermode (contributor) announced the end of their film programme yesterday – or did they? Take a look.

Relatively early on in the recently released The Batman, there’s a scene or two where Batman and Alfred (Robert Pattinson and Andy Serkis) try and work out a cipher to decode the latest test set by The Riddler. Who, though, would have thought it would be a dry run for an announcement made on BBC Radio Five Live just a week or so later?

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As you may have heard, on Friday 11th March’s episode of Kermode & Mayo’s Film Review – Wittertainment to its many chums – Simon Mayo announced, out of the blue (although presumably not to him), that the programme was coming to an end. That after 21 years, Friday April 1st would mark the last episode of the show.

After checking, this wasn’t an April fool. But also, that’s not quite what he announced. If you missed the actual parish notice, it’s here.

Now this is like one of those endless trailer breakdown articles on the internet all of a sudden, but let’s take a look at what was actually said.

Key phrases here, with my emphasis in bold.

“This show will finish, on Five Live, on April 1st”.

“We have decided to step away, to withdraw, to spread our wings”.

“We are way too expensive, and there are much better things for the BBC to be spending their money on”.

“April 1st will be our last show, on Five Live”.

The Greatest Showman

Some musical film that’ll never catch on.

Note the lack of any kind of finality, and twice the point is made that the show is ending “on Five Live”. It won’t be their last show, it just will be their last show for the BBC. That’s surely what’s being hinted at here.

If there was any doubt, look at what followed.

Because in came Mark Kermode and his hands to add to the announcement, reminding listeners about one of the show’s mantras that “it’ll all be alright in the end, and if it’s not alright, it’s not the end”. Mayo, without looking up, adds “it’s not the end”.

Then though, Mark Kermode started quoting David St Hubbins from This Is Spinal Tap, and unusually, Simon Mayo instantly got one of Mark’s references, as if this had been chosen in advance. This is the quote from the movie that Kermode read out.

“Well, I don’t really think that the end can be assessed as of itself as being the end because what does the end feel like? It’s like saying when you try to extrapolate the end of the universe, you say, if the universe is indeed infinite, then how – what does that mean? How far is all the way, and then if it stops, what’s stopping it, and what’s behind what’s stopping it? So, what’s the end, you know, is my question to you”.

Jason Isaacs in Rio Eu Te Amo

Hello.

The pair agreed that “in so many ways, that says it all”. Now it’s a little while since I’ve been back to the majestic This Is Spinal Tap, but consulting an expert on the film, they reminded me that what David St Hubbins isn’t talking about is the end of Spinal Tap at all. In fact, it’s the end of one particular tour.

Then, just to tie this up with something else, both Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo then individually Tweeted this picture from the film.

 

 

Now I’ve gone through the known press shots for This Is Spinal Tap, and I don’t think that’s one of them. The quality of the image suggests that too. No, I believe this to be a specifically chosen screengrab, with some significance. And, I might have had too much coffee, this is from a moment in the film where Spinal Tap play a gig in Tokyo, at Kobe Hall. Even more significantly: it’s a gig that takes place after they reform in a different arena.

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There’s no way the pair of them have randomly chosen that image, and – note how all this has taken half the time it takes Batman to do anything in The Batman – the clues are all there. I think when most of us heard the announcement, once we’d got over the surprise, we just figured that the pair would be taking their film show – in whatever form – elsewhere. It looks to my eyes that the confirmation of that is writ large in the manner in which they put the announcement across.

Repossessed

The Exorcist (1973)

Were I a betting person, I’d suggest a podcast is the likely home for it, given how the show gets beaten around the radio schedules otherwise and just how many of us listen to the programme that way anyway. But the one thing I’m as certain as I can be about: Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo will still be doing a show, where they talk about films, where Mayo refuses to watch Jeremy and where Kermode bangs on about The Exorcist.

I think the remaining mystery is just what the BBC does with that Friday afternoon slot. But I couldn’t find any clues to that…

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