It was rarely trailed or publicised, even on its own channel, so you probably didn't even see it. Yet my review of the first series of BBC Choice's The RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) in summer 2000, in which I described it as The World's Worst Television Programme, at the time surprisingly prompted more responses than anything else on this entire website, not least from the makers of the show themselves!
This nightly 'topical comedy show', presented by comedian John Gordillo, came back for a second series on BBC Choice in April 2001, twice as long as the previous series, and this eight week run helped it to settle in more and towards the end appeared to be reaching a cult status.
The RDA with John Gordillo was a hidden gem - a truly bizarre show, and totally unique in the world of television. You would never see anything like it on any of the main channels; this was obviously produced on a miniscule budget compared to anything on BBC1 or BBC2. But therein lay its appeal - its down-to-earth honesty. In a world of slick, polished television, The RDA made a refreshing change. It didn't pretend to be anything it wasn't; even the offical EPG billing described it as 'ramshackle'!
For example John admitted on air they were having trouble getting any guests to appear. They were fully aware that their topical jokes weren't terribly funny, but this in itself became a running joke. They were even happy to openly criticise themselves, and actually brought on members of the production crew as guests to comment honestly on the show. One of the show's more dramatic moments was when the show's producer resigned on air!
The single thing that really made The RDA what it was, however, was John Gordillo himself. His background is in stand-up comedy, and The RDA appears to have been his only television work. Inexperienced in the art of presenting, he was all more endearing as a result with his disorganised but relaxed approach. He completely lacked the egotism or smarminess present in all too many of today's more well-known personalities.
One of the best points of the first series was when John rang up the BBC duty office to log a complaint about his own show. This time he read out an e-mail complaint about the show before walking out of the studio, inexplicably leaving guest Bonnie Langford sitting in silence for the remaining six minutes of the programme. Then when she reappeared a couple of weeks later to perform some songs, rather than staying with her the camera followed John out of the studio to the coffee machine.
The high point, though, must be the hilarious satellite link-up with Slovenian television presenter Mojca Mavec in the run-up to the Eurovision Song Contest. At the end of it John asked Mojca if she would tug her ear while announcing the Slovenian votes that Saturday night as a special signal just for RDA viewers. She duly obliged - surely the show's greatest moment!
Ultimately, the show was really less a daily topical comic news round-up, and more an excuse to do whatever they felt like. Johnny Vaughan's topical comic news round-up, which aired on both BBC1 and BBC Choice, was not a patch on The RDA (indeed Johnny's signing to the BBC itself became another RDA running gag).
Digital television was worth it alone for this show - but The RDA was a show you either 'got' or you didn't. You could have seen it as a shambolic waste of money as at least one viewer certainly did; but if you stuck with it, and saw where they were coming from, then you may agree with my opinion that it was quite frankly The World's Best Television Programme!
From our YouTube channel, two videos, the first containing clips of the first series, featuring John and Britt Ekland invading the Generation Game studio, and 'Huw Edwards Watch'. The second comes from the second series, and features Mojca Mavec and Cosmos Transmutazoid.
Text copyright © Robert Williams, images and video copyright © British Broadcasting Corporation