The show's title was always announced as "Week Ending..." followed by the broadcast date, although the ellipsis was dropped from its billed title in Radio Times during the mid-seventies. The show was written and recorded at short notice, and satirised events of the week. Each show concluded with "And now here is Next Week's News", although this brace of one-liners was abandoned in the early-nineties. Short gags were thereafter scattered throughout the show.
Until the late-eighties, Week Ending would be taken off the air during election campaigns. As sensitivities eased, it was allowed to remain on air during the 1987, 1992 and 1997 elections, albeit with rigid levels of political balance.
Relatively few editions survive in the BBC archives, and they are rarely repeated. There is an obvious issue of topicality, but this did not prevent annual Year Ending compilations or the re-recording of sketches for a 1989 cassette release.
An extensive history of the series is to be published by Kaleidoscope on 27 October 2008. Prime Minister, You Wanted To See Me? - A History of Week Ending is written by Ian Greaves & Justin Lewis.
First broadcast in 1970 and last broadcast in 1998, Week Ending acted as training ground for a large number of comedy writers, performers and producers. Many young BBC production recruits were given the programme for a month or so in order to get to grips with scripted comedy and working with performers, while the writers' meetings welcomed anyone who cared to wander in off the street. The programme also accepted material by post, fax and e-mail. This open door policy, which it shared with Radio 2's long-running News Huddlines, made it a point of entry for writers who went on to successful careers in British radio and television.
For several months during 1997, Week Ending carried a musical number written by Gerard Foster and performed by Richie Webb. This broke a lengthy hiatus for musical content, which had previously involved Bill McGuffie, David Firman and Steve Brown.
Script contributors included Andy Hamilton, Terence Dackombe, Guy Jenkin, Bridget Leathley, Ged Parsons, Andy Riley, Kevin Cecil, Richard Herring, D.A. Barham, Peter Baynham, Tony Lee, Rich Johnston, Lee Barnett, Graeme Sutherland, Kim Morrissey, Barry Pilton, Ivan Shakespeare, Alan Stafford, Barry Atkins, Stewart Lee and Martin Curtis.
Amongst the producers were John Lloyd, Douglas Adams, Dave Tyler, Harry Thompson, Gareth Edwards, Armando Iannucci, Jon Magnusson, Geoffrey Perkins, Alan Nixon, Griff Rhys Jones, Sarah Smith and Adam Tandy. There were over 40 in all.
From the early 1980s, the theme tune was a loop of the instrumental section of The Associates' 1982 hit "Party Fears Two", which replaced the original 'whistled' flute piece, "Smokey Joe". Over the years, the tune changed a number of times - totalling four pieces, the third debuting in 1993 and the fourth in 1997 - but the final edition in 1998 finished with the original (each of the others having been heard briefly as imitations of the prime ministers who'd been in office when they were introduced - Blair, Major, Thatcher and Wilson - insisted on using the 'correct' theme).
Series writers Ian Brown and James Hendrie wrote a book based on the series, The Cabinet Leaks (1985). "Ten Years With Maggie", a cassette compilation of sketches written during Thatcher's tenure as Prime Minister, emerged in 1989.
During the 1980s and 1990s the BBC World Service broadcast a highlights programme once a month. This would cherry pick from Week Ending episodes transmitted during the previous four weeks, more usually items that easily be understood by an international audience. This was brodcast by the World Service, usually on the last Friday of the month, under the title of "Two Cheers for [month] ".