Television Heaven Recommends - On The Box.

BBC Launches Download Store.

BBC Store

There's no doubt about it. The way in which we watch television has been dramatically changing for many years now. With the introduction of home video recorders viewers could pick and choose when they watched their favourite TV shows. And with the more recent introduction of digital stores such as Amazon Prime and Netflix the number of people watching live television is taking a year on year nosedive. Research shows that in the last year, in the UK alone, average daily viewing figures fell by 4.5% as viewers increasingly turn to tablets, laptops and other mobile devices. This new technology has not only effected television figures but also the home DVD market which has also seen a decrease in sales.

But now, the BBC has launched its own download store with more than 7,000 hours of BBC programmes from its archives. The shows on offer include rare material not seen for many years and not previously released on DVD, as well as more recent shows such as Sherlock and Doctor Who. Granted, some of these newer shows are available on iPlayer, but before you pay and download you will be advised if you can see the programme for free. Prices start from £1.89 for a single episode and from £7.99 for a six-part series. The BBC is also offering a 25% discount off your first purchase.

Before the end of the year the BBC hope to have around 10,000 hours of programming available with around 60 hours of shows being released each week. Although some content will still be available on Amazon and Netflix most of the older shows will only be available through the BBC Store. This will allow the BBC to release, uncut, some shows that may be considered controversial due to what is now regarded as politically incorrect; containing sexist or homophobic language, that was not considered so on first release (a prime example being It Ain't Half Hot Mum).

BBC Store offers the most comprehensive range available anywhere of the very best of BBC drama, comedy and factual programmes. Audiences can watch the programmes they've bought from BBC Store on BBC iPlayer as their purchases appear in the My Programmes area of BBC iPlayer to play back in full, and they can also be downloaded to watch offline. The BBC is currently running a Black Friday deal (which will last until Wednesday 9 December) with critically acclaimed series from family favourites and household names temporarily available for as little as 99p, with many others under £5.00.

BBC Store

ITV 60 - Five Star Boxset from Network.

ITV 60ITV first came to our television screens at 7.15pm on Thursday 22 September 1955, with, not as one might expect, a drama, a comedy or a sitcom, but with short self-promotional film and a grand ceremony from the Guildhall in the City of London. From this inauspicious start (170,000 TV sets were equipped to pick up Channel 9 in the London area and of these only 100,000 tuned in), ITV soon became known as 'The Entertainment Channel' or 'The People's Channel' and has since produced 60 years of superb dramas, hilarious comedies, award winning light entertainment and thought-provoking documentaries. Now, to celebrate this landmark, Network has released an impressive box set comprising 60 iconic TV shows on twelve discs containing a staggering 40 hours of programming that represents many of the channels finest productions. A mixture of classics and rarities (including some programmes thought lost forever), this set contains previously unreleased episodes of Crossroads, Rainbow, Tiswas, Coronation Street, World in Action, The Bill and Whicker's World - together with some exceptionally rare items from the Associated Rediffusion archive: No Hiding Place, Mystery Bag, Crane and Our Man at St. Mark's.

Each disc is set out as an evening's worth of classic entertainment. Disc one kicks off with that opening night promotional film before launching into the first Thunderbirds story, and episodes of The Army Game, Man About The House, Robin of Sherwood and The Prisoner. Personally I'd like to have seen each disc set out so the shows appeared in chronological order, but the mixture of early black and white and later colour broadcasts works surprisingly well. And to get a better flavour of each decade a few classic commercials might have been nice and maybe some continuity announcements. Nevertheless, this is an excellent collection of shows that will keep classic television fans entertained for days or possibly months on end. Doctor Who fans will be pleased to see an episode of Pathfinders In Space, Sydney Newman's science fiction teenage drama series that was a forerunner to Doctor Who and it's also fun spotting the stars before they were, such as Michael Caine playing a house burglar in a comedy sketch with Arthur Haynes. The boxset also contains some ground-breaking documentaries such as John Pilger's Year Zero: The Silent Death Of Cambodia, 21-the third part of the classic Michael Apted series which started by interviewing seven-year olds on their hopes and dreams for the future and then revisited them every seven years, and an episode of the exceptional series The World At War, narrated by Sir Laurence Olivier.

It's interesting that a box-set that is supposed to represent six decades of ITV television has missed out on the last two, especially when you consider shows like Downton Abbey and Prime Suspect. But these are minor quibbles and on the whole, if you're a fan of classic television and want to spend a night in television heaven, this is the best place to find it.

DISC ONE: ITV Opening Night Preview | Thunderbirds | The Army Game | Man About the House | Robin of Sherwood | The Prisoner - DISC TWO: Pathfinders in Space | The Larkins | Sunday Night at the London Palladium | The World at War | Callan - DISC THREE: Catweazle | The Arthur Haynes Show | The Avengers | Public Eye | An Audience with Dame Edna - DISC FOUR: Crossroads | On the Buses | The Saint | The Tommy Cooper Hour | Auf Wiedershen Pet - DISC FIVE: Rainbow | Pipkins | Doctor in the House | The Power Game - DISC SIX: Magpie | Shut That Door! | Space 1999 | No Hiding Place | The Sweeney - DISC SEVEN: Tiswas | Four Feather Falls | The Stanley Baxter Moving Picture Show | Gideon's Way | Tales of the Unexpected - DISC EIGHT: The Adventures of Robin Hood | Nearest and Dearest | Rising Damp | Mystery Bag | Upstairs Downstairs | Year Zero: The Silent Death of Cambodia - DISC NINE: Ace of Wands | Coronation Street | Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) | Crane | Soldier Soldier - DISC TEN: A Fine Romance | World in Action | The Professionals | Inspector Morse - DISC ELEVEN: George and Mildred | Jason King | The Main Chance | Justice | Strange World of Gurney Slade - DISC TWELVE: Our Man at St Mark's | The Bill | Man at the Top | Whicker's World Aboard The Orient Express | Armchair Theatre

Available from Network

The Professionals

The ProfessionalsBodie and Doyle need little by way of introduction, but if the series had at all escaped you since its debut in 1977 their boss George Cowley, head of CI5, couldn't put it more succinctly than his opening gambit: "Anarchy, acts of terror, crimes against the public. To combat it I've got special men – experts from the army, the police, from every service. These are The Professionals".

Featuring the perfect ensemble cast of Martin Shaw, Gordon Jackson (completely against type here) and Lewis Collins, the series ran for 57 action-packed episodes and made an immediate impact on British and then international audiences which has sustained 35 years. But the series has never looked this good. Painstakingly restored from the camera-original negatives with remastered sound, the series could have been made yesterday. No matter how many times you have seen The Professionals, this is a new experience, like seeing it for the first time.

Available from Network

Pipkins

PipkinsMade at ATV's Elstree Studios Pipkins debuted on New Year's Day 1973 as the UK's answer to Sesame Street. Aimed at pre-school children, the series, originally called Inigo Pipkin starred George Woodbridge who played the elderly craftsmen Inigo, whose workshop is littered with piles of junk, old furniture and unwanted clothes. From these, old Inigo creates his own puppets the first of which is the egotistic Hartley Hare, made out of an old jumper, and over the course of the first series viewers saw Inigo bring to life Topov the monkey - made out of a lampshade, as well as George the Tortoise, Pig and Octavia the ostrich. Up until that time British puppets were either silent (as in the case of Sooty) or had clipped English accents. The puppets in Inigo Pipkin broke with tradition by having regional accents (Pig was a Brummie, Octavia was French and Topov had a Cockney accent), as well as their own human-like unique personalities.

Five weeks into filming the second series George Woodbridge died of a heart attack. In a first for children's television, the death of Inigo was worked into the programme, predating the Mr Hooper episode on Sesame Street by nine years. The episode which was broadcast as the first of series three took a big chance by dealing with the subject of his death, but recieved a positive response from both adults and children. From this episode onwards, the show was renamed Pipkins and Inigo's assistant, Johnny, took over the workshop. The subject of death was repeated again in a later episode "Death of a Goldfish" by tackling the death of a pet. Topov the monkey and Johnny discussed why the goldfish died and why people die. The series also had a strong student following in the 1970s and this led to the odd double entendre being slipped into the script, which was prone to being expanded upon with the occasional ad-lib. In 1981 Pipkins fell foul of the franchise and regional changes to ITV and was dropped. A shame for a show that was, in many ways, well ahead of its time.

Available from Network

The Top Secret Life of Edgar Briggs Created by Humphrey Barclay to showcase the emerging talents of a young David Jason, this Cold War comedy series charts the inexplicable successes of Edgar Briggs – a clueless counter-espionage agent who inspires fear in the hearts of enemy agents, and sheer terror amongst his fellow colleagues! Somehow, the bungling Briggs has reached a position of responsibility within the Intelligence Service, and directs a team of sensible men and women. Despite their attempts to restrain him, he still manages to cause chaos wherever he goes. Yet Briggs always gets his man; the reason could be that, judging others by his own standards, he believes that everyone else is a fool...

The Lost Worlds of Gerry Anderson. Creator of the legendary Thunderbirds, Gerry Anderson scored incredible successes throughout the 1960s and '70s with Captain Scarlet, UFO, Space: 1999 and other series which appealed to both children and adults alike. Not all his ideas, however, went to a full series and this set contains the 1970s pilots for both The Investigator and The Day After Tomorrow, as well as the 1986 pilot for Space Police, which was eventually reworked as Space Precinct nearly a decade later. Alongside these rare and much sought after programmes, this collector's set also includes: You've Never Seen This - Gerry's directorial debut, from 1955. Here Comes Kandy - a colour puppet pilot made by Gerry's company Pentagon Films in 1956.

Spinning off from the legendary television pop show 6.5 Special, this star-studded, song-filled feature centres on an aspiring young singer taking her first step towards fame when she catches the 'Six-Five Special' to London. To her surprise, she finds the train packed with an array of '50s showbiz talent – and, as the musical artistes rehearse en route, she gets a ringside seat to performances by Lonnie Donegan, Cleo Laine and Johnny Dankworth, Petula Clark, The John Barry Seven and many more! Scripted by Carry On stalwart Norman Hudis and featuring comic relief from Mike and Bernie Winters, Six-Five Special is presented here in a brand-new transfer from the original film elements. Also included is the edited 1962 re-release: Calling All Cats. Also available in Blu Ray.

The major adaptation of Hilary Mantel's Booker Prize-winning novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies starring Damian Lewis and Mark Rylance. Wolf Hall presents an intimate portrait of Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance), the brilliant consigliere to King Henry VIII (Damian Lewis), as he manoeuvres the corridors of power at the Tudor court. Directed by BAFTA award-Wwinner Peter Kosminsky, this powerful series follows the complex machinations and back room dealings of Cromwell--a pragmatic and accomplished power broker, from humble beginnings and with an enigmatic past. Cromwell serves king and country while navigating deadly political intrigue, the King's tempestuous relationship with Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy) and the religious upheavals of the Protestant reformation.

Television Heaven Recommends - Off The Box.

A round up of the latest non-TV related DVD releases.

Capitalising on his remarkable success in On the Buses, Reg Varney took on the contrasting role of a third-rate holiday camp entertainer dreaming of stardom in this mid-seventies tragi-comedy feature. Also starring Diana Coupland and Lee Montague, The Best Pair of Legs in the Business was adapted from an individual ITV Playhouse drama and scripted by Emmerdale Farm creator Kevin Laffan - presented here in a brand-new transfer from the original film elements, in its correct aspect ratio. 'Sherry' Sheridan, a middle-aged compere and drag artiste currently stationed at a caravan site, is low on talent but high on ambition. Convinced he just needs one decent break to launch himself into the big time, he's relentlessly optimistic - but sadly unaware that his family life is crumbling around him. Can Sherry manage to secure both his job, and his marriage?

Based on the enormously popular television and radio sitcom Whack-O!, this 1960 comedy feature stars Jimmy Edwards in the classic role of devious, cane-brandishing headmaster. A later addition to the impressive series of comedies by Two Cities Films co-founder Mario Zampi, Bottoms Up! was co-scripted by Michael Pertwee and Whack-O! writers Frank Muir and Denis Norden; Edwards’ co-stars include Melvyn Hayes and, in an early film role, Richard Briers. Chiselbury School, according to the prospectus, is an academy ‘for the sons of gentlefolk’. Regardless of what the prospectus says, however, the boys are very far from being gentlemen; they are an undisciplined rabble. It is, in fact, a school like no other – anywhere. But Chiselbury’s head, Professor Jim Edwards, is about to put into action a novel scheme to raise the school’s profile...

The Cracksman is an hugely endearing crime caper stars Charlie Drake as a mild-mannered locksmith whose talents land him in hot water when he's recruited by a criminal gang; Nyree Dawn Porter is the beautiful girl who could spell his downfall, with Oscar winner George Sanders as rival crime boss 'the Guv'nor' opposite Dennis Price (Kind Hearts and Coronets' villainous aristocratic outcast). Ernest Wright's peerless prowess as a locksmith comes to the attention of a tough big-time crook, who feels that the little man would be a valuable asset to his crime kingdom. In order to inveigle him into a series of jobs, he sets up a beautiful hostess as a trap, into which the hapless Ernest inevitably falls..!