LAND OF THE GIANTS
From the prolific master of US televisual sci-fi, Irwin Allen, came this tale of a sub-orbital commercial flight that entered a space-warp and crash-landed on a planet that was home to people 12 times the normal height. The crew and passengers of the US rocketship "Spindrift" trapped in this land of giants were Capt Steve Burton (Gary Conway), Dan Erikson (Don Marshall), Mark Wilson (Don Matheson), Barry Lockridge (Stefan Arngrim), Valerie Scott (Deanna Lund) and Betty Hamilton (Heather Young). Whereas Allen's Lost In Space was based on the Swiss Family Robinson, so Land of the Giants was based on 'Gullivers Travels' and like 'LIS' it featured a resident villain, Commander Alexander Fitzugh (Kurt Kasznar). Although very dated now, the series used trick photography and elaborate props and was funded to the tune of $250,000 per episode, making it the most costliest series to date between its two season run from 1968-70.
51 episodes of 60 minute duration. ABC 1968-70
THE LAST OF THE BASKETS
After 93 mis-spent years, the 12th Earl of Clogborough (Richard Hurndall) is ready and willing to say farewell to his ramshackle stately home, a mountain of unpaid bills, and his lasty remaining flunky Redvers Bodkin (Arthur Lowe). But first the heir to his title must be found. That heir turns out to be an uncouth boiler maker who is blissfully unaware of his aristocratic fate; Clifford Basket (Ken Jones). Moving into home and title with his equally uncouth mother in tow (Patricia Hayes), Clifford enjoys the high life much to the distain of the snooty butler who has to bring him bottles of brown ale on a silver platter. But soon enough they have to concern themselves with much weightier matters such as paying the bills and stopping the mansion from collapsing into the Pennines.
13 shows of 30 minute duration. Granada Television 1971 - 72.
LENNY THE LION
Hugely popular children's show that began on BBC in 1956. Terry Hall was one of the first ventriloquists to use an animal rather than a little boy as his dummy and Lenny was also one of the first to be given the abilty to move his arms, where he was, at times, prone to burying his head in embarrassment. One of Lenny's endearing qualities was his inability to pwonounce his 'R's. Apart from the original series there was Lenny's Den from 1959-61, and Pops and Lenny from 1962-63 which featured an early appearance by The Beatles.
Approx: 60 shows of 25 minute duration. BBC TV
LIFE WITH ELIZABETH
The first in a long line of sitcoms featuring veteran actress Betty White, who not only starred but co-produced the program–a rare feat for a woman in the early 1950's. Life With Elizabeth originally aired live on a Los Angeles television station in 1952; it was sold to local stations across the country a year later. Elizabeth was a suburban housewife married to Alvin (Del Moore). Each 30-minute episode was divided into three short stories, featuring the stars in one incident or another. Inevitably, when things got bad, Alvin would turn to her and say, “Elizabeth, aren’t you ashamed?” After Alvin left the scene, she would smile and grin, indicating she had no shame. Unlike many domestic comedies of the era, “Elizabeth” seldom resorted to slapstick; the humor came from the interchange between Elizabeth and Alvin. Jack Narz was the show’s announcer and narrator. White would win her first Emmy Award for playing Elizabeth–one of many highlights in a 70-year career that’s still going strong in the first decade of the 21st century.
65 episodes of 30 minute duration. Syndicated. 1953-55
LIFE WITH LUIGI
J. Carrol Naish (the J stood for Joseph) was born in New York in 1896. In spite of his roots he is better known on television as employing a number of ethnic accents in character roles - all except Irish, which is odd because he was of Irish descent. He played the Chinese detective Charlie Chan in 1957 and an American Indian in Guestward Ho! (1960-61), but his most successful role was as Italian immigrant Luigi Basco in Life With Luigi which began on CBS radio in 1948. The series was so successful that by 1950 it was surpassing Bob Hope in the ratings. In 1952 the series transferred to television. Luigi is a newly arrived immigrant who settles in Chicago. Situations arose from Luigi's misunderstanding of American life and language, often taking what was said far too literally. The setting for the series alternated between Luigi's antique shop and his friend Pasquale's (Alan Reed) restaurant. It was Pasquale's aim in life to marry Luigi off to his sister Rosa (Jody Gilbert). Naish only played the character on television for one season and when it briefly returned in 1953 it did so with an entire new cast in the principal roles. However, unlike The Goldbergs, a highly regarded series which chronicled the experience of Jewish immigrants in New York, Life With Luigi was seen as an example of extreme ethnic stereotyping and many viewers complained that they found it offensive. With the bad publicity it started to recieve the sponsors got cold feet and both radio series (last broadcast March 1953) and television series (last broadcast June 1953) were pulled.
CBS. 1952 - 1953.
A LITTLE BIG BUSINESS
Between the fourth and fifth seasons of the hugely popular sitcom The Larkins, star David Kossoff took time off from being second fiddle as the put-upon husband, Alf Larkin, to make a pilot for a show written especially for him. Kossoff starred as a wise but stubborn furniture maker and master craftsman by the name of Marcus Lieberman. Having arrived in England some years before as a Latvian immigrant without so much as a penny in his pocket, Marcus was, with some justification, proud of the fact that he had built a thriving business for himself. However, when he introduced his educated and equally ambitious son Simon into the business, he was forced to modernize. Granada Television were impressed enough to order a full series although filming had to wait until Kossoff was free of his commitment to series five of The Larkins, which didn't finish until December 1963. With A Little Big Business running from February to April 1964, series six of The Larkins running from July to August and then 'ALBB' series two going out from January to March 1965, David Kossoff was seldom off our TV screens for almost a decade (The Larkins had debuted in 1958). For the series proper there were numerous cast changes from the pilot with most notably Francis Matthews (later TV's Paul Temple) taking over from James Maxwell in the role of Simon. Little Big Business (the 'A' was dropped for the last series) was a gentle generation-gap comedy full of Jewish humour and inspired by Kossoff's own experiences of working in the furniture trade prior to becoming an actor.
15 episodes of 30 minutes duration. ITV 1963-65.
LITTLE GREY RABBIT
Little Grey Rabbit was the creation of prolific British writer Alison Uttley (1884 - 1976) who wrote over 100 books the first of which were a series of tales about animals, including Little Grey Rabbit, The Little Red Fox, Sam Pig and Hare. The stories were adapted for television and told by Ann Hogarth and Jan Bussell with their glove puppets. First introduced on 8th September 1950 Little Grey Rabbit along with a number of other daytime programmes formed BBC's essential children's output originally titled For The Children but later the more famously remembered Watch With Mother. Little Grey Rabbit returned to the screens 50 years later courtesy of Cosgrove Hall Films as an animated series with Pauline Collins, Hugh Laurie and Andrew Sachs providing voices.
BBC Television. 1950.
THE LITTLE SHIP
Six-part children's TV series with an educational theme set in Elizabethan London and written by schoolteacher Joy Thwaytes. The idea was to take its young audience inside the Globe Theatre while side-stepping any idea of documentary. "Shakespeare needn't be a bore" Thwaytes was quoted as saying in a TV Times article, "but it depends on how you treat him. I decided the best way was to let viewers see the Globe through the eyes of a boy who gets there by accident." The little ship of the title is a model made by Giles Kendall (Jimmy Ray) of his father's ship, the Pheonix. A shy, country boy of 14, he is searching Southwark for his father or news of his ship when he meets Dr Pietro (Peter Collingwood), the alchemist. Hoping to buy the model, the wily Pietro pretends he can find Giles' father.
Outside in the street there is a suddent scuffle; Giles rushes out in time to help Sam Gilburne (Colin Wall), a tough lively boy of 15 who has been set upon by two young toughs. And that is the start of Giles' adventures. Sam, a boy actor, takes a liking to Giles and shows him round the Globe Theatre. There Giles finds both friends and enemies such as Richard Burbage (Nicholas Brady), the entire company and, of course, Shakespeare himself. The series was first broadcast on January 5th 1960 at 5.25pm.
6 episodes of 30 minute duration. Associated Rediffusion. 1960
BBC children's series set in the imaginary village of Little Hemlock about a mischievous 12 year-old girl, Penelope Arbuckle (played by future Blue Peter presenter Tina Heath), and her imaginary witch friend (Sonia Dresdel), who only Penelope (and the TV audience) could see. Penelope was the Lizzie Dripping of the title, the name being a provincial term in the Nottingham area for a plucky girl who has difficulty in telling the difference between fact and fiction. The character was created by Helen Cresswell for a single Jackanory Playhouse presentation entitled Lizzie Dripping and The Orphans in 1972 and commissioned as a full series the following year. Told entirely from the young girl's point of view with a narrative supplied by Heath for moments when Penelope was thinking (Hannah Gordon did the honours in the pilot). The series was filmed in the Nottinghamshire village of Eakring, where Cresswell lived at the time. Only eight episodes were made, the first four in 1973 and the other four two years later and in between there were three 'Lizzie Dripping' books all published in 1974.
8 episodes (and 1 pilot - 1972) 1973 - 75.
THE LORETTA YOUNG SHOW / LETTER TO LORETTA
This filmed anthology series featured the Oscar-winning actress as host and sometime performer, and was very popular during its run. Each episode began with the star making a dramatic entrance in a beautiful gown to introduce the story (which was parodied by comics of the time), and she read a Bible passage at the show’s end to emphasize the story’s moral. The series was initially known as Letter To Loretta, where Young read a message from one of her fans faced with a problem; the drama that followed was the answer to the fan’s letter. The basic format continued a year later, but the show’s title was changed to The Loretta Young Show. Proctor and Gamble sponsored the series for much of its run, and the stories ranged from serious drama to lighthearted fables. Young appeared in at least half of the episodes each season aside a male lead. (Ricardo Montalban guest-starred on nine episodes; actor John Newland–who also directed a number of shows–was Young’s most frequent co-star, appearing in 13 installments). Young won three Emmy awards for her television work. In 1955, the star’s health required her to have an operation; guest stars would host and perform in the dramas until Young returned to the screen at the end of 1955. When the series ended six years later and the show aired in repeats on NBC’s daytime schedule and in syndication, Young asked that the opening scenes with her flowing gowns be replaced; she feared the fashions had become dated with time. In 1962, the actress returned to series television playing a widowed mother who was a freelance magazine writer. But The New Loretta Young Show lasted just one season on CBS. Loretta Young all but retired from acting in the 1960's. A devout Catholic, she focused on charity work until her death from ovarian cancer on August 12th, 2000.
165 episodes. NBC 1953-91
THE LOVE OF MIKE
Michael Medwin, recently demobbed from The Army Game, was given a 26-week sitcom (although it was eventually extended to 30) as dance-band trumpeter Mike Lane; always broke, always short of rent, always running after easy money or a hard-to-get blonde. He is an inveterate woman chaser, and his hunting costume is a padded dressing gown and long cigarette holder. His equipment includes a record-player pitched to woo, soft lights and an unscrupulous eye for an unfair advantage. However, this being the moralistic early 1960s, it isn't surprising that Mike's schemes always end in failure. Appearing with Medwin were Brian Wilde as his flat-mate (although only for the first seven episodes - he was replaced by Bernard Fox), George Roderick, from The Larkins, as a henpecked neighbour who is always popping in and Carmel McSharry as Mike's char lady. Medwin, Roderick and Fox teamed up again the following year for Three Live Wires.
30 episodes of 30 minute duration. ITV (A-R) 1960.
LOVE ON A ROOFTOP
Newly-married couple David and Julie Willis were from two different worlds: David (Peter Duel) was an apprentice architect making a grand total of $85.37 a week; Julie (Judy Carne) was the daughter of a wealthy family and was more of a dreamer than a practical homemaker. But love won out, and the pair set up housekeeping in a small top-floor walk up apartment with a beautiful view of the San Francisco Bay. David and Julie had to deal with neighbours Stan and Carol Parker (impressionist Rich Little and Barbara Bostock), along with Julie's parents Phyllis and Fred Hammond (Edith Atwater and Herb Voland), who didn't approve of the couple's Spartan lifestyle. Sandy Kenyon was David's co-worker Jim Lucas. Despite decent ratings, ABC ended Love On A Rooftop after just one season. But the network aired repeats during the summer of 1971, in part to capitalize on the two stars—Duel was by that time starring on the series Alias Smith & Jones and Carne was a regular on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In.
30 episodes ABC 1966-67
David Hartman could have been a professional baseball player–or an economist. Instead, he pursued acting and did rather well at it, starring in The New Doctors instalment of NBC’s The Bold Ones anthology and guest starring on other series and in films. Lucas Tanner cast Hartman in the title role of a former baseball player and sportswriter who started a new life after his wife and son died in a car accident. He moved to St. Louis, Missouri and became an English teacher at Harry Truman High School in the suburb of Webster Groves (where the series was filmed). His down-to-earth style of education (and his way of dealing with teen issues such as sex, violence and peer pressure) didn’t sit well with his fellow teachers, but was supported by principal Margaret Blumenthal (Rosemary Murphy). Young Robbie Rist played Lucas’ neighbour Glendon Farrell. In mid-season, Margaret was replaced as school principal by John Hamilton (John Randolph), who was more of an adversary for Lucas. The pilot episode of Lucas Tanner premiered in May 1974 as a 90-minute TV film; an ad in TV Guide magazine featured the headline "Once he pitched in the majors, now he throws curves at the establishment-and the students love him for it!" But the show was a marginal performer in the ratings, and the network set it free after one season. Lucas Tanner was David Hartman’s last role as an actor. In November 1975, he began a new career as the host of ABC’s breakfast show Good Morning America, which became the first programme to successfully challenge NBC’s entrenched Today. Hartman left the show in 1987 after a dispute with ABC over salary and programme control. He continues to host documentaries for public television and other outlets.
22 episodes of 30 minute duration. NBC 1974-75
Convinced that he could find a starring vehicle that would make his 'discovery' David Jason a household name in Britain (see review of The Top Secret Life of Edgar Briggs), producer Humphrey Barclay invited Terence Frisby ('There's A Girl In My Soup') to write a 13-episode sitcom that would be tailor made for the actor's talents. In the series Jason plays Shorty Mepstead, a South-East Londoner who lives at home with his mum (Pat Heywood) and brother, Randolph (Peter Armitage). The brothers, who run their own plumbing company, are like chalk and cheese, with Shorty being the shy and reserved type and Randolph being a confident 'lad' who has no problem 'pulling' the ladies. The problem for Shorty is that in the first episode Randolph 'pulls' Kath (Cheryl Hall), who he is in love with. However, by the end of the series the 'lucky feller' gets his girl. The Stage reviewed the series on its debut with the prophetic statement that, 'Somewhere there is a writer whose idea's Mr Jason can execute to great effect but they have not met yet.'
13 episodes of 30 minute duration. LWT 1976.
13 part Anglo / Australian co-production that was two years in the making and told the adventures of the Firbeck family who are uprooted from their Yorkshire home by their father in 1829 following the death of their mother, and taken to the other side of the world to start afresh in New South Wales. Their journey was not meant to be a speculative one, as the father, former naval lieutenant Jason Firbeck (James Condon), set out to claim land bequeathed to them by an old friend. However, when they arrive in Australia they find that the land promised to them is occupied by others and, without enough funds to return home, they are forced to set up residence in the bush. Proclaimed by law as squatters, the Firbeck's have to stand up to prejudice, other settlers, outlaws and native Aborigines in order to survive. The family consisted of daughter Jassy (Elisabeth Crosby), and sons Samuel (Gerard Maguire) and Luke (Oliver Tobias), the hero of the piece who more often than not risked life and limb in order to protect his family in their pursuit of a peaceful existence. Tobias, with his rugged good looks was already on his way to making a career of period-piece dramas having previously starred in Arthur of the Britons, he would follow this series with a guest appearance in Dick Turpin and a starring role in Smuggler.
13 episodes. Yorkshire TV in the UK and TCN9 in Australia. 1976.