Gritty drama set in Yorkshire which, over three series, followed the fortunes of Sam Wilson from boy to man. After his father set sail to Canada with another woman 10 year old Sam and his mother, Dora (Barbara Ewing), were forced to settle in the small mining community of Skellerton. There young Sam's life revolved around his close relatives, grandfather, aunts and uncles all of whom faced various hardships such as unemployment or poverty. By the age of 14 Sam was forced to earn a living by working down the mines, but eventually he rebelled against his expected fate and ran away to sea. He eventually returned, took a job in an engineering factory, married Sarah Corby and settled down in the town of Golwick, although he never forgot his roots or the hardships he faced through the 1930s and 1940s. The young Sam Wilson was played by Kevin Moreton in series one whilst the grown-up Sam was played by future Taggart star Mark McManus.
39 episodes of 60 minute duration. Granada Television. 1973-1975.
THE SATURDAY SPECIAL
Following the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, television established itself as a serious medium as well as a serious alternative to sound radio. The 1950s became a golden age for children's television under Freda Lingstrom and Owen Reed who succeeded her. During this period many people who were to become household names in both adult and children's television first appeared on the early afternoon shows aimed at younger audiences. The Saturday Special was no exception and it was here that artist and illustrator Tony Hart was first seen and Harry Corbett's Sooty got his first regular TV spot before going on to conquer children's TV. Saturday Special was hosted by Peter Butterworth (later of Carry On fame) as Mr Chadwicke-Bugle, a night watchman who would always be interrupted by a visitor to whom he would tell a story. Butterworth was ably assisted by his wife, Janet Brown, who would also provide a musical number. Also appearing regularly was John Hewer who later went on to portray Captain Bird's Eye in the fish finger commercials. The series also had some puppets; Porterhouse was a parrot (operated by his creator Sam Williams) who was voiced by Peter Hawkins and the other puppet was called Merlin. The scripts were written by Shaun Sutton, an actor, writer and producer who went on to become head of the BBC Drama Group between 1969 and 1981. The Saturday Special appeared on alternate Saturday's between 1951 and 1953. The show rotated with another popular children's series; Whirligig.
BBC Television. 1951 - 1953
THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
Based on the book by Baroness Orczy, Marius Goring starred as English nobleman Sir Percy Blakeney (Goring was also one of the producers on the series), whose alter-ego of The Scarlet Pimpernel was an ally to the French aristocracy facing the guillotine. In order to carry out his covert operations, the Pimpernel had to be a master of disguise, which gave Goring the chance to appear in a variety of costumes as either a Parisian flower seller, a Chinese decorator or a court official in the days when George the Third ruled England in heart if not in mind. Goring entered the role with immense enthusiasm, having already played the part in a 1949 radio production. 'I enjoyed playing the Pimpernel,' he said at the time. 'He embodies everyone's idea of a hero; a man who, for no personal gain, risked his life for the innocent. It's a strange thought that his antagonists were the people who shouted, "Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite!"' In contrast to his dashing hero persona, Sir Percy was weak and foppish, always cleverly deflecting suspicion of his true identity, which made the story perfect fodder for a spoof by the 'Carry On' team in 1966. In more serious tone it was revived in the late 1990's by the BBC as an action adventure series starring Richard E. Grant.
39 episodes of 25 minute duration. 1955.
This medical comedy-drama earned a loyal fan base that kept the series going for nine seasons on two networks. Created by Spin City producer Bill Lawrence, it was set at fictional Sacred Heart Hospital. Young attending physician John Michael "J.D." Dorian (Zack Braff) was the main character; he narrated each episode and told the story from his own point of view. His best friend was Christopher Turk (Donald Faison), a surgical chief surgeon; the two had a very close relationship-or "bromance," in the lingo of the era. Sarah Chalke (Roseanne) played fellow intern Elliot Reid, who had a on-again, off-again romance with J.D. John C. McGinley was Perry Cox, a supervisor who constantly berated J.D. as a way to get him ready for the real world of medicine. Other characters included head nurse Carla Espinosa (Judy Reyes), who eventually married Turk; hospital official Bob Kelso (Ken Jenkins) who was more concerned about the bottom line than the patients; and the "Janitor" (Neil Flynn, later to co-star on The Middle), who had an adversarial relationship with J.D. (The Janitor’s real name was never disclosed.) Unlike some series, Scrubs allowed its characters to grow and change during its run. But while critics loved the results, the ratings were only adequate; its peak was the second season, when it ranked 14th among all series. Still, NBC kept renewing Scrubs-but after seven seasons, the network finally let it go. ABC then picked up the series (not surprisingly, since the show was produced by ABC’s studio). The show returned in early 2009 as a mid-season replacement, and the May 6th episode ("My Finale") was expected to be the final one. But ABC renewed Scrubs for a ninth season, and Lawrence revamped the show to cut costs by changing the focus from the hospital to the classroom. Turk and Cox returned as professors to a class of new medical students; even J.D. returned for a few episodes. But the revamped Scrubs was nowhere near as satisfying as the old format, and fans stayed away. Zack Braff probably summed up the final season best in a message to his fans on Facebook: "Many of you have asked, so here it is: it appears that "New Scrubs", "Scrubs 2.0", "Scrubs with New Kids", "Scrubbier", "Scrubs without JD" is no more. It was worth a try, but alas... it didn't work."
181 episodes of 30 minute duration. NBC and ABC 2001-2010.
Lloyd Bridges starred as Mike Nelson, former US Navy frogman and owner of the seagoing vessel Argonaut, in which he travelled the globe as a freelance underwater troubleshooter, employed by salvage companies, insurance firms and, at times, the US Government. Bridges' partner in Sea Hunt was the glamorous Zale Parry, then holder of the Women's World Record for Diving. The two stars were teamed together after research by producer Ivan Tors (who went on to have another 'wet' hit with Flipper), into the possibility of making TV films with an underwater setting. Tors then went to the US Navy, the Coastguard and various US Law Enforcement agencies all of who were quite happy to supply him with subject material, and in order to make the shows as realistic as possible real divers and marine scientists were employed to act as advisors. Bridges two sons, Beau and Jeff, both of whom went on to successful Hollywood careers, appeared from time to time. The series was revived briefly in 1987 starring former TV Tarzan, Ron Ely.
155 episodes of 30 minute duration. Ziv TV. 1957-60.
In Secret Army, produced by Gerard Glaister as a follow-up to his hugely successful drama series Colditz, the action takes place in Belgium during the Second World War and concerns itself with the members of Lifeline, an underground Resistance movement, who risk life and limb in their endeavours to smuggle Allied airmen past the Nazis and return them back to Britain via a number of escape routes and safe houses. Bernard Hepton played Albert Foiret, the proprietor of 'Le Candide' café that served as the base for the movement which was led by its idealistic founder Lisa Colbert (Jan Francis) whose motivation was the murder of her parents by the Germans. Apart from helping the Resistance there was an added threat to Foiret, the fact that the German officers, headed by Gestapo leader Kessler (Clifford Rose) frequented 'Le Candide.' The final Secret Army episode to be made, 'What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?', set 25 years after the liberation of Brussels, looked at how the characters had fared after the war, but was never broadcast. Instead the end of the last series showed how, with the war over and Brussels liberated, Kessler escaped capture and adopted a new identity. He then resurfaced in a spin-off series, Kessler, made in 1981. As unlikely as it seems Secret Army inspired one of Britain's longest running sitcoms - 'Allo 'Allo - in which most of the key elements were recreated but parodied. No one was spared. There was even a character called Yvette - Lisa Colbert's codename in Secret Army.
43 episodes of 50 minute duration. BBC 1977 - 1979
THE SENTIMENTAL AGENT
Spin-off from a Man of the World episode of the same name in which the character of Carlos Varela, the owner of Mercury International, an import/export trading company in London, could often be found on the global trail of any number of criminals. Argentinean born actor Carlos Thompson, who starred as the main character, had already established himself in Hollywood after being 'discovered' by ’Yvonne de Carlo’ (The Munsters) and had him cast alongside her in ’Port Algiers’. Based on that picture Thompson landed himself a Hollywood contract, which led to roles alongside Lana Turner and Esther Williams. Starring parts in ’The Flame and the Flesh’, ‘The Valley of the Kings’ and several other films followed before the 6 foot 2 inch Latin heart-throb decided to turn his back on a Hollywood lifestyle and moved to Switzerland from where he became one of the Continent's most sought after leading men as well as concentrating on a writing career. Bert Kwouk aka Cato in the ’Pink Panther’ series of movies starred in The Sentimental Agent as Varela's valet, Chin.
13 episodes of 30-minute duration. 1963.
SERGEANT PRESTON OF THE YUKON
Originating as a 1947 radio series and created by George W. Trendle and Fran Striker, who had previously bought us The Lone Ranger (and would later devise The Green Hornet). Set in the frozen wastes of Canada's Yukon Territory around 1890, Sgt Preston of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police rode alongside and his trusted husky sidekick, Yukon King. Preston could often be heard encouraging his Eskimo dog's through the snow with cries of "On, King. On, you huskies!" Handsome actor Richard Simmons (who bore a striking resemblance to Clark Gable), cut a dashing figure in red uniform and broad brimmed hat as he single handedly tackled the rogues and scoundrels who preyed upon the peace loving settlers and gold miners who had come to make their home in this frozen wilderness, and naturally, like all good Mounties, he always got his man. The series (which was shown in Britain on the new ITV channels) was actually filmed in colour in the mountains of California and Colorado although it was only seen in black and white until 1963 when it was repeated on the NBC Network. There were 78 episodes over a three-year period before Preston finally rode off into the sunset for the last time on his trusty black steed, Rex.
78 episodes of 30 minute duration. 1955-1958.
SERJEANT MUSGRAVE'S DANCE
Patrick McGoohan and John Thaw star in this television adaptation of John Arden’s intense, powerful play, initially screened in 1961 as a Granada Play of the Week and adapted by Arden himself. Set against a background of nineteenth-century imperialist conflict, Serjeant Musgrave’s Dance is acknowledged as one of the most important works to explore the futility of ever-escalating revenge cycles and the dehumanisation of war. In a performance considered one of his finest, McGoohan brings typical intensity to the character of Musgrave, whose maniacal attempt to confront a horrified town with the realities of war lies at the heart of the play. Recently revived to huge acclaim in a new stage production, Serjeant Musgrave’s Dance now has a timely release in DVD format - deservedly bringing this vital and compelling work to a wider audience. Serjeant Musgrave and his small band of men arrive in an impoverished northern coal town, ostensibly on a recruiting drive; it is also suspected that they have been dispatched to break up a strike. But Musgrave and his men are deserters, traumatised by atrocities witnessed in a nameless colonial conflict. They have brought with them the body of Billy Hicks, a soldier from the town who has been killed overseas. Musgrave is tormented by remorse over Hick’s death, and the killing of five men in a reprisal by British forces. Now, insisting that his actions are sanctioned by the same divinely unimpeachable logic, he holds the snow-bound town hostage. Mirroring the calculated brutality of cyclical conflict, he orders the execution of 25 townsmen - five further deaths for each of the five.
Originally aired on ITV 24th October 1961
SEVEN DEADLY SINS
Seven self-contained plays by different writers - each featuring one of the sins categorised by the founders of the Christian Church as "deadly." Lists of the seven vary. But for the TV series the sins were avarice, envy, gluttony, lust, pride, sloth and wrath. Each play had a touch of suspense about it but viewers were left to speculate on the sins concerned as each play unfolded - only discovering if they made the right guess as the final credits rolled. Series producer Peter Willes told TV Times in 1966; "The treatment varies from comedy to drama and the plays make no pretension to being morality plays or parables. The object is to intrigue and entertain." Among the stars who appeared were Alan Dobie, Robin Bailey, Nigel Stock, Patrick Allen, Reginald Marsh and (at that time) pop singer Adam Faith. Contributing writers included Alun Falconer and Joe Orton (acclaimed for his Entertaining Mr. Sloane and Loot). Willes followed up the series a year later with the similarly titled Seven Deadly Virtues.
7 plays of 60 minutes duration. ITV 1966.
SEVEN DEADLY VIRTUES
When 1966's Seven Deadly Sins proved popular with viewers, series producer Peter Willes decided to repeat the idea the following year. The series followed a similar format as the previous one with viewers deciding which virtue they were witnessing before the answer was revealed in the closing credits. The choice they had were justice, prudence, temperance, courage (standing in for fortitude in this series) as well as faith, hope and charity. Peter Willes told the TV Times article writer Sarah Snow; "Most people will agree that the so-called Seven Deadly Sins have changed their character over the centuries, and their words and meaning. Similarly, looking at the virtues, aren't these perhaps all a bit deadlier than they seem?" Writers included David Hopkins, Leo Lehman, Joe Orton, Bill MacIlwraith and Bill Naughton (author of the films Alfie and The Family Way). Actors included Donald Houston and Adrienne Corri (pictured in the first tale Any Number Can Play).
7 plays of 60 minute duration. ITV 1967.
SEVEN OF ONE
Series of one-off comedies highlighting the inimitable talent of Ronnie Barker, and the ease in which he could slip in and out of such diverse characters as the hard edged prison lag Fletcher, to the ageing northern shopkeeper Arkwright. The idea of the series (originally intended to be called Six Of One...thereby the follow up series could be called Half A Dozen Of The Other), was a tried and trusted format on British Television under the 'Playhouse' format, whether it be drama or comedy. Many long running shows had begun life in this way and in Barker’s case it led to two of the most enduring of television comedies, Open All Hours (the first in the series), and Porridge (the second). The other, now forgotten, five shows were My Old Man about a pensioner forced to move from his terraced house into a block of high-rise flats, Spanner's Eleven which told the tale of a football team, One Man's Meat, which saw Barker playing a man forced to go on a crash diet, Another Fine Mess teamed the star with Roy Castle as two Laurel and Hardy impersonators, and finally I'll Fly You For A Quid, a story about a Welsh family who bet on absolutely everything and anything. 'Seven' was the third series in which Ronnie Barker had appeared as a different character each week, the previous two being The Ronnie Barker Playhouse in 1968 and Six Dates With Barker in 1971.
7 shows of 30 minute duration. BBC 1973.
77 SUNSET STRIP
Developed from two television movies Anything for Money (1957), and Girl on the Run (1958), 77 Sunset Strip (created by Roy Huggins who also devised Maverick and The Rockford Files) featured a firm of Hollywood PI's run by Stu Bailey (Efrem Zimbalist Jnr -father of Remington Steele's Stephanie) and Jeff Spencer (Roger Smith). However, both leads were overshadowed by Edd Byrnes as jive talking parking lot attendant 'Kookie', who worked at the next-door restaurant called Dino's. At the height of his popularity Byrnes' fan mail reached 10,000 letters a week and programme makers Warner Bros. issued a 'Kookie Speak' glossary ('making the long green' -making money, 'piling up the Z's' -sleeping, 'dark seven' -a bad week). When Byrne's walked out after failing to agree a new contract he was replaced for a while by Troy Donohue, however he did return and was promoted to partner in the 77 Sunset Strip agency, although by this time -1963, the series was nearing the end of its sell-by date. Drastic changes were made to save the ailing show with Jack (Dragnet) Webb was brought in as Executive Producer and William Conrad (later to star as Cannon) as Principal Director. For this season Zimbalist's character became a freelance investigator travelling the globe on a no-expenses-spared budget, his offices were no longer on Sunset Strip and he had a new secretary, Hannah (Joan Staley). The new format failed to revive the shows fortunes and it was axed in 1964. Efrem Zimbalist Jnr went on to star in another US hit show, F.B.I.
SEX AND THE CITY
Not for the faint-hearted or easily shocked, Sex and the City was an adult, in your face and often hilarious look at the relationships of single men and women in turn-of-the-millennium America, as seen through the eyes of fictitious magazine columnist Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker). Bradshaw writes about sex for her trendy New York magazine using her relationship with three of her closest (single) friends as her main inspiration. Cynthia Nixon plays smart, yet cynical lawyer Miranda (a role that has seen her nominated for a Golden Globe Award), whilst Kristin Davis, already a veteran of such shows as Seinfield, ER, and Melrose Place is art gallery owner Charlotte Yorke, an elegant woman with impeccable taste. Completing the series female foursome is British born actress Kim Catrall as sultry, self confident, done-it-and-seen-it-all, (and continuing to do so) PR executive Samantha Jones. The main male interest in the show was Mr Big, played by Chris North (formerly Paul Sovino's partner in the smash hit legal drama, Law and Order), the object of our heroine's infatuation who, after telling Carrie that he was not ready for marriage yet, promptly turned around and married someone else. Sex and the City continued to pull out all the punches with its openness in both subject matter and language that made it a bold and witty series but one strictly for the adults. The final season concluded with the four girls reunited in New York, and with Carrie receiving a phone call from Big, telling her that his house is up for sale and he is headed back to New York. Two successful feature films have so far followed the series.
94 episodes of 30 minute duration. 1998 - 2004. H.B.O. USA
One of the lesser known televisual incarnations of Arthur Conan Doyle's quintessential master detective aired its thirty-nine black and white episodes between October 1954 and October 1955, and starred Ronald Howard (son of legendary British big screen idol, Leslie Howard) as Holmes and experienced British character actor H. Marion Crawford as the ever reliable Dr. John Watson with Archie Duncan as Inspector Lestrade. Produced on a low budget by Sheldon Reynolds, who also directed a majority of the episodes, the series mixed vastly truncated and simplified adaptations of a number of Conan Doyle's celebrated stories with newly created adventures, which succeeded in the main in capturing the spirit of the originals. Another interesting aspect of the series was the fact that it was filmed entirely in Paris, France, giving it the distinction of being one of the earliest examples of multi-national TV co-productions. As for the all-important central casting, both Howard and Crawford respectively fill the roles of Holmes and Watson pleasingly, in terms of both character and expected physical aspects.
Although by no means an important addition to the televisual Holmes cannon, Sherlock Holmes remains a solid, watchable, albeit clearly impoverished, early example of the small screen's continuing love affair with the character.
39 stories of 60 minute duration. B&W. 1954-55.
After suffering a nervous breakdown, computer expert Eddie Shoestring (Trevor Eve) is offered, as part of his therapy, the chance to help out a local Bristol-based radio station, Radio West, with an investigation. When this proves successful Shoestring is egged on by the station's receptionist, Sonia (Liz Crowther), to become a private investigator. He is given a radio show by the station's owner, Don Satchley (Michael Medwin) and invites listeners to phone in with their problems, thereby becoming, not so much a private eye - but a 'private ear.' This quirky detective series was developed and produced by Robert Banks Stewart in collaboration with Richard Harris, former script editor on another private eye series, Hazell. Trevor Eve had enjoyed a succesful stage run as Paul McCartney in the West End production of Willy Russell's 'John, Paul, George, Ringo...and Bert' but was unknown to television viewers to this point. He became an overnight hit and the series was a huge ratings success. Viewers loved Shoestring's quirkiness as he pursued criminals whilst dealing with his own inner demons. Worried about being typecast, Eve only did two series. Stewart devised Bergerac as a replacement. Radio West didn't die, though. A real-life broadcaster bought up the name in order to serve the Bristol area.
21 episodes of 60 minute duration. BBC 1979 - 1980
THE SIEGE OF SYDNEY'S STREET
The original Siege of Sydney Street was a moment of high drama which captured the imagination of the whole of England before the First World War. A notorious gunfight in London's East End on 2 January 1911 which was preceded by the Houndsditch Murders and ended with the deaths of two members of a supposedly politically motivated gang of burglars supposedly led by Peter Piatkow, a.k.a. "Peter the Painter", and sparked a major political row over the involvement of the then Home Secretary, Winston Churchill. This Comedy Playhouse presentation has nothing whatsoever to do with any of the above! It doesn't even take place in a Sydney Street but in a street which boasts the dubious distinction of including among its residents one Sydney Lord (Roy Kinnear), a born leader of men and moulder of opinion. His source of livelihood is obscure but his mission in life is clear enough. It is to oppose Bureaucrattical Dictatorship (Sydney's spelling). Whenever authority seems to be lapsing into tyranny (and that is most of the time in Sydney's view) it can reckon on finding a flat-capped, fag-drooping, duffle-coated, bicycle-clipped, and all-knowing figure standing four square (or, to be more precise, roughly globular) in it's path: Sydney-who else? Also starring in this one-off presentation is Gordon Rollings (pictured with Roy Kinnear) and Arthur Mullard. The script is by Richard Harris and Dennis Spooner. The 30-minute episode did not lead to any further outings for Sydney but 28-year old Wigan born Kinnear did appear in his first full-series sitcom later the same year as Stanley Blake in A World of His Own.
30 minutes duration. BBC 17 January 1964
One of the BBC's most popular modern dramas regularly drawing audiences of over 6 million in the UK, Silent Witness was created by Nigel McCrery, a former murder squad detective in Nottingham. Debuting in 1996 the series starred Amanda Burton as Dr (later Prof.) Sam Ryan, a Belfast born forensic pathologist working in Cambridge who has to investigate the most unpleasant of cases in her efforts to uncover the truth behind murders, instances of child abuse and cases of arson to name but a few. The inspiration for the character was true-life Prof. Helen Witwell, a forensic pathologist based in Sheffield, whom McCrery had known while serving as a police officer. The series was not for the faint at heart and regularly showed scenes with bloated, decaying bodies and dissected organs. In later episodes Ryan moved out of Cambridge to take up a position at the University of London. Whilst dealing with matters of the criminal kind Ryan also had her own demons to deal with such as the murder of her own father (an RUC officer killed by terrorists), a mother suffering from Alzheimer's, a resentful sister and a tearaway nephew. Ryan's character departed in the eighth series in 2004 to be replaced by Nikki Alexander (Amelia Fox), a forensic anthropologist (specialising in prehistoric deaths) who had to learn the ropes in an active mortuary. The series was parodied by British comedic duo French and Saunders as Witless Silence. The show is broadcast in the USA on BBC America.
BBC TV 1996 -
THE SINGING RINGING TREE
Children's film made in 1957 by East German studio DEFA (the original title is Das singende, klingende Bäumchen). To win the love of a beautiful but conceited princess, the prince sets out to search for the Singing Ringing Tree which she deeply craves. He finds it in an enchanted garden which is ruled by an evil dwarf. The dwarf gives him the tree, subject to one condition – the prince must win the princess' love before nightfall. If he should fail, he will be transformed into a bear... and this comes to pass. By a ruse, the bear carries off the unfeeling princess to the enchanted garden where, stripped of her beauty and power, she slowly learns compassion. She wins the affection of the animals, falls in love with the bear and, at last, her beauty is restored. The dwarf sees his plans thwarted and entices the princess out of the magic kingdom. But she has seen through his evil game. Not flinching from hardship and danger, she returns to the enchanted garden and frees her prince. The film was broadcast in the UK in 1964, cut into three parts to create a mini-series, as part of Tales from Europe. An English-language voice-over track was used rather than a dubbed one. The cast included Christel Bodenstein as the Princess, Eckart Dux who played the Prince/bear, Charles Hans Vogt as the King and Richard Kruger as the dwarf. Released as a special-edition DVD in the UK in December 2011 by Network featuring the original German version with English subtitles together with the English narrated version and prepared using remastered transfers. The release also includes The Tinderbox, based on a fairytale by Hans Christian Andersen. The BBC, reviewing the series some years later before reshowing it for the umpteenth time, noted: "For those who know this film, the programme will bring back the thrill of life behind the sofa, when characters talking in strange languages burrowed into the memory. For those who don't know the film, the programme provides an essential guide to a phenomenon that is liable to intrude suddenly into the minds and behaviour of thousands of those you may think you know well…" A Radio Times readers' poll in 2004 voted this programme the 20th spookiest TV show ever.
THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN
When astronaut Steve Austin (Lee Majors) is involved in a near fatal crash during a test flight, he is rebuilt by cybernetics scientist Rudy Wells (Alan Oppenheimer). Now equipped with two bionic legs that allow him to run at speeds of up to 60m.p.h. -given a bionic arm to give him extra strength, and a bionic eye to see greater distances (at a cost of six million dollars), Austin is put to work as a sort of secret agent working under the command of Oscar Goldman's (Richard Anderson) Office of Strategic Studies. The storylines themselves were hardly original usually involving the theft of secret documents, or some plot against the national security of the US, and special effects were fairly limited with slow-motion being used for almost every 'bionic' action from tearing open a cast iron door to running at speed. However, this didn't stop the series from being a runaway success on both sides of the Atlantic and a spin-off series The Bionic Woman starring Lindsay Wagner was created in 1976, enjoying equal fortunes. There was a mini-revival in the late eighties when a number of TV Movies were made. The original story was based on a novel, ’Cyborg’ by Martin Caidin and developed for TV by Harve Bennett.
Pilot 85 minutes followed by 102 episodes of 60 minute duration. Universal TV. ABC 1973-78.
SIX O'CLOCK FOLLIES
In 1980, it seemed safe to use the Vietnam War as a setting for a television series. After all, the films “he Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now did well at the box office, and ABC had scored the year before with the sensitive made-for-TV film Friendly Fire, starring Carol Burnett as the mother of a American soldier killed by U.S. troops in Vietnam. So NBC President Fred Silverman figured Vietnam could serve as the backdrop for a war comedy in the style of the still-popular M*A*S*H. Six O’Clock Follies boasted an interesting cast, including Laurence Fishburne, Randall Carver, Joby Baker and Philip Charles MacKenzie. (Also in the cast were future stars Phil Hartman and Bill Paxton.) The setting: Saigon, circa 1967, and the goings-on at an evening news show produced for the Armed Forces Vietnam Network. In her book Up The Tube, Sally Bedell Smith called some of the episodes “tasteless,” citing one character “who imitated (President) Lyndon Baines Johnson singing the Rolling Stones hit I Can’t Get No Satisfaction. One of Silverman’s NBC colleagues–offended by another episode that showed soldiers upset about a rumor the war was ending because it would disrupt one of their scams–wondered “how can parents whose sons died in Vietnam watch that?” The answer: not too many. NBC pulled the series after just two episodes in April 1980; two more aired during the summer and two other episodes were never shown. It wasn’t until 1987 that television again used Vietnam as the basis of not one but two series–ABC’s China Beach and Tour Of Duty on CBS. Of course, they were dramas.
6 episodes. NBC 1980
This was the first ever serial shown on Independent Television in the UK, and Britain's first daily TV Soap. Sixpenny Corner started on ITV's second day of broadcast. It was about the lives of two ordinary young newlyweds, Bill and Sally Norton (Howard Pays and Patricia Dainton) - he trying to make a success of a small garage business while she ran the home. All this took place at Sixpenny Corner in the rural town on Springwood. Their friends and relations helped-and hindered-them from time to time. Notable characters in the series included Sally's parents, Mr & Mrs Sharpe (played by Walter Horsbrugh and Betty Bowden), her sister, Yvonne (Shirley Mitchell), and Bill's brothers, Stan and Tom (Robert Desmond and Bernard Fox). Each episode ran for 15 minutes. The series ran until 1956. The series creators were Jonquil Antony and Hazel Adair - Adair went on to co-create (with Peter Ling) both Compact for the BBC and Crossroads for ITV. Howard Pays gave up acting in 1968 to become a talent agent, a career that proved to be hugely successful for him. Patricia Dainton, who was born in Hamilton, Scotland, gave up acting in 1963. Two of the actors in the series found television fame waiting for them in the USA. Shirley Mitchell (who was born in Toledo, Ohio) starred as Kitty Deveraux in Bachelor Father (1958-59) before playing running roles in The Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction. In 2006 she was heard in a video game of Desperate Housewives! Bernard Fox portrayed the warlock physician Dr. Bombay on Bewitched and the inept British Colonel Crittenden on Hogan's Heroes. He also appeared in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Columbo and Murder, She Wrote.
Associated Rediffusion. 1955 - 1956.
Set in Waratah National Park, this Australian series told the adventures of a smart kangaroo that was saved from near death by Sonny (Garry Parkhurst), the son of Chief Ranger Matt Hammond (Ed Devereaux). In return, Skippy remained a loyal and trusted friend of the youngster and would warn him of impending danger with a distinctive 'Tut Tutting' sound. Filmed in the outdoors with stunning colourful scenery as its backdrop, the series became a massive hit in the UK and featured a young Lisa Goddard in her first television role as Clarissa 'Clancy' Merrick, friend to the Hammond family. More than twenty years after the show finished a new series The New Adventures of Skippy was made with a grown up Sonny (Andrew Clark), following in his fathers rangering footsteps.
91 episodes of 25 minute duration. Norfolk International (Australia). 1967-69.
Eerie, unsettling and a benchmark production for children’s television in the 1970s, Sky was created by Doctor Who stalwarts Bob Baker and Dave Martin as one of the run of outstanding children’s dramas HTV produced in that decade. Filmed in such richly atmospheric locations as Avebury, Glastonbury Tor and Stonehenge, Sky is a mixture of ecological fable, science fantasy and good, old-fashioned peril. Marc Harrison stars as Sky - an ethereal boy who materialises on an Earth that is as unprepared for him as he is for it. He soon realises that he’s been brought to the wrong time and must seek out the Juganet to return to his correct place in reality. With the help of tearaway Arby Venner, his sister June and friend Roy he must race against time as Nature rejects Sky and the Earth’s immune system creates the evil Goodchild, who is out to stop him at all costs...
7 episodes of 30 minute duration. HTV. 1975
This unusual comedy is still fondly remembered by its fans–who made it a success despite paper-thin plots, second-rate stunts and an outlandish premise. Ted Lawson (Dick Christie), a research engineer with United Robotroics, secretly developed a robot that looked just like a 10-year-old girl. Nicknamed Vicki (short for Voice Input Child Identicon), Ted brought the robot home to his wife Joan (Marla Pennington) and son Jamie (Jerry Supiran). Vicki herself was played by young Tiffany Brissette; she talked in a monotone and took anything anyone said literally–which resulted in embarrassment for Ted and the Lawson family, who tried to hide Vicki’s origins from the outside world–especially the nosey little neighbour Harriet Brindle (Emily Schulman), whose dad just happens to be Ted’s co-worker at United Robotronics. Critics hated the effort (the BBC Comedy Guide called it one of the worst low-budget sitcoms of all time). But Small Wonder was born at a time when there were few popular off-network sitcoms available for syndication; the show HAD to be produced on the cheap so it could be sold in the USA and around the world at a profit. By the end of the 1980's, there were finally enough repeats of good family sitcoms available to stations (such as The Cosby Show and Who’s The Boss), and little incentive to keep Small Wonder in production.
96 episodes of 30 minute duration. Syndication. 1985-1989
Set during the Napoleonic wars of the early 1800s, Oliver Tobias (Arthur of the Britons) stars as Jack Vincent, a swashbuckling ex-British naval captain turned smuggler. A strong-willed, independent man who lives by both his wits and the sword, Vincent is ably assisted by petty thief Honesty Evans (Hywel Williams Ellis), Sarah Morton (Lesley Dunlop - May To December) and Sarah's grandfather, Captain Konig (Peter Capell), in his struggle to stay one step ahead of the Excise Men and other rebels such as the infamous Kemble gang. A fondly remembered series, Smuggler was a hit with both children and adults alike on its original transmission in 1981. With taut, adventurous plots from Richard Carpenter, Bob Baker and John Kane, the series was directed by Dennis Abey, Jim Goddard and Charles Crichton. This thirteen-part series was originally shown in 1981 and is from Network DVD.
SOLDIER AND ME
Tense children’s drama about two young boys on the run from would-be assassins who are plotting the execution of Czech dissidents in the wake of the 1968 revolt that led to Russia’s occupation of their country. Local lad Jim Woolcott (Gerald Sunquist) and Istvan Szolda (Richard Willis) -who is nicknamed ‘Soldier’ by Jim in a mispronunciation of his name, overhear a gang plotting a murder and go straight to the police, but they are not believed. They follow the gang but are unable to stop them and then become witnesses to the deed. Worse still, they are spotted by the gang’s leader (Milos Kirek), who instructs his three henchmen to silence the boys. There ensues an epic chase through Manchester, Stockport, across the Pennines and the Lake District involving obstacles such as crossing stormy lakes and jumping from moving trains in as the boys attempt to shake off their pursuers. The story was told across nine episodes and was adapted, from his original 1966 novel ('Run For Your Life'), by David Line, the difference being that in the original the circumstances that led to the dissidents plot was the Hungarian revolution some ten years earlier. The change of background was suggested by series producer Brian Armstrong who had covered the Czech revolution for 'World In Action,' and who had risked life and limb to smuggle news footage out of Prague under the noses of the Russian occupiers.
9 episodes of 30 minute duration. Granada Television. 1974
Often overlooked and neglected, the only possible explanation that this superior children's puppet series from the early sixties is not held in higher esteem, is that it reached the screen at the same time as Gerry Anderson's futuristic adventures were beginning to take off, with ’Supercar’ and ’Fireball XL5’ overshadowing it. The series, scripted by former Anderson colleague Roberta Leigh, was set in the year 2100 and concerned the adventures of the United Galactic Organization, a peace keeping force formed by the natives of Venus, Mars and Earth. The crew of Galasphere 347 was comprised of human captain Larry Dart, Martian Husky and Venusian Slim. Colonel Raeburn gave the orders, assisted by Venusian secretary Marla and Professor Haggerty was the unit’s scientific advisor, himself assisted by his daughter Cassiopea. The series was made available again, quite recently, on DVD.
39 episodes of 30 minute duration. B&W. Wonderama Productions. 1963-64.
Aaron Sorkin’s first television series venture was this comedy-drama about the staff of a cable sports network. Peter Krause and Josh Charles played Casey McCall and Dan Rydell, co-anchors of Sports Night, a wrap-up of the day’s sporting events on the Continental Sports Channel. The show’s managing editor was Isaac Jaffe (Robert Guillaume); its executive producer was the harried but very competent Dana Whitaker (Felicity Huffman). Other major players in the cast included associate producers Natalie Hurley (Sabrina Lloyd) and Jeremy Goodwin (Joshua Malina). Sports Night set what would become the style of Sorkin’s future series--the talk and walk (where the characters chat while on the move); fast-paced dialogue; and the use of current events as the basis of plot developments. Another Sorkin trademark was the male-female relationships: Natalie and Jeremy quickly became an item (though the relationship had its ups and downs); there was a strong on-again, off-again attraction between Casey and Dana; and newly divorced Dan had problems getting back into the dating scene. During the show’s first season, Guillaume suffered a stroke; he eventually returned to work and his real-life illness was effectively worked into the character of Isaac Jaffe. Sports Night originally aired with a laugh track, but Sorkin pressured ABC to dump the canned laughs; they became fewer by the end of the first season and were eliminated altogether during Season Two. Though admired by critics for its fine writing and ensemble acting, Sports Night was never a big hit. Several cable networks wanted to continue the show after ABC cancelled it. But Sorkin decided to concentrate on his new NBC drama The West Wing and passed on the opportunity. (He would later return to television as the setting for drama and comedy in the short-lived Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip). Most of the main actors did quite well after Sports Night: Krause later starred in Six Feet Under and Parenthood; Charles became a cast member of The Good Wife; Huffman found success as Lynette Scavo on Desperate Housewives; and Malina joined the West Wing cast as a replacement for the departed Rob Lowe during Season Four.
45 episodes. ABC. 1998-2000
THE STRANGE REPORT
Anthony Quayle starred as retired Scotland Yard Commissioner turned private pathologist Adam Strange who was called into action whenever the authorities were baffled. Strange employed the latest techniques in forensic investigation, which he undertook in his own laboratory in his Paddington flat. The series was a little too strange for critics at the time who found many of the off-beat plots just a little too baffling. The Sunday Times described it as "pretty well incomprehensible and wholly barmy." The show was produced by London born Norman Felton who had produced long running US series' Dr Kildare and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. The series starred the obligatory US actor Kaz Garas and also former Doctor Who girl Anneke Wills. Quayle was more likely to be seen at the theatre than on television and although he starred in numerous TV movies (such as Moses the Lawgiver, this was his only leading role in a series of any length.
13 episodes of 50-minute duration. 1968-69.
THE STRANGE WORLD OF GURNEY SLADE
The Strange World of Gurney Slade was a strange show indeed. The brainchild of East London child prodigy Anthony Newley, the idea for the show was developed in partnership with Morecambe and Wise scriptwriters Dick Hills and Sid Green, and took place in a surreal atmosphere in which the hero would trip in and out of reality whilst interacting with inanimate objects, animals, or people who stepped out of advertising posters. Whether the series was meant to be a comedy or merely a sideways glance at life in general is difficult to fathom, although interviewed in 1960, Newley stated, "There is no rhyme or reason for what I do, I merely take life and turn it upside down. We hope to achieve humour without setting out to be deliberately funny." Allegedly, David Bowie, along with a number of other rock musicians, cite it as an important influence on their early work. (In fact Bowie states that he drew on his memories of it as the basis for his role in the sci-fi movie 'The Man Who Fell to Earth'). It's possible that Gurney Slade (named by Newley after a Somerset Village of the same name) was years ahead of its time, but it definitely proved to be too strange for the audience of 1960 and four shows into its planned six show run, it was removed from its primetime slot to a late night one. Only one other regular performer appeared alongside the star and that was comedian Bernie Winters.
6 episodes of 30 minute duration. b&w. 1960
Western series starring Will Hutchins that had its roots as a one-off story in an anthology series called Conflict shown between September 1956 and September 1957 on ABC television and one that itself rotated on alternate weeks with Cheyenne. As Western's go this one was a little different in as much as the hero, Tom Brewster, preferred to talk himself rather than shoot himself out of trouble and shunned away from any form of physical violence. The series was devised for Hutchins after the young actor was put under contract to Warner Bros. and ran on an alternate week basis with Cheyenne (after Conflict was cancelled) from 1957-1959, with Bronco from 1959-1960 and finally became one of three rotating shows for its last season (1960-61). Conflict spawned one other successful series, 77 Sunset Strip.
Many television critics consider this comedy-drama to be one of the worst series ever aired. Conceived as NBC’s answer to ABC’s hit The Love Boat, it followed the same formula of an ensemble cast, big-name guest stars and several storylines in each episode. But instead of a cruise ship, the setting was a nuclear-powered train that took passengers from New York City to Los Angeles (or vice versa) in just 36 hours. The engineer steering Supertrain onto the small screen was Fred Silverman, the former (and highly successful head programmer) at both CBS and ABC. In early 1978, he accepted the job as president of NBC. His mandate was to turn the third-place network around; by the time he took control, NBC had just one series in the top ten--Little House on the Prairie. Silverman hired producer Dan Curtis (Dark Shadows) to get Supertrain up and running in just a matter of months–a project that normally would take at least a year. NBC itself produced the series, which required elaborate sets (Supertrain itself featured everything from swimming pools to a shopping center, an exercise gym and a disco.) The ensemble cast included Edward Andrews as the conductor, Harry Flood; Robert Alta (father of Alan) played the train’s doctor Dan Lewis; Ilene Graff was the social director Penny Whitaker; Harrison Page played porter George Boone, and Michael Delano was cast as the train’s bartender Lou Atkins.
But the series was cursed from the start. Curtis lost most of his workers because of the tremendous 24/7 effort to get the show filmed; the pilot script (which stole from such films as The Prisoner of Zenda and Strangers On A Train) was dashed off in a few weeks; and a six-thousand pound model of Supertrain used for exterior shots was destroyed in a crash. Worst of all, the accelerated production meant that Supertrain had no high-profile guest stars to promote in the two-hour pilot that aired February 7th, 1979. Thanks to an incessant and expensive promotional campaign, Supertrain did get about a third of the audience watching TV that evening. But curious viewers quickly tuned out (thanks to the weak script and confusing story), leading Silverman to fire Curtis and revamp the program as The All-New Supertrain! But writer Sally Bedell Smith noted that even with changes in the format and cast, “the show had become such a joke that it would have been ignored even if Robert Redford had been chief engineer.” All told, Supertrain resulted in an expensive ($5 million) failure for NBC and haunted Silverman until he was deposed as network president in 1981. A footnote: The theme music (written by Bob Colbert) was actually recycled by NBC for a daytime game show called Chain Reaction, which probably summed up the entire Supertrain fiasco.
9 episodes. NBC. 1979
SWORD OF FREEDOM
Edmund Purdom starred as Marco del Monte, a 15th century painter, also a master swordsman, living in Florence where he leads a fight against the oppressive ruling family, the Medici's, and their political henchman, Machiavelli (Kenneth Hyde). ITC's Italian version of their own immensely successful Robin Hood, who was both aided and opposed by very similar characters. For help there was a Maid Marian in the form of Angelica (Adrienne Corri), a former pick-pocket turned model and a gentle-giant Little John type called Sandro (the wonderfully named Rowland Bartrop), while evil Prince John was Duke de Medici (Martin Benson). Quite clearly aimed at cashing in on the current trend for swashbucklers with one eye on the lucrative American market, the series went into production in 1957 under the working title 'Sword for Hire' and was then called 'The Blade' until Sword of Freedom was settled on. The series included scripts from blacklisted American writer Ring Lardner Jnr.
39 episodes of 30 min duration. ITV. 1958-1961
The latest update of Teletronic, the television history site is now on-line and is packed with articles, reviews and biographies.
US RESIDENTS MAY BE INTERESTED IN THESE DVD TITLES
Laurence Marcus 2001, 2002, 2003, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011 Serjeant Musgrave's Dance, Singing ringing Tree, Sky courtesy of Network DVD. Seven Deadly Sins and Seven Deadly Virtues based on original TV Times articles. Scrubs, Small Wonder, Supertrain by Mike Spadoni - 2010
The Siege of Sydney's Street adapted from original Radio Times article