Reviews

AFTER HENRY (1988)

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BAFTA-nominated comedy After Henry followed the comfortable middle-class lives of three women; except that, for one of them, life wasn't all that comfortable... A widow of two years Sarah had been left well provided for in a large Edwardian detached house in a leafy suburb by her late husband, Dr Henry France. But, unfortunately, she had also been left with a demanding mother and a prickly adolescent daughter, Clare (Janine Wood) who craved independence, just as long as mother was there to clear up the mess. Sarah was stuck between the two of them (literally; her mother lived in the upstairs flat whilst her daughter resided in the basement and Sarah was in between). Mother was both manipulative and a gossip (Sarah dubbed her and her friends 'The Geriatric Mafia') and she often found herself being torn between mother and daughter with her only source of refuge being a second-hand bookshop where she worked, and the sympathetic ear of the shop's owner, Russell (Jonathan Newth). Prunella Scales (Fawlty Towers) starred as put-upon Sarah and Joan Sanderson (Please Sir!) as Eleanor, her fearsome battle-axe of a mother. After Henry was written by multiple BAFTA-winner Simon Brett (Rosemary & Thyme) and directed by sitcom legend Peter Frazer-Jones (Man About the House, George and Mildred). After Henry was originally created for BBC radio in 1986 and soon became a firm favourite with listeners. However, when the BBC turned down a TV adaptation it was snapped up by Thames. Not one of the Beeb's best decisions.

AGATHA CHRISTIE'S POIROT (1989)

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Show Image The crime-drama, that is the adaptation of arguably Agatha Christie's most famous character Detective Hercule Poirot, first hit TV screens in 1989. There have been 13 series, with the last one of 70 episodes being shown in 2013, and all of Christie's work that features the title character (35 books and 65 short stories) have been adapted in that time. The London-based Belgium-born detective stood only 5 feet 4 inches tall, whilst his egg-shaped head was overshadowed by his dyed black hair, perfectly waxed moustache and impeccable clothing. Renowned for his love of method and symmetry, he hated disarray, dirt - and especially murder. He was impatient and direct enough to often ruffles feathers, yet he was usually courteous with non-criminals, and noticeably sympathetic with young ladies - though in a fatherly way. He never married but was romantically linked to Countess Vera Rosakoff. "One must seek the truth within - not without," was one of his favourite sayings, whilst he liked to sit quietly when in the process of solving crimes. Although he thinks there is a lot more to solving crimes than evidence, he was never adverse to a little snooping of the 'listening at doors' and 'hiding behind curtains' varieties - even digging in women's underwear drawers on occasions. His TV entourage included his faithful secretary Felicity Lemon and confidant Captain Arthur Hastings. David Suchet brought the TV version of Poirot to life after being recommended to play the part by Christie's family who had seen him play Blott in a TV adaptation of Blott on the Landscape. So thrilled was he about landing the role, Suchet studied every descriptive passage about Poirot in a bid to bring him to life in a way that would do Agatha Christie's character justice. Such was his preparation, Suchet almost quit after an argument about incorporating more of Poirot's mannerisms into the scripts. It is believed that members of Christie's family told him that they believed Christie would have approved, and he has been eponymous with the name Poirot ever since. "It is the brain, the little grey cells on one which must rely," was one of his most famous sayings - and the audience loved to see his clarity of mind and grasp of sin, morality and motivation as he worked his magic in solving complex crimes. The first eight series were written by Brian Eastman and Clive Exton, with Damien Timmer and Michele Buck taking over in 2001. The change in writers also saw a change in tone for the programme, with the humour that had originally been prominent being replaced by darker and more psychological themes that reflected the mood of the later Poirot books. Visuals were also modernized with the usual Art Deco locations making way for more lavish surroundings. The programme won several awards including: best original TV music (1990), best costume design (1990), best make-up (1990), best graphics (1990), and best TV episode (1992) for the Lost Mine. However, whilst Suchet was twice nominated for best TV actor, he failed to win.
(Review: Tim Rands 2014)

AGONY (1979)

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Hugely entertaining comedy series about a magazine agony aunt who also runs her own radio phone-in and who, like Dr Frazier Crane many years later, could solve everyone's problems except her own. Unlike Frazier Crane, Jane Lucas was level headed and angst free. It was the people around her that seemed to make life impossible. Between her suffocating, manipulative, widowed Jewish mother, Bea, to her estranged non-Jewish public schoolboy psychiatrist husband, Laurence, and between her obnoxious editor at People magazine, Jane, to her shallow colleague at Happening Radio 242, DJ Andy Evol, there were very few people that Jane could turn to in order to find a bit of sanity. Jane's best friends and confidantes were a gay couple, Rob and Michael who lived in the flat next door. It was the first time that a gay couple had been shown on British television without playing on sexual innuendos or 'camping it up', but given that the series was based on real-life Capitol Radio agony aunt Anna Raeburn, who was also co-writer and series advisor, the viewer would expect nothing less than have the partners presented in a sensitive, adult and non-condescending way. By all accounts the series was fraught with behind the scenes tension with as many arguments off screen as there were on. "Agony was very difficult to do," said producer Humphrey Barclay. "The idea came from an untried writer, a Californian, who had sent a script to LWT on spec, about a Jewish mother running a sex shop. "We can't use that," we said-but it was very good writing. So I asked the writer why he wrote it and he said, "Because my mother runs a sex shop!"" When Barclay asked the writer if he had any other ideas he offered the co-written script of an agony aunt.

That other creator and co-writer was Len Richmond, who had worked on the US sitcom Three's Company, itself a spin-off of another UK series, Man About The House. As a result Agony has been compared by many critics to American sitcoms in its use of witty one-liners and sharp retorts. This should probably have made for an easy transition for the 1985 CBS version The Lucie Arnaz Show, but that series, starring the daughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Aranaz, didn't make it beyond the first six episodes. Perhaps one of the reasons the US series didn't succeed was because it didn't have Maureen Lipman in the lead role. "It was a very long ride to get it onto the screen because it tackled very difficult subjects and talked grown-up language," said Humphrey Barclay. "Maureen Lipman was brilliantly fraught and funny as the career woman harassed at work by her husband, Laurence, played by Simon Williams and at home by her mother, Bea, played by Maria Charles." In 1995, fourteen years after the third and final series of Agony was seen on LWT, the series switched channels to BBC television and returned as Agony Again. By this time Jane Lucas had her own afternoon television chat-cum-debate show called 'Lucas Live'. Maria Charles returned as Jane's mother and Simon Williams guest starred as ex-husband Laurence, but the gay couple were absent as Michael had committed suicide in the last season of the original series. Instead, the men in Jane's life were her 'about to come-out' son, Michael, a homeless ex-company director, Richard and her love interest-social worker, Daniel. The writers for this series were different this time and the scripts never quite had the edge of the original.

AIRWOLF (1984)

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AirwolfAirwolf is a new breed of high-tech super helicopter that has been stolen by its designer in order to sell it to Libya. Concerned that such an impressive piece of firepower should be in hostile hands, a covert US Government agency known only as "The Firm" recruit reclusive pilot Stringfellow Hawke (Jan-Michael Vincent) to get it back. This he does, but then refuses to hand it over until the government track down his brother, St John, who has been missing in action in Vietnam. In the meantime, Hawke agrees to use Airwolf, which is hidden in the Southwestern desert, for a series of dangerous missions for The Firm. Hawke's accomplices on his missions are Dominic Santini, played by veteran Hollywood movie star Ernest Borgnine and an agent supplied by The Firm, Marella (Deborah Pratt). Caitlin O'Shannessy (Jean Bruce Scott) joined at the start of the second season. Hawke's main contact at The Firm is the enigmatic Archangel (Alex Cord), identifiable by his white suit, eye patch and walking stick. Series creator Donald P. Bellisario first toyed with the idea of the adventures of an ace combat pilot in a third season episode of Magnum, P.I. The theatrical success of the similarly themed Blue Thunder in 1983 was the inspiration for the US Networks to commission no less than three helicopter series the following year - CBS' Airwolf, ABC's Blue Thunder and NBC's more light-hearted Riptide. The original series ran for 2 seasons on CBS before returning, with a new cast, on USA Cable Network in 1987 and location filming moved from the USA to Canada.

ALAS SMITH AND JONES (1984)

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Alas Smith and Jones British sketch comedy show that followed hot on the heels of Not The Nine O'Clock News which also featured the programme's stars, Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones. The programme's format borrowed elements from some of Britain's best known double act series and in doing so Smith and Jones quickly established themselves as firm favourites. Each episode would begin with the duo appearing in front of the studio audience to introduce the show (a la Morecambe and Wise) before giving way to a succession of quick-fire sketches (The Two Ronnies). One of the best remembered sections of the show was the 'head-to-head' where Smith, the idiot who knew everything, would attempt to explain something straightforward to Jones, the idiot who knew nothing (shades of the Dagenham Dialogues of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore). The title of the show itself was a pun of the American TV Western series Alias Smith and Jones. As well as having a great team of comedy writers that included Clive Anderson, Mark Steel, Andy Hamilton, Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews, Smith and Jones heavily contributed their own material. After several seasons the show was simply retitled Smith and Jones and moved into independent production - one of the first to be commissioned by the BBC from an independent company, Talkback Productions, of which Smith and Jones were also directors.

ALBERT AND VICTORIA (1970)

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Albert and Victoria Alfred Marks starring comedy vehicle produced by Yorkshire Television and set, as the title suggests, in the late 19th century when Queen Victoria and her consort Prince Albert were the figureheads on the British throne. It was a period when middle class values were of the utmost importance, where men were men, women knew their place and children were seen but not heard. Albert Hackett was the ultra-conservative head of his household ruling over his family with an affectionate yet iron fist that upheld strict moral values. The works of Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley were strictly forbidden in the Hackett home which was comprised of Albert, his wife Victoria, their children and servants. It was a standard domestic sitcom with the flavour of Upstairs Downstairs thrown in and drew a contrast to the less austere age of the swinging 1960s which had just come to an end and the more liberated 1970s which lay ahead. Zena Walker starred as Victoria in the first series but proved to be unavailable for series two the following year and she was replaced by Barbara Murray (familiar to viewers of the 1965-69 ITV drama The Power Game). But after filming just two episodes Murray suffered a miscarriage and had to withdraw from the series to be replaced by a third Victoria; Frances Bennett (who had appeared in the 1962-65 BBC series Compact). Alfred Marks had become a popular face on British television since the 1950s as the large balding star with the distinguished moustache and deep baritone voice first roared onto the nations screens as the purple faced ex-regimental Sergeant Major Ronald "Tibby" Brittain in Alfred Marks Time, which, with its bellowed intro, began on 16th February 1956 being broadcast every four weeks, and presented a parade of surprise guest stars, all of whom appeared unbilled. These included Peter Sellers, Hughie Green and Kenneth Connor as well as an appearance by Paddie O'Neil (Marks' wife). Marks had first met Sellers on the set of a 1951 film, Penny Points to Paradise, in which he topped an almost all-Goon cast of Harry Secombe, Sellers and Spike Milligan. The film has never seen on television, is considered lost, although Marks is supposed to have bought the last remaining print in order to suppress it!

ALF (1986)

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Alf US sitcom about an Alien Life Form (ALF), who follows an amateur radio signal to Earth only to crash land on the roof of a garage owned by the Tanners, a middle class family living in the suburbs of Los Angeles. Unable to return home, the 229 year old alien is taken in by the Tanners' where he instantly wins over the family. They hide him from the US military and their nosy neighbours, the Ochmonek's. Like Mork in Mork and Mindy, ALF takes a comical if sometimes cynical view of life on Earth. Fearing that the planet might suffer the same fate as his own homeworld, he tries to convince the president of the USA to stop the nuclear program. ALF was portrayed by a live-hand puppet and voiced by the series' creator Paul Fusco. The production of ALF was technically difficult and demanding. All four lead actors - Max Wright (Willie Tanner), Anne Schedeen (Kate Tanner), Andrea Elson (Lynn Tanner) and Ben Hertzberg, also known as Benji Gregory (Brian Tanner) - have admitted to a high level of tension on the set. The series ran for four years from 1986 and during that time NBC capitalized on the success of the series by airing a Saturday morning spin-off series ALF: The Animated Series, set on ALF's home planet of Melmac, which ran from 1987 to 1988. Fans of the series were left disappointed when the final episode ended with ALF being captured by the U.S. military. Apparently this was not supposed to be the finale, as the original airing ended with the words "To Be Continued" on the screen. The producers supposedly had a verbal agreement with NBC to produce at least one more episode to resolve the cliffhanger. But the series was cancelled and the conclusion was never made. It was finally resolved six years later in a TV movie Project ALF.

ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS (1955)

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Alfred Hitchcock Presents The instantly recognisable, deceptively benign visage of arguably the world's greatest director of cinematic suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, side-stepped deftly to the smaller screen of US television and welcomed viewers to a polished series of stories (seventeen of which were directed by Hitchcock himself) dealing in his trademarked obsession with terror, horror, dark humour and sardonically surprising endings. 'Hitch's' wryly deadpan delivery style of introduction, coupled with the series' memorable theme music quickly established themselves as much imitated standards over a decade which saw the show broadcast on two different networks - and later in the never-ending reruns of syndication. Cleverly, in knowingly direct violation of the then accepted television code of ethics; the stories would often appear to end with evil both triumphant and unpunished.

However, the downbeat resolution would invariably be revealed as misleading, when following the final commercial break, Hitchcock would return to almost gleefully explain what small mistake or random act of chance had finally seen justice prevail. In 1962, the show was expanded to an hour and underwent a title change to The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. The shows were produced by Norman Lloyd, later to appear before the camera as Dr. Daniel Auschlander in St Elsewhere and boasted contributions from such notable authors as Ira Levin, Roald Dahl, Sterling Silliphant and Ray Bradbury.

In a real life twist worthy of the Master himself, five years after Hitchcock's death, in the fall of 1987, the 'Hitch' achieved a unique, near morbid, distinction: he became the first person in television history to return from the dead to host a new series, when for one season, the NBC network used colorized versions of his original black-and-white introductions to introduce all new half hour episodes of the revived series. The success of this new version led in 1987 an additional year of new episodes being made for the USA Cable Network.

ALFRESCO (1983)

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Alfresco Running for two series in the early 1980s, Alfresco was the same quickfire combination of anarchic sketches and musical items that made Not the Nine O'Clock News, The Two Ronnies and Monty Python's Flying Circus so successful. Featuring six young comedians who were destined to become household names within a few years of its transmission, Alfresco starred Ben Elton (who did the bulk of the writing), Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson, Robbie Coltrane and Siobhan Redmond. Alfresco set the seeds for future shows like A Bit of Fry and Laurie, Ben Elton's The Man from Auntie and Saturday Live. Everything was fair game and a target for their humour - chat shows, effeminacy, British WWII films, Shakespeare and private health care, to name a few. Before Alfresco Granada Television tried out the format in a short mini-series of three titled There's Nothing to Worry About! which was only shown in the North-West. Alfresco followed a year later.

ALIAS (2001)

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Alias Relatively unknown until 2001, Jennifer Garner arrived on the TV scene with all the speed of a high velocity bullet in the explosive series Alias as a beautiful woman who finds herself drawn deeper and deeper into the world of deceit, international espionage, spies and counter spies. Seven years ago Sydney Bristow (Garner) was in her freshman year at college when she was approached by SD-6, a top secret division of the CIA. Accepting the offer, she quickly became a field agent and her hair-raising assignments took her all over the world. As the series opens Sydney discovers that SD-6 is not a branch of the CIA at all and she has been inadvertently working for "the other side", on behalf of an organisation involved in extortion and weapons sales and an enemy of the United States. When she tells her fiance that she is a spy he is murdered by SD-6. Her life now in mortal danger, Sydney turns to the real CIA for help. She becomes a double agent working for the CIA against the rogue organisation (The Alliance of Twelve) and learns that her father is also a double agent for the CIA. As if her life wasn't complicated enough she has to hide her triple identity from her friends and family, as she assumes multiple aliases to carry out her missions. The series was created by J. J. Abrams who later created Lost and directed the feature movies Mission: Impossible lll (2006) and Star Trek (2009) and produced the movie Cloverfield.

ALIAS SMITH AND JONES (1971)

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Alias Smith and Jones Set in the late 19th Century when the Wild West was no longer so wild and the 'frontier' had been pushed back almost as far as it would go, Alias Smith and Jones was one of US television's last great flirtations with the Cowboy genre, which, inspired by the Hollywood blockbuster, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, presented the heroes with more wit than grit. Brought in as a mid-season replacement series in 1971, Alias Smith and Jones was the brainchild of an up-and-coming 32 year-old producer by the name of Glen Larson, who at that time was already being described as a "Wunderkind among Hollywood producers."

"I had wanted a Western that was more towards the turn of the century and which also had some humour," he explained. Looking through the records of the Pinkerton Detective Agency, which was the nemesis of many 'old west' outlaws, Larson came across a reference to two outlaws who had been offered amnesty -and jobs as guards on the Union Pacific Railroad. "As soon as I read that," said Larson, "I knew I had a substantial basis for a series." The premise was simple enough; Hannibal Heyes and Jed 'Kid' Curry were two reformed outlaws and although they had committed plenty of robberies in their time, they'd never actually killed anyone. But when they realised the 'Old West' was coming to an end and decided to change their ways (for one very good reason explained producer Larson at the time, "They know that if they don't they'll get killed") the territorial governor offered them a free pardon only on condition that they stayed out of trouble and lived as model citizens for one whole year. Of course to make things a little more complicated, no one was allowed to know of the 'deal', and the two former outlaw's 'Wanted Posters' would remain on display making them the target of every Sheriff, Deputy or Bounty Hunter around. In creating the main characters, Larson drew from different sources. Heyes (aka Joshua Smith) was a pure work of fiction, whilst Curry (aka Thaddeus Jones) was based on the real Kid Curry, who was a member of the 'Hole-in-the-Wall Gang', which spawned such movies as 'The Wild Bunch' and 'Butch Cassidy.' Another comparison to the successful Paul Newman/Robert Redford movie was that even the actor chosen to play the 'Kid', university graduate Ben Murphy, was very similar in appearance to Hollywood heart-throb Newman.

Peter Duel, who played the part of Smith, was a former Broadway actor who began his Hollywood career performing in a variety of roles. Interviewed at the series outset he said, 'After the parts I'd had in recent years--from drug addicts to draft-dodgers--I was glad to have something with humour.' Unfortunately, the humour in young Duel's life soon faded and on 30th December 1971, the 31 year-old shot himself whilst watching the show on TV. The series, (which had a shooting schedule that ensured it churned out a new episode every five days), continued with former series narrator Roger Davis taking over the Smith role, and finally ended in 1973. Glen Larson summed up the viewing public's fascination with the Western genre thus: "I suppose it's true the Western is escapist entertainment. Everybody likes to identify with the freewheeling cowboy, gun-at-hip with no restraints." Although this series is regarded as one of the last of the successful US Cowboy series, the Western never really did die, it simply moved from the mid-west to deep space. Inspired by Star Trek, Larson drew on its ingredients for his 1980 cowboys-in-space series Battlestar Gallactica. And even that series starred one of the most famous TV Cowboys of all time; Bonanza's Lorne Greene.

ALIAS THE JESTER (1985)

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Alias the Jestert Produced by Cosgrove Hall, this BAFTA award-winning animated series following the exploits of Alias, a diminutive space traveller who unexpectedly lands in the magical kingdom of Houghton Bottom in medieval England. He becomes court jester to the irascible King Arthur and, together with his trusty companion, Boswell the telepathic dog, Alias' adventures begin. Richard Briers provided the voice of Alias.

ALICE (1976)

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AliceBased quite loosely on the 1974 Oscar-winning film Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, this situation comedy centered on Alice Hyatt (Linda Lavin), a widowed mother with a 12-year-old son who leave their New Jersey home to start a new life in Phoenix, Arizona. While waiting for her break as a singer, Alice serves meals at Mel's Diner, a greasy spoon known for the chili made by cook and proprietor Mel Sharples (played by the late Vic Tayback, the only member of the film cast to join the TV version when it debuted on CBS in 1976). Aiding and abetting Alice were her two fellow waitresses. Flo (Polly Holiday) was a raunchy, fun-loving gal with a knack for putdowns--especially anything regarding Mel or his cooking. Flo provided the show with its most-famous catchphrase "Kiss my grits!" The other server was quiet and ditzy Vera (Beth Howland), who was more innocent than Alice or Flo when it came to men. Alice was pretty much standard sitcom fare for the late 1970's and early 1980's with fill-in-the-blank situations and at least one "Kiss my grits!" exclamation by Flo in every episode. Beneath the predictable jokes was a strong chemistry among the cast members, with Lavin--a former co-star of the detective comedy Barney Miller--as the stable glue that held the workplace family together. In early 1980, the original "family" broke up when Holiday's Flo left Mel's Diner and Phoenix for Texas and a short-lived spin-off series called, appropriately, Flo. The new sitcom gave Flo her own restaurant, the "Yellow Rose". It immediately landed in the top ten; when it returned in the fall of 1980, its ratings went downhill and was cancelled in the spring of 1981. Despite its failure, Flo (and Holiday) never returned to Alice. To replace Flo, the producers turned to Dianne Ladd, who played Flo in the film version. On the sitcom, she played Belle Dupree, a Mississippi gal who wrote country songs and lived near Alice. By the fall of 1983 the ratings began to decline as CBS moved Alice from its comfortable Sunday night perch to other timeslots; its placement against the red-hot NBC action-adventure series The A-Team was the nail in the coffin. The final episode of Alice on March 19th 1985, had Mel selling the diner and giving each of his waitresses a $5,000 bonus. Alice was one of the biggest sitcom hits of the late 1970's for a good reason: Underneath its predictable humor was true humanity between the four people of Mel's Diner. Not bad for a greasy spoon in the Southwest. Alice was screened in the UK on Channel 4 from 27th August 1984 until 8th October 1986 each weekday afternoon in a continuous run until 188 episodes had been shown -14 short of every episode made.

ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL (1978)

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All Creatures Great and Small James Herriot's tales of a country vet had first appeared on screen in a 1974 movie starring Simon Ward, followed by a sequel, It Shouldn't Happen To A Vet, starring John Alderton in 1976. For the TV series the personable and talented Christopher Timothy was cast as Herriot, a novice vet who joins the practice of Siegfried Farnon and his easy-going brother Tristan (a pre-Doctor Who Peter Davison). Set in the fictional Yorkshire Dales town of Darrowby, initially in the 1930's, the immediate popularity of the programme was due in part to it's reflection of a much gentler time when life moved at a somewhat slower pace, following faithfully Herriot's written tales of all manner of agricultural and domestic animal ailments. The show's run came to an end in 1980 after three series, with Herriot and Tristan Farnon heading off to World War 2. Two Christmas specials followed in 1983 and 1985, but absence, as they say, makes the heart grow fonder, and concerted public pressure succeeded in bringing about a return for the series in 1988. Acknowledging the passage of time, events in Darrowby had moved on to the post-war period. Siegfried, (the hugely experienced and powerful performer, Robert Hardy) was married and a new vet, Glaswegian, Calum Buchanan joined the practise to compensate for the almost complete departure of the Tristram character, since Peter Davison's appearances were down to a minimum due to other work commitments. Other core cast changes saw Carol Drinkwater's Helen Herriot replaced by Lynda Bellingham. By this point all of Herriot's original stories had been adapted, although some unpublished memoirs were used for plots and writers were given the freedom to invent new situations. The series finished with another highly rated Christmas special in 1990. The show spawned a lucrative James Herriot industry around Thirsk where the series was filmed, with it's warm and engagingly eccentric characters which became the standard template for a flood of nostalgia tinged, gentle country set dramas and comedies which continue to this day. Indeed, this part of the country in particular has been the setting for many successful series on British TV, including Last Of The Summer Wine, Open All Hours, and the not dissimilar Heartbeat.

ALL GAS AND GAITERS (1967)

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All Gas and Gaiters One of the first TV series to poke fun at the clergy (albeit in a very gentle manner), All Gas and Gaiters is the fondly remembered sitcom that elevated Derek Nimmo to household-name status in Britain and also spawned two spin-off series as well as a radio show. All Gas and Gaiters began life as a one-off 1966 Comedy Playhouse presentation called The Bishop Rides Again written by husband and wife team Pauline Devaney and Edwin Apps (originally under the pseudonym of John Wraith). Nimmo was cast as the Reverend Mervyn Noote, a naive and somewhat bumbling chaplain at a 13th century cathedral called St. Oggs. Helping Noote in all matters clerical were the Bishop (William Mervyn) and the ageing Archdeacon (Robertson Hare), all of whom at one time or another crossed swords with the rather severe and humourless Dean (John Baron -pilot, series 1 and 4, Ernest Clark series 2 and 3). Derek Nimmo was an instant hit with viewers and became so closely associated with the role that when he appeared in the 1967 Wolfe and Chesney series, Sorry I'm Single, playing a bachelor who shares his Hampstead bed-sit with three females, he received letters of complaint from horrified clergymen. During the run of All Gas and Gaiters Nimmo took virtually the same character (in all but name) into 20 episodes of Oh, Brother!, which was then followed by Oh, Father! After the last TV series of All Gas and Gaiters the show was adapted for radio featuring the same cast of actors and characters although Nimmo left after show 13 of 33, to be replaced by Jonathan Cecil.

ALL IN THE FAMILY (1971)

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Controversial US sitcom based on the UK's Till Death Us Do Part Click Here for review

ALL OUR YESTERDAYS (1960)

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All Our Yesterdays One of Granada Television's most successful series of all time, produced originally by Tim Hewat, All Our Yesterdays began in 1960 and was presented by noted foreign correspondent James Cameron who linked together edited version of two 1930s cinema newsreels from the same week twenty-five years ago. In 1961 Dublin born journalist and historian Brian Inglis took over and it was with him that the programme became best remembered. Lasting only twenty minutes each programme took a somewhat light-hearted look at past life; but by 1964 it took on much darker and serious overtones as it concerned itself with the rise of Nazism and ultimately the outbreak of World War Two. Studio guests and newspaper articles were also used to get a flavour of the time and light relief came in the form of Daily Express cartoonist Osbert Lancaster's satirical caricatures, the captions of which were read by actors. One wartime newsreel that the audience found particularly amusing was "Hoch der Lambeth Valk", a propaganda film of a Nazi rally, with goose-stepping parades, which was re-edited, reversing frames in some sequences, so that the marchers appeared to be dancing to the Cockney song "The Lambeth Walk". The programme continued with the war years throughout the rest of the 1960s and in the early 1970s took a look at post war austerity and how the world (but mostly Britain) came to terms with the after-effects of the conflict. All Our Yesterdays finished its run in 1973 after thirteen years on the air. In 1975 Brian Inglis wrote and narrated a unique sound archive of World War Two for the record label Cameo Classics, entitled Sounds of All Our Yesterdays. The series was revived in 1987 and was presented by veteran broadcaster Bernard Braden, utilising footage from the archives of Granada, ITN and Pathe Newsreel-but it finally disappeared from our screens in 1989.

ALL YOUR OWN (1952)

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All Your Own According to The Television Annual for 1955 "A constructive use has been made of Children's Television by presenting to the young viewers other youngsters who have hobbies or talents to show. These programmes, All Your Own, have been ably presided over by Huw Wheldon." (Seen in this picture with Keike Ihara, a 13-year old Japanese girl who demonstrated the art of Japanese tea-making while her parents looked on). All Your Own first appeared on the BBC in 1952. Wheldon also edited the programme and it was later produced by Cliff Michelmore who had worked his way up from assisting on a number of other children's programmes. Michelmore had been the Hamburg voice of the Two-Way Forces Favourites series, through which he "met" the voice of Jean Metcalfe, who handled the programme in London. She later became his wife. All Your Own also featured a young guitarist by the name of John Williams and Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page was a youthful guest (See YouTube link below).

'ALLO, 'ALLO! (1982)

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The misadventures of World War II Resistance fighters. "Listen very carefully, I shall say zis only once!" Click Here for review.

ALLY MCBEAL (1997)

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Ally McBeal Stylish, subtle, witty, thoughtful, insightful. Yet paradoxically - manic, in your face, full-on-lunacy on a hilariously epic scale simultaneously, Ally McBeal was US television's mid-nineties love affair with the navel gazing, self-absorbed inner lives of 30 something professional baby-boomers given a slick, hallucinogenic make-over for the millennial MTV bred generation. Created by the brilliantly innovative David E. Kelley, (one time co-collaborator on some of Steven Bochco's greatest triumphs such as LA Law and Doogie Howser, MD), the series chronicles the complexly intertwined lives, loves, obsessions and working relationships of the lawyers working for the firm of Fish and Cage, and in particular, the titular heroine of the series, Ally McBeal herself. Played to stunning perfection by the amazing and aptly named Callista Flockhart, Ally was a tangled mass of conflicting emotional traumas barely managing to keep afloat in a hurricane tossed sea of intermingling fantasy vs. reality, a wide-eyed designer dressed Alice who somehow took a wrong turn and found herself lost in a hyperactive Neverland, whose God had taken-but never completed-a crash course in world design from Tex Avery.

Creator/producer/writer Kelley's true masterstroke of brilliance in this series was in the perfect dovetailing of fantasy sequences, razor sharp dialogue and expertly chosen music to counterpoint and illuminate the inner conflicts and outer dilemmas of the characters. The acid laced icing on this particular cake was an ensemble cast of highly talented performers at the zenith of their craft, who obviously relished each new opportunity to shine that the consistently outstanding scripts for the series afforded them. Special mention should go to the ever excellent Peter McNicol's inspired, seemingly effortless, and outright brilliant performance as the strange, endearingly weird, Barry White fixated, senior partner, John Cage. In any other show, Cage would be worthy of central character; here he's merely an essential component in a slick and expertly designed machine. Ally McBeal was that rarest of beasts, an instant television classic. Now if you'll excuse me, I think I need to 'take a moment...'

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