Reviews Ca to Ch
Made in 1968 and broadcast to tremendous critical acclaim, The Caesars was one of the last great drama productions made in black and white for ITV by Granada. The Caesars is an unrivalled period drama detailing the murder, sex and madness that will forever have a place in the annals of ancient history. After a century of being wrecked by dissension and ruinous civil wars, the Romans were willing to pay any price for peace and internal security. This happened to be the absolute rule of an Emperor-dictator - Augustus (Roland Culver). After ruthlessly disposing of all possible rivals and enemies, Augustus' later years were bedevilled by the question of his successor. He firmly believed that for the good of Rome, the dictatorship must continue, but he hadn't bargained on those who followed him. Featuring outstanding performances from famed character actor Andre Morell, Ralph Bates and an award-winning performance by Freddie Jones, The Caesars pre-dates I, Claudius by eight years and neatly chronicles the decline and fall or Rome.
Cafe Continental was the first televised variety show in the UK appearing on the BBC Television Service from 1947 and continuing to 1953. Broadcast live from the BBC's studios at Alexandra Palace, North London, the programme opened with Al Burnett as Master of Cermonies welcoming the television audience to the cafe telling them that "your table has been reserved by the Maitre d'hotel" (played by Claude Frederick). Devised and produced by Henry Caldwell who utilised a variety format he had developed for ENSA in the Middle East, Cafe Continental was broadcast on Saturday evenings at 8pm. Lasting for forty-five minutes, the episodes attracted many famous singers and dancers of the day: Josephine Baker, famous star of the Folies Bergeres, appeared in a special edition with her husband, bandleader Jo Bouillon, broadcast on 26th June 1948 and the Italian comedy singing quartet, Quartetto Cetra, three men and a girl, who in their own country dubbed all the tracks for Walt Disney cartoon films, appeared three days later. Many stars of the London theatre also appeared in the series but alas, it appears that only three shows from 1950 exist in the BFI archives.
Initially debuting in the spring of 1982 as a replacement series for the cancelled Lou Grant and running for a mere six episodes, Cagney and Lacey was a landmark in the history of the police action/adventure series by dint of the fact that its central buddy characters, rather than being the standard team of uninspired Starsky and Hutch clones, were female officers doing a tough and dangerous job as well - if not better - than any of their male counterparts. Originally created in 1974, by producer Barney Rosenzweig in concert with committed feminists, Barbara Corday and Barbara Avedon, the proposed series was initially rejected by all three major US networks until finally airing on CBS in 1981 as a TV movie starring M*A*S*H regular Loretta Swit as tough, abrasive, no nonsense, Christine Cagney, and in the role which was destined to make her a household name, accomplished Broadway performer, Tyne Daley as the married, sensitive and equally dedicated, Mary Beth Lacey. The end of the pilot saw the duo promoted from uniformed officers to detective grade on the major crimes taskforce. With the movie drawing high ratings, a short run series was quickly commissioned for the following spring. However, with Swit no longer available the role of Cagney was recast with Meg Foster now taking on the mantle of Lacey's beautiful, but troubled partner.
Surprisingly, the initial series episodes drew poor audience figures. An unnamed CBS executive at the time unwittingly lit the fuse to a power keg of feminist protest via some ill considered remarks to the US TV Guide magazine, which sought to explain the fledgling series' disappointing performance. "They were too harshly women's lib, too tough, too hard, not feminine. The American public doesn't respond to the bra burners, the fighters, the women who insist on calling manhole covers people-hole covers." And perhaps most inflammatory of all: "We" (meaning CBS) "perceived them as dykes."
Weathering the storm of protest, CBS once more reinstated the series with yet another incarnation for the Cagney character. Actress Sharon Gless brought the required softer, more feminine aspects desired by the Network to the character, and with the instant rapport between the newcomer and Tyne Daley, the Cagney and Lacey partnership which was to win both audience and critical acclaim world-wide, was finally cemented. However, before the potential of the series was to be fully realised, the show was cancelled yet again following the 1982-1983 season. Through a combination of a tenacious fan campaign, growing viewers for the summer reruns, and the accolade of winning an Emmy award in the September, CBS relented yet again. In the spring of 1984, amidst a TV Guide headlined: 'Welcome Back Cagney and Lacey', and advertising which loudly proclaimed: 'You Want Them! You've Got Them!' New York's finest duo returned to not only flourish, but also produce some of the most intelligent, perceptive and realistic stories ever to grace the illustrious annals of the US police drama genre. The programme never shirked heavy issues, such as Chris's alcoholism, date rape, and the death of a colleague from drug addiction. During it's seven year run Cagney and Lacey picked up a shelf full of Emmy awards including Outstanding Drama Series (1985 and 1986), Outstanding Lead Actress; Tyne Daley (1983, 1984, 1985, 1988) and Sharon Gless (1986, 1987). Rosenzweig went on to produce 'The Trials of Rosie O'Neill', also starring Gless, whom he later married. The heart and soul of the success of the series lay in the brilliantly realised and lovingly delineated central core relationship of the two leads, and the sometimes strained, but always ultimately unbreakable bond of loyalty, trust, mutual respect and affection between the characters which permeated every aspect of the series. The result was a deeply textured and multi-layered emotional involvement on the part of the viewers, which transcended the usual boundaries of a crime series. The audience cared, and the entire production team responded to that affection magnificently. Ultimately, Cagney and Lacey wasn't just an example of a superior cop show, it was much more importantly an example of superior dramatic television at its very finest.
An extension of the formula which made Emergency-Ward 10 Britain's most popular medical soap opera of the 1950s and 60s was foremost in the minds of those who planned Call Oxbridge 2000 and bought it into being, although their resulting efforts failed to capture the hearts of the Sunday afternoon viewing audience and after just one year the surgery at Oxbridge closed its doors for the final time. Central figure in the programme was Dr. John Rennie who, as a Casualty Officer in the Oxbridge Hospital of the Ward 10 programme, had been a household favourite since he was first seen in the programme in September 1959. As played by Richard Thorp, Dr. Rennie had left the hospital and gone to work in private practice with an uncle, working from a surgery on the outskirts of town. But he had not severed entirely his connections with the Ward 10 programme or it's mythical Oxbridge hospital.
Many of the established members of the Ward 10 cast played important parts in the story Call Oxbridge 2000 told, meeting patients whom Dr. Rennie and his uncle think need hospitalisation, or discussing with them the care of patients once they had left hospital. So the thread of hospital and family doctor relationship was maintained, as was the continuity between the two series much like it was many years later when the BBC's highly successful Casualty series spun off into Holby City. Such was the determination to keep the two programmes together that the first scripts for Call Oxbridge 2000 was written by one of the four scriptwriters who worked on Emergency-Ward 10. The small core of professional medical advisers, producers and artistes who worked on E-W10 were made available for Call Oxbridge 2000 in order to add the authenticity of medical techniques and equipment that had been so successfully employed on its well tried stablemate.
The medical advisers, mindful of the great job which Ward 10 had done to give a better understanding in the minds of the general public of hospitals, what they do and who work in them, attempted to explain the work and lives of the great army of General Practitioners who had surgery's in almost any street or road in the towns and villages of the UK. And there were high hopes for the series. Not least in casting handsome Richard Thorp as the bachelor doctor who causes not a few flutters in the hearts of the more eligible of Oxbridge's young girls. However, in spite of an initial healthy viewing audience for Call Oxbridge 2000 within a year the series was beginning to run out of steam. And whilst Emergency-Ward 10 would continue until 1967, Dr Rennie was given an early retirement.
An almost direct contemporary of the Len Deighton/John Le Carre sub-genre of downbeat morally tortured anti-heroes existing in a grim twilight world of treachery and deceit, the character of unwilling British government employed assassin David Callan, made his television debut in a screenplay by author and creator James Mitchell, entitled A Magnum for Schneider. Part of the celebrated Armchair Theatre strand which acted as a successful pilot for an on-going series, Callan aired in April 1967 to both critical and audience acclaim, embodied (as in the Armchair Theatre play) to ambiguous star making perfection by the ever excellent Edward Woodward as the troubled yet still deadly agent. The first two series were filmed in atmospheric monochrome which perfectly evoked the seediness and danger of Callan's world, before making the change to colour for the third and final fourth series in 1972. With consistently hard-hitting, uncompromising scripts and uniformly excellent support playing from a talented core cast which included Anthony Valentine as Callan's sometime unwanted and coldly calculating partner, Toby Meres, (a part originally portrayed by Peter Bowles in the AT production), Scots actor Russell Hunter as the hygienically challenged (and most endearingly human character), petty thief Lonely, psychopathic young agent Cross (memorably delineated by the equally young Patrick Mower), and as the chilling epitome of the cold, manipulative, remorseless hidden face of government, department head Hunter, most notably William Squire. The Hunter title was inherited by a number of different actors in common with that other ever changing authority figure from the classic series The Prisoner, Number Two..-possibly due to the creative input on both series of George Markstein, who himself had fulfilled a very similar, real-life, role with Military Intelligence during WW II). In 1981 Woodward resurrected his most famous character for the 90 minute one-off Wet Job before finding international success in the US action/adventure series The Equalizer, whose central character of Robert McCall could almost be seen as the flip-side of the David Callan character.
The bleakly enduring vision of a bare light bulb swinging, a plaintively haunting theme tune, a man cursed with a conscience trapped in a remorseless, deadly occupation from which the only true escape is death, David Callan was a genuine television original. A brutal antidote to the over-hyped espionage antics of James Bond and The Man From Uncle. Yes, he was a clinically efficient executioner - that he was an executioner with a heart and conscience, (he could have been the man next door or even the man sitting next to you watching the television), he was an everyman doing a dirty job for dirty people in a sordid and corrupt netherworld, -is what ultimately fascinated millions. (See The Callan File for a comprehensive history of the series.)
Monday's Watch With Mother offering which began in 1966 with the words "Here is a box, a musical box, wound up and ready to play. But this box can hide a secret inside. Can you guess what is in it today ?" Then out of the rotating top would pop the "secret", which in fact was the featured character of that particular episode. Amongst the rural village's cast of characters were local gossip Mrs Honeyman, Dr. Mopp, Peter the Postman, Mrs Dingles the Postmistress, Mr Carraway the Fishmonger, Mickey Murphy the Baker and Thomas Tripp the Milkman. But without a doubt the star of the show was Windy Miller the flour maker, who was in charge of the windmill. The series was animated by Bob Bura and John Hardwick from stories by Gordon Murray and told by Play School's Brian Cant. Although only 13 episodes were made they proved so successful that there were two spin-off series, Trumpton and Chigley
To become a top telly private eye in the 1970s it was almost essential to have a disability. Longstreet was blind, Ironside was a paraplegic and Frank Cannon was - well, plain obese. That may not seem too much of a disability, but it didn't take the villian of each episode too long to work out that when confronted by the heavyweight, middle-aged, balding PI, all they had to do was...run! That's why Cannon always needed to be one step (or several yards in a chase) ahead of his suspects. And for his services, clients would pay top dollar which allowed Frank to indulge in his personal luxuries such as food, expensive cars and food. Cannon was created by Quinn Martin for the actor William Conrad who up until then was better known for his voice than his face. In the 1950s he was Matt Dillon in the radio version of Gunsmoke but physically unsuited to the part when the series transferred to television. In the 1960s his was the voice heard at the beginning and end of each episode of The Fugitive. The series was developed from a 100-minute TV movie and Cannon frequently crossed over to appear on Barnaby Jones, another QM Production which ran concurrently with Cannon on CBS between January 1973 and the latter's cancellation. Conrad returned to our TV screen again in Jake and the Fatman - he didn't play the part of Jake! He returned once more as the rotund PI in the aptly titled The Return of Frank Cannon. Some distinguished guests appeared in Cannon - among them Roy Schneider, Martin Sheen, David Janssen, Jay Silverheels (Tonto in The Lone Ranger) and Leslie Nielsen.
Fun, free-wheeling, undemanding early adventure series, Cannonball was a series of half-hour family dramas chronicling the adventures of two truckers who hauled freight on the highways of Canada and the U.S.A. U.S. actors Paul Birch (Mike Malone) and William Campbell (Jerry Austin) in what was essentially a format to the later and classic, Route 66. Filmed around Toronto, Canada, the series was a joint Canadian/UK production, yet another example of Lew Grade's incredibly prolific ITC company co-production output. It aired in Canada on Mondays at 9.30pm on the CBC network. Apart from its two American leads, the series relied heavily on Canadian talent in supporting roles. Beth Lockerbie was Mary Malone, Mike's wife, and Beth Morris and Steve Barringer were Ginny and Butch Malone. Howard Milsom portrayed dispatcher Harry Butler. Other Canadian character actors who appeared in the show included Ruth Springford, Alfie Scopp, Sylvia Lennick, Eric House, and Cy Mack. Interestingly, the concept was revived fifteen years later in 1974, for the short-lived series starring Claude Akins and Frank Converse; Movin' On.
A minor hit on both sides of the Atlantic starring Hollywood screen star Robert Taylor as the hard-nosed and humourless Captain Matt Holbrook, head of a city's detective department. The series was dropped by ABC after its second season but was picked up for one more run by NBC in 1961 under the title The Detectives, Starring Robert Taylor. In the UK it was more appropriately named Captain of Detectives, not relying on the star's name in the title to draw in the audience. Each episode allowed a different member of Holbrook's team to take centre stage and they included Lt. John Russo (Tige Andrews) and Sgt Chris Ballard (Mark Goddard). Holbrook himself was a widower who had little time for romance, although there was a brief affair with a police reporter called Lisa Bonay, who was played by Taylor's real-life wife Ursula Thiess. In the final season the team were joined by Sgt Steve Nelson played by an actor who would go on to make his own mark in television heaven as TV's Batman...Adam West.
Classic but crudely animated children's series from John Ryan relating the tales of Captain Horatio Pugwash, podgy skipper of The Black Pig. The stories were told over several or more five minute episodes, most of the time Pugwash and his crew were pitted against the notorious, black bearded pirate, Cut Throat Jack. Ryan was later accused of including deliberate sexual innuendo in the scripts, a charge that he strenuously denied. There seems to be something of an urban myth about dubiously named characters such as Master Bate, but closer scrutiny does not bear this out (the character in question in this case was actually called Master Mate). Peter Hawkins supplied the voices for this and several other BBC shows, including 'Bill and Ben', and perhaps more famously, the Daleks in 'Doctor Who.' Such was the success of Pugwash that a regular cartoon strip appeared in the Radio Times, the original series was colourised and a new set of 26 episodes were created in 1999 at a cost of £1.5 million!
With Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, Gerry Anderson fifth series, the art of Supermarionation took an expensive quantum leap forward in terms of sophistication. Set in the year AD2068 as Earth's elite Spectrum force, operating from a floating control centre called Cloudbase, (another incarnation of Anderson's unified world security organisations), are bought into action when war is declared on the planet by the Mysterons following an ill conceived and unprovoked attack on one of their installations during an exploratory expedition on the planet Mars. The invisible aliens would kill and then re-animate their victims as their own agents of death and destruction, their main champion being the leader of the Mars expedition, Captain Black. Only Captain Scarlet is impervious to their influence, this plus the fact that he is indestructible makes him Earth's best defence and the Mysterons immortal enemy. As one might expect there was one eye heavily focused on merchandising, and along with their different coloured uniforms the Spectrum agents packed hardware aplenty. Spectrum Pursuit Vehicles, Maximum Security Vehicles and Angel Interceptors all found their way onto the toy shelves, with the SPV becoming Dinky's best seller of all time.
What differentiated Scarlet most from Anderson's earlier series was the decidedly darker tone of the scripts. The puppets were made to look like the actors who supplied their voices and were also given a full biographical background -both Lt. Green and Captain Grey had previously been assigned to WASP, the organisation that ran the Stingray project. In many respects the underlying atmosphere was tinged with a degree of futility, as each new gambit in the Mysterons on-going "war of nerves" served to highlight their ultimate superiority over the much less advanced - and hardly blameless in the first place - humans. When the Anderson team formed the core for their first foray into live action television, UFO, they would recycle many of these elements. Anderson overcame the 'big headed' look that had become the trademark of his puppets by placing the machinery that operated the eyes and mouth inside the body, thereby making them far better proportioned. In many respects far less dated than the mighty Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet continued to be indestructible thanks to occasional re-runs and the power of home video to the end of the millennium. And then a whole new version, using state-of-the-art CGI graphics was produced for television for broadcast in early 2005. Almost forty years after his first encounter with the Mysterons, Captain Scarlet was reporting for duty once again. "S.I.G."
Another comedy gem from Nat Hiken, the man bought us The Phil Silvers Show (aka Bilko), arguably the best US sitcom of all time. Here Hiken switched the focus from army officers to police officers as they cruised the streets of the 53rd precinct, the Bronx, in their patrol car, with similar hilarious results.
The lead characters were played by Fred Gwynne as the tall and sombre Francis Muldoon, and his hopelessly dim-witted partner, Gunther Toody, was played by Joe E. Ross who had previously been seen as Bilko's regular foil, Rupert Ritzik. Hiken even retained some of the old Bilko chemistry by employing actress Beatrice Pons to appear as Ross's wife, as she had done back at Fort Baxter (Ross also retained the habit of saying 'Ooh, ooh' whenever an idea struck him). Fred Gwynne had been cast in a single first season episode of Bilko as Pvt. Honergan, a soldier who Bilko bets on to win an eating contest after he discovers that Honergan is a champion scoffer known as 'The Stomach'. Other Bilko regulars would appear in guest roles in Car 54 and the sharp eyed viewer could pick up on a number of Bilko references. One first season episode, 'The Paint Job' starred Al Lewis and Billy Sands who had starred in The Phil Silvers Show as Pvt. Dino Paparelli. In this story the two guest stars play a couple of crooked garage hands who do quick repaint jobs on stolen vehicles. The garage is called 'Fender' - a part of a car, but also conveniently the name of a regular character form Bilko. Following on from his guest shots on the series Al Lewis would be given a regular part in Car 54. Nat Hiken created the role of officer Leo Schnauser for him and he played this part for the next two years. Lewis and Gwynne in particular seemed to have an on screen chemistry that worked really well and were later first choice castings for another US comedy classic, The Munsters. As a producer, Nat Hiken, known as the King of Comedy, had a wonderful eye for new talent. As well as discovering his lead stars on Car 54, Where Are You? he is also credited with discovering and advancing the TV careers of Alan Alda (who also made his TV debut on The Phil Silvers Show), and Dick Van Dyke. A television pioneer, Hiken worked with such major figures as Mel Brooks and Woody Allen throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, wrote material for Milton Berle, Bette Davis, Carol Burnett, and Lucille Ball and along the way picked up eight Emmy Awards.
Although the officers patrol cars looked identical to those used by real New York cops-it was in fact, painted red and white to avoid confusion with the public when being shot on location. The series was filmed in monochrome and so on television the cars appeared to be black and white.
THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW (1967)
US comedy sketch show which parodied films and TV Click Here for review
Encouraged by the fact that the Carry On series of films had just enjoyed its most successful year at the box office, ITV producer Peter Eton approached the films producers and copyright owners, Peter Rogers and Gerald Thomas to make a special to be shown on Christmas Eve 1969. In order to maintain continuity with the film series, Eton employed regular Carry On contributor Talbot Rothwell to write a script which would be an innuendo laden tribute to Charles Dickens, and in particular his popular tale of A Christmas Carol, and then pulled the master stroke of having it filmed in front of a live audience. Unrestrained by a filmed script and able to play to the audience, experienced theatrical turns such as Frankie Howerd, Peter Butterworth and Charles Hawtrey add-libbed and corpsed their way through 50 minutes of outrageously bawdy jokes, many of which were totally unscripted. (In fact at one stage Howerd seemed to totally forget the script and went into his own one-man show). Trying to maintain some order in the middle of all this mayhem were experienced TV regulars Sid James, Terry Scott and Hattie Jacques. Barbara Windsor and Bernard Bresslaw rounded off the regular Carry On compliment. Lending from other literary classics the first part of the show saw Ebenezer Scrooge (James) getting his first visit from Marley's ghost (Hawtrey) to remind him of a loan he turned down for a certain Doctor Frank N. Stein (Scott). This is the cue for the good doctor and his creation (Bresslaw-who had actually missed out on the part for Hammer's 1957 The Curse of Frankenstein in favour of Christopher Lee) to go into a routine about a certain part of the monster's anatomy, which appeared to be missing. The story then moves on apace bringing in such characters as Count Dracula (Butterworth), the poet Robert Browning (Howerd) and an oversexed ghost (Windsor) before old Ebenezer sees the error of his ways and gives his fortune to Hattie Jacques. In a year that saw both Carry On Up the Khyber and Carry On Camping gross more at the British box-office than any other films, the team rounded off their success with the most watched programme on Christmas TV with an audience of 8.1 million viewers. The show spawned three more Xmas specials and two series totalling 13 - 30 minute programmes.
Popular Western series for kids that was made along similar lines to The Lone Ranger, The Cisco Kid and other successfully syndicated shows of the late 1950's. Alan Hale Jnr (who was later marooned with the rest of the Gilligan's Island crew) starred as the heroic driver of the Cannonball Express, which traversed the Illinois Central Railroad circa 1890. Unlike the song from which the show was derived Casey Jones (steamin' and a rollin') didn't meet with a sticky end and with the aid of his wife, Alice (Mary Lawrence), son, Casey Jnr (Bobby Clark), fireman, Wallie Simms (Dub Taylor), conductor, Red Rock (Eddy Waller) and faithful dog, Cinders, Jackson Tennessee's most notable citizen outwitted the slimy sidewinder's that attempted to break the law or would otherwise stop him bringing his train in on time.
John Harrington runs across the fields, almost blind with terror. His dog, left behind, whimpering and cowering with fear, can only watch as the creature closes in on his master. Harrington runs for his life but instinct tells him that the creature is gaining on him and he trips, stumbles and falls. When they find him, grown men recoil in horror when they discover that something had broken almost every bone in his body...A masterful, contemporary reworking of M.R. James' classic ghost story, Casting the Runes is adapted by BAFTA-nominated playwright Clive Exton and directed by long-time adapter of James' most chilling stories - Lawrence Gordon Clark. This play features an unsettling performance from Iain Cuthbertson as the malevolent Karswell and strong central performances from both Edward Petherbridge (as the unlucky Henry Harrington, for whom time is ticking away) and Jan Francis as television producer Prudence Dunning. Released commercially in 2007 by Network DVD containing Mr. Humphreys and His Inheritance: Possibly one of the rarest of the still-existing M.R. James adapations, this was made for the ITV Schools slot as a casebook example on how to use music in drama to evoke emotional response and A Pleasant Terror: The Life and Ghosts of M.R. James: A semi-dramatised documentary on the life and works of M.R. James, featuring contributions from Christopher Lee, Ruth Rendell, Jonathan Miller and James' biographer Michael Cox. Although ITV produced four black-and-white adaptations of James's ghost stories between 1966 and 1968, no surviving copies are known to exist and this 1979 version 1979 survives as an episode of the ITV Playhouse series.
Hugely successful BBC series concerning the night shift at the fictional Holby City Hospital. Devised by Jeremy Brock and Paul Unwin as a British alternative to the US series St. Elsewhere, Casualty has never shied away from down-to-earth, real life subjects such as child abuse or AIDS, incurring the wrath of politicians and, in particular, the Conservative government of the mid-1980's, when it attacked the policies of hospital closures and NHS cuts.
Over it's long run the series has attracted a number of leading actors including Oscar winner Brenda Fricker, who in the early years played senior nurse Megan Roach. Both Kate Winslet and Helen Bexendale have been patients on their way to success, whilst well known British faces such as T.P. McKenna and Norman Wisdom have received treatment in the departments cubicles. Robson Green appeared as a hospital porter before going on to be a major British TV star and 'Star Trek: The Next Generation's' Marina Sirtis guested in an episode. Only one character has remained constant throughout, charge nurse Charlie Fairhead as played by Derek Thompson, who first came to notice as an East-End villain alongside Bob Hoskins in 'The Long Good Friday'. Like most of the staff at Holby, Charlie has had to deal with life's ups and downs, including broken relationships, alcoholism, a nervous breakdown and a heart attack. As if that wasn't enough he has also been shot by one of his patients. Casualty has always gone for nail-biting drama to finish each series, this normally involves a cliffhanger concerning a member of the regular cast who have, over the years been raped, stabbed and pushed over balconies.
Throughout its long run the series has pulled no punches in its depiction of social diseases as well as medical ones and has successfully and sympathetically handled cases of a racial nature as illustrated in the season 9 story concerning Charge Nurse Martin Ashford (Patrick Robinson) who was accused of Actual Bodily Harm after injuring a knife welding racist.
Another strong point of the series is its continued addressing of major held myths and/or fears arising from the potently twin combination of medical and emotional problems by using its central characters as examples. Both writers and actors have handled the highly emotive subject of rape with sensitivity twice during the show's history. Initially by showing the long term effects of the crime on the likable and popular Duffy, before much later expanding on the subject following a savagely brutal incident involving the character of Tina. Actress Claire Goose who played the part of Tina worked with a rape counsellor and read police case notes in order to prepare for the storyline and received much praise and commendation for her portrayal of a rape victim. Duffy held centre stage yet again, when faced with the emotionally fraught crisis arising from a scare involving the topically important issue of cervical cancer.
Undoubtedly the most consistent undercurrent of social concern which has formed the drama of the series has been the plight of over worked, underpaid hospital staff and the problems facing them, which has been reflected over the years in the turbulent on-off relationships of many of the staff, including Charlie's relationship with Baz and Max Gallagher's drug addict son who was eventually and tragically murdered by pushers after spending a successful period in rehabilitation.
The series also spawned a more conventional spin-off, Holby City, which took the drama beyond the narrow confines of the hospital's busy A&E department, to concentrate on the lives, loves and problems of the staff and patients of a surgical ward.
Consistently well produced, written and acted, Casualty forsakes the high gloss sheen and glamour of its US cousins to excitingly and effectively portray the human face of a beleaguered NHS, which only barely continues to survive through the committed hard work and sheer dedication of its true unsung heroes... its staff. (Co-writer: Stephen R. Hulse)
Yet another creation from the imaginatively fertile mind of gifted actor/writer Richard Carpenter. Over the course of two seasons and produced by London Weekend Television between 1970-1971, the adventures of the scruffy eccentric 11th century wizard Catweazle, and his efforts to escape the bewildering experiences of being trapped in the 20th century amused and delighted both adults and children alike. Played with skill and great charm by the ever excellent Geoffrey Bayldon, Catweazle is an unhygienically manipulative, spoiled, egotistical creation made likeable by his almost child-like sense of wonder at the technological trappings of the modern age in which he initially finds himself trapped, whilst attempting to use magic to discover the means of flight. Seeing the world through Catweazle's eyes, everyday items became things of wonder and excitement. To Catweazle even the most basic of everyday objects were astounding, an electric light bulb, referred to as 'electrickery', is the sun itself captured and placed in a bottle by modern magic. Taken for granted by the modern audience a telephone became a 'telling bone' and therefore took on a new sense of wonder. The young viewing audience embraced these everyday objects and bestowed upon them the ultimate accolade of becoming school yard catchphrases.
Carpenter's use of the time travel concept was merely an imaginative means by which he explored the true meaning of deeper issues such as friendship, trust and loneliness, within the framework of what was ostensibly a genuinely funny situation comedy/fantasy. In the relationship between Catweazle and the farmer's son Carrot, (Robin Davis) in season one and latterly the young aristocrat Cedric, (Garry Warren), the normal roles between adult and child are cleverly reversed, with the skittish, irresponsible magician taking on the mantle of the dependant child to the actual physical adolescent's much more modern day, wordly-wise, persona.
In a decade which saw many fine examples of children's television, Catweazle has easily withstood the ravages of time to emerge as a quality series which is as good now as it was when originally broadcast. Many of us grew up watching the misadventures of the misplaced magician. Thankfully, few if any of us have ever truly outgrown him.
Forerunner to the multitude of 'makeover' shows that constantly occupy our screen time today, Challenge Anneka was devised by Anneka Rice and proved to be hugely popular with the British public, even though it was not without its problems. Rice (born Anne Rice in Wales in 1958) had started her showbiz career inauspiciously as a trainee for the BBC Home Service, and at 19 cut her TV teeth in Hong Kong on the English language station, TVB Pearl. In 1983 she landed a plum job as the jump-suited 'skyrunner' on the cerebral Channel 4 gameshow Treasure Hunt. The series proved to be one of the fledgling channels biggest successes (along with Countdown) and Rice was elevated to household-name status thanks her cheery personality and, in no small part, the figure-hugging jumpsuit that that earned her a well-publicised 'Rear of the Year' award. Rice eventually left the show after she became pregnant and was off our screens for some time, but returned in great style with a 'challenge' for the 1987 BBC charity fundraiser Children In Need, in which she was tasked to get an orchestra to perform the 1812 Overture on the River Thames, freeze part of the river as a skating rink and organise a fireworks display; all in a few days and without spending any money! The success of the Children In Need project was the catalyst for Challenge Anneka which appeared later that same year. For the series Rice would be sent to different parts of the country and be handed a sealed envelope with that week's challenge - usually for a charity or community project. Each task had a time scale, usually two or three days, and Rice had to rely solely on donations given by building material suppliers, contractors, wholesalers, and having acquired the tools for the job the next step was to find volunteers to help build the project. The larger materials were delivered either by the donating firms or transported to site by the huge Challenger truck while Rice herself would flit across country in an adapted beach buggy, accompanied by her personal cameraman Dave Chapman who became something of a minor celebrity himself.
Because of the timescale allotted to each project they were not always completed on time and on several occasions further makeovers were required, and following one episode a children's playground had to be closed down shortly after it was built because it did not conform to Health and Safety regulations. However, these minor failures were outweighed by the successes and some of the more memorable efforts included a tape of popular children's songs sung by contemporary artistes to raise money for Great Ormond Street Hospital (produced by George Martin), a TV commercial to raise awareness for the Paralympics, and the renovation of a run-down Romanian orphanage that was home to 600 children living in appalling conditions. Rice was also given airtime by the BBC to make appeals to the public for help and the response was always overwhelming as the British public proved time and again that there were no limits to their generosity. In total seven series were produced between 1987 and 1995 and after 61 Challenges Rice took an extended break from public life to raise her children and study art before briefly reviving the Challenges in 2006 for ITV recording two 'specials'. The series was sold to the USA as Challenge America (ABC) and was hosted by Erin Brockovich.
The ITC stable turned its hand to international espionage with a subtly super-powered slant with Monty Berman and Dennis Spooner's action-adventure series The Champions. The series simple yet effective premise involves secret agents Craig Stirling, Richard Barrett, and Sharron Macready, who suffer a fatal plane crash in the Himalayas whilst returning from a mission. Rescued by a mysterious Tibetan monk and endowed with special powers, the trio are then returned home where they put these abilities to work for their Geneva based organisation, Nemesis. These powers include super strength, telepathy, ESP and a heightening of their natural senses. Their boss at Nemesis, Tremayne is unaware of their new powers as he assigns them to a host of impossible missions. In spite of their new powers, the agents -the 'Champions of Law, Order and Justice'- are by no means invincible, needing to work very much as a team. Often tense, intelligently written scripts were complimented by warmly engaging performances from the central trio of actors. While imaginative direction (often from such luminaries as Sam Wanamaker, Freddie Francis and Roy Ward Baker), often succeeded in convincingly depicting the use of heightened abilities without the need for the lavish special effects budgets available to similar US shows. The Champions wasn't as big a hit in the UK as it deserved to be mainly due to the fact that it wasn't shown all over the country at the same time. It debuted in September 1968 but Thames Television, in London, held it back until November 1969 when it could be shown in colour...viewers elsewhere had to be content with black and white transmissions. Even so, the series seemed to be more popular in the regions than it was in the capital. Around the world it fared much better and with broadcasts in over 60 countries it soon became one of ITC's biggest hits...just about everywhere...except America. Without the support of an American network any thoughts of a second series were cast aside, which is a great shame because The Champions remains as another excellent example of British Television's long line of enjoyable and well crafted 1960s adventure series.
One of the very earliest situation comedy successes for the fledgling Channel 4, Chance in a Million chronicled the misadventures of one Tom Chance, a slightly eccentric, but decent ordinary man saddled since birth with the anything but natural ability to warp probability to ludicrous proportions. Tom's life is a slave to random synchronicity, an unsteady raft adrift on an ocean of capricious coincidence. For Tom Chance, experiencing the oddest of random events is the natural order of day to day life, whether it be innumerable encounters with the forces of law and order for offences never committed, to the ridiculously unlikely chain of events that lead him to his first meeting with the shy, awkward librarian, Alison Little and culminate in the pair being taken - yet again for Tom - into police custody charged with housebreaking while clad only in their underwear. (Eventually, Tom's unwelcome ability for being habitually arrested moved the local, long suffering, police sergeant to order his officers to cease arresting Tom, under any circumstances).
The farcically outrageous scripts for the series were written by creators Andrew Norris and Richard Fegen (who would later go on to create the somewhat similar, if far less likeable character of Gordon Brittas, in the popular BBC series The Brittas Empire for Chris Barrie), and was produced and directed by Michael Mills. Chance in a Million's greatest asset however lay in the casting of its central characters. As the amiable, down-a-pint-in-one and always look on the bright side Tom Chance, the highly talented and respected actor and author Simon Callow, brought his trademark larger than life warmth and ability to the role, investing in the character of Tom an almost child-like vulnerability and innate good humour which the viewing audience responded to with immediate affection. Complimenting and counter pointing Callow's portrayal of Tom, was the equally talented Brenda Blethyn, as the timidly good natured Allison, who's delightfully developed romance with Tom gave the show an added dimension of warmth and audience empathy.
An excellent drama from a golden age of children's television The Changes was described as one of the most ambitious series produced by the BBC Children's Drama Department. Legendary BBC Children's producer Anna Home adapted Peter Dickinson's trilogy of novels set in future Britain and took the character of Nicky Gore (from the third novel The Devil's Children) and made her central to the storyline. In the first episode, Nicky's father appears to go mad, smashing up the TV on hearing an ear-piercing nose. The family are all effected, wrecking all electrical items. This is repeated in homes all over Britain while at the same time earthquakes and tidal waves hit the country. The Gores pack up and head for France where it is believed that the Noise has no effect, but on the way, Nicky gets separated from her parents. She returns home but soon finds that sickness is spreading through her neighbourhood as the water becomes affected. Nicky joins up with a band of travelling Sikhs who are unaffected by the Noise. They are targetted by stone throwing thugs as they pass from town to town but manage to escape eventually settling at an abandoned farm. A group of bandits attack the local town taking children hostage but they are rescued in a pitched battle with the Sikhs. Nicky decides to move on and find her aunt somewhere in the Cotswolds but she is taken by the self-appointed head of a village who claims that she is a witch. She is tried and found guilty and sentenced to be stoned to death but is rescued in time. She meets up with John and together they decide to try and find the source of the Noise. They stumble across a madman called Furbelow who claims that he can't control the power that he has awoken. He has a journal which is hidden in a cavern and Nicky finds it and deciphers the words written inside which say 'I am Merlin...whoever touches me unbalances the world.' Peter Dickinson's books from which this drama was based were: The Weathermonger, published in 1969 as was the second book, Heartsease. This was followed by The Devil's Children in 1970. Nicky was played by Victoria Williams who appeared in 3 episodes of Holby City in 2005.
Charlie Chester's most successful television series ran for 11 years on BBC television from 1949, but ended just as perhaps TV's first golden age was about to start. Born in Eastbourne on April 26 1913 or 1914 depending on which source you use, Charlie Chester was the son of a cinema sign-painter and a singing mother. At the age of seven Charlie sang at a children's competition at the Eastbourne Winter Gardens. He won, and this success set him on the road to a life in showbiz but not before he won another 82 talent competitions. Charlie 's versatility and likeability would eventually lead to Royal Variety performances at the Palladium and his crowning as King Rat. Charlie won his first radio audition in 1937 and was hired by the BBC. But it was with the Second world War that he won his way into the nation's heart.
As a sergeant in the Royal Irish Fusiliers he was seconded into the army entertainment unit, Stars in Battledress. Sergeant Chester was ordered to write and perform "A successful radio series!" He came up with the originally titled Studio Stand Easy, it was announced as "Look out for laughs in the next half-hour with Cheerful Charlie Chester and his Crazy Gang of other cranks!" Charlie moved into television in 1952 devising a show called Pot Luck (see review on this site). The Charlie Chester Show was by far the most successful of his series. Many of his crazy gang (including Arthur Haynes) appeared in this stand-up sketch show which also featured Edwina Carroll, Eric 'Jeeves' Grier (pictured above with Charlie and Pat Laurence), Len Lowe, Deryck Guyler, Len Marten, and Frederick Ferrari. The series finished in 1960 but Chester was back the next year with 13 more episodes entitled Charlie Chester On Laughter.
For all of Charlie's success, the one medium that failed him was the big screen. After a gag-packed debut with his radio Crazy Gang only three films featured him in the whole of his 65-year career. He appeared as himself giving a show in Holiday Camp (1947). Twenty-four years later he appeared as the late Max Miller in a small semi-documentary, Top of the Bill. In later days he returned to radio with his own listener question-and-request series, Sunday Soapbox. This started in 1969 and ran continuously until he was rushed to hospital following a stroke. A staunch member of the showbusiness charity the Water Rats, Charlie was voted King Rat in 1952. He wrote the history of the charity in 1984, and was appointed their Poet Laureate. Whenever a fellow Rat died, Charlie wrote a short poem in their memory. Those so honoured include Robb Wilton, Wee Georgie Wood, David Nixon, Sid Field and Sandy Powell. Charlie Chester passed away on 26 June 1997.
This much maligned series from the late seventies has, believe it or not, reached cult status in more recent times and spawned a blockbuster movie starring four brand new stars as well as the original Charlie himself. A British channel even went as far as devoting a whole night of programmes, almost twenty years after the show ceased to be, in celebration of the series that was regarded as the pioneer of 'jiggle' broadcasting. To explain the term 'jiggle' you need go no further than Angel's star Farrah Fawcett-Majors summation of the entire series: "When the show went to No.3 I figured it was because of our acting. When it got to be No.1, I realised it was because none of us wears a bra."
The Angels in question were three LAPD officers, Sabrina Duncan (Kate Jackson), Kelly Garrett (Jaclyn Smith), and Jill Monroe (Fawcett-Majors), who were taken away from their mundane duties of checking parking meters and writing out tickets by Charlie Townsend (voiced by John Forsythe), the wealthy head of Townsend Investigations. Their missions, given to them over the telephone by the never-seen Charlie, invariably required the Angels to work undercover in a variety of roles such as models, health-spa attendants or anything else that led to them being dressed in skimpy outfits. Bosley (David Doyle) would pass on any messages from Charlie once the girls were involved in an investigation.
The first cast change came when Fawcett-Majors left to pursue a film career and was replaced by (in the storyline) her younger sister Kris (Cheryl Ladd, daughter-in-law of Hollywood star Alan). Further cast changes followed, Tiffany Wells (former Charlie perfume girl Shelley Hack) was bought in only to be replaced by Julie Rogers (Tanya Roberts). Jaclyn Smith survived until the series came to and end. The big production movie, which was released in 2000 and became a big box-office success starred former Ally McBeal co-star Lucy Liu, Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore as the Angels and Bill Murray as Bosley. The action packed stunt-filled movie was responsible for kick-starting an entire Charlie's Angels revival and it wasn't long before a sequel was made. Alas, the second big screen outing lacked all the charm and excitement of the first and interest soon dwindled. However, in 2011 ABC in America decided the time was right to announce a 13-episode reboot. Their timing was way off and the series was cancelled after just four episodes.
Created by master television craftsman Aaron Spelling, Charmed first came onto the scene in 1998 and was immediately accused of being nothing more than a watered-down version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In some respects that may have been so, but give Spelling his due; he always had an uncanny knack of gauging the public taste and coming up with the right product at the right time, and as Dynasty captured the materialistic eighties to perfection so this combination of "Buffy" meets "Girl Power" came at a time when the viewing public was showing a renewed interest in magic and witchcraft. And with unerring Spelling timing it was also the year that the public were about to catch on to a children's character created the year before-Harry Potter. Of course having three attractive lead actresses doesn't hinder a series chances of success as Spelling had already proved in his 1970's cop series Charlie's Angel's, but that is a very simplistic (and some might say chauvinistic) view and in all fairness every series should be judged on its own merits. But first-and for those unfamiliar with the series, here's a potted history: After losing her job, Phoebe Halliwell returns to her family home-a large Victorian house in San Francisco-only to be greeted with a very frosty reception by her two sisters, Prue and Piper. Unbeknown to them (at the outset) the three girls are the recipients of a strange legacy because like their mother and grandmother before them, they are witches or 'charmed ones'. Phoebe discovers a book of witchcraft and recites an incantation that awakens the trio's dormant powers. But whilst they had been ignorant of their destinies they had been protected from evil, now that they knew about and could use their powers, they were targets, and in the opening story a witch-murdering warlock turns his attention on them. Collectively they use incantations from the Book of Shadows to cast spells (although they have to be together as a team for the incantations to work), and each girl has her own unique ability, seeing into the future (Phoebe), the ability to freeze time (Piper) and telekinesis (Pru).
What tended to set this series apart is that it didn't necessarily follow any established format. Indeed one of the strengths of the show was its ability to evolve its mythology as the powers of the Halliwell sisters continue to grow. As one fan puts it: "You see Buffy is just Buffy. She's the Slayer and she's there to slay monsters and that's about the extent of it." In Charmed the characters faced all manner of problems from Warlocks to gangs of robbers. They travelled to different time periods and they even switched genders. In fact, at the outset of each episode the viewer never knew where the journey was going to take them. A central theme throughout the show's run was the sisters' struggle to balance their normal lives with their supernatural existence. Keeping their secret from the outside world not only created tensions in their friendships but also made it difficult to develop relationships. The series ended its US run on May 21st 2006, the finale, "Forever Charmed", pulling in a season high of 4.49 million viewers. Charmed was blessed with good writing, a fine line in well honed sibling humour knowingly laced with just the correct mixture of blackness, and an exceedingly well-cast and accomplished young female leads. The series gradually developed from an obvious "Buffy" clone into a wry, often excitingly unexpected example of televisual fantasy in its own right.
Nigel Havers is the suave and deadly Ralph Ernest Gorse, a.k.a. The Charmer - minor public schoolboy, social climber, seducer of women and eternal seeker after the main chance; his stalking grounds are the roadhouses, boarding rooms and grand seaside hotels of the 1930's, the haunts of vulnerable widows and ambitious swindlers. Gorse is no English hero in the traditional sense of the word. He is a psychopath with the plausible charm of every mother's son, a Lothario whose conquests are merely a means to obtaining what he really craves - money and power. But there's trouble in store for Gorse when he becomes infatuated with Clarice (Fiona Fullerton) and needs every penny he can get his hands on to continue to impress her. The source of his income is the well-off Joan Plumleigh-Bruce (Rosemary Leach), who Gorse has already swindled to the tune of a thousand pounds. But he hasn't taken into account her estate agent friend Donald (Bernard Hepton) who soon discovers what Gorse is up to and sets about getting revenge. This double BAFTA-winning drama from writer Allan Prior and director Alan Gibson showcased arguably a career-best performance from Havers as psychopathic gigolo Ralph Gorse.
Checkmate Inc., was a very expensive investigative agency operating in San Francisco and owned by Don Corey (Anthony George) and Jed Sills (Doug McClure), protecting the lives of people who had become targets of the criminal underworld. Aiding and abetting the duo was Oxford professor of criminology Dr. Carl Hyatt (Sebastian Cabbot) who was employed as a special consultant to the firm. Investigator Chris Devlin (Jack Betts) joined for the final season.
One of the most top rated shows in the history of US situation comedy and a massive hit on both sides of the Atlantic, Cheers is an excellent example of what faith in a concept and the people behind it can accomplish. Virtually ignored in its first season, the reasons for its eventual success are simple: Unlike many comedies, Cheers never talked down to its audience; it assumed people were intelligent enough to understand the humour. And in a first for a US series, the romance of the show's leading characters became a major plotline, (would womanising Sam settle down with the uppity Diane?) leading to similar cliffhanger relationships on other series. And in another break with series tradition, it spawned a spin-off that was at least the equal of its parent show in quality. In the pilot, Diane is jilted by her fiance, and stranded in Boston; she takes a job at Cheers as a waitress. The supporting cast consisted of razor-sharp tongued and promiscuous Carla, a waitress with an attitude; the dense but lovable barman Ernie 'Coach' Pantusso; accountant and frequent customer Norm Petersen, who always entered to the chorus of 'NORM!' from the bar's other patrons; and know-it-all mailman and "mama's boy" Cliff Clavin. Despite critical raves, the show's pilot episode was the lowest-rated programme for that week. Normally, a performance like that would have meant instant cancellation. But Cheers was lucky to find a home at NBC, which was in third place behind CBS and ABC at the time and lacking hit shows. Plus, NBC Chairman Grant Tinker and head of entertainmenjt Brandon Tartikoff not only believed in the show, they were more willing to allow high quality but low-rated programmes (such as Hill Street Blues and St. Elsewhere) time to build an audience. And that patience was sorely tried: Cheers continued to rank at or near the bottom of the ratings through the fall and winter. Despite complaints from NBC affiliates, the network ordered a full season's worth of episodes. Slowly, viewers began finding Cheers; the ratings began to perk up in the spring, and the show even landed in the top-20 during the summer rerun period.
Helping to build interest was the relationship between Sam and Diane; each could not stand the other at first, but there was an unspoken attraction. By the end of the first season, Sam and Diane finally locked lips; the second-season premiere had the two consummating their relationship--but it continued to be a love-hate affair, as their different backgrounds and personalities caused Sam and Diane to clash more than once. In Season Three, Diane left Sam to run off with the equally neurotic and pompous psychiatrist Dr. Frasier Crane. The two went to Europe to get married, but Diane jilted Frasier at the altar and returned to Boston and Cheers. (Frasier also returned to Boston; he was supposed to have been written off after the short-lived affair but the producers felt Grammer was a gifted comic. Grammer wrote in his autobiography "So Far, So Good" that Shelley Long tried to have him removed from the show, with no success.) Eventually, Frasier became a regular at the bar, marrying the "ice queen" and equally pompous Dr. Lilith Sternin. The two had a son, Frederick, before divorcing. It was no secret that behind the scenes Shelley Long was considered difficult to work with. But her comic gifts were beyond reproach. So it was a shock to everyone when Long decided not to renew her contract when it expired in 1987. Rebecca Howe becomes the new manager of Cheers after Sam sells the bar to a major corporation and embarks on an around-the-world cruise. When the new season began in the fall of 1987, Sam returns to the bar for a job, and finds the no-nonsense but romance-challenged Rebecca running the show. The Sam-Rebecca relationship added new spark to the show, as Kirsty Alley proved to be a top-notch comic actress. Viewers noticed too; by 1990, Cheers became America's top-rated television series for the first time ever. The final 90-minute episode (which aired in the US on May 20th, 1993) was watched by more than 40 million viewers in America alone. Cheers spawned two direct spin-offs. The first was The Tortellis, which aired between January and May 1987, but the second spin-off would prove much better. Frasier began in the fall of 1993; just months after Cheers ended its run. By moving Kelsey Grammer's Frasier Crane from Boston to his hometown of Seattle as a call-in radio psychiatrist, Frasier proved to be a winner and just about every original member of the Cheers cast--except for Kirstie Alley--made a guest appearance on Frasier. Cheers was a rare show indeed--not only very funny, but literate and a great place to spend time with some good friends-even if they didn't know our names.
Made during an era when TV Westerns were hugely popular, Clint Walker (real name Eugene Walker) starred as half-breed frontier scout, Cheyenne Bodie, who travelled the Wild West in the years following the Civil War. The show was given more of a lavish look by Warner Bros by including action scenes taken directly from their all action Western movies. Behind the scenes the series was beset with problems. At the end of season two Walker entered into a contract dispute with the studio and was promptly dropped. The series retained its title but now starred Ty Hardin as Bronco Layne. Then Walker was re-instated and the show continued as part of an anthology series where it rotated with Sugarfoot, and Hardin's new series, Bronco. In 1962 it went solo again but only for one more season, at the end of which Walker rode off into the sunset for the last time.
Boasting a large and consummate ensemble cast, Chicago Hope bears all the winningly eccentric, quirky, creative ticks, which are the instantly recognisable hallmark's of Ally McBeal creator, David E. Kelley's stewardship. The series chronicles the turbulent professional and private lives of the staff of the Chicago Hope Hospital, a high profile, ultra modern medical facility based, like its rival ER, in American's second city. Chicago Hope was initially perhaps unfortunate to premiere directly opposite the hugely successful ER and partly because of this and the fact that the early episodes were almost unremittingly serious, it faced an early struggle to find a secure and appreciative audience base. However, to combat this, as the season progressed the tone of the episodes was increasingly lightened and a number of younger, more relaxed characters were introduced to help bring a more humanistic dimension to the moral and ethical dilemmas, both private and professional, which formed the core of the series complexly intertwined storylines. This approach proved to be the key to the show's future success, and from the second season onwards, viewer loyalty as well as critical acclaim began to build steadily.
Aside from consistently good writing and challenging storylines, the real delight of the series lies in the uniform excellence of the large ensemble cast of talented actors who effortlessly breath life into the interesting and well drawn characters of the hospital's staff. Holding centre stage is Hector Elizondo's wonderfully judged bedrock performance as the perpetually put upon Chief of Staff Dr. Phillip Watters, the person charged with the often thankless, always challenging task of balancing hospital politics and desires, egos and his problems of his often brilliant, but rebellious staff, and that staff boasts some of the cream of the US acting profession employed to peak effect, including Dr. Aaron Shutt, (Adam Arkin), a world-renowned neurosurgeon who has recently returned to the operating theatre following a long story arc which saw the character forced to abandon surgery for a time following, ironically, a brain injury of his own for a brief foray into the field of psychiatry. Another outstanding character is Broadway musical star Mandy Patinkin's Dr. Jeffrey Geiger, a troubled surgical genius who has recently returned to the show following a lengthy absence in the pivotal position of the hospital Board Chairman, dedicated to ensuring that the renowned institution maintains its commitment to curing, whilst maintaining its ability to generate serious money. Although somewhat unfairly eclipsed by the massively, all-pervading presence of rival medical drama ER, the five-time Emmy Award winning Chicago Hope proved to be in its own right an expertly produced and acted medical drama of the highest order.
An acronym for California Highway Patrol this US cop-series starred Erik Estrada as devil-may-care Officer Francis 'Ponch' Poncherello and Larry Wilcox as the more down to earth Officer Jonathan Baker. Together the twosome patrolled (on motorbikes) the highways and byways around the vast Los Angeles freeway system where the action was divided between enforcing the law and eyeing the City of Angels' foxy ladies. Typical of its time the series downplayed the violent aspect of a policeman's lot to concentrate on the 'human interest' and humorous elements of their work although the action was beefed up with auto-crashes galore. Estrada fell out with the studio over pay and was replaced by former Olympic decathlon champion Bruce Jenner as Officer Steve McLeish, but this proved a temporary absence and Estrada returned. However, Wilcox then left permanently (rumour has it the two stars never saw eye to eye) and in 1983 the series was cancelled. Michael Dorn, who would go on to find success in Star Trek: The Next Generation starred as Officer Turner from 1979 to 1982.
Puppet series with a funny and zany cast, created by the makers of Noddy. Chorlton the happiness dragon and his companions the Wheelies, little wheeled characters who inhabit Wheely World, combine to combat the wicked with Fenella who contrives to keep Wheely World shrouded in sadness. Created by Cosgrove Hall for Thames Television and named after the location of the studio, Chorlton-cum-Hardy in Manchester (in fact, Chorlton gets his name in the series because the legend "Made in Chorlton-cum-Hardy" is found written on the inside of his egg).