Billed as the British equivalent to Highway Patrol, Dial 999 was an above standard cops n' robbers thriller starring Canadian actor Robert Beatty as Detective Inspector Michael McGuire. What set this show aside from the standard police series format was that it was made with the cooperation of Scotland Yard, and threw a spotlight on real police methods of the time. Advisor to the series was an ex-Superintendent by the name of Tom Fallon -in fact the very man who had been responsible for setting up the 999 emergency call service for the London area. The series centred around McGuire, a "Mountie" who had been seconded on temporary assignment to "The Yard" to study advanced crime detection techniques. He was assisted by Detective Inspector Winter (Duncan Lamont) and Detective Sergeant West (John Witty). This Anglo/American venture was co-produced by ATV and Ziv Television Programmes in America, where it received its first airing. A number of scenes were shot at Elstree Studios, but the shows large budget ($1.2 million) allowed for extensive location scenes in the streets of London and of many provincial cities.
BBC televisions longest running sketch-show, running as it did from 1963 until 1981, was one that introduced some of the mediums most memorable and enduring comedic characters, skilfully brought to life by an undisputed master of his craft.
Richard Gilbert Emery was born on 19th February 1917 at the University College Hospital in St.Pancras, London, and was probably destined for a life in show business. His parents were a double-act known as Callan and Emery that performed around the country at various music hall venues throughout much of Dick's childhood, a fact that deprived the youngster of a formal education. However, his parents divorced in 1926 and Dick went to live with his mother who, realising her son had inherited a talent for entertaining, insisted that he perform whenever possible. This led Emery to admit later in life that although he adored his mother he was also frightened of her.
During the Second World War he joined Ralph Reader's Gang Show entertaining the troops. However, like many others with an ambition to go into show business at the end of the war, he found work hard to come by and struggled through many auditions only to be (more often than not) turned down. In 1948 he managed to secure an engagement at London's famous Windmill Theatre, and appeared there around the same time as another new and generally unknown comedian, Tony Hancock. In the 1950's Emery began getting regular work on BBC radio and in 1955 established himself on Jon Pertwee's show, 'Pertwee's Progress'. It was at this time that he began developing one or two regular characters including a doddery old man by the name of Lampwick. He had already made a number of TV appearances (the earliest being in Kaleidoscope on 13th June 1952) when he, Pertwee and his cousin Bill Pertwee joined forces with Lupino Lane for five 60-minute entertainment specials broadcast once a month between October 1955 and March 1956. Following this Emery turned up on a variety of shows with great regularity and his face soon became well known to the viewing public. In the 1960-61 season he turned up as Private 'Chubby' Catchpole, a regular character in the popular comedy series The Army Game.
Dick Emery continued to divide his time between TV and radio (in fact he continued to do so throughout his career), but in 1963 the BBC offered him his own TV series. Drawing on many of the characters he'd developed over the years and benefiting from scripts written by US comedy writers such as Mel Brooks and Mel Tolkin, Emery quickly established himself as a class act. His characters were some of the best remembered on British television and included the breath-catching First World War veteran, Lampwick, the old codger who would connive to get his own way and cause trouble between his daughter and son-in-law. Hettie, the frustrated spinster, the toothy Vicar, the 'bovver boy' Gaylord, and his dad (played by Roy Kinnear), the effeminate swinger who referred to everyone as 'Honky Tonk', the upper-class tramp, College, and most famously Mandy, the brassy blonde who always misunderstood the street interviewer (a feature that opened the show until 1975), and interpreted his question to have a suggestive meaning so that it would lead her to slap him on the shoulder as she announced, "Ooh, you are awful - but I like you!" It became a national catchphrase and was so popular that it also became the title of Emery's full-length feature film in 1972. The series also attracted the talents of many of Britain's top comedy producers, the longest serving of whom was Harold Snoad (who produced on more than 30 British comedy series including Dad's Army, Are you Being Served and His Lordship Entertains-to name a few).
In 1979, following fifteen successful years with the BBC, Emery decided to switch channels to Thames for The Dick Emery Comedy Hour. There were two more comedy specials for ITV before Emery returned to the BBC in 1982 for two series of comedy thrillers (Emery Presents) in which he played Bernie Weinstock, the boss of a private detective agency. However, in the latter years of his life Emery was plagued with ill health as well as bouts of depression and periods of insecurity, and before the second series of Emery Presents could be shown he passed away on 2nd January 1983. The second series, which was due to air on 13th January, was held over until later in the year.
Dick Emery entertained the British public for the best part of thirty years, and in the process left behind a legacy of comedic characters that will be enjoyed for years to come. In his lifetime he won countless awards, national fame and more importantly the hearts of an adoring audience. In terms of quantity his creations were unrivalled by any of his contemporaries, in terms of quality they were, like the man himself, in a class of their own. (Co-writer: Stephen R. Hulse)
DICK EMERY'S COMEDIC CHARACTERS
The best known of all 18c highwaymen, working mainly around London (but eventually hanged in York), Dick Turpin and his horse, Black Bess, became legend in the 19c thanks to the Penny Dreadfuls, sensational stories of gruesome events serialised in weekly parts at the cost of one penny. A romantic version of the Turpin legend had already been filmed in 1933 starring Victor McLagen (an instantly forgettable film that is perhaps only notable for starring James Finlayson -the comic foil or protagonist to comic legends Laurel and Hardy in numerous movies). This 1979 TV version starring former Man About The House star Richard O'Sullivan was no less of a romantic tale. Turpin, cheated out of his wealth while on duty in Flanders, decides to regain his money using his own, not so lawful methods. The law was represented as corrupt in the form of Sir John Glutton (Christopher Benjamin) and his sneering sidekick, Capt. Nathan Spiker (David Daker), whilst Turpin was assisted by a young tearaway by the name of Swiftnick (Michael Deeks). A spin-off mini series, Dick Turpin's Greatest Adventures (1981) starred Dallas bad girl Mary Crosby. (Network DVD)
This much loved, top rated US comedy series from the 1960's very nearly didn't make it on the air because then CBS chief, Jim Aubrey, disliked it so intensely that he had to be persuaded by the shows sponsors, Proctor and Gamble, to put it on. When in turn, the sponsor's enthusiasm flagged, the series looked destined for the TV scrap heap. Yet from 1961 to 1965 The Dick Van Dyke Show picked up no less than 15 Emmy Awards.
Originally created by Carl Reiner for the CBS Comedy Spot a 'try out' series of single comedies which also included an episode where Harpo and Chico Marx played a couple of bungling jewel thieves (The Incredible Jewel Robbery). Reiner's entry was called Head Of The Family in which he cast himself as the main character. The premise was that Reiner played Rob Petrie, a comedy writer who discovers that his son is being teased at school because 'my daddy doesn't have a job that is as important as the other kids fathers'. Rob tries to assure the disillusioned lad that his job is just as important, if not more so. There must have been some early moves towards making this a series but executive producer Sheldon Leonard persuaded Reiner to step down from the starring role in order to secure a full run because he felt the overall feel of the pilot to be 'too Jewish' and 'too New York'.
And so, the show was recast with former game show host Dick Van Dyke playing the role of Rob Petrie, head writer for the fictional Alan Brady Show. In the role of his wife (Laura), the producers cast a virtual unknown by the name of Mary Tyler Moore, whose only previous claim to fame was as the 'Happy Hotpoint Elf' in television commercials. The situations took place in two locations; Rob's TV studio office in New York, where he worked with man hungry Sally Rogers and wisecracking loud-mouth Buddy Sorrell, or in his New Rochelle home where along with his wife and their son Ritchie, he could often be found entertaining his next door neighbours, Jerry (Jerry Paris) and Millie Helper. Back at the office the arrogant Mel Cooney, the Brady show's producer and brother-in-law to the star, constantly harassed Rob and his team. Brady himself did not appear for the first few seasons but when he eventually did it was in the form of Reiner himself.
The show's cabinet-load of awards included Outstanding Writing in Comedy (1962, 1963, 1964, 1965), Outstanding Comedy Programme (1963, 1964, 1966), and Outstanding Programme Achievement in Entertainment (1965). Both Van Dyke and Tyler Moore received Emmy's for their performances. The show came to an end in 1966 due to a pact between the producers and cast made in 1961 that they would do no more than five years. Dick Van Dyke went on to co-star with Julie Andrews in one of the most famous Disney films of all time, 'Mary Poppins', and as Ian Flemming's Professor Potts in 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang', before returning to TV in 1971 with The New Dick Van Dyke Show, this time playing chat show host Dick Preston, and her later enjoyed success as a crime solving doctor in the popular Diagnosis Murder. Mary Tyler Moore starred in The Mary Tyler Moore Show that was made by her own production company MTM, which also produced various spin-off series such as Rhoda, Phyllis and Lou Grant, as well as enjoying a successful big screen career as a character actress in such noteworthy films as Robert Redford's Academy Award winning 'Ordinary People.' Jerry Paris also became a successful producer and director working on Happy Days amongst many others.
On May 11th 2004, CBS aired a reunion special, The Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited. Produced by Carl Reiner, the show reunited cast members Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, Rose Marie, Larry Mathews, Ann Morgan Guilbert, and Jerry Van Dyke. Reiner reprised his role as Alan Brady. Deceased cast members Morey Amsterdam, Richard Deacon, and Jerry Paris were remembered in flashbacks. The special involved Alan Brady asking Rob and Sally to write his eulogy so that he knows in advance what will be said about him after he dies. The Petries and Sally, along with Rob's brother Stacey and longtime friend Millie, discuss ideas that are shown in flashbacks to the old show. The special ends with Van Dyke and Tyler Moore, out of character, reminiscing about the series with the use of more flashbacks.
DICKENS OF LONDON (1976)
British drama series about the life of Charles Dickens. Click Here for review
This third series to run under the title of The Dickie Henderson Show aired on November 14th 1960 and continued until March 1968 by which time Henderson had established himself as one of Britain's top all-round entertainers. Similar in style to many US sitcoms of the time, the show was built around the star, who appeared as himself in a domestic comedy surrounded by (fictional) wife and child as well as many showbiz friends. The show could be likened in style to The Dick Van Dyke Show, but predated that particular series by almost a year. June Laverick appeared as the comedian's wife and they had a ten-year old son, John (John Parsons from series 1 to 5) and later Richard Jr (Danny Grover series 6 to 8). Apart from constantly being called on by his musical manager, Jack, the star also found time to entertain a host of guest artistes who appeared with episode-by-episode regularity and more often than not in character (as in the case of Raymond Francis of No Hiding Place).
Pint-sized Dickie Henderson was born in London in 1922 with show biz in his blood. His father, Dickie Henderson (Senior) was a Yorkshire born variety entertainer who had carved out a very successful career for his self. Henderson Junior made his own show business debut at the age of ten when he appeared in the Hollywood version of Noel Coward's 'Cavalcade.' In 1937 he was working for famous bandleader Jack Hylton and by 1938 he had joined forces with his sisters appearing on stage in Scotland in a music and dance act in which Dickie told jokes, danced, sang and performed acrobatics. The following years saw the Henderson Twins and Dickie performing in pantomimes and reviews around the country. However, the act broke up when the twins, Triss and Wyn, got married and Dickie decided to go it alone. In 1951 he was invited to star at the London Palladium on a variety bill and won critical acclaim. Two years later he made his TV debut on the BBC's Face the Music before appearing on Arthur Askey's show Before Your Very Eyes. In 1955 Dickie added another string to his bow by playing the lead in the heart of London's West End theatre land in 'Teahouse of the August Moon', which ran for twelve months. He followed that with a three month cabaret date in America and in March 1956 appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. That same year Dickie Henderson Junior made his debut on the Royal Variety Performance, exactly 30 years after Dickie Henderson Senior had appeared before royalty. After becoming one of the regular comperes of 'Val Parnell's Sunday Night at the London Palladium, Dickie was given his own series by ITV (although the first of these were broadcast as part of Val Parnell's Saturday Spectacular) and a follow-up series starred him alongside Anthea Askey (daughter of Arthur) and former boxing champ Freddie Mills, with scripts previously used by Sid Caesar in Your Show of Shows. With the next series scripted (mainly) by Jimmy Grafton things were going well for Dickie when tragedy struck. Dickie's wife, Dixie, died in 1963 just as the star was reaching the peak of his popularity and many felt as thought it may have ended his happy, family orientated series. However, Dickie continued ("It's always been a family show," he said "and one has to keep private and professional fronts separate.") until 1965.
It was three years before the series returned, by which time June Laverick had retired from show business and so Dickie was given a new wife, this time played by Isla Blair. The series was revived in 1970 as A Present for Dickie, 6 thirty-minute shows for which June Laverick came out of retirement to appear in the last episode only. Dickie Henderson died on 22nd September 1985 just short of his 63rd birthday. His fellow professionals paid tribute to him the following year in a special two-hour show recorded at the Royal Theatre in London and broadcast on May 5th 1986 as The Stars Entertain: A Tribute to Dickie Henderson OBE. A versatile all-round entertainer loved by his fellow professionals and the British public alike, Henderson's appeal spanned three decades and his life was perhaps best summed up by the title of his last standup show...'I'm Dickie - That's Showbusiness.'
DIFF'RENT STROKES (1978)
Domestic sitcom about two orphaned boys adopted by a millionaire. Click Here for review
British sitcom set in a works canteen. Click Here for review
Benjamin Disraeli (played here by Ian McShane) went down in history as one of the most colourful and controversial politicians ever to walk the corridors of power. A staunch British imperialist, his work on projects such as the Suez Canal have left a legacy very few Prime Ministers have matched. Turbulent, astute, tenacious and yet easily hurt, this outstanding television series tells the intimate story of his long and determined rise to power against overwhelming odds. Written by the Oscar-nominated David Butler and directed by Claude Whitham, Disraeli also features sterling performances from Patricia Hodge, Anton Rogers, William Russell and Rosemary Leach as Queen Victoria. It was broadcast in the US as part of Masterpiece Theatre in 1980 as Disraeli: Portrait of a Romantic (Network DVD)
George Dixon was a policeman of the old school. A dependable officer who would help old ladies cross the street and whose idea of treating juvenile delinquents was with a 'clip' round the ear. George Dixon was a 'Community Copper' before the term had even been invented. Jack Warner (real name John Waters), first played Dixon in the 1949 Rank movie, 'The Blue Lamp,' in which he was gunned down by armed robber Dirk Bogarde. His creator, Ted Willis, resurrected him six years later as a replacement for the BBC series Fabian of the Yard. Willis spent a number of weeks researching at Paddington Green station, where he 'recruited' some 250 officers to provide him with anecdotes, until he finally placed Dixon at London's fictitious Dock Green police station, where he became a permanent fixture for the next 21 years, making the series the longest running police show in British TV history. Willis created a cosy, non-violent image around George Dixon, episodes began and ended with a monologue to camera beneath the police stations blue lamp, with a moralistic message that crime doesn't pay, before old George would disappear into the night whistling 'Maybe It's Because I'm A Londoner'.
By the early sixties, however, Dixon was beginning to look his age, especially when compared to the new tough realism of Z Cars. Nevertheless he soldiered on for another decade or so, being promoted to 'Desk Sergeant' -whilst new, younger characters, such as Detective Sgt Andy Crawford came to the fore. With his promotion George rarely strayed beyond the station's front doors, and indeed, the last few years of the series saw him preparing for retirement, not surprisingly as Warner was now 80 years of age! Jack Warner died 5 years after the series finished, and in tribute to him his coffin was borne by officers of Paddington Green Police Station, as the shows theme 'An Ordinary Copper' was played over a PA. It was not just Jack Warner who was buried that day, it was an entire age of innocence, where the good guys upheld simple, traditional values and the bad guys came quietly. More than a quaintly old fashioned and reassuring television series came to an end when George Dixon went off duty for the final time, a doorway to an old way of life was closed and firmly bolted forever. Dixon of Dock Green was the final representative of a moralistically paternalistic Britain, whose decline had arguably begun in the immediate aftermath of World War II. In the harsh and cynical television world of the new breed of coppers such as 'The Sweeney's' Jack Regan, George Dixon's era had become as extinct as the dinosaur. But like all dinosaurs it was representative of the values and outlooks of the age that spawned it. Viewed in this context, it more than deserves its fondly remembered classic status. " G'Night all!" (Co-writer: Stephen R. Hulse)
When the history of British sketch show comedy is written then the legend of Do Not Adjust Your Set will loom large in it's account-and rightly so-because this was a children's series that was a mere five months away from reaching full maturity as Monty Python's Flying Circus. I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again (the standard newsreaders' apology when making an error on a live broadcast) was a long-running BBC radio comedy programme produced by Humphrey Barclay, that originally grew out of the Cambridge University Footlights revue 'Cambridge Circus.' It picked up something of a cult following when it was initially broadcast on the BBC Home Service in 1964. The radio series starred John Cleese and all three of what would eventually become The Goodies. Barclay was later invited by Rediffusion executive Jeremy Isaacs to produce a comedy sketch show for children. Bearing in mind the age group the show would be aimed at, Barclay set about to produce the funniest comedy he could, irrespective of the age of his audience. Barclay assembled a team of largely unknown writers; Eric Idle, Michael Palin and Terry Jones, who also appeared on screen, and added to their number two unknowns; David Jason whom he discovered in an end-of-the-pier show in Eastbourne, and Denise Coffey, a versatile and naturally funny comic actress he had spotted in a play at the Edinburgh Festival. What they produced between them was a zany thirty minutes of humour titled Do Not Adjust Your Set (like it's radio predecessor-the title was taken from a standard apology-in this case a picture fault) which, although childish at times never talked down to its audience and was punctuated with humour of a more surreal nature, being sometimes absurd and sometimes downright macabre. Here then, we can clearly see the strands being drawn together that would result in the holy grail of comedy for many British viewers; Monty Python's Flying Circus. Viewers were not getting comedy as innovative as this during prime-time television, so it's no wonders that adults were rushing home from work early to catch each new episode, quickly elevating the series to cult status.
The show also featured a mini-series: Captain Fantastic (David Jason), in which the hero (a man in a bowler hat and buttoned raincoat) was pitted against Mrs. Black (Denise Coffey), "the most evil woman in the world". Such was its popularity; Captain Fantastic enjoyed a life beyond 'DNAYS', new episodes being incorporated into the Thames children's magazine Magpie from its premiere in July 1968. (Thames also took over 'DNAYS' when it won the franchise from Rediffusion.) Music was by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band who had a hit with "I'm The Urban Spaceman" in November 1968, reaching number 5 in the UK charts. Do Not Adjust Your Set won Munich's 1968 Prix Jeunesse International, an annual award of excellence in children's entertainment. Later episodes of the series also featured short animated sequences from Terry Gilliam, who went on to supply similar inserts for Monty Python. There was also a Christmas special, Do Not Adjust Your Stocking. And yet, in spite of its importance in the development of British comedy, the series was unceremoniously dumped from the archives as a result of Britain's inability to preserve its rich television heritage. The only surviving remnants of the shows were telerecordings, or copies of the original video masters captured on film. Fortunately, nine of the fourteen episodes from the first (Rediffusion) series (presumably all that survive) were released on DVD in the UK and USA in 2005. These do not necessarily represent the best that Do Not Adjust Your Set had to offer, a majority of the sketches are hit and miss and it would be interesting to see the later episodes as the team moved ever closer to Pythonesque humour, but as a piece of televisual history they are priceless.
Top-notch comedy series whose memory was devalued by later spin-offs including an ill-advised revival (Doctor at the Top) in 1991. Mind you, with an original scriptwriting team that included John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Bill Oddie, Graeme Garden and Jonathan Lynn, (Chapman and Garden were both qualified doctors themselves) you would expect nothing less. This sitcom was based on Richard Gordon's series of books and had previously been adapted for the cinema starting with a 1954 production starring Dirk Bogarde as medical student Simon Sparrow. Frank Muir, then head of comedy at the newly formed ITV franchise LWT commissioned the series, which starred Barry Evans (later to appear in Mind Your Language but now sadly deceased) as the lead character, now named Michael Upton. To accompany him were an assortment of unlikely students including Geoffrey Davies as the posh and sometimes snooty -but always work-shy, Dick Stuart-Clark, Robin Nedwell as Duncan Waring (the character took centre stage after Evans left the series in 1972) and George Layton as Paul Collier. Opposition came in the form of Richard O'Sullivan as the whimpish and slimy Laurence Bingham who was always buttering up to his superiors, not least of all Professor Geoffrey Loftus (Ernest Clark) who was the TV equivalent to James Robinson-Justice's Sir Lancelot Spratt in the cinema. The action took place within the fictitious walls and wards of St Swithin's whilst exterior scenes were shot outside true-life Wanstead Hospital (long since converted into residential apartments).
Guest stars in the series included David Jason, James Beck and Susan George, whilst Martin Shaw appeared as a regular character in season one and Jonathan Lynn (who went on to co-write the superb Yes, Minister) did the same in season two. However, and perhaps more significantly, in series three (re-titled Doctor at Large), John Cleese included in one of his scripts a rather rude hotel keeper. One of the writers on that series, Bernard McKenna remembers: "I was at a dress rehearsals at LWT sitting with H.Barclay and J. Cleese for (the) episode about a bonkers hotel manager that Upton (Barry Evans) was having problems with when the producer Humphrey Barclay said to John 'There's a series in that hotel owner'...I remember John being sceptical! The rest is history...
DOCTOR WHO (1963)
Adventures in time and space. "If you could touch the alien sand and hear the cries of strange birds, and watch them wheel in another sky..." Click Here for review
DOCTOR WHO (2005)
A review of the modern version of a classic sci-fi series Click Here for review
British daytime soap set in the fictional Midland town of Letherbridge (close to the City of Birmingham). The series began in March 2000 and in February 2011 aired its 2000th episode - having picked up 2 prestigious British Soap Awards in 2010 for Best Dramatic Performance for a Young Actor or Actress and Best On-screen Partnership.
The series was created by award-winning scriptwriter Chris Murray who also co-created the police drama Merseybeat and was developed by Mal Young then BBC Controller of Continuing Drama Series who also created Holby City. Doctors is produced by BBC Birmingham and screened on BBC One and was originally broadcast at 12.30pm as a lead-in to the BBC's One O'Clock News. The storylines dealt with the lives of staff and patients at the Riverside Surgery. The initial lead star of the soap was Christopher Timothy, well known to television viewers as James Herriot in the series All Creatures Great and Small. In Doctors he starred as a reformed alcoholic but much respected GP, Dr Brendan 'Mac' McGuire. The format of the show was laid down in the very first episode; a doctor/patient storyline that would be concluded by the end of the show but with an underlying sub-plot concerning the private lives and relationships between the doctors and staff that would run throughout the series.
The success of Doctors led to the BBC to increase the short run of series over three years to permanent year-round continuing drama (apart from a break over the Christmas period). In 2004 the BBC decided to close its Pebble Mill studios where the series was filmed. To coincide with this a storyline was concocted whereby a spectacular explosion destroyed the Riverside Practice. The doctors moved to a new specially constructed surgery set which was named The Mill Health Centre as a tribute to the series' original production home. Fictional locations for the series are now the Mill Health Centre and its offshoot, Letherbridge University's Campus Surgery. After six years in the role, Christopher Timothy decided to leave the series and today none of the original cast members appear. Since 2003 Diane Keen has played the role of Julia Parsons, the Practice Manager and is the longest running character in the soap. The series has a high turnover of regular characters with a majority of the current cast joining since 2009. For a daytime series, Doctors enjoys a healthy audience of around 3.1 million viewers.
Co-produced cartoon series made by of BRB Internacional of Spain (Spanish title: D'Artacan y los tres Mosqueperros) and Nippon Animation of Japan that drew from Alexander Dumas' classic story The Three Musketeers. Dogtanian was en route from Gascony to Paris when he joined the King's Own Guard, fell in love with the beautiful Juliette and then ultimately teamed up with master swordsmen Athos, Porthos and Aramis. Shown on Children's BBC in 1985, four years after it was originally made, the series became something of a minor classic picking up numerous international awards. The partnership between BRB and Nippon Animation worked so well that they collaborated on another animated series called Around the World with Willy Fog in 1983. In 1989 BRB produced a second series/sequel; The Return of Dogtanian consisting of 26 episodes with the co-operation of Taiwanese studio Wang Film Productions and British television company, Thames Television. It was less well received.
On the evening of 9th February 1970 a new drama series premiered on British television screens which almost immediately struck a chord in the consciousness of a viewing public which was slowly awakening to the importance of greater ecological awareness, and the possible dangers of a blind and unquestioning faith in the acceptance of ever more rapid technological advances. That series was the BBC production, Doomwatch, and that ominously simple title was destined to enter the massed consciousness of the media as a foreboding watchword for future scientific and ecological controversy.
Arguably the first true 'green' television drama series, the principal dramatic thrust of the series concept was simple, direct, and most of all timely. The almost runaway advances in every field of science and technology since the aftermath of World War II had initially offered the promise of a bright, near utopian vision of the future, but as the decades passed, that vision increasingly proved to be overly optimistic and almost childishly hollow. 'Doomwatch' -at least in the show's early seasons- met that growing sense of scientific disillusionment head on, questioning the moral and ethical misapplication of technology and the sometimes less than noble motives of those who wielded power of its application. Dramatically, the Doomwatch concept was embodied by the core characters working for the Department for the Observation and Measurement of Science, a highly specialised government department set up to monitor and, if possible, control major advances in science/technology. The leader of the team was Dr Spencer Quist, (a consistently strong and committed performance from John Paul). Quist was an abrasive but moral and incorruptible scientist who refused to tow the party line, and had little less than open contempt for the numerous vested interests of ambitious politicians and profit obsessed businessmen. The twin mainstays of Quist's small team of brilliant but highly individualist and unconventional field investigators, comprised the duo of the unorthodox Dr John Ridge (Simon Oats), and the young and idealistic Tobias 'Toby' Wren, (the young Robert Powell, taking the first steps towards a distinguished future career).
The series had been devised by the writing partnership of Gerry Davis and Dr Kit Pedler, and had naturally evolved over time out of their private concerns with the inherent dangers posed to humankind's future survival by unchecked scientific progress. The two had been brought together whilst working on Doctor Who (where, in collaboration with Davis, who was then that show's story editor, the duo had created Doctor Who's single greatest rival to the popularity of the mighty Daleks -the chillingly plausible semi-robot race known as the Cybermen). United in their common interest, Davis and Pedler began building a file on new potentially questionable advances and devastating hazards, slowly compiling whole scrapbooks with examples on pesticides, defoliation, chemical and atomic waste, pollution, genetic experiment and the like. They self labelled the fledgling new series 'sci-fact', as opposed to 'sci-fiction, and prophetically many of the issues the series dealt with did indeed go on to become chillingly realised as genuine headlines over the course of the months and years to come. Due to a combination of scientific foresight combined with suspenseful well written scripts and excellent ensemble acting, the series quickly gained a huge and enthusiastic following, allowing it the honour of netting in its first season an audience of 12 million viewers, which was the then record for a first run. The show's creators were also unafraid to shock and play with their audience's expectations. A prime example being the audacious decision to kill off the immensely popular Toby Wren character, blown up whilst heroically attempting to defuse a bomb on a south coast pier, a bold move at a time when viewers weren't used, or indeed expected, to seeing their television hero's die, even in a selfless act of bravery.
But unfortunately, the impetus, which had fuelled the series early success, began a slow and unstoppable erosion. New characters were introduced only to vanish just as quickly as they had arrived. These included, Dr Fay Chantry, (Jean Trend) originally introduced by the production team with the aim of affording women a higher, more dynamic profile. But with the new and increasing emphasis on the all too predictable area of character conflicts, the series was inexorably forced ever further away from its fresh and exciting original concept and ever deeper into the territory of familiar, more conventional drama. Dismayed by the unwelcome move away from their long cherished concept, by the onset of the third season Pedler and Davis had withdrawn from active involvement with the series they had created, openly and vocally distancing themselves from the series, especially following season three's highly dubious opening episode, which depicted a now mentally unbalanced Ridge holding the world to ransom with phials of deadly anthrax. Pedler went on record thus: 'I was absolutely horrified. When we started it the clear object of the series was to make serious comment about the dangerous facts of science, which should be drawn to the public. They have made a total travesty of the programme.'
Producer Terence Dudley was just as quick to defend the show, insisting that season three was, indeed, confronting the issues. And to a certain extent that was true, topical subjects and issues such as lead poisoning, the population explosion, pesticides and river pollution, were indeed grist for the season's story mill, but it was too little, too late. The decline proved to be irreversible, and the hoped for forth season never materialised, although a 1972 movie version did. Doomwatch could almost be said to have acted as the unofficial voice for the ecological and scientific concerns of a large proportion of the nation. Bold, innovative, uncompromising and dramatic, at its peak, Doomwatch was serious drama, posing serious questions to its audience in a way that was as thought provoking as it was entertaining.
With the anticipated start of commercial television in the UK and a growing US market to tap into, Douglas Fairbanks Jr decided to embark on an ambitious series of half hour films using British performers, directors and technicians. In 1953, with a contract to supply thirty-nine telefilms to NBC, Fairbanks leased the British National studios at Elstree. In charge of Production of the first seven stories was Herman Blaser, before he was succeeded by Harold Huth. In the USA the series was shown under the titles of Rheingold Theatre and Paragon Playhouse. Douglas Fairbanks Productions also supplied British cinemas with a total of 10 compilation films (in some cases 2 and in other cases 3 re-edited TV episodes) prior to them being shown on British television. For example; 'The
Red Dress' released in 1954 was a 76 minute film made up of the TV episodes 'The Red Dress', 'Meet Mr. Jones' and 'Panic'. Fairbanks hosted and often appeared in many of the TV episodes and the series proved popular enough for a total of 156 episodes were made over a four-year period. Among the British directors recruited were Leslie Arliss and Terence Fisher. Christopher Lee appeared in numerous productions and there were also appearances by Honor Blackman, Fulton McKay, Diana Dors, Billie Whitelaw, Bill Owen, Hugh Griffith, Wilfrid Hyde-White, John Laurie, John le Mesurier, Sybil Thorndike, William Hartnell, Irene Handl and Buster Keaton. A 1957 episode; 'The Ludlow Affair' starring Robert Beatty as Bulldog Drummond was an unsold pilot for a series. Douglas Fairbanks Presents was shown on ITV from 1955 to 1959 (the last episode was actually filmed in 1957) and was seen around the regions under various titles such as Play Gems, Saturday Playhouse and Crown Theatre.
Full episode guide can be found at The Classic TV Archive
Based on a series of stories The Adventures of a Black Bag by Dumbartonshire born novelist A. J. Cronin, Doctor Finlay's Casebook proved to be an instant hit with viewers in spite of stiff competition from US exports Dr Kildare and Ben Casey. Archibald Joseph Cronin (1896 - 1981) had studied medicine in Glasgow then practised as a doctor for some years before devoting himself to an extremely successful career as a writer whose works were easily adopted for film and television. The TV series of Dr Finlay's Casebook was set in the late 1920s in the small Scottish town of Tannochbrae (in reality the Perthshire village of Callander) and concerned itself with the ups and downs of the elderly, irascible ex-surgeon Dr Angus Cameron (Andrew Cruickshank) and his young, newly arrived junior, Dr Alan Finlay (Bill Simpson). In the best tradition of most medical dramas at that time conflict arose between the modern ideas of the younger doctor and the accepted practises of the elder, and each believed that he knew best. In the end, of course, both men learned from each other and solved whatever that week's problem was. If ever they did not see eye-to-eye their no-nonsense housekeeper Janet (Barbara Mullen) soon brought them to task. The series ran for nine years and during that time a number of Scottish character actors stopped at Arden House for their share of medicinal therapy, among them John Laurie, Gordon Jackson and the charismatic figure of James Robertson Justice.
By the 1990s the success on ITV of such rural dramas as The Darling Buds of May and Heartbeat encouraged the company to bring doctor's Cameron and Finlay out of retirement. Named simply Doctor Finlay the new series, starring David Rintoul (Dr Finlay), Ian Bannen (Dr Cameron) and Annette Crosby (Janet), was set in 1946 and joined Finlay on his return to Tannochbrae following his wartime service.
Based on novelist Max Brand's stories, Dr Kildare made its TV debut in 1961 having already appeared in several films since the 1930's. The TV series was cast with Raymond Massey as Doctor Gillespie, a senior doctor who would be the young Kildare's mentor and William Shatner as the central character. However, Shatner opted for another part in another show, leaving unknown Richard Chamberlain to step into the central role. The series began with Kildare and two other doctors, Simon Agurski (Eddie Ryder) and Thomas Gerson (Jud Taylor), taking up new posts at the Blair General Hospital, although the others left after just one season. Blond, blue-eyed, six-foot tall Chamberlain, who in real life had graduated from Pomona College with a degree in philosophy, became an instant hit (especially with the series female following) and within a year the show had an audience of around 15 million viewers. The programme tackled real-life issues of the moral and ethical dilemmas faced by the medical fraternity, whilst relieving peoples anxiety about doctors and hospitals. The standard format was to have at least two or three storylines per episode. Its closest rival in the US was Ben Casey, which began at around the same time and ended just a few months before Kildare. After 142 hour-long episodes the dramas gave way to a thirty-minute format. However, with audiences dwindling and the star voicing his dissatisfaction ('I'd worn out every facet'), NBC cancelled the show in 1966. Chamberlain returned to the TV screens with a string of mini-series throughout the 1970's (Shogun, The Thorn Birds) and in 1972 MGM tried to resurrect the series as Young Dr. Kildare, but without success. This was one patient that couldn't be revived.
A truly defining early entry in the annals of the embryonic genre of US television police drama series, Dragnet became the seminal template from which all later successful cops shows drew a measure of guidance and inspiration, and as such proved to be a pivotal turning point in the maturating of a medium which had, up to its arrival, been primarily dominated by comedy and variety shows. Created by its multi-talented star, actor-director Jack Webb, Dragnet was inspired by the 1949 movie 'He Walked By Night', in which the actor played a lab technician, then began life as a radio series in 1949 and following a special TV preview on Chesterfield Sound Off Time, in December 1951. It officially made the successful transition to the television screen on the NBC Network on January 3rd, 1952, where its then fresh and realistic documentary approach and careful attention to the details of police procedure, immediately raised it above the overly melodramatic depiction of police and private eyes, which the viewing audience of the day were familiar with. The show's literally enormous success was ably attested to by the fact that for the initial seven years of its run, the series continued to exist concurrently in both its radio and TV incarnations. Dragnet can also lay legitimate claim to being an early successful entry in the multi-media/merchandising department, with a number of tie-in novels produced during the 50's and 60's as well as a motion picture spin off released in 1954 and two hit records of Water Schumann's famous signature theme "Dragnet March" (also known alternately as simply "Dragnet" or Danger Ahead"), one in 1953 recorded by Ray Anthony and His Orchestra, and a million selling parody "St. George and the Dragonet" by Stan Freberg, which actually reached the number one spot in the charts on its release.
The inspirations for 'Dragnet's' stories were drawn from real cases from the files of the Los Angeles police department, which also provided the series' locale. Guided by the laconically matter-of-fact voice-over of Webb's character, Sgt. Joe Friday, ("It was 3:55.... We were working the day watch out of homicide"), the viewing audience were invited to witness first hand a realistic portrayal of the often unglamorous, always methodical, daily lives of the detective division in a way which was unique in its basic honesty. During the course of an investigation Friday and his partner would experience frustrating dead ends, coupled with the almost constant interruptions to their private lives that are the lot of real life police officers. It was this deliberate highlighting of routine which ultimately made the infrequent, and always realistic, bursts of action and the apprehension of the criminal at an episode's end all the more exciting and believable. The end of episode voice-over, which would soberly relate the outcome of the trial and the severity of the sentence, further reinforced this sense of realism. But the true creative heart and soul of the show rested in its one constant; Jack Webb. In the Joe Friday character, Webb succeeded in creating a solid, dependable and entirely honest everyman, which slowly developed into an iconic symbol of law and order in society, which endures almost undiminished in its potency to the present day. Over the course of 'Dragnet's' original television run between 1952 and September 1959 (after which the series went into syndication as Badge 714, which was Friday's warrant number), and again when the series returned in January 1967 to September 1970, Webb's creative drive and commitment, coupled with the Friday character's innate and unquestionable integrity, were the solid bedrock foundation which allowed the series to survive with credibility intact, despite the massive social changes of the mid sixties which had seen the authority of "establishment" figures such as the police eroded and called into question.
Although understandably dated now in certain aspects of production and social outlook, the impact and importance of Dragnet as a crucially defining force in US episodic television drama can never be realistically underestimated. Through Dragnet and its central character of Sgt. Joe Friday, Jack Webb bequeathed a dramatic legacy upon which the police drama as we know it today has continued to blossom and flourish. (Review: Stephen R. Hulse)
DRAGONS' DEN (2005)
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This period drama, set in Edwardian London, was loosely based on the life-story of Rosa Lewis, a kitchen maid who worked her way up to become manageress of the fashionable Cavendish Hotel in Jermyn Street. The series featured Gemma Jones as Louisa Trotter (nee Leyton), a down-to-earth Cockney girl who was determined, through hard work and her own strength of character, to better her self. Following her arrival as assistant chef to Monsieur Alex (George Pravda) in the household of Lord Henry Norton (Bryan Coleman), Louisa was called upon to deputize for him when the Prince of Wales (Roger Hammond) unexpectedly arrived for dinner. Smitten by the young woman, the Prince, who would not consider entering into a relationship with a single woman, bought pressure on Louisa (through his supporters and not directly) into marrying Gus Trotter (Donald Burton). Failure to do so would have led to ruin for the ambitious young woman whereas her compliance led to the Trotter's being amply supported with enough financial backing to purchase the Bentinck Hotel at number 20 Duke Street. Eventually the marriage ended and Louisa was left with mounting bills. She was saved by Charlie Tyrell aka Lord Haslemere (Christopher Cazenove), who purchased the Bentinck and employed Louisa to work there. She eventually fell pregnant with his baby but the child, Lottie, was whisked away to be brought up secretly in the country. The series was very similar in style to Upstairs, Downstairs, which is hardly surprising considering that series' producer, John Hawkesworth, created it.
Inspired by the 1975 film Moonrunners by Guy Waldron (who also created the series), The Dukes of Hazzard was a lighthearted saga about a pair of "good ol' boy" cousins who managed each week to thwart the schemes of commissioner Jefferson Davis "Boss" Hogg and the hapless sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane in the fictional rural county of Hazzard, Georgia. Tom Wopat played Lucas K. "Luke" Duke; John Schneider was his cousin Beauregard "Bo" Duke, who were once sentenced to probation for delivering moonshine liquor. But thanks to their Uncle Jessie, Bo and Luke ended their moonshine operation in exchange for freedom. But they weren't allowed to leave Hazzard County. Meanwhile, "Boss" Hogg constantly looked for ways to get rid of the Duke cousins, and got little help from Sheriff Coltrane or his equally bumbling deputy Enos Strate. Helping the Duke boys was their younger and beautiful cousin Daisy (Catherine Bach), whose high-cut jean shorts became known to fans in the USA as "Daisy Dukes." Every episode had Bo and Luke in their customized 1969 Dodge Charger known as "General Lee" (several of them were kept on hand for the series), at a time when Dodge's parent company Chrysler was asking for government loans to stay afloat. Narrating all the action in each episode was legendary country music singer Waylon Jennings, who also performed the show's title song, "Good Ol' Boys" which became a hit on both the US country and pop music charts. A feature that began in the second season was the "celebrity speed trap" where a country music star was caught going too fast in the county and had to perform a concert to get the violation off his or her record. Among the "victims" of the speed trap were Buck Owens, Tammy Wynette, the Oak Ridge Boys and Mel Tillis. All this down home fun helped The Dukes of Hazzard become an instant hit on both sides of the Atlantic. In the USA it landed in the top ten (along with the series that followed, Dallas), giving CBS a strong Friday night lineup that allowed the network to retake the number one crown it lost to ABC in 1976.
In 1982, Tom Wopat and John Schneider essentially walked off The Dukes of Hazzard due to a dispute over pay and royalties from merchandise. Producers quickly moved to replace Wopat and Schneider with new characters-Byron Cherry and Christopher Mayer as cousins Coy and Vance Duke. (Luke and Bo were said to have left Hazzard County for a racing career.) But viewers weren't happy with the new stars, and the show's ratings immediately tumbled. After 17 episodes, Cherry and Mayer were gone, and Wopat and Schneider-having settled their salary dispute-returned as if nothing happened. But The Dukes of Hazzard never regained the audience it lost, and quietly left the airwaves in early 1985. There was a short-lived spinoff (Enos) and a Saturday morning cartoon version (The Dukes), along with a pair of made-for-TV reunion films. A feature film version was released in 2005 and despite negative reviews, it did well at the box office.
Jack Rosenthal's sitcom about refuse collectors arrived in 1969 and immediately shot to number one in the JICTAR ratings where it stayed for all six episodes of it's first series-the first time this had ever happened on British television. Rosenthal had accompanied council refuse collectors on their rounds in 1968 as research for a an intended one-off television play for Granada Television, which went out as part of a seven-week series under the generic title, The System. His play -There's A Hole In Your Dustbin, Delilah-was set in the Lancashire town of Fylde (near Blackpool) and drew heavily on the characters he had encountered, and as a result was a typical Rosenthal earthy look at the human condition with all its flaws and idiosyncrasies. The Dustbinmen were led by their foreman, the foul-mouthed, beret-wearing Cheese and Egg (nicknamed because his initials were C.E.) and accompanying him on the Corporation Cleansing Department dust cart (affectionately dubbed Thunderbird 3) were an equally obnoxious crew of work-shy, housewife-lusting individuals. They were the bowler-hatted Heavy Breathing (nicknamed because he believed he was God's gift to women), Smellie (because he stank), Winston (the driver -an ardent Manchester City fan) and the dim witted Coronation Street * fan, Eric. The fact that none of the co-workers could stand the site of each other was eclipsed by their shared dislike for the corporation they worked for and in particular their new inspector who they nicknamed Bloody Delilah. They also turned their revulsion on the local residents whose garbage they collected often referring judgmentally to each of them by their address (hence Mrs 14b).
There were a number of cast changes from pilot to series, notably Cheese and Egg (Jack MacGowan to Bryan Pringle), Heavy Breathing (Harold Innocent to Trevor Bannister), Eric (Henry Livings to Tim Wylton) and Bloody Delilah (Frank Windsor to John Woodvine and then Brian Wilde for series 2 and 3). And Jack Rosenthal, having written the entire series one, began to become less involved so that by series three he had left the production entirely. The series courted much criticism at the time for its coarseness and vulgarity, although Cheese and Egg's favourite expletive 'pigging' seems tame by today's standards, but it was enough to provoke the wrath of Mary Whitehouse and her 'clean-up TV' campaign. As in many cases where she showed a disapproving voice, this did no harm at all to the show's ratings.
*There were a number of Coronation Street links, not least of all being the fact that Rosenthal had just finished with 'The Street' having written over 100 episodes, Graham Habberfield who played Winston Platt had similarly just finished a long stint on the show as Jerry Booth and Julie Goodyear -later to become Wetherfield's favourite barmaid, Bet Lynch- guest starred in two episodes.
Born Mary O'Brien on 16th April 1939 in West Hampstead, England, Dusty Springfield remains, to this day, one of the most respected and best selling female vocalists of all time. She is a member of both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the U.K. Music Hall of Fame. In the latter part of the 1960s she had a series of programmes on British television that established her beyond the boundaries of mere pop songstress, to reveal a versatility and the eclecticism of her musical styles and choices, from pop to gospel and from rock n' roll to soul. By 1965, after just two years as a solo artist, Dusty Springfield was riding high on a roller-coaster of success. By the end of that year she had already enjoyed eight chart singles, two chart albums and been voted not only the top British Female Singer, but also the top woman vocalist in the world. She had already proved popular on British television with regular appearances on the prestigious pop show Ready, Steady, Go! - and was the first artist to appear on the BBC's Top of the Pops. She had also been recording, since 1963, a number of 'exclusive' performances for BBC radio shows such as Saturday Club, Easybeat and Top Gear. Because of her enthusiasm for Motown music, Springfield campaigned to get some little-known American soul music singers a better audience in the U.K. She devised and hosted The Sound Of Motown, a special edition of Ready, Steady, Go! on 28th April 1965, introducing songs such as Dancin' in the Streets by Martha and the Vandellas (pictured), Stop in the Name of Love by the Supremes, and Just My Imagination by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, to British audiences for the first time. It is little wonder, therefore, that she was approached to star in a TV series of her very own.
Simply titled Dusty (in the opening credits - although the closing credits read The Dusty Springfield Show), the series was produced by South African born Stanley Dorfman, who had previously worked with her on TOTP. Rehearsals and taping of the series began in May 1966 at the BBC TV Theatre in London's Shepherds Bush. In total six BBC shows were made and broadcast later in the year, during August and September, in the 9pm slot vacated by Petula Clark's show. Dusty Springfield was something of a perfectionist in the recording studio and already had a reputation of being 'difficult' to work with. This opinion varied depending who you spoke to. Dougie Reece, who worked closely with Dusty at that time remembers the shows as "a lot of work." He explained in interview: "I had to co-ordinate all the music, find arrangements or get them done. But it felt good when the shows came together. I think that she liked them. I am sure that there were things she didn't like, but she never really said." Interviewed some time later, Dusty herself had the following memories: "I had all the musical say. They're all a blur because there was so much going on. I just remember the noise. I remember testing myself . . . just enjoying the fact that the BBC sound engineers were going totally spare. They didn't know what to do and I said, "What the hell". They'd go, "Oh, the needle's going in the red. You can't do that" and I just said, "Turn it up, turn it up", I was just testing myself to see where my threshold of pain was for sound. It was wonderful." The format of the series was very straight forward. Dusty would sing around half a dozen songs. There were no gimmicks and no sketches. The Radio Times introduced the first of the series by telling its readers 'Among her fellow professionals twenty-six year old* Dusty has long been regarded as one of the most formidable talents in popular music. She has that special show-stopping magic that springs from a sound ear, a sense of rhythm, a lusty voice, a certainty about the effects she wants to create and tense emotions.' The thirty-two piece orchestra that accompanied Dusty was directed by Johnny Pearson and backing vocals were by Madeline Bell (later of Blue Mink), Lesley Duncan (who contributed backing vocals to Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon album) and Maggie Stredder (founder member of The Ladybirds backing group). The BBC were impressed enough to commission a second series in 1967. This series carried a little more prestige than the first and featured special guests often in non-musical appearances. Light entertainment was supplied by whoever was popular with the public at that time and included people like Warren Mitchell (in his Alf Garnett role) and upcoming American comedian Woody Allen. "It was what agent could get his client on whatever show was important to be on at that time." Said Dusty. "You know how they get lists of shows that you ought to be on."
As successful as the series was, Dusty accepted the lure of a bigger pay packet in 1968 and took her much-in-demand talent to ITV. It Must Be Dusty went out at various times across the ITV regions and featured guest stars of the quality of Donovan, Georgie Fame and The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Despite this, Dusty was dissatisfied with the finished product and returned to the BBC the following year in a series called Decidedly Dusty. Unfortunately, during the 1970s, the tapes of all of Dusty's BBC shows were wiped. Some years later the BBC managed to recover a number of the TV recordings from TV stations in countries where the series was sold, and three of the first series and all six of the second series tapes were returned to the Corporation and released on a DVD entitled Dusty Springfield Live at the BBC. The compilation also included an appearance on a 1970 Morecambe and Wise Show and two performances from a 1972 Tom Jones Show. (Review: Marc Saul. sources: http://www.dustyspringfield.co.uk/Douggie-6.html wikipedia - Dusty Live at the BBC - TV Times 1968 Dusty Springfield at the BBC booklet by Paul Howes - Simply...Dusty 2006 )