Somewhere along the picturesque coastline of New England lies Schooner Bay and there could be found a charming little house by the name of Gull Cottage. It would have been an idyllic setting for any of the families that Claymore Gregg tried to rent it out to...except for one drawback: Gull Cottage was haunted. The ghost of Captain Daniel Gregg, who had died 100 years before, didn't rest peacefully whilst people inhabited his humble abode, and therefore he set about scaring each one of them off. Until that is, the arrival of freelance writer and attractive widow Carolyn Muir, her two children (Jonathan and Candy-played by Harlen Carraher and Kellie Flanagan), their housekeeper-Martha (Reta Shaw) and dog (Scruffy). When Mrs Muir refuses to leave, the good Captain materialises in front of her, but rather than scare her away it only makes her more determined to stay, until, over a period of time the two became somewhat romantically involved, even though a proper relationship doesn't stand a ghost of a chance. This popular and fondly remembered sitcom was based on a 1947 movie (of the same title) directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and starring Rex Harrison as the Captain with Gene Tierney as Mrs (Lucy) Muir. The movie was itself based on a novel by R A Dick. One of the highlights of the series was Charles Nelson Reilly's rubber-faced performance as the skipper's idiotic nephew, Claymore. The delicious Hope Lange starred as Mrs Muir and the Captain was played by Edward Mulhare, years before he appeared alongside David Hasselhoff in Knight Rider. Richard Dreyfuss made an early screen appearance in the 1969 episode Buried on Page One, which revealed the truth behind the Captain's tragic death, which was brought about when he kicked a faulty gas heater in his sleep, causing the pilot light to go out. With the windows of the cottage closed because of a storm, he inhaled the gas and died. For 100 years it was thought that he committed suicide, but finally Captain Gregg managed, with a little ghostly magic, to get the story retracted on the front page of the Schooner Bay Beacon. (Additional material Mary Patricia Casey)
division of Scotland Yard, the Ghost Squad was set up to investigate and infiltrate spy
rings, underworld gangs or anything else that came outside the duties of regular policing.
Although the plots and characters in the series were fictional, such a squad did exist. The
original 'Ghost Squad' had its origin in one of the Divisions of London's Metropolitan Police. The
aim of this new branch was to arrange for the infiltration of a small group of handpicked
detectives, breaking from their normal duties to go underground, integrating with all branches of
crime and rubbing shoulders with the criminals who frequented the capital city, in order to pass
information on to Scotland Yard. As a result of this undercover operation the authorities had the
means to get inside information on planned crimes or discover the movements of wanted criminals.
Retired senior police officers Jack Capstick and John Gosling were both members of this elite
squad and it was to Gosling's book on "The Ghost Squad" that ATV turned for inspiration for
the series. But where Capstick and Gosling and the rest of the early squad operators lived and
worked mainly within the square mile of London's Soho area, the TV series was given an
international flavour, covering the four corners of the globe. In order to make the series
desirable for overseas sales, 6ft 4in. US actor Michael Quinn was brought in as squad operator
Nick Craig, a master of disguise. Series producer Anthony Kearey cast another "unknown" in the
form of Neil Hallett as the other main squad operator, Tony Miller. Anthony Marlowe played the
part of the squad's chief, Geoffrey Stock, a bad tempered, unreasonable and inconsiderate
character whose job it was to hand out the assignments and report back to the "faceless" ministers
to whom he was directly answerable. Playing the part of Stock's harassed Scots secretary was
Claire Nielson as Jean "Porridge" Carter.
Cases which the Ghost Squad were asked to handle sent Craig and Miller to most of the capital cities of Europe and also the Middle East oil centres, where they were caught up with drug-pedlars, counter agents and white-slave traffickers. The hazards that the squad had to deal with were highlighted at the end of the second season when Craig was killed by a bomb. When the show returned he had been replaced by Australian actor Ray Barrett, (who had previously appeared in Emergency Ward 10 and later went on to supply voices for Gerry Anderson's Thunderbirds), as the less aggressive character of Peter Clarke, who employed more methodical methods of detection. The series was also re-titled GS5.
Stately Motley Hall has been the ancestral home of the Uproar family since the 16th Century, but
in recent years it has been allowed to fall into decrepit disrepair. Empty for twenty years since
the death of the last Uproar, Sir Humphrey, who was killed by a kneeling elephant, the property is
now in the hands of decidedly jittery estate agent Arnold Gudgin (Peter Sallis), who is
desperately trying to offload it to a new buyer. Any new buyer! But Motely Hall isn't exactly
empty. It is inhabited by a number of ghosts; General Sir George Uproar (Freddie Jones), the
spooks' self-appointed leader whose Victorian military campaign ended in disaster when he led his
men, and himself, to their deaths; Sir Francis 'Fanny' Uproar (Nicholas Le Prevost), an 18th
Century fop, gambler and alcoholic; Bodkin (Arthur English), jester to the original Uproar, Sir
Richard; the White Lady (Sheila Steafel), who has no recollection of who she is, or in fact, who
she was; and Matt (Sean Flanagan) a stable-boy from the Regency era. Together they connive to
ensure that Motley Hall stays 'in the family' (even if they are all deceased) and even when Gudgin
finally does manage to sell the Hall, its buyer quickly has a change of mind and gives it to him
as a gift!
As well as potential buyers the Hall is visited by other spooks, several ghost hunters, a documentary film crew and some small-time crooks. Needless to say none of them hang around too long. The Ghosts of Motley Hall was created by Richard Carpenter, the man responsible for such classic shows as Catweazle, Robin of Sherwood and The Adventures of Black Beauty. Carpenter claimed that he'd seen a ghost years earlier at a theatrical boarding house in Liverpool and "it made me wonder whether they (ghosts) can see us?" This was the inspiration for the series and it fell neatly into the remit he'd been handed by ITV who wanted a comedy that "all takes place in one set with five or six people and maybe one guest every week." Sets were minimal, special effects were simple, but the scripts and the cast were spot on, making this a hugely entertaining children's series made in the best possible spirit.
Having secured the rights from Leslie Charteris to bring his Simon Templar character to the small screen in 1961 both Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman were enjoying modest international success when in 1964 they added another crime drama to their portfolio when their New World production company produced Gideon's Way, a series based on John Creasey's Commander Gideon books, which he had written under the pen-name of J.J. Maric. Gideon had previously appeared in a 1958 movie release 'Gideon's Day' starring Jack Hawkins, but for the TV series Baker and Berman cast John Gregson as Commander George Gideon, a policeman with an enormous capacity for work and a strong self-discipline, who was known as 'Gee-Gee' by those who worked in close association with him. Gideon's beat was the London Metropolitan Police area, and the series was one of the first crime detection series to make use of extensive location work, being shot mainly around the East End. Gideon's method of crime detection was in the best traditions of Scotland Yard utilising his vast knowledge of the workings of the criminal mind, of police procedure, and of the city he oversaw.
Detective Chief Inspector David Keen was Gideon's 'leg man' sent by him to
interview criminals, cops on the beat, and witnesses. Keen was often entrusted with duties which
Gideon himself just didn't have time to handle. The handsome Keen was a very different type of man
from his superior. An athletic type with a sharp mind and a firm believer in the scientific
approach to criminal problems-sometimes to the exasperation of George Gideon, who was sometimes
far less inclined to work on theory and believed that hunches, based on experience, were far more
important. Detective Chief Superintendent Joe Bell, devoted to Gideon and fatherly to Keen, was
another regular of the series. His Scotland Yard career had been steady but unspectacular. He was
steady as a rock in times of crisis. Daphne Anderson played the role of Gideon's wife, Kate, with
Andrea Allen, Richard James and Giles Watling playing the roles of their children.
John Gregson started his acting career after having been a factory hand in his home town of Liverpool. His father was a Liverpool council surveyor. After numerous jobs he finally decided to try and make it as an actor. However, his first trip to London turned out to be a dismal disappointment to him and he failed to secure any acting roles. At that point war broke out and Gregson served as an able seaman on a mine-sweeper. After the war he managed to get some small parts in local rep which eventually led to an engagement with the Perth Repertory Company. Two years later, now married to actress Thea Gregory, John returned to London and was this time more successful. After landing a number of small film roles and building up a reputation as a respected and established actor he was offered the part of George Gideon. He gleefully accepted the role of the character that he knew from having read John Creasey's original novels. Creasey had written a dozen books about Gideon, and his 'Gideon's Fire' was named the Best Mystery Novel of 1961 by the Writers Guild of America.
Alexander Davion played the role of Keen, a character specially written for the series to add romantic appeal and contrast to Gideon's great family attachment. Alex's first ambition was to be a journalist. "My first introduction to Fleet Street was a tea boy in a newspaper office," he said in an interview at the time the TV series was being made. "I might have become a reporter in the long run if they hadn't insisted on my making so many cups of tea. I couldn't stand it any longer. My journalistic ambitions were drowned in hundreds of gallons of tea!" He decided to become an actor and studied at R.A.D.A. He eventually broke into films, later went to America and did extensive theatre work before landing small parts in a number of popular US series such as 'Dr. Kildare', 'Perry Mason' and 'Have Gun Will Travel'. On his return to the UK he continued to build up his reputation until landing his biggest break as a regular character in a TV series.
Ian Rossiter portrayed the 'Super', Joe Bell. Ian (real name Hugh Ross Williamson), was a dramtaic author. He became an actor when Jack Hawkins, who was going to star in his TV play 'Bernadette' suddenly became ill. The producer of that production rang up Ian and told him that there was not enough time to cast another actor in the live broadcast and that Ian would have to play the part himself. He proved so successful that from then on he split his career appearing as Williamson in print and Rossiter on screen. The series also featured a number of guest stars who were just embarking on their careers. Many would become regulars in British TV over the years and they included George Sewell, Anette Andre, Anton Rodgers, Derek Fowlds, Jean Marsh and Mike Pratt, while some, such as Donald Sutherland and John Hurt would go on to international movie stardom. The series was shot on 35mm film giving it higher production values than other contemporary police series such as Z Cars and Dixon of Dock Green, and as such all the episodes were preserved in the archives and have been released as a box-set DVD. (Review: Adapted from the 1965 'Television Show Book' annual.)
Although never a huge hit in the UK, Gilligan's Island was a massive success in its native
USA, and has stood the test of time by becoming almost an icon of 1960's American sitcom. The
premise was simple enough; the SS Minnow set out from Hawaii for a three hour pleasure cruise, got
caught in a storm and was shipwrecked on the shore of an uncharted South Pacific island. Where the
series scored was in using a tried and trusted formula of throwing together a group of people from
disparate backgrounds and putting them in situations where they had no choice but to interact with
and rely on each other. For this series those people were obnoxious millionaire Thurston Howell
lll (Jim Backus) and his wife Lovey (Natalie Schafer), a high school teacher known as The
Professor, Mary Ann Summers (Dawn Wells) -a sweet and naive country girl from Horners Green,
Kansas, sexy movie star Ginger Grant (Tina Louise), the amiable skipper, Jonas Grumby (Alan Hale
Jr), and Gilligan himself (Bob Denver), who was first mate on the Minnow, and more often than not
the one character who was inadvertently responsible for the failure of the numerous escape plans
that the castaways made, in their attempts to return to civilisation. In fact the series almost
didn't make it to the air and would never have been seen had it not been for its opening theme
tune. Creator Sherwood Shwartz, who also co-wrote the theme, says then-CBS president James Aubrey
was ready to say no to the story because he felt Schwartz had to explain how the gang got on the
island before each episode. Schwartz's answer: Let the theme song do the work. (It was not a new
idea; The Real McCoys and The Beverly Hillbillies had used the theme song as
backstory several years earlier.) Schwartz worked all night to create a theme song, explaining how
the three-hour tour became a shipwreck. The first version was a calypso-themed tune that Schwartz
himself sang to a roomful of CBS executives. Aubrey's response: "I think you could work a little
on the middle lyric". Friend and composer George Wyle helped fashion a sea chantey and revised
lyrics, creating a sitcom theme classic ("Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale/A tale of a
fateful trip/That started from this tropic port/Aboard this tiny ship.").
The series didn't stand up to close scrutiny but fortunately the comedy made up for the obvious plot-holes that the writers consistently fell into. For example; if it was just a three hour cruise then how come the Howells had a seemingly endless supply of new outfits to wear? Why, if they were such a short distance from Hawaii was the island so impossible to escape from - and if it were that difficult for the crew of the Minnow to escape then why wasn't it so difficult for the numerous guest stars that turned up week in and week out? (They included a pair of Russian cosmonauts, a pop group and a wealthy hotel owner, to name just a few). Perhaps the answer lay in the fact that the Gilligan's Island audience was mainly made up of kids, reflected in the fact that when it did eventually come to an end an animated version, The New Adventures of Gilligan, was produced for ABC, and ran for three years (1974-77) followed in the next decade by the animated Gilligan's Planet for CBS. In 1978 NBC took almost the entire original cast back to the South Pacific (Tina Louise allegedly wanted too much money and was replaced by Judith Baldwin) for a two-part special called Rescue from Gilligan's Island, which proved to be a huge success. Never let it be said that you can't overdo a good thing and that's exactly what TV bosses did with further (unnecessary) sequels in 1979 and 1981. Sadly, of the original 98 episodes only 13 were shown in the UK from June to December 1965 and have never been repeated. Although Gilligan was never referred to by a first name on the show, star Bob Denver revealed some years later that he had talked the matter over with Sherwood Schwartz and they had decided that if Gilligan ever needed one it would be..."Willie". (co-writer Mike Spadoni).
Inferior spin-off from The Man from U.N.C.L.E. but notable for launching the TV career of Stefanie Powers (as well as introducing Rex Harrison's son, Noel), The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. was inspired by Peter O'Donnell's British comic strip heroine, Modesty Blaise. First published in the Evening Standard in 1963, Blaise was given the big screen treatment in 1966, the same year that Stefanie Powers took on the role of April Dancer, who came equipped with a bottomless handbag of specially designed weaponry. However, Powers was not the first actress to appear as U.N.C.L.E.'s leading female operative. That distinction fell to former Miss America Mary Ann Mobley (with veteran actor Norman Fell in the Harrison role) in a Man from U.N.C.L.E. episode entitled 'The Moonglow Affair'. Continuity from the parent series was provided in the form of secret organisation chief Alexander Waverly (Leo G. Carroll,) who would send Dancer and her sidekick Mark Slate (an agent transferred from U.N.C.L.E.'s London office) in pursuit of the evil T.H.R.U.S.H, and Napoleon Solo was apt to make the odd appearance. Stefanie Powers, (Stefania Zorfja Federkievicz), was born in Hollywood of Polish extraction and first won fame for herself in a 1962 film entitled Experiment in Terror (which starred Glenn Ford and Lee Remick). At school she was a member of the girls' swimming team and learned to speak Italian, Polish, Spanish, French, Russian and Arabic. While testing for a role in West Side Story she was seen by a film talent scout and signed to make her first film appearance in Among the Thorns. (Later TV starring roles included Toni Danton in The Feather and Father Gang (1977) and Jennifer Hart in Hart to Hart (1979-1984). Noel Harrison had first drawn attention to himself as a singer on the TV show Tonight. An accomplished skier (he was a member of the British Olympic teams in 1952 and 1958) he later went on to have a top ten UK single with 'Windmills of your Mind' (1969). Leo G. Carroll starred in around half a dozen TV series'. "I've played a number of police officers, judges and schoolmasters during my career," he said in a 1966 interview, "but I've never had the chance really to engage in any form of cloak-and-dagger swashbuckling. Perhaps that's why this Waverly character fascinates me." The series was even more far-fetched than the one that spawned it and it's over-the-top silliness failed to make an impression with viewers. As a result both Dancer and Slate were decommissioned after one season. In the UK the series (while it lasted) was shown on alternate weeks in rotation with 'T.M.F.U.'
Two married women, one with her head in the clouds and the other with her feet on the ground, decide it's time their husbands took more notice of them. This series of comedies, very relevant to the period where women were paying more awareness to gender inequality and campaigning against cultural and political bias of their sex, took the subject of two females who were tired of slaving over kitchen sinks in the domestic tedium of their suburban homes and decide to strike out for their sex. As one of the characters points out "...there aren't really any women sitting in in cornfields in kinky boots being seduced by cigar-smoking, sports-car driving fellers, who all look like James Bond." This was no man's eye view of the Women's Lib movement which probably would have ended up poking fun at crazy suffragettes burning their bras for cheap laughs. The writer, Adele Rose was a prolific writer on Coronation Street, UK television's longest running soap opera, penning around 500 scripts between 1961 and 1998. In fact, there was a big Corrie connection to the series. The pilot had starred Anna Quayle and Barbara Mullaney who, under the name Barbara Knox, went on to star in the soap as Rita Littlewood (later Fairclough), and Peter Baldwin (Corrie character Derek Wilton) starred in both the pilot and the series as Harold Liversedge, one of the beleaguered husbands. Helen Worth (Gail Tilsley) appeared in the second episode. A cast change was made for the two female leads between 1969 pilot and 1970 series with two stalwarts of children's television taking the spotlight at adult prime time; Denise Coffey (Brenda Liversedge) had starred in Do Not Adjust Your Set while Julie Stevens (Rosemary Pilgrim) had been performing for even younger audiences in Playschool. Three series were made between 1970 and 1971 and all but the pilot were in colour.
Off-beat TV series that reunited Terry Scott and Hugh Lloyd a year after their last series together found the two stars in the almost surreal guise of two garden gnomes! This BBC comedy revealing the secret lives of the gnomes was written by Jimmy Perry and was supposedly a satirical look at the controversies surrounding a number of issues at the time including Britain's entry into the Common Market. The title itself was a play on Harold Wilson's famous "gnomes of Zurich" remark about Swiss bankers. At the time, Perry said "Garden gnomes seem to fascinate everyone. They're either amusing or repulsive, according to taste. I originally wrote a short sketch about two little stone gnomes." Perry actually had Morecambe and Wise in mind at the time he wrote his sketch. "But my wife told me the idea was good enough to make a whole show. So I took her advice and went ahead and wrote a whole show, this time with Terry Scott and Hugh Lloyd in mind. They liked the script, the BBC was willing to give it a try, and I ended up with six episodes."
In the garden of 25 Telegraph Road, Dulwich, live three traditional British stone gnomes. They seem to live serene lives, Big, played by Terry Scott, fishing all day, Small (Hugh Lloyd) feeding his frog and Old (John Clive) fast asleep with his spade. However, in a neighbouring garden, new Empire-made plastic gnomes have been introduced and this leads to a cultural conflict between the two groups, with the plastic gnomes being regarded as a constant threat. Hugh Lloyd pointed out that "Because we're playing creatures on an entirely different plane we are able to look at silly human problems from a new perspective." These problems include the old school tie mentality, religion, war, politics, drink and race relations. Although the actors had their doubts at first they soon changed their minds. "We weren't sure the idea would run to six shows," Scott said, "but when we recorded the first one we came out of our dressing rooms and there we were - authentic stone gnomes. We sprang to life." They were required to wear bizarre costumes and highly elaborate make-up to turn them into garden gnomes (a process the actors referred to as 'gnomeification') and the sets were built to a huge scale to make them look tiny. One side effect of starring in this series was remarked upon by Terry Scott. "Whenever I pass a garden decorated with gnomes - and Mr Bunn, our baker, has some - I start wondering if they've had a good night. I've even had an impulse to trespass and start moving the gnomes about!"
Humans were unseen in the series apart from the occasional shadow or a glimpse of feet along with snatches of conversation and even the actors themselves were made as unrecognisable as possible, as Leon Thau, who played one of the Empire gnomes commented at the time; "When you first start in the profession you can't wait to slap on heavy make-up. Now my actors vanity is in for a hard time because nobody is going to know it's me hiding behind all the plastic and an oriental accent!" Hugh Lloyd's view: "Maybe the BBC wanted to give us a complete change from our old Hugh and I characters, so we've been disguised as heavily as possible." Whether the experiment worked or not is hard to judge. Only one series of The Gnomes of Dulwich was made and unfortunately the tapes for this series do not seem to have survived the BBC's famous 'house-cleaning' of the late 1970s.
Trivia: The gnomes found themselves sold off in the last episode. They didn't know who had bought them, but the new address was No.10 Downing St. London!
Big objected to the fact that the ornamental pond they were placed next to was not finished yet and he had to have his fishing line dangling in a plastic bucket. "Well, you know how I feel about plastic!"
The last line in the programme was said by humans. "Do you like the new gnomes?" "Darling, I think as far as gnomes go, we've got the world beat!" (Review: Denise Lovell February 2006. Trivia: Maree Pavletich August 2007)
Porridge was always going to be a tough act to follow. And Going Straight, the series that followed the exploits of Norman Stanley Fletcher after he was released from Slade Prison at the end of his five-year sentence (of which he served 3½ years), suffered because of it. Had Going Straight been made today it would stand head and shoulders above any other current British sitcom, and would no doubt win deserved critical acclaim. But debuting less than a year after the final episode of Porridge, and being preceded by a repeat run of Fletcher's last days in residence at Her Majesty's pleasure, worked to its disadvantage. The series got off to a good enough start with Fletcher being released and then sharing a train journey back to London with Mr MacKay (Fulton MacKay), who had just retired from the Prison Service and was himself heading south in search of a new job. It was very much a two-handed episode with the focus being on the previous shows two protagonists and gave the opportunity for Fletcher to turn the tables on his old adversary. It wasn't until episode two that Fletcher arrived home and 'Going Straight' became yet another domestic comedy.
Keen to avoid the trappings of a routine husband and wife sitcom, Ronnie Barker discussed the shows format with writers Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais and the decision was taken to drop Isobel, Fletcher's wife, who had been seen in a single episode of Porridge ('Men Without Women'). Instead, Fletcher would be left to fend for himself. However, two characters from 'Porridge' were retained: Fletcher's daughter, Ingrid (Patricia Brake) and his old cellmate Lennie Godber (Richard Beckinsale). Ingrid had appeared in three episodes of 'Porridge' and during that time a romance had blossomed between her and Lennie. So when Fletcher arrived home, Lennie, now working as a long distance lorry driver, would be popping in and out of the Fletcher household in Muswell Hill, at regular intervals. To complete the company of regulars a young Nicholas Lyndhurst was cast as Fletcher's teenage son, Raymond. Determined to go straight for the first time in his life, Fletcher finds himself as something of a frustrated figure as all his attempts to find steady employment are thwarted by the stigma of him being an ex-convict. Even when he eventually finds gainful employment as a night porter in a hotel, a guest, who turns out to be a con man, places Fletcher in great difficulty. For the first time, the audience saw Fletcher as something of a forlorn figure, no longer the wily old lag that all the other inmates of Slade Prison looked up to, but a man who is something of a misfit to society. And many of them were disappointed. The edge had gone from the comedy. As Porridge production manager Mike Crisp remarked; 'comedy comes from friction, which is in plentiful supply when people from all walks of life are trapped together -and you can't get anymore trapped than in prison.' In prison, Fletcher had been master of his own domain, but on the outside he was just another bloke trying to get along. But Dick Clement thinks that Going Straight should be judged on its own merit. 'Some people were disappointed it wasn't Porridge and, of course, that had been the template. But Going Straight had a lot going for it. Fletcher was a very much a three-dimensional character, and Ronnie's performance was as good as ever.' The problem with the series, as far as the audience was concerned, was probably best summed up in a scene from episode four, 'Going To Work' where Fletcher observes, 'At least while I was doing porridge I had a goal...It was called 'getting out'. But now I am out, well, it's a bit of a let down.' By the end of that single series of Going Straight, there was nowhere else for Fletcher to go. He'd already turned down the opportunity to return to a life of crime, was in full-time employment and had seen his daughter get married. He was no longer 'going straight' -he'd 'gone straight.'
Three editions of Going Straight (there were six in total) made it into the TV top twenty, peaking at 15.6 million viewers for 'Going, Going, Gone', the penultimate episode in the series. Any sitcom today achieving that audience figure would be regarded as an enormous success. So why not Going Straight? It was simply a case of the viewers wanting it to be Porridge ---and it wasn't. As series producer Sydney Lotterby said; 'they wanted to see Ronnie in prison. It got a BAFTA, but after 'Porridge' it was always second best.' And whereas Porridge has had plenty of repeat viewings, Going Straight has seldom been seen again. Lotterby wrote a letter to the BBC asking why. 'I've often wondered why you don't repeat 'Going Straight'?' He explained all the plus points -the characters and the situations, that it was funny and got just as many laughs as 'Porridge'. The BBC replied to him, 'Dear Mr Lotterby, thanks for your letter. It was interesting. It's always nice to hear from members of the public.'
Exciting series centred round the participants in a multi-million pound bullion robbery, and the CID officer who doggedly tracks them down. The officer, Detective Chief- Supt. Cradock (played by Peter Vaughan) is the linking character in each episode - and comparisons with the Great Train Robbery are compounded by the fact that the series' technical adviser is ex- Det. Chief-Superintendent Arthur Butler, the Scotland Yard officer most intimately concerned in that case. Major guest stars play the robbers and suspected felons throughout the series, including George Cole, Joss Ackland, Richard Leech, Roy Dotrice, Alfred Lynch, Ann Lynn, Katharine Blake, Jennifer Hilary, Bernard Hepton, Ian Hendry and a pre-Man About The House Sally Thomsett. The series, which kept Friday-night viewers hooked throughout the 1969 summer months, was devised and produced by John Hawkesworth (Upstairs, Downstairs) and won him a BAFTA nomination for Best Drama Series; among a celebrated team of writers were former Z Cars contributor Alan Prior and Doctor Who story editor David Whitaker.
The story opens with a bullion aircraft carrying five-and-a-half million pounds in gold bars, approaching a small airfield in the South of England. Mechanics and armed guards bustle around the plane waiting on the tarmac waiting to unload its cargo of gold bars. Suddenly, above the noise of whining jets and scurrying airport vehicles, comes the crack of a rifle. A police car bursts into flames and as officials and mechanics scatter in confusion an armed gang moves in. In a meticulously timed operation they escape with the gold which is loaded onto a vehicle that in turn is loaded onto a cargo plane and the robbers make good their escape. From his temporary headquarters on Westmarsh Airfield Cradock begins the huge task of working out how the great gold robbery was executed. Each episode focuses on a different aspect of the robbery and the criminals involved; from the air traffic controller who was 'supposedly' an innocent victim to the man who fired the shots that destroyed the police car. George Cole stars (in episode 4) as Barry Porter, a second-rate con-man with big dreams, a character not a million miles removed from the iconic Arthur Daley in the Minder series that would eventually make him a household name. Richard Bolt (played by Richard Leech) is a millionaire businessman whose diverse interests include ownership of a travel agency, a London newspaper and an import-export group. It is Bolt's airline that flies the gold into Westmarsh Airport on that fateful day in January on which the robbery occurs. Bolt offers Cradock and his men every assistance but it is clear from the outset that he knows a lot more than he is letting on. Shortly after the robbery it becomes clear to Cradock that this is anything other than a simple gold heist. There are several interested parties regarding the investigation and outcome of the case, not least of all the British Government who could face a possible international incident were it to become public knowledge of the origins of the stolen gold, which has been used to unofficially purchase and supply arms to a foreign country.
Interviewed in the TV Times in 1969 Vaughan revealed that he was born Peter Ohm ("like the electricity thing") in Shropshire, but raised in Uttoxeter, in the Potteries. The Ohms were of Austrian origin and, having decided that nobody could become a successful actor with a name like that, he adopted and then adapted his mother's name, Vorn. Acting wasn't his first passion though. He dreamed of playing football for Stoke City. "But when I realised I wasn't going to make it into the professional ranks I started looking for something else to do." The future was charted for him by a supervisor of the Staffordshire Education Committee who saw him in a school play and wrote to the director of the Wolverhampton Rep. "I went for my interview-came out with a script to read and a job!" During the war he spent five years in the army in Singapore, commissioned in the Royal Corps of Signals. By the early 1950s Peter was with Birmingham Rep. His first London West End appearance was in 1954 in a production of Moliere's Le Malade Imaginaire. He stayed in London and landed a few roles in television and film. The role of the policeman Cradock was something of a departure for Vaughan who throughout his career has been cast in roles on the other side of the law. "Luckily I'm not beautiful - otherwise I might have starved," said Vaughan, who is physically large with the shoulders of a rugby forward. He is best remembered these days as playing the menacing crime boss Harry Grout in the comedy series Porridge, but the release on DVD of The Gold Robbers is a timely reminder of one of his most celebrated TV roles. Speaking in 1969 Vaughan said that he saw Cradock as a kind of extension of himself. "In the sense that I personally don't believe in heroes and villains-by which I mean that I don't believe anybody is all good or all bad. Cradock is a real human being - a man with human weaknesses, intent on pursuing good. And, of course, Cradock is obsessed with his job, which is why I say he's like me." All thirteen episodes of this much sought-after drama, which stands up remarkably well for a drama that is over 40 years old, as well as the feature-length repeat edit of the final two episodes, are included in this set. (Review: Laurence Marcus. 27th November 2010. Sources of reference and adaptations from original TV articles June, July and Augst 1969.)
Superior comedy from the talented Susan (Soap) Harris that pulled no punches in addressing
the realities of growing old, whilst treating its core characters in a positive way, proving that
not only did life begin at forty it also went on well into the 50's, 60's and beyond. Blanche
Devereaux (Rue McClanahan) was a flirty Southern belle with an insatiable appetite for men.
Recently widowed, Blanche decided to share her Miami home with friends Dorothy Zbornak (Bea Arthur
from Maude), a schoolteacher recently divorced from her husband of 38 years standing, and
the scatter-brained Rose Nuyland (Betty White from The Mary Tyler Moore Show), who worked
as a grief counsellor and frequently spoke of her Scandinavian roots (her mothers maiden name was
Gerkelnerbigenhoffstettlerfrau), and her hometown of St Olaf, Minnesota. Making up the foursome
was Dorothy's mother, Sicilian-born Sophia (Estelle Getty), who came to live at the house when her
retirement home burned down. Having suffered a stroke that damaged certain nerve cells in her
brain, Sophia lacked any tact, and the result was that nobody was safe from her forthright
opinions. However, the women remained the best of friends and would often get together around the
kitchen table for midnight snacks of cheese cake or ice cream whilst discussing the more important
issues of middle age, such as sagging backsides and drooping breasts.
The series was commissioned by NBC chief Brandon Tartikoff to reflect the changing attitudes in the USA by, and toward its growing population of 'over 40' female divorcees. During its eight-year run the show picked up no less than 10 Emmy awards including two for Best Comedy. The last episodes, spread over two parts and entitled 'One Flew Out Of The Cuckoo's Nest', involved Dorothy marrying Blanche's uncle Lucas (Leslie 'Police Squad' Nielson). Following this the remaining friends spun off into a new series entitled The Golden Palace, where they attempted to run a hotel. In the UK, The Golden Girls was remade as Brighton Belles starring Wendy Craig, Jean Boyt, Sheila Hancock and Sheila Gish. It was Carlton Television's first comedy and when shown critics and viewers alike slated the series to such an extent, that it was pulled off before the first (and thankfully, only) season had even concluded. (co-writer Mike Spadoni).
THE GOOD LIFE (1975)
A disillusioned office worker gives up work to become self sufficient. Click Here for review
With a resounding barrage of garrulous and loquacious avidity, and a bang of his gavel for emphasis, master of ceremonies, Leonard Sachs, would herald an evening of entertainment awash with nostalgia starring some of the best known stars of the day as they recreated the magic and intimacy of the Edwardian music hall for BBC television. It was a formula that proved so successful that it ran for 30 years and in the process introduced around 2000 performers. It was Producer Barney Colehan, who in 1953, proposed outside broadcasts from the Leeds City Varieties Theatre. It wasn't a wholly original idea because the BBC were already transmitting a series called Music Hall which began in 1950. The idea was to send the cameras into an audience filled music hall show in the hope of picking up and relaying into people's homes the same sense of atmosphere of people having a night out. Music Hall was usually broadcast from the Scala in London's West End, and produced before an audience. One of the Music Hall programmes was staged in the Bourneville Hall, Birmingham, thus giving the Midland TV audience their first local relay of television variety; another from the Theatre Royal Leeds, opened TV programmes for the North.
Colehan's idea was to have a master of ceremonies who would compere proceedings and the show would include more audience participation, singing along to the popular music hall songs of yesteryear. Derek Guyler hosted the series which was called City Varieties. But that same year (20th July) it changed its title and got a new host: Don Gemmell, who after only three shows handed over to Leonard Sachs. Sachs was on familiar territory hosting The Good Old Days. In 1936 along with Peter Ridgeway he had acquired premises on the top floor of 43 Kings Street, Covent Garden and rapidly established the Players' Theatre Club. In 1937, they presented an evening of Music Hall entertainment. The show was an instant success. After the Second World War Sachs was asked to present a similar show at the Festival Gardens, for the Festival of Britain. So favourable was the response, that the great theatre chain of the time, Moss Empires, invited Sachs to undertake a long tour of all the major variety theatres in the United Kingdom. It was only natural that the BBC should be the next to make an approach. His impact on The Good Old Days was instantaneous and the show, which was originally scheduled for four outings, was then extended to thirteen, then twenty-six weekly editions. It remained a part of the BBC light entertainment for 30 years.
Tickets to the show were free the only stipulation being that to sit in the
audience you had to be in period costume. So women donned their shawls and bonnets and men their
blazers and boaters - and often their smartest Edwardian military uniforms - and there was never a
shortage of either. By 1975 there was a waiting list for tickets of 24,000 people. Those lucky
enough to get tickets were treated to an atmosphere set within an authentic Edwardian theatre
resplendent with plush drapes, galleried upper floor with boxes and were entertained by the likes
of Danny La Rue, Tessie O'Shea, Roy Hudd, Ken Dodd, Arthur Askey, Roy Castle, Reg Varney, Bernard
Cribbins, Frankie Vaughan and countless others, each dressed in similar garb to the people in the
auditorium. The audience would laugh along at the jokes and sing along with the traditional music
hall standards before being invited to close each show with an exuberant exaltation from the
Chairman to join in the chorus from 'The Old Bull and Bush' featuring the whole cast, "but chiefly
yourselves". The last show was broadcast on Sunday 2nd October 1983, and two months later, on
Friday 30th December the BBC broadcast a documentary Goodbye to the Good Old Days. There
were still enough people waiting for tickets to keep the theatre full for another 5 years.
(Reference: http://www.playerstheatre.co.uk The Television Annual for 1950/51 The Television Annual for 1952 Television The First Forty Years by Anthony Davis (1976))
Something of a rarity in the TV life of Richard Briers-an unsuccessful sitcom which came sandwiched between two successful ones, namely, The Good Life and Ever Decreasing Circles. In fact, Briers had almost decided to retire from TV sitcom at the end of The Good Life, when the scripts for Goodbye Mr Kent landed on his doorstep. "How on Earth was one going to follow that success?" he pondered in an issue of the Radio Times to reporter Madeleine Kingsley. But then quickly dismissed the idea of going completely straight by stating; "here was a strong situation comedy, with plenty of character scope, a series I felt would help me do the job I'm here for - making the public laugh through the long cold winter." The character that he saw so much potential in was Travis Kent, a dishevelled journalist who Briers freely admitted was "a sponging parasite, one of life's passengers who hopes to secure a free roof over his head." The roof in question belongs to attractive divorcee Victoria Jones (played by actress Hannah Gordon-no newcomer to TV sitcom herself), who is obliged to take in a lodger to help maintain herself and her racy teenage daughter, Lucy-played by Talla Hayes. Travis Kent sets out to impress the good Mrs Jones - "I cook a marvellous omelette...I can make a ping-pong ball appear out of my ear" and he smarms and charms his way to persuading the lady to accept him as her lodger, foregoing the chance to take in the "quiet female person" whom she so sensibly advertised for. The character of Travis Kent was based on another famous stage, movie and successful TV sitcom character as writers Peter Vincent and Peter Robinson admitted. Together, the duo had reworked the script of Neil Simon's The Odd Couple for German screening and it was from that movie that Travis was born, as Peter Vincent explained: "We were both struck by Oscar, the hopeless slob, fleshed out in the movie by Walter Matthau. We wanted to write about a similarly hopeless character who is also a great optimist, always certain that the next thing he touches will turn out right because the last blunder was definitely someone else's fault! Travis has great charm, or at least he thinks he does. Richard Briers now, really does have charm and he plays Travis with a wonderfully false sort of charm, vainly lavished on Victoria. She finds him not at all attractive, but oddly compelling. She misses him when he is not there, which makes life awkward for her." There was an underlying hint of a romance to come, but as the series never went beyond the first seven-episode run, this was never developed. But why would a woman fall for this type of wastrel? Richard Briers: "He must have something about him to save him from being exactly the sort of man who makes you send at once for the police. A vulnerable quality perhaps." (Based on original Radio Times article).
Originally to be called 'Super Chaps Three', The Goodies were the quintessential image of a
1970's Britain that had not yet shaken off its 1960's 'swinging' image. The trio of do-gooders who
would do anything, anyplace, anytime, consisted of Tim Brooke-Taylor (who was so patriotic that he
always wore a Union-Jack waistcoat), Graham Garden (a nutty professor type), and Bill Oddie (a
leftover from the hippie movement, complete with giant sized portrait of Chairman Mao). In the
course of their adventures they would typically rescue humanity, as in the case of saving London
from the clutches of a giant cat, whilst charging around the country on their three-seater
bicycle. Popular fads and cultures of the day were given the 'Goodies' treatment, Doctor
Who was presented as 'Planet of the Rabbits.' and Kung Fu was given a North
Country twist in an episode entitled 'Kung Fu Capers', an episode that inadvertently
realised the adage "died laughing." The episode featured Bill Oddie as a blackbelt in 'Ecky Thump'
- a little-known Lancastrian martial art which involved pelting opponents with black pudding. Tim
Brooke-Taylor played a Scotsman who defended himself with a set of bagpipes. Alex Mitchell, a 50-
year-old bricklayer from King's Lynn was unable to stop laughing whilst watching the episode.
According to his wife, after twenty-five minutes of continuous laughter, Mitchell "gave a
tremendous belly laugh, slumped on the sofa and died". She later sent a letter to the Goodies
thanking them for making her husband's final moments so happy.
During its run the series picked up two Silver Roses at Montreux and spun off into the pop charts top ten with novelty' hits 'The In Betweenies,' 'Funky Gibbon,' 'Nappy Love' and 'Make A Daft Noise For Christmas.' After ten years the BBC had decided that they had got all the mileage out of the show that there was to get, and, somewhat disillusioned, Messrs Brooke-Taylor, Garden and Oddie took themselves off to commercial television. However, only six shows were made by LWT.
The Goodies was one of the first shows in the UK to use chroma key, a post- production special effect that allowed the overlaying of one video image on top of another and one of the first to use stop-motion techniques, previously only seen on animated children's programmes, in a live action format. Unlike most long-running BBC comedy series, The Goodies has been sadly neglected and not enjoyed extensive repeats on terrestrial television. It wasn't until 2004 that the BBC finally acknowledged its appeal in an episode of the documentary series Comedy Connections which was devoted to the series. However, further afield the series has fared much better. In Australia, the series has had continued popularity, being repeated throughout the 1970s and 1980s. It has also proved to be popular in Canada, and in Germany was shown within another series in short 3 to 4 minute film sequences. Tim Brooke-Taylor and Graeme Garden took their Goodies Live show to the 2006 Edinburgh Fringe festival.
Gary Sparrow is a TV repair man who is going through a sticky patch with his wife, Yvonne, an ambitious career minded go-getter who is determined to finish her Open University degree in psychology and live life at a fast pace. While Gary is prepared to face the world more slowly and far simpler, a discovery in Ducketts Passage in London's East End will make his life far more complicated and racy than he could ever have imagined. Finding himself lost on the way to a repair job, Gary wanders into The Royal Oak pub in Stepney where he decides to rest his weary feet and enjoy a beer. When he is charged tuppence-farthing for his half-pint he assumes he is in some sort of 'theme-pub', but the sound of air-raid sirens soon brings about a realisation of an incredible truth. Gary has discovered a time portal that has taken him back to 1940 where Britain is at war with Germany.
Goodnight Sweetheart was a British sitcom that was shown on BBC1 running for a total of 6 series from 1993 until 1999. Created by Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran (The New Statesman and Birds of a Feather), the show starred former Only Foools and Horses 'dipstick' Nicholas Lyndhurst who went on to win the award for the Most Popular Comedy Performer at the NTAs for two successive years in 1998 and again in 1999.
Back in 1940 Gary meets and begins to fall in love with the pub landlord's daughter Phoebe (originally Dervla Kirwan and from seies 4 - 6 Elizabeth Carling). He also meets Reg Deadman, a kind hearted but slightly dim policeman. When Phoebe's father is killed in an air- raid she inherits the pub and Gary's trips back and forward between the time zones become more frequent. His obsession with all things connected to the Second World War lead Gary to open up a retro store called Blitz and Pieces, the perfect cover for his time travelling. And whilst Yvonne often makes fun of Gary and this obsession, little does she know what his secret is. One person does, though. Gary's friend Ron, a printer by trade who is on hand to run off a steady supply of counterfeit wartime five pound notes, ID cards and anything else that Gary needs.
The main theme of the show is the juxtaposition between the two lives that Gary leads - the hectic and somewhat unhappy life in the present day and the almost idyllic life back in World War 2 and the inevitable lies he has to tell to keep his wife and girlfriend happy. Gary tells Phoebe that he is a secret agent and has to stay away for periods of time, when he is really back in the present day. As time goes by Gary tells Phoebe and Reg all manner of things that help them to believe that he really is a British spy - they are totally unaware he knows these things thanks to history books. He also sings modern day songs which leads them to believe he is also a talented singer / songwriter. In time Gary and Phoebe do well for themselves, have a son and get a flat in Mayfair where they are friends with stars of the time such as Noel Coward. In the present day Yvonne becomes a millionaire thanks to her company which makes holistic cosmetics and beauty products. This leads her to industry awards and a peerage. The last episode of the show is set on VE day where Gary goes back in time and finds that he can't return - he leaves a note beneath the wallpaper of his West End flat explaining all to Ron and Yvonne knowing they will discover it during decorating work in 1999.
Goodnight Sweetheart had as its theme tune the song of the same name
sung by Al Bowlly, and the singers death, which happened during the Second World War is mentioned
in the show. Many of the episodes of Goodnight Sweetheart were named after popular songs
from this era such as In the Mood and this helps to keep the feeling of the show running through
them. This is a show that really does leave you with a warm glow and even though you might not
agree with what Gary is doing, it's a lot of fun watching him time travel and get into all sorts
of scrapes along the way.
(Review: Joanne MacRae and Laurence Marcus. 2014)
Another cracking series from Lynda La Plante who has always excelled in placing her female lead
characters in what are perceived to be male dominated roles. In this case she really throws her
heroine in at the deep end by placing her in a high-security men's prison. Following a riot and
the apparent suicide of a child molester and murderer at HMP Barfield, 33-year old Helen Hewitt,
an assistant Governor at a women's prison, finds herself seconded to the ensuing public enquiry
into what sparked the violent disorder and the highly publicised death. When the enquiry returns a
verdict of suicide, Helen is incensed, but unable to do anything. Until, that is, the relevant
authority decide to retire Barfield's incumbent Governor and replace him with Helen. One of her
first jobs is to meet and speak with the dead inmate's bereaved parents. During the interview she
promises to carry out her own independent enquiry. She soon finds that she may have bitten off
more than she can chew. On top of trying to keep order in a prison that hosts drug addicts,
arsonists, violent murderers and the mentally disturbed, she also has to contend with prejudice
from her own male-dominated staff, including an assistant governor who is bitterly aggrieved that
he never got the top job himself. To add to her problems, as if they needed adding to, there also
appears to be the cover up of a conspiracy.
Although Helen is open minded and progressive in her approach to the way the penal system should work, she makes it quite clear from the outset that she is no pushover. But it is not without difficulty that she determines to stand her ground and stamp her authority on the uncompromising inmates as well as her staff who would take any and every opportunity to undermine her. As the series progresses, Helen has to tread the fine line between success and failure, dealing with a 60 million pound rebuild of the prison, the installation of an unpopular secure unit and her attempts to introduce educational staff for the prisoners.
Although made in 1995, The Governor stands up remarkably well against many modern TV series. Janet McTeer gives a thoroughly convincing and powerful performance facing up to the prisoners as well as manipulation from the Home Office, standing up to all and sundry with a fortitude of spirit and determined resolution. There are excellent supporting performances from the likes of Derek Martin, a former stuntman turned actor who later became best known as the head of the Slater family in EastEnders, as Charlie Slater - but here playing the embittered Deputy Governor, Gary Marshall. Craig Charles also turns up in later episodes as a prisoner, his role filmed not long after he was imprisoned himself on an unproven allegation of rape. The series has recently been released on DVD, and is a definite must for Linda La Plante fans. From an author who has given us some of TV's most powerful female leading characters, here she delivers Helen Hewitt, a woman more than capable of standing alongside some of La Plante's most formidable creations in a thought provoking and challenging drama.
GRANGE HILL (1978)
British drama series for teenagers concerning the students at a modern-day secondary school. Click Here for review
Popular fortnightly series resurrecting stage melodramas of the 19th century such as East Lynne and The Poor of New York. Hattie Jacques appeared in all seven episodes and her (then) husband John Le Mesurier also appeared. Peter Tuddenham who provided the voices of Zen and Orac on Blakes 7 made his small-screen debut and celebrated playwright Alun Owen had a bit part in one episode. The Granville Theatre in Fulham had previously seen performances by Victorian music hall stars the likes of Marie Lloyd, George Robey and Little Tich, but in recent years it had had its ups and downs. Bernard Delfont purchased the theatre in 1947 in the hope of a resurgence, after the war, of variety theatre. But it hadn't really happened. In 1955 Associated-Rediffusion acquired it as the first operational Independent Television studio. According to author Andy Merrimen in his book Hattie - The Authorised Biography of Hattie Jacques "The conversion of the Granville Theatre for use as a television studio was rather primitive, and apparently the stalls floor retained its incline, creating much difficulty for the technicians, who, on occasions would lose control of their cameras!" The Granville Theatre enjoyed 15 years of broadcasting and Opportunity Knocks was also broadcast from there. The theatre was demolished in 1971.
Created for the radio in 1936 by 'Lone Ranger' inventor George W. Trendle and writer Fran Striker, the Green Hornet aka Britt Reid was originally introduced as the son of Dan Reid, the masked man's nephew. The televised stories were brought up to date with Reid (Van Williams) as the owner of both a newspaper, The Daily Sentinel, and a TV station. His identity was known only to his faithful servant, Kato, his secretary, Casey (Wende Wagner) and District Attorney Scanlon (Walter Brooke). Lloyd Gough added a little light relief by starring as Mike Axford a Hornet hating reporter who was determined to prove that the hero was only out to line his own pocket. The TV series arrived in 1966, hot on the heels of Batman and was made by the same production company with William Dozier as Executive Producer. But there the similarity with the caped crusader series ended, for the Green Hornet fought organised crime and not the bizarre comic-strip style villains of Gotham City. He did however have his gimmicks such as a non-lethal gas gun and a sting gun, which was capable of penetrating steel. His most impressive piece of hardware though was Black Beauty, a 1966 Chrysler Imperial that was customised by Hollywood conversion wizard Dean Jeffries to the tune of $50,000. The car's new features included a remote control spy camera with a four-mile range, and an adapted exhaust that emitted ice from its pipe in order to foil attackers. The series failed to capture the imagination of the public in the same way that Batman did and was placed in an infamous Friday night broadcast slot where very little had succeeded before. As a consequence it only lasted the one season. It did however, introduce Lee Jun Fan, a young martial arts expert (as Kato) who would go on to become one of the cult figures of the big screen in the 1970's. You'll remember him as Bruce Lee.
THE GROVE FAMILY (1954)
Domestic soap opera - the first to be screened in the UK. Click Here for review
Alex, Penny, Robin and Naomi come home from school one day to find their predictable secure pattern of life completely changed. For the first time they have to think for, and look after themselves. Their adventures start on a plane to Ireland to meet "mad" Aunt Dymphna. Presented under the Heydey Theatre banner (Sunday's 6.15) The Growing Summer was based on a book written by Noel Streatfeild who wondered what would happen to a group of children if they were transported into an entirely different environment. Given the basic idea, plus the central character inspired by an eccentric old cousin, Miss Streatfeild was away with a story which Eric (Magic Roundabout) Thompson turned into a play. "It was a magical experience," said Wendy Hiller, who played the part of Great Aunt Dymphna. Talking for a TV Times interview in 1968 Hiller said "We went to south-west Ireland, to the country where Noel Streatfeild set her story about four children who spend a summer with their great aunt. "Sometimes I think it is a pity we did not make a film about the filming. For example, as great-aunt Dymphna I was supposed to drive a battered old open car. I am a very bad driver, which meant all the children used to sit in the back and tell me when to change gear. It must have been alarming for the tourists when they saw this wild old lady careering along with a load of children, and even more alarming when that same old lady leaned out and bellowed: 'Out of my way, road hog!' They weren't to know that was in the script." The children were played by Hoagy Davies (13), Zuleika Robson (12), Mark Ward (10) and Laura Hartong (9).
THE GUARDIANS (1971)
Following a period of industrial unrest, democracy has been swept away - law and order have been restored under a new regime. Click Here for review
The longest running Western series on television (originally transmitted in the UK as Gun Law), starring James Arness, (brother of Peter Mission Impossible Graves), as US Marshall Matt Dillon. John Wayne was the first choice of lead actor, and although he turned down the part he did introduce the first episode. Set in Dodge City in 1873, the other principal characters were Miss Kitty (Amanda Blake), Doc Adams (Milburn Stone) and limping deputy Chester (Dennis Weaver, later to star as TV detective McCloud). Burt Reynolds appeared for a while as blacksmith Quint Asper and when Chester left in 1964 he was replaced by Festus Hagen (Ken Curtis). Arness wore the Marshall's badge until he finally rode off into the sunset at the end of the second of two TV movies; -Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge and Gunsmoke: The Last Apache- made in the late 1980's.