Based on the more serious Billy Wilder film Stalag 17, Hogans Heroes featured the goings on at a prisoner-of-war camp run by the inept Colonel "no one ever escapes from Stalag 13" Klink (Werner Klemperer) and his overweight, chocolate loving Sgt Hans "I know nothing" Schultz (John Banner). But in reality it was the prisoners, led by the dashing Colonel Robert Hogan (Bob Crane), who really ran things here, ably supported by French chef Louis LeBeau (Robert Clary, who had actually been imprisoned by the German's as a child), Sgt Carter (Larry Hovis), Corporal Andrew Klinchoe (Ivan Dixon), and Cockney inmate Corporal Peter Newkirk (Richard Dawson, who went on to host the popular US game show Family Feud), Hogan used the camp as a base for resistance activities that included passing on intelligence information, the printing of counterfeit money and helping others to escape. The series actually courted a lot of criticism for it's flippant portrayal of the war from people who had been forced to fight between 1939 and 1945-for them 20 years passage of time wasn't long enough to begin to treat such a serious matter with such disregard and frivolity, and making the German's the butt of the joke by having them appear as buffoons trivialized the evil of the Nazis and the war. However, like the British sitcom 'Allo, 'Allo many years later, which was set in occupied France, the audience made the series a huge hit. Hogan's Heroes ran for six years until 1971 but made front-page news again in 1978, when its leading actor was found beaten to death in his Arizona home.
Generation-gap comedy about 18 year old Matthew Willows who, seven years after his parents divorce, turns up on his father Henry's doorstep and announces his intention to live with him. Matthew claims that he can no longer live with his mother because he doesn't get on with her new boyfriend. The truth of the matter is that mum, Sue, threw the youngster out because he was displaying all the annoying traits that his father displayed during their marriage. Writer Eric Chappell, whose pen produced the classic Rising Damp, once again turned in four series of sparkling scripts aided and abetted by some fine acting by the main protagonists, Reece Dinsdale as Matthew and the ever excellent and sadly missed John Thaw as Henry. The two men are constantly at loggerheads, being birds of a feather whose personalities often clash head on. There were occasional visits from other members of the Willows family, and Thaw's real-life wife, Sheila Hancock, turned up in one episode as his on-screen ex, but mainly it was down to father and son to provide the laughs. The series transferred to the USA as You Again? With Jack (The Odd Couple, Quincy) Klugman in the John Thaw role. The series was not only remarkably faithful to its British counterpart but also starred Elizabeth Bennett as Henry's housekeeper, Enid Tompkins, the same role she'd played in the original (except her surname was Thompson) -the only time an actor had played the same role in different versions of the same sitcom on both sides of the Atlantic. You Again?, made by NBC ran for 26 episodes (just three less than Home To Roost) but wasn't seen until ten years later in the UK in a C5 late night slot.
Based on a well-regarded book by David Simon, this police procedural centered on the work of homicide detectives in Baltimore, Maryland. It was praised for its gritty feel and stellar ensemble cast, but was never a front-line hit. A loyal but relatively small audience kept the series going, as did critical acclaim. Homicide: Life on the Street was produced by film director Barry Levinson, who saw the series more suited to television than a movie. Levinson approached screenwriter Paul Attanasio, who developed the book and characters for TV and gave the series a dark, downbeat feel. A core group of detectives became as the focus of the stories, with several storylines in each episode. The initial cast included Detectives Stanley Bolander (Ned Beatty), John Munch (Richard Belzer), Beau Felton (Daniel Baldwin), Kay Howard (Melissa Leo), Meldrick Lewis (Clark Johnson), Frank Pembleton (Andre Braugher) and Tim Bayliss (Kyle Secor). Leading the group was Lieutenant Al Giardello (Yaphet Kotto). Each character was clearly defined with strengths and weaknesses, professional concerns and personal problems. There were few shootouts or car chases on Homicide; the stories about the various cases and the relationships of the detectives held each episode together. The squad room's dry eraser board with listed cases (red for those still open, black for closed cases) was a running feature of the show. But like many out-of-the-norm programmes, Homicide didn't attract much of an audience after its early 1993 debut. NBC stuck by the series, even though fewer episodes were ordered per season than most other shows, they were generally slotted in tough time periods. But the network continued to press for changes to attract more viewers, including more scenes with romance and violence. (Homicide also featured several crossover episodes with another NBC crime drama, Law & Order.)
Over the show's seven seasons, a number of actors came and went and there was a long list of guest stars, including Robin Williams, Lilly Tomlin, and many others who seldom worked on television. Perhaps the best-known regular cast member was the intense Pembleton, whose questioning of suspects helped Andre Braugher win an Emmy for best acting in a drama. Belzer's quirky Munch character moved to Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and other shows after Homicide's demise. In an unusual move, Homicide: Life on the Street aired a two-hour television movie in May 1999, wrapping up the show's loose ends. David Simon would soon after create a critically-acclaimed series for HBO, The Wire, which took an even harsher look at the city of Baltimore beyond the police department. That doesn't take away from the merits of Homicide: Life on the Street probably one of America's best cop dramas of the 1990's. (Mike Spadoni).
Described as televisions most beautiful private eye, Honey West was arguably the first female TV PI, who had inherited both the family detective business and partner Sam Bolt (John Ericson) from her late father. On the wave of the James Bond gadgetry fad, Honey came equipped with a fountain pen capable of spraying tear gas, a lipstick radio transmitter, a powder compact that was really a walkie-talkie, and to round off this ensemble of aids, a vicious looking pet ocelot! The lead role had gone to attractive New York born model turned actress Anne Francis, who had first appeared before television audiences in 1949 as 'Bonny Maid', for commercials for floor coverings in the series 'Versatile Varieties'. At the age of seven Anne was already a radio star, and later went on to the M.G.M. studio school with the likes of Liz Taylor and Jane Powell. But it wasn't until she played Honey West in an episode of Burke's Law that Anne found true TV fame. A full series of Honey West was commissioned by ABC, and even though Anne won the 1965 Golden Globe Award as the most popular television actress, the series never returned for a second run. Anne Francis returned in a variety of TV roles down the years, most notably as Terri Dowling in My Three Sons (1971-72) and as Arliss Cooper in Dallas (1981) and continued acting with TV roles up to 1996. In 1965 she said, "So long as I function, so long as the next day is a mystery, so long as life's up there ahead like an open road with no guideposts, I'll be fine."
One of the USA's most fondly remembered shows which began life as short sketches on DuMont's Cavalcade of Stars with Jackie Gleason appearing as abrasive NY bus driver Ralph Kramden and Pert Kelton as his wife Alice. The characters also featured in The Jackie Gleason Show before becoming a twenty-five minute sitcom that is still seen in re-runs over fifty years on. Going out live with little rehearsal (apparently Gleason preferred it that way), and surrounded by painted cardboard sets with the only apartment doors in the world that opened outwards, the series took place almost entirely within the confines of those four walls at 328 Chauncey Street, Brooklyn, NY. Although Ralph and Alice (now played by Audrey Meadows) were always at loggerheads with each other, every show finished with them kissing and making up. Upstairs lived their neighbours and Ralph's best friend, sewer cleaner Ed Norton (Art Carney), and his wife Trixie. The series focused on the frustrations of the working classes as depicted through the characters as they tried desperately to maintain a modest standard of living on the little money they had, and as a result it became an instant hit in the USA. The Buick Motor Company backed it to the tune of $6 million, which at that time was the largest sponsorship deal in television history.
The series ran from 1949 to 1954 and was revived in 1966 for part of Gleason's variety specials, then in the 1980's a collection of the original skits from 'Dumont's' and The Jackie Gleason Show were discovered in the basement of Gleason's home and were edited together to create a new series of half hour shows. The ultimate tribute to the show, however, was Hanna-Barbera's cartoon series The Flinstones, which unashamedly copied the characters and situations and placed them in a prehistoric setting. Inexplicably, The Honeymooners never really made much impact in the UK receiving only two airings in 1958 (ITV) and 1987 (BBC2). Gleason (real name Herbert John Gleason), who had first come to the attention of the TV watching public in a 1949 show called Life of Riley, passed away in 1987 after a long illness. Although very much of its time The Honeymooners boasted top class performances by an expert cast entirely at ease with their characters. Brashly funny and innocent in the way so beloved of US sitcoms of the day. Nevertheless beneath the laughter lay a solid core of perceptively disguised social comments which raised the show above the normal level of simple knockabout fun.
Mild mannered janitor Penry Pooch works at police headquarters in offices nearby Sergeant Flint and switchboard operator Rosemary. This comes in very handy because whenever Rosemary takes a crime report, Penry can jump into action. Well, he actually jumps into a filing cabinet - but this is where he changes into his alter-ego of crime-busting hero Hong Kong Phooey. Penry has learned his martial arts through a correspondence course and keeps his instruction book, "The Hong Kong School of Kung Foo" with him at all times. Phooey gets into his Phooeymobile and uses the "bong of the gong" to turn it into whatever sort of transportation best suits the current situation. He is also assisted by Spot, the station's striped cat, but the "Sarge" and Rosemary are not privvy to his true identity. Phooey was voiced by Scatman Crothers, who was also the voice of Scat Cat in Disney's 'The Aristocats.' Sergeant Flint was voiced by Joe E. Ross, best known as Rupert Ritzik comic foil to Ernie Bilko in The Phil Silvers Show in the 1950s and Officer Gunther Toody in the 1960s series Car 54, Where Are You?. As Flint, Ross revived Toody's famous "Oooh! Oooh!" exclamation.
As originally created by author Clarence E. Mulford, Bill 'Hopalong' Cassidy, the star of twenty-eight pulp fiction novels, was a rude, hard-living, tough-talking, wrangler of the old Wild West who got his nickname after being shot in the leg. On screen he was an entirely different character. Reserved and well spoken, with a fine sense of fair play who did not smoke, drink or swear and who always let the bad guy start the fight. The drink of his choice was the nonalcoholic sarsaparilla. In 1935, actor William Boyd was offered the supporting role of Red Connors in the movie Hop-Along Cassidy, but boldly asked for the title role which he was given. The film series eventually ended in 1947 after 66 films, with Boyd producing the last 12. Anticipating television's rise, Boyd had the prescience of mind to purchase the rights to the Hopalong Cassidy character, books and films. They didn't come cheap-but his $350,000 investment was paid back handsomely. In 1949, he released the low-budget films to television, and the first network Western television series became a sensation almost immediately. The following year alone, Boyd earned an estimated $800,000 from the telecasts, merchandise and endorsements. More than 100 companies sold Hopalong Cassidy products, including children's dinnerware, pillows, roller skates, soap, wristwatches, and jackknives. Hopalong Cassidy was also featured on the first child's lunchbox to bear a commercial image. The success of the show and tie-ins inspired several juvenile TV Westerns, including The Gene Autry Show and The Roy Rogers Show. With all the movies finally released to television original made-for-TV episodes were filmed from 1952 to 1954. Hoppy was still owner of the Bar 20 Ranch and his sidekick, Red Connors, was the perfect foil for Cassidy, who, unlike most cowboys heroes, dressed all in black and, with snow-white hair, cut quite a figure atop his horse Topper. On June 7, 2011, Timeless Media Group released Hopalong Cassidy: The Complete Television Series on DVD in Region 1. The 6-disc set features all 52 episodes of the series restored and remastered.
THE HOUR (2011)
BBC drama series centred on a new current-affairs show being launched by the BBC in June 1956, at the time of the Hungarian Revolution and Suez Crisis. Click Here for review
BBC's lavish drama set in the world of haute couture in the 1920s may have seemed reminiscent of ITV's earlier Edwardian period piece, Upstairs Downstairs - and with good reason. Both series were created by Eileen Atkins and Jean Marsh who were joined here with the creative forces behind such programmes as A Very Peculiar Practice and Tenko. What the BBC ended up with was one of their flagship drama series of the early 1990s and a BAFTA Award winner. In the 1920s sisters Beatrice (Stella Gonet) and Evangeline Eliott (Louise Lombard) are left virtually penniless when their father, a compulsive gambler, dies. With no means of support thirty-year old Bea takes a job with photographer Jack Maddox (Aden Gillett) while Evie becomes an apprentice dressmaker. Jack and his sister Penelope (Francesca Folan) become friends of the sisters and, when their skills as fashion designers are discovered, Jack provides them with the funds to open their own London based dressmaking business "The House of Eliott". Through their relationship with Penelope, the sisters meet the seamstress Tilly Watkins (Cathy Murphy) whom they employ. Their battle to survive in a competitive market is hampered by an unscrupulous banker, Ralph Saroyan (Michael Culver) executor of their father's estate, and Evie's legal guardian, who keeps a rightful inheritance from the girls.
Added to the sisters' financial struggles is the fight to overcome the social prejudices of a decade when things were changing fast for women in the face of male resistance to female emancipation. "Although she's become an emancipated woman of the 20s" said actress Stella Gonet at the time, "Beatrice would have had a strict Edwardian upbringing, so when she bobbed her hair and shortened her skirts, she was making a very definite statement - whereas Evie, being twelve years younger, took all the changes for granted." The outside scenes for The House of Eliott were shot in Bristol, which was more easily transformed into 1920s London than anywhere in the capital itself could have been. "What you see on screen is as close to 20s London as possible," said producer Jeremy Gwilt. "We go to enormous lengths to achieve that." The exterior of The House of Eliott's design studio was in Bristol's Berkeley Square, where most of the houses are Georgian or Edwardian. The only place in London that would have suited architecturally would have been Chelsea, but it would have proved impossible to find space for the production's huge make-up and catering trailers. It took the BBC three hours to send Berkeley Square back in time, 'antiquing' lamposts, laying 'cobblestone' mats, painting out yellow parking restriction lines and disguising parking meters with fibreglass posts made to look like cast iron. Once done, more period atmosphere was added by bringing in newspaper boys, flower sellers, horse and carriages and vintage cars. The crew were only allowed to film in Berkeley Square on a Sunday.
The first series of The House of Eliott was budgeted at 6 million pounds. Throughout its three-year run audience figures were consistently over 10 million. During and after the second series, the Victoria and Albert museum in London exhibited Joan Wadge's BAFTA Award-winning designs from the first series, alongside its permanent exhibition of 20s couture garments. For the second series James Keast took over as costume designer basing Beatrice's wardrobe on designs by Coco Chanel and explained that Evie's younger and artier look was inspired by the painter Sonia Delauney. French and Saunders lampooned the series in a hilarious sketch called The House of Idiot for their 1993 series. Louise Lombard, Stella Gonet and Cathy Murphy all appeared at the end of the sketch claiming to be the real Bea, Evie and Tilly. The House of Eliott is believed to be the last major BBC drama series to be shot at BBC Television Centre. With the programme still getting respectable audiences there was no indication that series three would be the last, even the writers were not warned of this, and as a consequence fans of the series were left dismayed that it ended without a firm conclusion to the storyline.
How do you get a ship in a bottle? How did a medieval knight, laden with armour, mount his horse? How do non-stick saucepans stay non-stick? If you were a child in the 1960s you would know the answers to all these and many more of life's mysteries, thanks -initially- to the team of Fred Dinenage, Bunty James, Jon Miller and Jack Hargreaves: The presenters of Southern Independent Television Network's hugely entertaining and informative series, aptly titled 'How!'
The trick with 'How!' was not that it merely told you how all these things were possible, its presenters actually demonstrated how they were possible-and while some of the presenters were experts in particular areas of art, science, nature and technology, it was plainly obvious that others were not. This added to the fun and expectation of the audience because the series went out live so if a demonstration went wrong there were no re-takes: So when Fred Dinenage posed the question "How do you throw a pot?" and then attempted to demonstrate the art of putting a slab of wet clay on a potters spinning wheel and then tried to make a pot with it, the results were hilarious. Dinenage not only managed to cover most of himself in wet clay, but most of the studio as well, while his co-presenters fell about in fits of laughter. Even the experts were prone to making mistakes - the most memorable being the time Jack Hargreaves absent mindedly put his lit pipe into his pocket, only to be interupted half way through his demonstration by smoke billowing out of his now flaming jacket! Well - it was a smoking jacket! In spite of the fun, a lot of thought had to go into the making of the programme as well as much debate. The 1968 Guide to Independent Television didn't shy away from the point:
"There are no easy answers for the producers of children's programmes. That very popular programme How does some experiments with fire. There is a very reasonable line of argument which says:- 'Children should not be shown experiments with fire except under strict laboratory conditions; some misguided child will try to repeat it and hurt himself.'"
(One assumes from this that girls didn't go in for this sort of thing). The article then counters this with: "There is an equally reasonable argument which says:- 'Children are fascinated with fire, and want to find out about it. They will experiment come what may. It is far better to show children some of the things they can safely do, and warn them against things it is not safe to do, than leave them in dangerous ignorance.'"
(Like - if you really have to smoke don't put a lit pipe in your pocket!). The article concludes: "It is problems like this that make the work of children's programmes producers and performers both exciting and wearing. In the last resort, adults can look out for themselves, and make their own judgements: but children must be protected (not overprotected). Children love finding out; they love doing things for themselves."
In spite of the ITA's concerns we didn't grow up a nation of arsonists and 'How!' enjoyed 15 years in the late afternoon slot on ITV. When Bunty James left she was replaced by Jill Graham, and later Marian Davies was the female presenter, before the series disappeared due to Southern's loss of franchise. But you can't keep a good show down, and nine years later the format was revived as 'How 2' (by TVS). The concept remained the same, as did returning presenter Fred Dinenage. He was joined by Gareth Jones and Carol Vorderman, with Sian Lloyd, Gail Porter and Gail McKenna following as the years rolled by - until 2006 when the show finally came off the air. It's a pity the independent channel doesn't make programmes like this any more. Perhaps we should all write in and ask "How do you make a decent children's programme?" because sadly, ITV seem to have forgotten.
Possibly one of the most underrated and important shows in the history of BBC comedy, How Do You View starred the famous gap-toothed comedian Terry-Thomas in a series of skits and sketches interspersed with musical items and celebrity guest stars. The format it laid down between 1949 and 1952 became the template of such shows for years to come. In his book The Complete Terry-Thomas author Robert Ross wrote "Long before the Monty Python gang twisted television comedy into new shapes, and even before such ground-breaking telly comics such as Michael Bentine and Benny Hill, it was Terry-Thomas who was using the fledgling medium to reflect on and reassess itself. Instinctively knowing that the best place to parody television was on television itself."
Terry-Thomas had already made a name for himself in the West End review Piccadilly Hayride when the BBC tried to sign him in 1946 for the princely sum of £12/12s for just a five minute turn in Technical Hitch - a programme broadcast live from Alexandra Palace - but he had turned them down. When he finally agreed to appear on television (in 1947 for the much more respectable fee of 30 guineas) he was an instant success. Two more successful appearances convinced light entertainment producer Michael Mills that the comedian should be signed for his own series - but there was opposition from within the BBC, not least from Cecil Madden (Assistant Programme Controller) who thought that on each occasion all Terry had done was "substantially the same act." Nonetheless, a series was commissioned and Terry set about researching the format that he thought would bring him success. This research involved him scanning the pages of the popular press to gauge public likes and dislikes, watching other television programmes and talking to members of the public. He then single-handedly wrote the first series. The show opened with Terry facing the camera, close-up with a broad smile, and saying "How do you view? Are you frightfully well? You are? Oh, good show!" The camera would then sweep past the gap in his teeth and into the darkness of Terry-Thomas himself. The shows consisted of cod interviews, wacky parodies and bizarre characters often utilising techniques that were totally new, and quite daring for live television, including a sketch where he played a headless Sir Walter Raleigh playing bowls.
The series was an instant success with the public and Terry-Thomas became a huge star. The supporting cast often appeared in recurring roles, Peter Butterworth playing his chauffeur, Lockitt (pictured), a mere status symbol because Terry couldn't afford to own a car! This further helped establish the character that the public came to know; the roguish toff, frightfully superior, a bit of a penny-pinching bounder with an old boy's network cheek - but mainly all front and no substance. Other's in the cast included Avril Angers, Benny Lee and Janet Brown (wife of Peter Butterworth). Leslie Mitchell, the first television announcer in the world, was employed to interview Terry in many of his guises. It was the first time that a 'respectable' BBC presenter was used as a comedic 'straight man', but by no means the last. (Morecambe and Wise used it to great comedic effect in many of their shows in the 1970s and 80s). Terry-Thomas shared the writing on later series, Sid Colin contributing from series 2 and Talbot Rothwell from series 3. The series finished in 1952 but a final 'special' was made in 1953. Around the same time that the show started the BBC conducted its first Audience Appreciation Survey, designed to reflect the viewing habits of the nation. How Do You View? picked up an amazing 71 per cent of audience approval. According to Robert Ross: "Pioneering in the extreme, from its very first broadcast How Do You View? had broken television records and small-screen boundaries." This was the show that "pretty much kick-started television comedy."
Fresh from a triumphant tour of the Far East, Frankie Howerd returned home and was offered his TV debut in a series called The Howerd Crowd, which aired on 11th January 1952. The series of three shows was written by Eric Sykes and produced by Bill Lyon-Shaw and also starred the Beverley Sisters. The BBC at this time had still not found a successful format for TV comedy and when Frankie insisted on trying out new ideas, including the provision of his own cameraman who was instructed to keep track of Frankie throughout the show, they were more than happy to accommodate him. The first show was greeted very warmly by the critics even though it didn't meet with the stars approval: "I looked like a pasty faced village idiot who needed a set of false teeth", Frankie noted of that first TV performance. Later still, in his autobiography, he became even more dismissive of the show when he stated, "all I remember of it was that it contained a sketch poking fun at the trendy TV cooks of the day." (It's comforting to know that television has since 'moved on.') But village idiot or not Cecil McGivern, the Controller of TV Programmes sent a letter to Head of Light Entertainment, Ronnie Waldman, to note that: "Frankie Howerd is a natural for television." Indeed, Frankie became a familiar face on TV throughout the 1950's with numerous specials written by Sykes, Spike Milligan and Johnny Speight. The three 60 minute shows broadcast in the first 'series' were shown monthly from January to March 1952, two more shows went out under the same title in 1955 (co-starring Ernest Maxin) and a one-off special in 1957 was made for the BBC's rival ATV network -Frankie's first show for commercial television.
Hugely popular long-running comedy series starring former stage partners Hugh Lloyd and Terry Scott as a type of modern day Laurel and Hardy double-act, forever finding themselves in hot water and situations that tested their friendship to the limits. At his mother's house at 33 Lobelia Avenue, Tooting, Scott was the overbearing work-shy bachelor who aspired to wealth in a number of 'get-rich-quick' schemes. Lloyd was the rather dim-witted, hapless lodger who worked at a local aircraft factory and who was easily led from one misadventure to another by his boisterous partner. By the end of the fifth series both Lloyd and Scott decided to call it a day, but after some persuasion by the BBC they returned for another series but with a different setting. After Lloyd won 5000 pounds on the Premium Bonds the pair left behind Terry's mum (Vi Stevens) and two sets of nosey neighbours (the Crispins and the Wormwolds) to go on a world cruise. The pair teamed up one more time after this in a parody of a US adventure series in 1968 -Hugh and I Spy.
Dr Roger Corder, M.D., D.P.M., Harley Street psychiatrist and consultant psychiatrist to St. Damien's Hospital was a television character that became so real to viewers between 1963 and 1965, that hundred's of letters were received by the studio each week, asking for his help. Corder, a widower in his late forties, (his wife having died in a plane crash), was left to bring up their teenage daughter Jennifer (Sally Smith). He was a wealthy man whose father had been a Swiss brain specialist, his mother a concert violinist, and although he had the perfect connections to work on the neuroses of the rich, he chose instead to devote his time to help people with real problems. During his working week he would help mothers who couldn't cope with their children, fathers who had run away from their homes and their responsibilities, young people fighting against authority and those who, having lost all self-respect, had also lost the will to live. Support for the good doctor came from junior colleague Dr Jimmy Davis (Michael Johnson) and his secretary Nancy Hamilton (Mary Yeomans). The starring role in this dramatic series went to Herbert Lom, later to become famous as Inspector Clouseau's boss (and arch nemesis), Chief Inspector Dreyfus, in the Pink Panther film series. Lom was born in Prague in 1917 and had been a star of the cinema long before the role of Dr Corder came his way. It was his first television role, but one that he accepted readily as the subject matter interested him greatly. "When I played my first psychiatrist (in The Seventh Veil) I was deeply interested in the subject because I had a friend who had recently undertaken such treatment. But I've always had a latent feeling for the mysteries of the subconscious. I even got a doctor friend to teach me how to hypnotise myself. I felt this would help me learn my parts much faster!"
A team of con-merchants (known as grifters) steal from the greedy. "The con is on." Click Here for review