Reviews

THE LIFE AND LEGEND OF WYATT EARP (1955)

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Show ImageConsistently good Western Series starring Hugh O'Brian and based on Stuart N. Lake's 1931 biography of the famous US Marshal, whose trademark was a pair of "Buntline Special" pistols with extra-long barrels with which he kept the peace. Author and playwright Frederick Hazlitt Brennan wrote the scripts from the first episode which began in 1955 with a story entitled "Mr. Earp Becomes a Marshal", in which Wyatt's friend, Marshal Whitney of Ellsworth, Kansas, was killed by a gunman. Wyatt accepted his badge and avenged his death. The stories continued in the same historical vein and Earp came up against real-life figures such as John Wesley Hardin and the Thompson brothers before moving to Dodge City to become Marshal there. (Except on Saturday nights one assumes, as according to Gun Law the Marshal there was Matt Dillon). A young Bat Masterson (Mason Alan Dinehart lll) became his deputy for a while before becoming a county sheriff in his own right and being spun off into his own series (starring Gene Burke's Law Barry in the lead role). The 1957-58 season saw the introduction of another colourful real-life character, the notorious physician turned gambler, Doc Holliday (Douglas Fowley and later Myron Healey). Earp's brothers Virgil (John Anderson) and Morgan (Dirk London) turned up in occasional episodes. In the 1959-60 season Earp moved yet again, this time to Tombstone, Arizona, a town run by Old Man Clanton and the "Ten Percent Gang". The final showdown, also based on fact, came at the end of the final season in the form of a five-part story in which Earp discovered that the Clanton gang was using the O.K. Coral as a centre for their illegal activities. Although Earp tried to prevent bloodshed events moved rapidly to a conclusion, which culminated in a shootout between the Marshal, his brothers, Doc Holliday and the Clanton Gang in the famous "Gunfight at the OK Corral". Perhaps unfairly forgotten these days, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp was a superior Western series.

LIFE ON MARS (2006)

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Police officer is seriously injured in a traffic accident then catapulted back in time - or so it seems. Click Here for review

LIFT OFF / LIFT OFF WITH AYSHEA (1969)

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Show ImageLift Off was spun off from the short-lived 20-minute Granada series Discotheque, which began in January 1969, hosted by Billy J. Kramer, the Remo and the Four Spots. On the March 19 edition 21-year old Ayshea Brough a former Ballet, Music, Drama and Dance student who was originally signed to the record company, Phillips Fontana, made her debut. Ayshea proved to be an instant hit with the young audience and was already making headlines and picture features in the TV Times by April. The last edition of Discotheque was broadcast at 4.55pm on April 16 and starred Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich. Lift Off launched on November 5 1969, Kramer being replaced as co-host by Graham Bonney who sang to the backing of resident group, The Pattern and adding their own interpretations of contemporary numbers were The Ken Martyne Dancers (later known as The Feet). Each week Lift Off featured popular recording artists and newcomers to the scene. Although the series failed to regularly attract the big headliners recording stars such as Jimmy Cliff, P.P. Arnold and Ray Davies stopped by in the first season.

Season Two started on 7th October 1970 with news that series producer Muriel Young was kicking the series off with a weekly "discovery" spot for teenagers. The wannabe pop stars, solo performers or pop groups had to be over 16 years and not tied into a recording contract. The age limit was intentional so the series would not clash with Granada's inter-regional talent series, Anything You Can Do. Muriel Young also introduced Ollie Beak to the series. The puppet character, who had previously appeared on The Five O'Clock Club where Young was a presenter, voiced by Wally Whyton, would interrupt interviews with his own brand of humour. Graham Bonney disappeared from the series after a few episodes leaving Ayshea to present it on her own. When the programme returned for a fourth season in 1972 it was renamed to reflect the popularity of its star presenter. Lift Off With Ayshea continued until 1974. The final show was the Christmas edition on 17 December - Showaddywaddy sung their big hit of that year, Hey Mr Christmas. Only a few shows are believed to have survived in the archives. Ayshea would regularly turn up on TV celebrity shows such as The Golden Shot and Celebrity Squares, and also made several acting guest appearances on Jason King and had a recurring role on Gerry Anderson's U.F.O. series. She later moved to Los Angeles and appeared in the movies Demolition Man and Gotcha. Married to CBS President, Michael I Levy, Beverley Hills became her permanent home.

THE LIKELY LADS / WHATEVER HAPPENED TO... (1964)

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Show ImageWhen builder's clerk Fred Robinson heard that his local Boy Scout group needed a script for a play, he offered to write one for them. Ten years later the nucleus of that script would be transformed into a comedy series that was described by Peter Black, the then TV critic of the Daily Mail, as "The best domestic situation comedy series created by British TV."

"I was helping out at a boys club in Harringey, North London," explained Robinson. "There was talk of starting an amateur dramatics group, but the problem was that they couldn't afford to pay royalties on published works. So I said, rather shyly, "I've got a play" and that's how the Larkins were born." Robinson returned to his house in Clapton, East London, where he was born, and worked out situations around a domineering wife, her hen-pecked, but shrewd husband, and their children. Later, when he was married and had a family of his own, he found it necessary to play the piano in his local pub in order to help out with the housekeeping. "All the characters in 'The Larkins' were based on people I'd seen in my local," he explained. Finally, Robinson worked up the courage to submit a script for a play, a comedy thriller entitled 'You, Too, Can Have a Body.' The play was produced and toured the country for a while, eventually finding a home at the Victoria Palace Theatre in London.

Robinson's next step was to submit The Larkins to the then Associated Television Productions Controller, Bill Ward. "It was the funniest script I have ever read or produced," said Ward in 1960. For casting, the production team turned to two well-established actors, Peggy Mount and David Kossoff. Mount had been a comparatively unknown repertory actress when she tried out for a play called 'Sailor, Beware' at the Connaught Theatre, Worthing. The play was so well received that it moved to the Strand Theatre, London. The morning after the play opened in the capital, Peggy opened her morning papers to see the critics hailing her as a new star. That same night her name went up in lights above the title of the play, which then ran for three-and-a-half years. Kossoff had been known in television, films and theatre for years, and had won an Academy Award in Wolf Mankowitz's 1956 movie, 'The Bespoke Overcoat.' In spite of being born in the East End of London, and in part due to his Russian parentage, Kossoff had mainly played a number of foreign roles. This was his first chance to play a Cockney. Supporting roles in the Larkins family were played by Shaun O'Riordan, (who had previously appeared in another much loved ATV series, Emergency Ward Ten), as gormless son Eddie, Ronan O'Casey as American son-in-law, Jeff Rogers, an out-of-work writer of cowboy comics, and Ruth Trouncer as daughter, Joyce. O'Riordan went on to be a major drama and comedy producer with George and the Dragon (starring Peggy Mount, Sid James and John LeMesurier) and sci-fi show Sapphire and Steel among his credits.

Together, the Larkins family found themselves in a variety of comedic situations that proved so popular with the viewing public that a spin-off movie 'Inn For Trouble', which found the family running a country pub, was released in 1959. Although now something of a forgotten classic, the antics of Alf and Ada Larkins, their family and nosy next-door neighbours, the Prouts, was essential viewing for almost six years from 1958 to 1964. In many respects, it's now clear to see that the Larkins became the standard template for the plethora of family oriented sitcoms which followed in its trailblazing wake. Although now unfairly overlooked, The Larkins, due in no small measure to its winning combination of skilfully funny scripts, well realised characters and expert playing from a team of top notch performers, deserves rightful recognition as a true gem of the British sitcom genre. (Co-writer Stephen R Hulse)

LILLIE (1978)

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The life of a highly successful British actress born on the island of Jersey who had a number of prominent lovers, including the future King Edward VII. Click Here for review

A LITTLE BIG BUSINESS (1963)

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Show Image Between the fourth and fifth seasons of the hugely popular sitcom The Larkins, star David Kossoff took time off from being second fiddle as the put-upon husband, Alf Larkin, to make a pilot for a show written especially for him. Kossoff starred as a wise but stubborn furniture maker and master craftsman by the name of Marcus Lieberman. Having arrived in England some years before as a Latvian immigrant without so much as a penny in his pocket, Marcus was, with some justification, proud of the fact that he had built a thriving business for himself. However, when he introduced his educated and equally ambitious son Simon into the business, he was forced to modernize. Granada Television were impressed enough to order a full series although filming had to wait until Kossoff was free of his commitment to series five of The Larkins, which didn't finish until December 1963. With A Little Big Business running from February to April 1964, series six of The Larkins running from July to August and then 'ALBB' series two going out from January to March 1965, David Kossoff was seldom off our TV screens for almost a decade (The Larkins had debuted in 1958). For the series proper there were numerous cast changes from the pilot with most notably Francis Matthews (later TV's Paul Temple) taking over from James Maxwell in the role of Simon. Little Big Business (the 'A' was dropped for the last series) was a gentle generation-gap comedy full of Jewish humour and inspired by Kossoff's own experiences of working in the furniture trade prior to becoming an actor. camera

LITTLE BRITAIN (2003)

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Show Image Surreal, disturbing, crossing the boundary of good taste, Little Britain features some of the most grotesque characters ever seen on television. Combining a series of wickedly funny sketches observing life in modern Britain as seen through the eyes of Matt Lucas and David Walliams and linked together by Tom Baker's insightful and eloquent dialogue ("today's show is finishing early because I have to do a pooh now!"), the series was a triumph for BBC3, where it debuted on the digital station's opening night. And the characters that populated 'Little Britain' quickly reached cult status. The wheelchair-bound Andy, who can secretly walk without any problem but enjoys being pushed around and waited on by his caring and oblivious friend Lou; Sebastian Love, the effete personal secretary to the Prime Minister (Anthony Head), who has a huge crush on his boss; Vicky Pollard, Britain's most illiterate teenager who had a baby but "swopped it for a Westlife CD"; Daffyd, who is adamant - despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary - that in Llandewi Breffi he is 'the only gay in the village'; Marjorie Dawes, the ruthless leader of the Britannia Fat Fighters diet club; Jason, a teenager sexually obsessed with his mate Gary's octogenarian grandmother; Ray McCooney, the medieval fantasist who runs Ye Olde Hotele; Anne, clearly the most barking resident of the Steven Spielberg residential home for psychiatric patients; Emily Howard, the rubbish transvestite; and the teachers and pupils of Kelsey Grammar School in Flange.

The show pulls together many of the obsessions Lucas and Walliams had previously explored in other series and also has a touch of The League Of Gentlemen about it (indeed, the 'League's' Mark Gatiss was script editor for 'Britain'). Although some of the sketches featuring regular characters were at times seemed little repetitive, the show moved along at such a blistering pace that the audience didn't have time to get bored. And just when you think you've seen it all, that there is no blasphemy left untouched, the series will hit you with a jaw-dropping wallop, as in the sketch featuring a school secretary who is trying to describe to her colleague on the phone, the growth-stunted student who is seated at the opposite side of the desk to her; "You know...the one who buys his clothes from Mother Care. Yeah...that's right, the oompah loompah." Little Britain does what British comedy has always done best, it flies in the face of convention and delivers it's comedy with a stinging slap!

A second series of Little Britain aired on BBC3 in October 2004 introducing a number of new characters, the most popular of whom was Harvey, the twentysomething male who is still breast fed by his mother, and Bubbles, a female character who lives on a health farm and is played by Matt Lucas, who donned a bodysuit of grotesque proportions which helped the series collect a prize at the Royal Television Society's Craft and Design Awards in December 2004.

LITTLE GREY RABBIT (1950)

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Show ImageLittle Grey Rabbit was the creation of prolific British writer Alison Uttley (1884 - 1976) who wrote over 100 books the first of which were a series of tales about animals, including Little Grey Rabbit, The Little Red Fox, Sam Pig and Hare. The stories were adapted for television and told by Ann Hogarth and Jan Bussell with their glove puppets. First introduced on 8th September 1950 Little Grey Rabbit along with a number of other daytime programmes formed BBC's essential children's output originally titled For The Children but later the more famously remembered Watch With Mother. Little Grey Rabbit returned to the screens 50 years later courtesy of Cosgrove Hall Films as an animated series with Pauline Collins, Hugh Laurie and Andrew Sachs providing voices.

A LITTLE PRINCESS (1987)

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Show Image While staying in India with her wealthy father, Sara Crewe is struck with an illness and the only remedy is to move to a milder climate. So, Sarah's father sends her to England where she attends Miss Minchin's school for young ladies. For a time all is well, and the girl begins to make a full recovery whilst enjoying all the comforts that wealth brings. But tragedy strikes when her father dies leaving her penniless. Minchin puts Sara to work as a servant among the people who used to wait on her and she must find a way to cope with the humiliation. She does this by pretending to be a little princess. This was the fourth adaptation for television of Frances Hodgson Burnett's 1905 novel, A Little Princess: The Story of Sara Crewe. Born in 1849, Burnett was a prolific author of novels for adults but is best remembered for her work for children: in particular for the immensely popular Little Lord Fauntleroy (1886), and for The Secret Garden (1911). The first two TV presentations (BBC television 1951 and 1957) went out under the title Sarah Crewe, whilst the third and fourth (BBC 1973 and LWT 1987) as A Little Princess. This latter version boasted an all-star cast with Maureen Lipman as Miss Minchin, Miriam Margolyes as Miss Amelia and Nigel Havers as Carrisford. Amelia Shankley starred as Sara. Jeremy Burnham adapted the story for television and Carol Wiseman directed. The series was released on video in the UK but deleted in 1993 and in the USA as a 150-minute compilation.

THE LITTLE SHIP (1960)

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Show Image Six-part children's TV series with an educational theme set in Elizabethan London and written by schoolteacher Joy Thwaytes. The idea was to take its young audience inside the Globe Theatre while side-stepping any idea of documentary. "Shakespeare needn't be a bore" Thwaytes was quoted as saying in a TV Times article, "but it depends on how you treat him. I decided the best way was to let viewers see the Globe through the eyes of a boy who gets there by accident." The little ship of the title is a model made by Giles Kendall (Jimmy Ray) of his father's ship, The Pheonix. A shy country boy of 14, Giles is searching Southwark for his father or news of his ship when he meets Dr Pietro (Peter Collingwood), a self-proclaimed alchemist. Hoping to buy the model, the wily Pietro pretends he can find Giles' father. Outside in the street there is a sudden scuffle; Giles rushes out in time to help Sam Gilburne (Colin Wall), a 15-year old boy who has been set upon by two young ruffians - and that is the start of Giles' adventures. Sam, a boy actor, takes a liking to Giles and shows him round the Globe Theatre. There Giles finds both friends and enemies such as Richard Burbage (Nicholas Brady), the entire company and, of course, Shakespeare himself. The series was first broadcast on January 5th 1960 at 5.25pm.

THE LIVER BIRDS (1969)

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Show Image Developed from a 1969 Comedy Playhouse episode The Liver Birds (the female equivalent of The Likely Lads), originally featured the excellent and rather under appreciated Polly James as the perky Beryl Hennessey and Pauline Collins as the prim and prissy Dawn, sharing a pokey bedsit in Liverpool 8's (perhaps now better known as Toxteth) Huskisson Street. However, it became quickly apparent that the two female co-stars were not gelling and after just three episodes the BBC took the decision to remove the show from its schedule. It returned in 1971 sans the Collins character, and in her place was the naive and socially aspiring character of Sandra, as played by Nerys Hughes (who would later in the series have the considerable benefit of the incomparable Mollie Sugden's talents as her snobbish, middle-class mother). Although the name of Carla Lane is now most closely associated with the series she did not, in fact, create it on her own but with co-writers Myra Taylor and Lew Schwarz, and it wasn't until series four that Lane went solo with former 'Monty Python' Eric Idle brought in as script editor. As the series progressed so the two girls began to grow apart, Sandra began a steady relationship with Paul (future Bergerac star John Nettles) and finally, in 1974, (on the same day that Princess Anne got married), Beryl tied the knot with fiance Robert (Jonathan Lynn who would go on to co-create the excellent Yes, Minister) before leaving the series. Beryl's replacement was Carol Boswell (Elizabeth Estensen) whose loud voice was matched by her equally loud clothes and shock red hair.

Along with Carol came a whole new set of characters, including her morose, philosophical, rabbit loving brother, Lucien (Michael Angelis), and their gin-swilling mother, a character who proved to be the model (even down to the same surname) for Nellie Boswell in the later Lane created comedy Bread. The lively theme song by popular Liverpool group The Scaffold (who featured Mike McGear, Paul McCartney's brother), was indicative of youthful ambition, and by now The Liver Birds were adults. The series finally ended in 1978 after Sandra married her boss, Derek, and became pregnant, and Carol moved in as their lodger. We caught up with Beryl and Sandra again in 1996, but this new series only emphasised the fact that you can never fully recreate the joy of lost youth and this return visit was one strictly for the nostalgia fans. Whilst genuinely funny, The Liver Birds was very much a product of its time, and as so often proves the case, less than accurate in its depiction of the city in which it was set. Although to be fair, Lane was entirely successful in capturing the dry, wry, machine-gun blackness of the humour for which Liverpudlians are world-renowned. (Co-writer Stephen R Hulse)

LIZZIE DRIPPING (1972)

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Show Image BBC children's series set in the imaginary village of Little Hemlock about a mischievous 12 year-old girl, Penelope Arbuckle (played by future Blue Peter presenter Tina Heath), and her imaginary witch friend (Sonia Dresdel), who only Penelope (and the TV audience) could see. Penelope was the Lizzie Dripping of the title, the name being a provincial term in the Nottingham area for a plucky girl who has difficulty in telling the difference between fact and fiction. The character was created by Helen Cresswell for a single Jackanory Playhouse presentation entitled Lizzie Dripping and The Orphans in 1972 and commissioned as a full series the following year. Told entirely from the young girl's point of view with a narrative supplied by Heath for moments when Penelope was thinking (Hannah Gordon did the honours in the pilot). The series was filmed in the Nottinghamshire village of Eakring, where Cresswell lived at the time. Only eight episodes were made, the first four in 1973 and the other four two years later and in between there were three 'Lizzie Dripping' books all published in 1974.