Sitcom where the situation in question could have led the comedy down the corny nudge-nudge sexual innuendo road. Thanks to the skilful writing of series creators Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke this was (mostly) avoided and Man About The House became one of Thames TV's most successful comedy series of the 1970's. The series began with Chrissy and Jo throwing a farewell party for their flatmate and desperately in need of a replacement to help share the bills. The morning after the night before they discover a young catering student by the name of Robin Tripp, who, having fallen foul of the girls home made punch, wakes up in the bathtub with the mother of all hangovers. Once the girls discover that Robin is looking for somewhere to live and above all else -that he can cook, they offer him the vacant bedroom whilst at the same time warning him to keep out of theirs. But first there's the problem of the landlords, Mr and Mrs Roper. George Roper is petty minded, middle-aged and unemployed and would not tolerate any 'funny goings-on' under his roof (not even between his own wife and himself). So the girls concoct a story that Robin is gay and suitably mollified George agrees that Robin can stay, much to the delight of his frustrated wife, Mildred, who enjoys nothing more than a good flirt. The relationship between George (Brian Murphy) and Mildred (Yootha Joyce) became one of the highlights of the series and spawned a well-deserved and hugely successful George and Mildred spin-off series.
In the so-called permissive society there was very little permissiveness going on at 6 Myddleton Terrace, Earls Court and most of the comedic situations centred on other peoples misunderstandings of the girls and Robin's relationship, especially potential boyfriends, girlfriends or neighbours...although not Chrissy's mum who was assured of the girls safety now that they had "...a man about the house." The flat-sharing mates were well served by Mortimer and Cooke's snappy scripts and although it was obvious from the start that Robin (played by former Doctor In The House star Richard O'Sullivan) had a soft spot for Chrissy (Paula Wilcox who had previously starred alongside Richard Beckinsale in The Lovers) their relationship never went beyond that of a platonic kind. And Jo (Sally Thomsett who had co-starred in Lionel Jeffries 1970 movie 'The Railway Children'), seemed content in her own private world where logic took on a totally different meaning. Ultimately Robin lost out on Chrissy's affections to his own brother, Norman, in the last series of Man About The House but by this time the series creators were busily scripting two spin-offs.
The Roper's moved to a more up-market area (although George purposefully refused to leave behind his working class roots) in the aforementioned George and Mildred series and Robin opened up his own Bistro with new girlfriend Victoria (Tessa Wyatt) in the equally successful Robin's Nest. The format of all three shows was transferred across the Atlantic with equal aplomb in US series' Three's Company, The Ropers and Three's A Crowd. There was also a 1974 feature film Man About The House directed by John Robins with cameos from a host of British TV personalities including Arthur Lowe and Spike Milligan.
Trivia: Director Peter Frazer-Jones remembered the most bizarre thing that hapened whilst filming Man About The House, not in rehearsal but during the actual audience recording: "The episode required continual rainfall outside the flat, and so we had plumbers in to lay special pipes and drains in order to get rid of the water from the special effects.
"But the drains blocked, and the show was put on with everyone wading around in three inches of water!" The cameramen made sure that Richard O'Sulivan and co. were only shown from waist high throughout the whole programme! (Source Look-In Annual 1974).
Man at the Top takes up the continuing story of Joe Lampton, the aggressively ambitious anti-hero of John Braine's bestselling novel Room at the Top, its award-winning film adaptation of 1958, and 1965 sequel Life at the Top. Kenneth Haigh's portrayal of Joe Lampton earned him a BAFTA nomination, while accomplished film and stage actress Zena Walker is Joe's long-suffering wife, Susan. This intense, compelling drama series was created and co-written by John Braine, and George Markstein features among the producers. Thirteen years on from his marriage to the pregnant Susan - a condition of his continuing promotion by Susan's father and his then boss, Mr. Brown - Joe Lampton has a new home in Surrey's stockbroker belt and a career as a management consultant. As pushy and hard-headed as ever, he will go to any lengths to keep a grip on his position. Joe remains married to Susan and the couple now have two children, but his attentions rarely remain fixed and he does not fail to take advantage of all that his status and connections bring within his reach; this inevitably includes the attractive and available women he encounters. A single event, however, causes Joe to re-assess his life - with far-reaching consequences. A feature film based on the TV series was produced by Hammer / Dufton Films in 1973
After five years in Wagon Train, Robert Horton was given his own starring vehicle in this Western about a man who is looking for his lost past. The series was set in the 1870's and told of a man who is wounded during a gunfight. The shock of the attack and a night spent freezing in the snow brought on amnesia. Discovered by two bounty hunters, the mystery man is taken to the nearest town where they hope to claim a reward for him. However, the man is not on a wanted list and no one knows who he is. He is given the name Shenandoah, told that his age is 34 and warned by doctors not to search for his past. So he sets off through the territories of Colorado and New Mexico - to search for his past. The series came about after executive producer Jack Neuman had done some research into the subject of amnesia, and discovered that in the 1870's it was possible for anyone with such a condition to go on searching for the rest of their lives. Said Neuman at the time; "The methods for retracing a man's steps in those days were very crude. It wasn't until 1891 that a practical system of clarifying fingerprints was evolved." The series screened in the USA in 1965 and found its way to Britain the following year where it was only shown sporadically through the ITV network.
In the 1960’s, with the Cold War at it’s height and the Cuban Missile crisis still firmly set in everyone’s minds, international intrigue and especially tales of secret agents and super spies were all the rage. When Ian Fleming’s creation of super spy James Bond took the movie world by storm, it was surely only a matter of time before the small screen turned to that same format in order to emulate Bond’s success. With this in mind, producer Norman Felton, the director of MGM's television division and the guiding force behind Dr. Kildare, approached Fleming himself and began talks with him about possibly collaborating on a spy-oriented TV show for American TV. Fleming contributed some ideas (including the name of a main character; Napoleon Solo), but had to bow out when "Bond’s" producer, Albert Broccoli, felt that Fleming's involvement with the series would cheapen his upcoming movie franchise. It was at this stage that Felton brought in Sam Rolfe, one of television's top writer/directors. Facing network bosses that were unhappy about Fleming's departure, Rolfe developed the ideas that Felton and Fleming had drummed out, being careful not to copy the James Bond format too closely, and emerged with The Man From U.N.C.L.E.; a series that became American television's most successful and fondly remembered spy series of the numerous types that attempted to board the 007 bandwagon.
The series followed the exploits of U.N.C.L.E. (the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement) whose headquarters were located behind a secret doorway in Del Floria's tailor shop on New York's East Side. It’s principal agents were Napoleon Solo -the Americanised Bond-alike, played with smooth, stylish, tongue-in-cheek charm by Robert Vaughn, and IIllya Kuryakin -British actor David McCallum as the dry-witted, calmly efficient Russian spy. Working under the direct orders of U.N.C.L.E. head Mr Alexander Waverly, -Hitchcock regular and widely respected British character actor Leo G. Carroll- the duo battled a colourful collection of dastardly adversaries bent on the destruction of the 'American Way', through a series of 132 episodes (29 in black & white, 103 in colour). The U.N.C.L.E. duo's never ending fight again the minions of THRUSH (Technical Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity), was joined for a single season by Stefanie Powers as April Dancer (who first appeared in TMFU episode ‘The Moonglow Affair’ but played by the actress Mary Ann Mobley), and Noel Harrison (son of Rex Harrison), as side-kick Mark Slate, in the alternating weekly exploits of the (less than imaginatively titled), 'The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.' (Actually more a 'Modesy Blaze' strip cartoon rip-off than an extension of the 'Bond' phenomena).
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. boasted a series of high profile guest stars eclipsed only by the dazzling array of talent to be found on display in the Batman TV series. Among them were such notables as Vincent Price, Angela Lansbury, Ricardo Montalban, Martin Landau, Joan Collins, Slim Pickens, Carroll O'Connor, Kurt Russell, Jack Palance, Janet Leigh, Sonny and Cher and Joan Crawford. One of the more intriguing pairings came in 'The Project Strigas Affair' which starred William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, two years before they stood shoulder to shoulder on the bridge of Star Trek's USS Enterprise. Uncle was yet another window into the mood of a bright breezy and optimistic decade now forever lost to us. It was simple fun, produced in a more colourful clear-cut time where right and wrong were still clearly defined, and heroes never so much as wrinkled their immaculately tailored attire. The result was a classic series of imagination and atmosphere.
It was basically 'Austin Powers'...but with infinitely better dress sense.
(Review: Laurence Marcus & Stephen R. Hulse 2000)
One of the best examples of ITC's 1960's successful stable of spy/action series. Originally broadcast from 1967-1968, Man in a Suitcase boasted a charismatic performance by imported American star Richard Bradford as McGill, a disgraced former CIA operative wrongly accused of treason, exiled to England and forced to make a precarious living in a dirty and thankless job as a freelance trouble-shooter/private investigator. What set the series apart from other notable entries in the genre being produced at the time was the approach taken to the subject matter by series devisers Richard Harris & Dennis Spooner. In the character of McGill the viewers are presented with a hero much closer to the tarnished knight image of Raymond Chandler's classic Phillip Marlowe, than we are to the slick, almost cartoon sophistication of James Bond or Roger Moore's urban Simon Templar. McGill is world-weary, cynical and possessed of a hair-trigger temper which often leads to sudden unexpected shocking outbursts of violence. There's no colourful megalomaniacs attempting to take over the world in the shadowy by-ways and seedy London drinking clubs he frequents, just flawed human beings whose greed, jealousy, and hate provide him with the $300-600 per week (plus expenses) needed for a reasonably comfortable survival in the world's most swinging city.
Excellent writing, no-frills direction and a top drawer string of guest stars made Man in a Suitcase powerful entertainment, equal - if not superior - to many of the more glossy, light-weight offerings of the time, added to which it also benefited from one of the best remembered and catchy theme tunes to be composed by the talented Ron Grainer. Man in a Suitcase, is available on DVD and a repeated run on UK digital television proves that this is a series which, years later, still stands up to repeated viewing.
'Room 17' was set up by the Government in a secluded area near the Houses of Parliament. Here they established the Department of Social Research, a kind of special branch of intelligence men who investigate any criminal activity beyond the scope of normal policing. 'The Man' was a barrister called Oldenshaw (Richard Vernon) who used the knowledge he gained as a war correspondent and crime specialist to solve the most perplexing of cases. He recruited help in the form of Dimmock (Michael Aldridge) a former student of the Ohio University of Criminology and together they tracked down criminals with all the aplomb of chess masters. 'The Man' (or men, as it were) never left their office, they simply provided the solution to the case and then let the police handle the rest. Different directors were often appointed to film the Room 17 and outside-world scenes independently, to maintain a sense of distance between the two worlds. Part comedy, part thriller and part adventure, The Man In Room 17, created by Robert Chapman, was an espionage series with a high IQ. For the second series Dimmock was replaced by Defraits (Denholm Elliott) but the format remained the same. The original team were reunited in 1967 for a spin-off series, The Fellows (Late of Room 17) which found them relocated to All Saints College, Cambridge University, where they were appointed to the Peel Research Fellowship. In one particular episode they masterminded the arrest of a gangland boss, Alec Spindoe (Ray McAnally) and the following year that character returned in a series of his own. A single episode of The Fellows was released by Network DVD in 2007 as part of a box set dedicated to the work of Robin Chapman and featuring both Spindoe and Chapman's later controversial gangster series Big Breadwinner Hog.
Armed with camera, typewriter and a trained eye for the unusual and newsworthy, freelancer Mike Straight enjoyed a glamorous lifestyle that continuously saw him getting involved in cases of blackmail, espionage and murder. The series was filmed in the UK but used location footage specially shot in Spain, on the Riviera or in some other exotic location. Star of the show was ex U.S. Air Force flyer Craig Stevens, who had already made a name for himself in his native country with a three-and-a-half year run as detective Peter Gunn. Dark haired, 6ft 2ins. and of athletic build, Stevens had taken a course in public speaking at the University of Kansas to overcome his apparent shyness. Obviously the course was a success as his elocution teacher was also the university's drama coach, which in turn led Stevens to a part in a university play that was watched by a Hollywood talent scout. The scout talked Steven's into a movie contract, which must have seemed more alluring than his chosen career of dentist. Playing alongside Stevens was Mike Straight's assistant, Maggie, played by Tracy Reed, daughter of actress Fay Compton and stepdaughter to renowned film producer Sir Carol Reed. Graham Stark, who appeared in nearly all of the Pink Panther movie's also appeared and the series had a spin-off called The Sentimental Agent, taken from a Man of the World episode of the same name, in which Carlos Thompson played the part of import export agent Carlos Valera. Some notable guest stars to appear in the series were Patrick Troughton, Warren Mitchell, John Laurie, Anthony Quayle, George Coulouris, Juliet Mills, Nigel Davenport, Patrick Wymark, Shirley Eaton and Sam Wanamaker. The theme tune was by Henry Mancini.
In 1979, Giuliano Montaldo set out to make an ambitious television miniseries, simply titled Marco Polo. Three years later viewers sat down to a four-part, 10-hour lavish production about one of history’s most romantic explorers who among other accomplishments firmly established the "silk route" between Europe and the Orient, introducing precious Oriental marvels to the western world such as burning coal, paper money and block-printing. The Polo family originated on the coast of Dalmatia. Brothers Niccolo (Marco's father) and Maffeo Polo had established a trading outpost on the island of Curzola, off the coast of Dalmatia; it is not certain whether Marco was born there or in Venice in 1254. However Marco certainly grew up in Venice, which at that time was the centre for commerce in the Mediterranean. Marco had a good education learning much of the classical authors. He was only 6 years old when his father and uncle set out eastward on their first trip to Cathay (China). By the time they returned Marco was 15 years old and his mother had already passed away. He remained in Venice with his father and uncle for two more years. At the end of 1271, receiving letters and valuable gifts for the Great Khan from the new Pope Tedaldo (Gregory X), the Polo’s once more set out from Venice on their journey to the east, this time taking Marco with them. They passed through Armenia, Persia, and Afghanistan, over the Pamirs, and all along the Silk Road to China. They reached Peking in 1275 where Marco entered the service of Kublai Khan who employed him on various missions in the Mongol Empire. The were not allowed to leave until 1292 and eventually returned to Venice in 1295 after a trek that took in Sumatra, India, Persia, Trebizond and Constantinople. Marco's account of his travels, 'The Book of Marco Polo,' told Europeans for the first time about China's immense wealth, size and powerful neighbours. It was Marco's epic journey that scripwriters David Butler, Vincenzo Labella and Giuliano Montaldo set out to tell.
One of the highlights of the TV series were the authentically replicated costumes designed by Enrico Sabbatini of Italy. It took Sabbatini three years to design 4,000 costumes and 3,500 handmade shoes, ranging from Mongolian boots made of goat fur to silken court slippers. His research required two trips to China where he visited museums and talked with historians in an attempt to recreate the 13th century before returning to Rome with thousands of square feet of silks, cottons and cashmeres and more than 1,000 furs. The embroideries were done in China, the hand-hammered armour was made in Italy and the jade was hand-carved for the Mongol belts and the breastplate of Kublai Khan. Even the undergarments were authentic. Burt Lancaster, who played Pope Gregory X in the series, said the costume he wore weighed 80 pounds. "We had a papal delegate working with us to authenticate details," he said, "and he told us the materials in our costumes were much richer than what the Pope himself wears today." All the costumes were of museum quality and they were specially presented at the Washington Textile Museum where among the highlights was a ceremonial robe ornately embroidered with dragons in gold leaf at a cost of $7,000. It's no wonder that the cost of the series was in excess of $20m but co-producers RAI-Radiotelevisione Italiana, US sponsors Procter & Gamble and the Chinese Government felt it was worth every dollar.
Not every cent was spent on the costumes. Some of the filming was done at the Great Wall of China and in Peking's Forbidden City. Inner Mongolia, Fez and Marrekesh in Morocco were other location sites. The series was the first Western production to be filmed on location in China since WWII. There were also 180 speaking parts and 5,000 extras were used, including two regiments of the Mongolian Cavalry. As well as Burt Lancaster there was an international star cast that included Denholm Elliott, Anne Bancroft, John Gielgud, F. Murray Abraham, John Houseman, David Warner, Tony Lo Bianco, Leonard Nimoy and Ian McShane. And celebrated Chinese stage and film actor Ying Ruocheng, superbly cast as the mighty Kublai Khan, made his first English-language appearance. Starring in the lead role as Polo himself was newcomer Ken Marshall. The music was scored by the famous Italian composer Ennio Morricone, who composed and arranged scores for more than 400 film and television productions, more than any other composer living or deceased. Morricone is best known for the distinctive and memorable soundtracks of Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns 'A Fistful of Dollars,' 'For a Few Dollars More,' and 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.'
Marco Polo received its first U.S. showing when it was telecast by NBC from 16th through 19th May 1982. A "condensed" version, running approximately 270 minutes, was later made available in Europe and South America. The miniseries won 2 Emmy Awards for Outstanding Limited Series and Outstanding Costume Design as well as being nominated for 6 more. It was generally well received by its audience too, in spite of some historical inaccuracies: Many palace scenes were set in the Forbidden City, which was built under the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and not completed until about 1420, almost 100 years after Marco Polo's death. And Marco and Chinkin visit the Great Wall of China, which many historians point out he never visited-as he doesn't mention it in his writings. The series was released on DVD in 2004 but is no longer widely available except through some specialist dealers.
Patricia Routledge in her first starring comedy role as Marjorie Belton who, despite a bitter and hurtful divorce, is still hoping to find the type of romance one would only come across in a Mills and Boon novel. In the midst of all this Marjorie also has to contend with her overbearing mother (played by Patricia Hayes) who seems to have taken it upon herself to find the perfect match for her daughter. Each episode features a different beau for Marjorie; Timothy West, John Quayle (pictured) and George Baker all try to romance her without success and even some of her male work colleagues at the bank where she is a clerk think they may have a chance. In the end we never found out if Marjorie was successful in landing the man of her dreams because only a single series was made by Anglia, who had only venture into the world of sitcom once before with Backs to the Land.
Created by Louis Marks and beginning on Monday 3rd April 1967, Market In Honey Lane was British TV's first attempt to break Coronation Streets' supremacy as the number one soap opera with an East End version. Billed in the TV Times as a place where "you can learn more by standing here for five minutes than travelling round the world. It's all here: Bustle, colour, backchat, character and humanity." Over 100 actors and actresses were interviewed in order to select the 13 regulars for the series. There was Billy Bush (John Bennett), a quick-witted lean faced Cockney who worked on the vegetable stall. Billy was a grafter-but only when his money ran out, but that was quite often as he was a compulsive big-time gambler who liked his Scotch. And although he hated unions of any sort he was always the first to stand up for the underdog. Harry Jolson (Ivor Salter) ran the flower stall. Flamboyant with a dash of the olde worlde, Harry always kept a carnation in his buttonhole and a nice line in cheeky-chat for the women. He was everything that Billy Bush wasn't and the two men had a smouldering dislike for each other. The man who usually ended up as peacemaker for the two of them was Sam English (Michael Golden), Chairman of the Honey Lane Street Traders' Association, who ran a fruit stall.
Just like any authentic market there was more than one stall selling the same products and Polly Jessel (Pat Nye) also ran a fruit stall with her son Danny (Brian Rawlinson). Polly, a widow, was a tough bargainer with an acute sense of humour. In real life Pat Nye actually had an antique stall in the Portobello Road market in Kensington, London, so she was aptly cast. Danny, not exactly the quickest thinker was a cheerful likeable lad who never got involved in market politics and like to think that he always kept a protective arm around his mum, but in truth it was the other way round. Just the opposite to Dave Sampson (Ray Lonnen) across on the vegetable stall. Dark, good looking, sharp and inclined to do a bit shady business, especially if there was a pay-off at the end of it. His younger brother was Mike (Ian Gregory) a scatty girl-chaser. The set was the most ambitious ever erected by an ITV company occupying a space on a waste patch at Elstree Studios it was 150ft by 120ft and the roads and pavements were laid by a 12-strong gang of construction workers in a month. It cost 20,000 pounds to build and added to that was the cost of hiring the stalls on a weekly basis from a dealer at 5GB pounds a barrow for the ten regulars. The street lamps, (eight of them) were bought from a London council for 15.00GB pounds each, every window on the set (16 in total) lit individually. There was enough power to feed a street of 15 houses, plus something like 20 miles of cabling. The production team went to great lengths to give the market an air of authenticity with litter and decayed cabbages specially brought in daily from Covent Garden. Books and magazines may have looked real but most just had covers, something of a disappointment to late night thieves who actually broke into the 'shops' twice before the first episode was broadcast. Not everything else was real, over 500 pounds was spent on artificial goods such as plastic potatoes. But everything that was handled in front of the camera, such as flowers, were genuine, only the background stuff was artificial.
The hour-long Market In Honey Lane proved to be a great success in its first twelve months and actually managed to challenge 'Corrie' in the ratings for a while (it directly followed the soap on a Monday night). But by September 1968 it wasn't doing so well and was moved to two weekly afternoon slots and renamed Honey Lane. A year later the stall owners packed away their barrows for the last time and Honey Lane market closed down for good. (Based on original TV Times article)
Marital ups and downs of newly-wed couple George and Kate Starling, Marriage Lines - subtitled A Quizzical Look At The Early Days Of Married Life (this was wisely dropped after series one) was written as a starring vehicle for Richard Briers by Richard Waring and produced by Graeme Muir, after the trio had successfully collaborated the previous year on 13 half hours of a sitcom called Brothers In Law. Playing the part of Kate Starling was a young Prunella Scales destined for TV immortality as Cybil Fawlty in the comedy classic Fawlty Towers. George Starling was a lowly paid clerk who had married his secretary who then gave up work to run the marital home. Whilst she became increasingly frustrated at her confinement to their Earl's Court flat, he yearned to while away his non-working hours in the pub with the chaps from the office. This led to a number of arguments -although none so bad as to endanger the marriage. Their neighbours, Peter and Nora (Ronald Hines and Christine Finn) moved upmarket after series one only adding to the newly-weds frustration (due to financial restrictions) at being stuck on the first rung of the property ladder. The patter of tiny feet arrived in series three when Kate gave birth to daughter Helen and the series was to have concluded at the end of the fourth season when the couple jetted off to Lagos where George was starting a new job. But the popularity of the series necessitated a fifth outing and as Prunella Scales was 'with child' in real life it was decided to write her pregnancy into the story, and this was the reason why the couple moved back to the UK. Although George and Kate's television escapades ended with the arrival of a second child in the last episode of season five, they continued on radio (The BBC Light Programme -where they had begun in 1965) until June 1967.
With the popularity of the mini-series in America during the later years of the 1970s it was only a matter of time before television makers turned to the genre of science fiction as a source of drama. NBC-TV made two series of this type; the first was Brave New World adapted from Aldous Huxley's novel of the same name and the second was also adapted from a book: Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles (known in the UK as The Silver Locusts), first published in 1950. The story dealt with man's colonisation of the planet Mars and the title refers, not to the indigenous species, but to Mankind, who arrive on the planet in silver rockets that blight the beautiful Martian landscape. The book then deals with the deliberate destruction of the Martian way of life. The book was adapted into a teleplay by Richard Matheson who had written scripts for The Twilight Zone, Kolchak: The Night Stalker and Star Trek. The main character in the TV version, Colonel Wilder, played by Rock Hudson, was not so central to the plot in the original novel and although he led the first mission to Mars (as in the TV version) he was killed as he attempted to explore other regions of the solar system. The series was originally scheduled for broadcast over three consecutive nights during September 1979 but internal politics at NBC meant it was delayed until January 1980. Although received well by viewers and critics, the series did not bring about a flood of science fiction series and it wasn't until V came along in the mid-1980s that the genre was successfully tried again.
THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW (1970)
Independent career woman moves to Minneapolis, and is offered the position of associate producer for a radio station's Six O'Clock News. Click Here for review
Developed from Robert Altman's 1970 movie about the day to day life of the war weary surgeons and staff of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War, M*A*S*H was a dark anti-war satire that continually broke new ground on US television. Previously taboo subjects such as adultery and homosexuality were featured, and the anti-war theme that it carried was in direct contrast to America's involvement in the Vietnam War at the time. Different story telling techniques were also employed, one particular episode was shown entirely through the eyes of a wounded soldier. The cast were a collection of likeable oddballs, Hawkeye Pierce played by Alan Alda was the irreverent joker ably supported by Trapper John McIntyre played by Wayne Rogers. Head nurse Margaret 'Hotlips' Houlihan (Lorretta Swit) was having an affair with Major Frank Burns (Larry Linville), while Henry Blake, (McLean Stevenson) was the fishing obsessed CO who ignored the antics of his officers just as long as they continued to perform in the operating theatre. Walter O'Reilly (Gary Burghoff-the only survivor from the original movie's cast) was nicknamed 'Radar' because of his ability to predict incoming wounded before the helicopters carrying them appeared. Max Klinger (Jamie Farr-the only cast member to actually have served in Korea) was trying to work his ticket home by dressing in women's clothing. A genuine first for US network television which was initially very uncomfortable with the idea of a series featuring a cross-dressing character in such a high profile role. The series survived a number of cast changes during it's long run, Colonel Blake was killed in a plane crash on his return home to be replaced by Sherman T. Potter, (highly respected character actor Harry Morgan, formerly Joe Friday's sidekick in Dragnet) and when Trapper John returned home safely he was replaced by Mike Farrel, as the equally laidback B.J. Hunnicut. Frank Burns replacement was the pompous Bostonian Charles Emerson Winchester (a wonderfully snobbish characterisation from the accomplished David Ogden Stiers).
The show first aired in 1972 and finally bowed out in 1983 with a two-and-a-half hour special, Goodbye, Farewell and Amen, at that time it became the most watched programme in television history. It is reported that Twentieth Century Fox Television made $25 million from the first round of syndication in America and five times that on the second. When the series was originally aired in Great Britain it was minus the dubbed laughter that accompanied it in the US, although eventually that was dropped in the USA as well, at the insistence of Alan Alda. Quite possibly the finest example of the successful transfer of a hit motion picture to the episodic television format ever executed, M*A*S*H more than earns it's place in television history for being able to entertain in a thought provoking way. It got it's message across without trying too hard, allowing the viewer to sit back and simply enjoy every moment of it.
To most of us in 1966, Rockall - a lump of rock off the west coast of Scotland - was a word in a weather forecast. But inside that forbidding granite fortress there were secret passages, concealed entances, banks of scientific and electronic equipment. Rockall was the headquarters of a man who planned to dominate the world. Fiercely dedicated men swear allegiance to The Master, a despot reputed to be 150 years old. His nightmarish schemes to control the world might have gone undiscovered had not two children, Nicky and Judy, landed on the island while on a sailing expedition. The science fiction tale by T. H. White - who wrote The Sword In The Stone on which the musical Camelot was based - is told in this six-part children's series from Southern Television. Significantly, it was the first venture for the company into the world of children's drama and kick-started a hugely successful 15-year run of tea-time adventure serials. Southern had so much confidence in the series that they invested a huge 6,000 pounds per episode and introduced it with a full colour feature in the TV Times. It paid off, and proved a pivotal moment in children's television, mixing elements of standard adventure with James Bond type villians and science fiction.
In the pay of The Master was eccentric scientist Totty McMcTurk played with manic wide eyed lunacy by John Laurie. The real villian of the piece was a 150-year old emaciated criminal with telepathic powers played by Olaf Pooley. He was accompanied by his unnamed sinister Chinese assistant (Terence Soall). The Master's plan was to hold the world to ransom with a deadly laser ray but his plans were complicated with the arrival of our heroes, especially when he learns that Nicky also has telepathic powers. 12-year old Paul Guess played the role of Nicky whle his sister, Judy, was played by 16-year old Adrienne Poster, who would go on to become one of the faces of British cinema's swinging sixties era in such movies as To Sir With Love, Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush, and Up The Junction. The kids were helped by George Baker as Squadron Leader Frinton and Richard Vernon played their father.
The series that launched James Garner on the road to stardom started out in 1957 as a serious entry into the traditional TV Western field, but soon began to spoof the genre mercilessly. In the process it became a small screen classic, much loved and much revived down the years before being turned into a Hollywood blockbuster in 1994. The creation of TV producer Roy Huggins, wisecracking Texan Bret Maverick (Garner, who had begun his professional career by prompting Lloyd Nolan in a stage play -'Caine Mutiny Court Martial', before moving on to a non-speaking part), was a gambler who survived by the wit of his lip rather than the speed of his draw and by following dear old Pappy's advice of when in trouble -"Run!" Jack Kelly as his more straight-laced younger brother, Bart (who was introduced in order to alternate the leads each week and allow more shows to be produced), later joined Garner, who displayed an amiable personality and natural talent for light comedy. Together they roamed from fictional town to fictional town that bore names such as "Bent Fork", "Oblivion" and "Ten Strike" and in the process lampooned popular TV Westerns such as Bonanza, in an episode in which Bart crossed pistols with one Joe Wheelwright, the owner of the Sub Rosa Ranch where he lived with his three sons Moose, Henry and Small Paul. As heroes the Maverick's were lazy, self centred and untrustworthy although they did display one redeeming feature and that was a willingness to help anyone in trouble. Before the end of its run Maverick lost its star when Garner and Warner Brothers fell into dispute with each other. In January 1960 the Writers Guild of America went on strike and by March both Garner and Jack Kelly were suspended without pay by Warner Brothers who claimed there were no scripts available. Garner objected to his suspension claiming the studio was in no way hampered from continuing production and demanded payment of his salary. Warner Brothers refused to pay Garner who then sued him for breach of contract after he told them he considered his employment terminated. A legal battle ensued followed by a ruling by the Los Angeles Superior Court in favour of the star, leaving him free to walk out. His replacement was an English actor who would go on to become an international star: Roger Moore put on a holster and saddled up for the part of Cousin Beau who, displaying none of the usual family traits, had won a commendation in the Civil War before moving to England to get a "cultural education". Before the series came to an end (which was inevitable following Garner's departure), another 'Maverick' joined (albeit for two episodes), in the form of Brent, as played by Robert Colbert, who would later star in the 1960's Irwin Allen sci-fi series, Time Tunnel.
During its fifth and final season Maverick became a solo vehicle for Jack Kelly, who had settled his dispute with Warner Brothers and was rewarded with a pay rise and top billing. But after 13 episodes the series was cancelled, finally bowing out on July 8th 1962. Writer Huggins went on to create two more iconic series for US television; The Fugitive (1963) and then The Rockford Files (1974), which once again featured James Garner in the lead role. Some notable names cut their directorial teeth on Maverick including Robert Altman, and guest stars such as Clint Walker (Cheyenne) and Ty Hardin (Bronco) dropped in from time to time. Garner returned to the role in 1979 for a TV Movie entitled The New Mavericks and a series (1981-82) called Bret Maverick (in which Jack Kelly made a cameo appearance in one episode), but neither managed to capture the charm of the Emmy Award winning original. (It won in 1959 for Best Western Series -the only year that the category existed). Garner co-starred with Mel Gibson in the 1994 big screen version, in which he turned up as his original characters father, Pappy, meaning that his portrayal of a Maverick character had spanned five decades.
MAY TO DECEMBER (1989)
Middle aged man meets young school teacher and they fall in love much to the dismay of both their families. Click Here for review
McMillan and Wife was an improbable cop show in which San Francisco Police Commissioner Stewart McMillan and his beautiful wife Sally (who had a penchant for getting them both involved in criminal cases) would team up to solve any murder or mystery that she inadvertently stumbled upon. And it was not uncommon for Sally to stumble upon (or rather over) a corpse in the library of some glitzy mansion, or to uncover a vital clue that would end up with her kidnapped or facing some other life-threatening situation. Improbable maybe-but that didn't stop the show from climbing high in the US Nielsen ratings to number 5 in the 1972-73 season. What helped were its two charismatic stars; Rock Hudson in his first small-screen series played the debonair Police Chief while Susan Saint James was his sexy but scatty wife. The supporting cast also enjoyed huge popularity, Mac's sidekick whenever Sally wasn't on the scene was his plodding but enthusiastic Sergeant, Charles Enright (John Schuck) while the MacMillan's trusty maid Mildred (Nancy Walker) did a nice line in sharp tongue and acerbic wit. The series debuted in the NBC Mystery Movie strand as a single episode entitled 'One Upon A Dead Man' and was one of three original series that took centre stage under this banner on a rotating basis (the other two being Columbo and McCloud), but the idea wasn't exactly original being based on the relationship between Nick and Nora Charles (played by William Powell and Myrna Loy) in the 1934 movie 'The Thin Man.' This too spawned an earlier TV series of the same name with Peter Lawford and Phyllis Kirk in the lead roles (1957-59).
At the end of the 1975-76 season both Saint James and Walker left the series. The former due to a contract dispute and the latter to star in her own series on ABC (The Nancy Walker Show). NBC made sure that Saint James couldn't take her character elsewhere by having Sally Macmillan killed in a plane crash (eight years later Saint James landed another prime role on US television as the Kate of Kate and Allie). Rock Hudson soldiered on with a new housekeeper, Maggie (Gloria Stroock) who just happened to be Mildred's sister, and a new assistant, Sgt. DiMaggia (Richard Gilliland) but it was too many changes and the all-important chemistry had gone. The new version, now simply titled McMillan, didn't survive beyond one season. John Astin, better known as Gomez from The Addams Family shared the directing duty as well as playing a character called Sykes and among the guest stars who appeared in the series was an upcoming young actress called Kim Basinger.