Set on the "factory floor" of fictitious aircraft manufacturers Scott Furlong, The Plane Makers focused on the day-to-day running of a multi-million pound company, and in particular the ambitions of ruthless company managing director John Wilder, as played with convincing gusto by Patrick Wymark. It was a performance that won Wymark many fans as well as an actor of the year award, and prompted a number of businessmen, who had seen the programme, to offer the actor places on the boards of real-life companies. In stark contrast to the character he played, Wymark described himself as having "No head for business at all, and paperwork would drive me mad. I don't think I've ever been ruthless. I'm too much of a coward." But John Wilder was the man that everyone loved to hate and when the series came to an end after two years with the collapse of the company, Wilder was whisked off to pastures new in the follow on series, The Power Game. Now knighted and placed on the board of a merchant bank, Sir John Wilder begins to crave excitement and seizes the opportunity to get back into the action as soon as it presents itself. The bank with which Wilder is connected backs a civil engineering firm of which Wilder eventually becomes managing director, much to the opposition of the firm's founder, Sir Caswell Bligh (Clifford Evans) and his son Kenneth (Peter Barkworth). Both Barbara Murray and Ann Firbank starred as Wilder's wife, Pamela (Lady Wilder) and the series was still top of the ratings in 1969 when it was brought to an abrupt end by the sudden death of its star. By that time Sir John was employed by the British Government as a member of the Foreign Office.
Based on the successful film series that started with Planet of the Apes (1968) in which
a nuclear war on Earth has made the apes the dominant species while mankind have become mute
slaves wearing animal skins and hunting for food. Similar to the original movie, the TV version
features the crew of a 20th century spacecraft who, due to a mishap, find themselves returning
home some 2000 years late (the future-date in the TV series pre-dates the movie by almost 900
years). The only two astronauts who survive the journey are Alan Virdon and Pete Burke (played by
Ron Harper and James Naughton). They are immediately branded outlaws by the ruling ape society and
sentenced to death as a threat to the state, because they represent the ancient race who destroyed
the Earth with their greed, violence and weapons of mass destruction. Galen, a chimp played by
Roddy McDowell (who had appeared in similar roles in the movie series) joins the astronauts,
feeling that they are unjustly accused.
The series was filmed on the old Fox ranch in Malibu Canyon where the original films were made. Ron Harper, also familiar to viewers from the TV series Garrison's Gorillas was later very critical of both series' (movie and TV): "The first film was very interesting. The idea of reversing the roles of apes and humans was a novel one. But beyond that first film, I think they ran out of steam as to what to do with this crazy premise. I thought the series went downhill real fast." James Naughton agreed: "It was a one idea show and once we got past that one idea, the actors and, more importantly, the audience had seen it all. Our story was one of us would get captured by the apes and the other two would have to rescue him. It got to the point where Jim and I would pick up a script each week and the first words out of our mouth would be 'whose turn is it to be rescued this week?'" To confirm what the two actors said, Planet of the Apes found it difficult to sustain a loyal audience and after four episodes viewing figures dropped dramatically. It was eventually decided to cancel the series with only 16 episodes "in the can" (although the last two were not broadcast). However, two years later the show was back as a series of two-hour movies (actually two one-hour original episodes joined together). Entitled, a little misleadingly perhaps, The New Planet of the Apes, these suprisingly fared much better, selling to TV stations around the world. They also entered syndication, and ABC got Roddy McDowall to re-create his role of Galen in a series of new openings and closings specifically for ABC's owned and operated stations, so unless you saw it on one of those, you will not know the two astronauts fate: "They found their computer in another city and disappeared into space as suddenly as they'd arrived" Galen informed us at the end of the final episode. The ABC openings and closings were never seen on other stations, nor were they included on the DVD set of the series.
Mystery after dark threatens to close Potencia-One, Santa Montana's lonely nuclear power station in the Andes. Workmen are ready to walk out after a series of savage and inexplicable attacks at the plant. Victims of the attacks are being treated at the World Health Organisation research hospital which adjoins Potencia-One. Doctor Susan Fraser (Jan Miller), Canadian scientist in charge of the hopsital refuses to give an opinion about what attacked the men, but she says all the victims appear to have been "bitten." Into this scenarion are sent leading British scientific investigator Mark Bannerman (Gerald Flood) and his 15-year old assistant Peter Blake (Stewart Guidotti). Complicating the situation even further is the villainous General Villagran (Ferdy Mayne - pictured), who is pressing for the conversion of the reactor for military purposes. Plateau of Fear written by Malcolm Stuart Fellows and Sutherland Ross brought back together Flood and Guidotti who had last appeared in Pathfinders To Venus, also shown under the Family Hour umbrella title on Sunday afternoons. The actors (and characters) would be reunited in 1962 for City Beneath the Sea.
"Here is a house, here is a door, windows -one, two, three four. Ready to knock? Turn the lock. It's Play School." These were the first words spoken on the first show ever seen on the opening day of BBC2 television in 1964. Play School was a mixture of songs and stories which entertained and educated the under five's for 24 years, whilst making household names of many of its presenters including Johnny Ball, Floella Benjamin, Toni Arthur, Derrick Griffiths and the unforgettable Brian Cant. But perhaps even more famous than the long list of presenters were the Play School toys, Little Ted and Big Ted, Jemima, Humpty and Hamble (who was replaced in the 1980's by black doll Poppy). There were also real animals, the most famous of which was Katoo the cockatoo. The programme opened with a look at the calendar with the day, month and date clearly spelled out and each day had a particular theme. Monday was Useful Box Day, Tuesday was Dressing Up Day, Wednesday was Pets Day, Thursday was Ideas Day and Friday was Science Day. During the show viewers were posed the question of which window to look through, arched, square or round, before seeing a short film about an outside activity. In 1981 there was a Saturday afternoon version aimed at the more sophisticated seven-year-olds. Play Away, which ran for thirteen years, followed a similar format although the games and songs were less infantile. Cant, Arthur, Griffiths and Benjamin each appeared in the show but they were joined by a whole host of new presenters, most famously Tony Robinson who went on to star as Baldrick in the Blackadder series, Anita Dobson who found later fame in Eastenders and future Hollywood Oscar winner Jeremy Irons!
PLEASE SIR! / THE FENN STREET GANG (1968)
Novice teacher is given charge of an unruly class on students. Click Here for review
Another offering from the prolific Smallfilms company of Firmin and Postgate, is this story of woodland folk (Mr and Mrs Pogle, son Pippin and pet squirrel Tog) who lived "deep in the middle of a wood" at the base of a tree with a magic bean plant. Originally called The Pogles the series featured a witch, but this character was dropped because the BBC thought it might scare tiny viewers. Shown as part of Watch With Mother, and like many of Smallfilms productions there were only 13 episodes ever made.
In 1783 Captain Ross Poldark (Robin Ellis), missing presumed dead, returns home from the American Revolutionary War to find that his uncle Charles has claimed his estate. Poldark's farmlands and copper mines have been left to deteriorate and are now in the process of being sold to local villians the Warleggans and his girlfriend Elizabeth (Jill Townsend) is engaged to his cousin Francis (Clive Francis). Poldark sets about paying off his father's debts, replants his land and rebuilds his mines. His determination helps him to overcome a series of further disasters which include mine explosions, ship wrecks, illness and not least of all the French Revolution! Poldark is also torn between two loves; Elizabeth and Demelza (Angharad Rees), an illiterate but fiesty teenager who eventually falls pregnant with his child. In spite of the scandal, Poldark goes against convention and marries Demelza even though she is considered to be out of his class. In time Demelza grows into an intelligent and sophisicated women, but the shadow of Poldark's first love is never far away. The first series of 16 episodes were filmed on location in St. Ives without much public interest. But such was the impact of Poldark that by the time the crew returned for the next 13 episodes they were unable to move out of their hotel without attracting a crowd.
Beginning on June 30, 1962 in a Saturday late night slot, Police Five was presented by New
Scotland Yard in conjunction with ATV. Its aim over the planned six-week trial run was to appeal
to the public for their help in unsolved cases. Requests from eye-witnesses who up until then may
have been too scared to come forward with information, the whereabouts of ill-gotten gains, or
identification of suspects through photofit drawings were among the appeals made. The Met had
complete control over the content of each five-minute edition but were still a little suspicious
of the format, due in part to the fact that nothing had been tried like this before. Any
objections were put aside very quickly when, presented by the amiable former quiz-show host Shaw
Taylor, the programme yielded some unexpectedly good results. So much so, that the show got a more
family-friendly broadcast hour (it was eventually moved to Sunday afternoons) and continued for
nearly thirty years expanding to include more complex cases (it covered the disappearance of Lord
Lucan) and also offering crime prevention advice.
Although Police Five was not networked by ATV, other regional stations soon picked up the format producing their own 'local' versions. Police Call was seen in the Anglia and Tynne Tees areas while Police File was the title adopted for programmes across Granada, Channel and Scottish Television areas. Shaw Taylor asked people to keep their eyes open for anything suspicious they might see and report it to the police, signing off each programme by pointing to his eyes and reminding the audience to "keep 'em peeled." This they did willingly. Police Five soon found its way into popular culture, jokes and everyday conversation earning Taylor the nickname of 'whispering grass.' In 1972 Junior Police Five was introduced to a younger audience. Police Five, presented by Shaw Taylor until 1990 introduced some 25,000 cases and was the forerunner to the now hugely popular and important BBC Crimewatch series. Over a decade after it finished, Taylor returned briefly to the role of programme presenter for a light-hearted insert in the time-travel crime series Ashes to Ashes, telling his willing audience to 'keep 'em peeled' just one more time.
Police Woman first aired on US television on 26th March, 1974, as 'The Gamble', an episode of Joseph Wambaugh's anthology series Police Story, starring Angie Dickinson as policewoman Lisa Beaumont. By the fall of that year Dickinson was back in the same role but with an new name; the more attractively sounding Pepper Anderson, undercover cop for the Criminal Conspiracy Unit of the LAPD. The series broke new ground in featuring a woman in the lead role as a police officer and arguably paved the way for future female cop TV successes such as Charlie's Angels, and Cagney and Lacey in America and Juliet Bravo, The Gentle Touch and Prime Suspect in the UK. Sergeant Bill Crowley (Earl Holliman) was Anderson's immediate superior while Pete Royster (Charles Dierkop) and Joe Styles (Ed Bernard) formed the other half of the undercover team that investigated everything from murder and rape to drugs and vice, all of which required Anderson to go undercover posing variously as a callgirl, a gangsters girlfriend, a dancer or anything else that required Angie Dickinson to be seen in mini skirts, evening gowns and nurses uniforms. Dickinson soon became the television sex symbol for the over 40's - it may have been groundbreaking in its subject matter but it was still very sexist in TV terms in what was still very much a male dominated medium! However, in its favour the show was not all high heels and fishnet stockings and Anderson's character was rounded out by her occasional visits to a younger autistic sister, Cheryl (Nichole Kallis), in the first season. One month before filming, the cast visited the Hollywood Division police station to soak up the atmosphere and found themselves caught up in the midst of a real-life gun drama that ended in the death of an armed attacker. Police Woman became the inspiration behind an avalanche of applications from women to join police departments throughout the United States in the late 1970s and well into the 1980s negating (admittedly with hindsight) the views of many feminists who put pressure on the network to de-sexualize the character.
Sophisticated comedy starring Maria Aitken as Kate Codd and Jill Bennett as Daisy Troop: two cousins who, despite wealthy backgrounds, now have to face life together on much more slender means. Although related they haven't seen each other for fifteen years, but decide to pool what little resources they have following Kate's ill-tempered divorce from husband number two and Daisy's third time at becoming a widow (who'd want to be husband number four?!). The basement flat they share is a very basic property in Manchester - a bit of a comedown for Daisy who used to be a Countess! Both Aitken and Bennett were friends in real-life and came up with the idea for Poor Little Rich Girls over lunch one day. They pitched it to Granada who commissioned it. Charles Laurence who had written the 1970s BBC sitcom Now Take My Wife, wrote the scripts. (Network DVD)
Originally sentenced in 1973 to a one-off stretch under the alias Prisoner and Escort, in a series showcasing the inimitable character acting skills of veteran star Ronnie Barker, entitled Seven of One, co-creators Ian La Frenais' and Dick Clement's inspired comedic concept was granted an extended term of servitude by the BBC in 1974, under its more notorious moniker of Porridge.
Porridge cell-mated millions of appreciative viewers with the brilliant comic creation of Barker's wiley old lag, Norman Stanley Fletcher, a middle-aged habitual offender vainly trying to bide his time, serve his term, and score a few points against the rigid prison system in the process. The majority of Fletcher's 'little victories' were achieved at the expense of arch nemesis Mr. Mackay, embodied in a superbly regimented and unbendingly authoritarian form by Scots actor Fulton Mackay. Aiding, abetting, (and occasionally hindering) these twin titans of comic incarceration, was a supporting cast of incomparable talent amongst which such characters as Brian Glover's brain-dead Mr. "I read a book once-green it was" Heslop, Fletcher's young and naive cell mate Lenny Godber, (the talented and much missed Richard Beckinsale), weak-willed Warder Mr. Barrowclough (Brian Wilde), and perhaps most portentously of all, Barker's protege and co-star from another hugely successful Seven of One spin-off: Open All Hours, David Jason. Sadly for us, Fletcher's term of imprisonment ended in 1977. We revisited him in 1978 to witness his life on the outside in Going Straight, however, the loss of confinement had also signalled the loss of the original concept's magic. A feature film version allowed us one final hark back to Fletcher's glory days behind the high Victorian walls of Her Majesty's Prison Slade in 1979, before the unwelcome combination of Beckinsale's untimely death and Barker's opting for early retirement, ended the series chances of continuing forever. Porridge may be no more, but rest assured, Norman Stanley Fletcher will continue to serve an indefinite and on-going sentence at his admirers pleasure. (Review: Stephen R. Hulse)
Television series devised by and starring British comedian Charlie Chester. Debuting in 1952 Pot Luck is notable as the first ever British audience participation series. Described as a "programme of prizes and surprises", it involved members of the audience passing a pot around until the music stopped. Whoever was then holding the pot had to come up on stage and take part in a quiz. Supporting Chester were Harry Seltzer and Leslie Welch the Memory Man. The show was produced by Walton Anderson who mainly worked on TV musical comedies and reviews.
Based on Arthur Groom's 1949 novel All Guns Ablaze, The Powder Monkey was a BBC production for children's television broadcast in January 1951. It told the story of Admiral Nelson and the Battle of Trafalgar. Groom, who was born in Hove, Sussex in 1898 was a prolific author of over 100 children's books and also wrote stories for British annuals based on US TV Western series' such as Buffalo Bill, Wells Fargo and Champion The Wonder Horse. He also wrote Writing for Children, a book containing a wealth of information on every aspect of writing children's books and plays. The thirty minute play, seen through the eyes of a Powder Monkey, a member of the ship's crew whose job it was to ferry gunpowder from the ship's hold to the cannons, was first broadcast on 30 January 1951 and starred Andrew Osborn as Horatio Nelson. A second version was also shown - the date of which is unknown at the time of writing - with Richard Longman taking the role of the British naval hero. The play ended with Nelson on his death-bed. The picture shown here (complete with BBC camera) is thought to be from the first broadcast.