One of the most popular cartoon series to come from the prolific studio of Hanna-Barbera, Wacky Races was loosely based on the Jack Lemmon/Tony Cutis movie The Great Race. 11 daredevil racers lined up each week to claim the title of 'World's Wackiest Racer' and each week produced a different winner. This caused quite a stir in Great Britain when one school headmaster revealed that he had discovered his 12-14 year old pupils 'running a book' on the weekly result. Nevertheless, the drivers drew up to the starting line each week regardless, and they were: The Slag Brothers in the BoulderMobile, The Gruesome Twosome in the Creepy Coupe, Professor Pat Pending in the Convert-a-Car, Red Max in the Haybailer, Penelope Pitstop in the Compact Pussycat, Sarge and Meekly in the Army Surplus Special, The Ant Hill Mob in the Roaring Plenty, Luke and Blubber in the Arkansas Chugga-Bug, Peter Perfect in the Varoom Roadster, Rufus Ruffcut and Sawtooth in the Buzz Wagon, and lastly, the villains of the piece in their Mean Machine...Dick Dastardly and his sniggering canine sidekick, Muttley, whose sole aim it was to win every race by hook or by crook. Drat and Double drat! Two spin-off serials followed The Perils of Penelope Pitstop and Dastardly and Muttley In Their Flying Machines.
Based on John Ford's 1950 movie Wagonmaster, Wagon Train became one of the most successful small screen Westerns ever, dominating the ratings on both sides of the Atlantic and later becoming the inspiration for Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek. Starting out each season from St. Joseph, Missouri, and making it's way west to California, the Wagon Train, a group of 19th century settlers, had to negotiate it's way through endless deserts, the towering passes of the Rocky Mountains and the vast Indian controlled Great Plains. Along the way the regular characters, led by Ward Bond as Major Seth Adams, faced a number of perilous adventures as they were joined briefly by some of Hollywood's finest. These "guest stars" who brought with them their hopes, experiences and troubles to ensure a different story each week, included such luminaries as Ernest Borgnine, Lee Van Cleef, James Coburn, Lou Costello, Bette Davis, Clint Eastwood, Henry Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Mickey Rooney, Barbara Stanwyck, Shelley Winters, John Wayne (in an uncredited cameo as General Sherman-his only dramatic appearance in a TV show), Jane Wyman, and future US President Ronald Reagan. The writers (who included future blockbuster producer Aaron Spelling), borrowed from such literary classics as 'Great Expectations' and 'Pride and Prejudice,' as well as using stock Western cliches such as warpathing Indians. Ensuring that the Trains progress was not hampered was Robert Horton as frontier scout Flint McCullough, until Horton left the series in 1962 saying that he was fed up with Westerns, only to turn up again in 1965 as the star of A Man Called Shenandoah. Horton was replaced by 'Laramie' star Robert Fuller as Cooper Smith. Another major cast change took place when Ward Bond died of a heart attack whilst on location in Texas on 5th November 1960, and John McIntire, who later went on to star in The Virginian replaced him. In 1962 the series was expanded from it's 52 minute, black and white format to 90 minutes in colour, however this proved less successful and the show's days were clearly numbered, even though it struggled on for another three years.
Developed from a single Comedy Playhouse presentation, The Walrus and the Carpenter starred veteran actors Felix Aylmer and Hugh Griffith as a mismatched pair of septuagenarians who discover they have one common aim; to live their remaining years to the fullest by quite literally 'living it up.' Aylmer played the wonderfully named Gascoigne Quilt, a highly literate retired schoolteacher, whilst Griffith played Luther Flannery, a womanising alcoholic who is completely illiterate. What draws them together at first is the fact that each possesses qualities the other wants, and while Flannery can improve his social standing by getting an education from his new schoolteacher friend, Griffith is equally keen to be educated by his Irish pal in the lessons of life. And so the pair set off on a number of adventures, normally embarked upon on the spur of the moment. The pilot, (originally to have been titled 'You're Only Old Once') as well as the series was written by Marty Feldman and Barry Took but due to contractual obligations Took's name did not appear on the credits for the pilot. A number of guest actors (they had not become stars yet) appeared throughout the 6-episode run, including Warren Mitchell and Ronnie Barker. Years later the same theme was revisited even more successfully by Roy Clarke in Last of the Summer Wine.
THE WALTONS (1972)
The everyday life of a family of 11 living in rural Virginia during the depression. Click Here for review
The series that set Steve McQueen off on the road to super-stardom drew on the real life exploits of the bounty hunters of the late 19th century, a small band of indepentent men who earned their living from the rewards offered for the capture of wanted criminals, whether they be dead or alive. These men were virtually a law unto themselves and few of them felt any emotion when tracking and capturing those with a price on their head. Josh Randall was no exception to this rule, and his portrayal as the mean-and-moody man-of-little-words was almost a blueprint for the future screen persona of McQueen. Randall wasn't equipped with the usual type of gun and instead armed himself with a wicked sawn-off carbine referred to as a "Mare's Leg" -a cross between a handgun and a rifle that handled like a pistol but had an explosive impact when it found its target. Randall acquired a sidekick in the form of Jason Nichols (Wright King) for a brief period of time before going it alone for the final season. The series was developed from an episode of another Western series, Trackdown (starring Robert Culp of I Spy fame), which ran from 1957-59. Trackdown was taken from the records of the Texas Rangers thereby winning it the official approval of the state of Texas (the only show ever to have this distinction) and the episode in which Randall first appeared was entitled 'Bounty'. Wanted: Dead or Alive was computer-colourized in the 1980's for US syndication and although 94 episodes were made between 1958 and 1961, it didn't debut in Britain until 1985!
THE WAR OF DARKIE PILBEAM (1968)
For most families the 1940s consisted of air-raid shelters, the sound of ack-ack and rationing. Some people profiteered - people like Darkie Pilbeam. Click Here for review
One of the first crime series on British television, War on Crime was a six-part docu-drama produced by Robert Barr and written by Guy Morgan and Percy Hoskins. The idea for the series came about when Morgan was conducting research at Scotland Yard for a Twentieth Century Fox film, and realised the potentially dramatic material that was available in the Metropolitan Police's crime files. He discussed the idea with Barr, and they enlisted Hoskins, a former crime reporter for the Daily Express, who was on good terms with a number of senior police officers. The first episode, 'Gold Thieves', recounted the true story of a bullion robbery in 1948 at Heathrow Airport, where thieves tried to steal gold bullion to the value of a quarter of a million pounds, but were ambushed by officers. The second story, 'Woman Unknown', was introduced, like all the others in the series, by a voice-over. In this case, it told viewers: "This is the story of a murder. A murder, apparently, without a clue. Unpremeditated and followed by meticulous skill in concealment, the detection of which, for sheer tenacity and perseverance, has few equals in the records of Scotland Yard." Having set the scene, the story then unfolds in dramatised format, using actors to show the original police investigation in the case of a woman's body, washed up in a London canal, and how they go through the processes of identification, the means of finding out how she died, and by whose hands. The murder, for petty theft, of an Oxford widow, was reconstructed to show how the culprit was finally brought to justice entirely by circumstantial evidence. Another programme in the series revealed the use of pathology in crime detection, and was based on the real facts behind a number of sensational murder arrests, including that of John George Haigh, the acid-bath murderer. Each programme was introduced with a graphic of a caption 'War on Crime' with a flashing light atop a police box, rising behind it, and a policeman walking by the box. War on Crime was broadcast monthly, and its influence can be clearly understood on police procedural series' that followed it in the 1950s and beyond.
Born from For The Children, Watch With Mother was an umbrella title for a variety of children's programmes that began in 1950 and endured until 1980 in a midweek lunchtime slot on BBC television. The new title was to compliment the radio version 'Listen With Mother', for which a generation of youngsters would hang on the words "Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin."
For The Children had begun as a ten-minute slot in 1937 and was one of the first television programmes reintroduced by the BBC after the War. Introduced by Annette Mills (sister of actor Sir John), it 'starred' Muffin The Mule, a wooden horse that stood atop a grand piano. The pair proved so popular that they became regulars on the series and were joined by Oswald The Ostrich, Mr Peregrine The Penguin, Prudence and Primrose Kitten, Sally The Sea-Lion, Louise The Lamb and Monty The Monkey. Muffin's strings were pulled by puppeteer Ann Hogarth who had bought him for just 15 shillings (75p). Muffin's last TV appearance with Annette Mills was in 1955, just days before she died. By that time the BBC had installed the regular 1.30 pm Tuesday to Thursday slot consisting of Andy Pandy, The Flowerpot Men, and Rag, Tag and Bobtail. In 1955 these were joined by Picture Book (Monday) and The Woodentops (Friday).
Andy Pandy, with his blue and white striped suit and floppy hat, was the creation of schoolteacher Maria Bird and made at the behest of the BBC's Head of Children's Programmes, Freda Lingstrom. The first four episodes were shown purely as an experiment, after which the corporation invited viewers to express their opinion before going into full production with a series. The puppet lived in a picnic basket and was accompanied by Teddy and Looby Loo, a rag doll who had her own special song "Here we go Looby Loo". The stories were told by Vera McKechnie, and Andy continued in repeat form (only 26 episodes were ever made), right up until 1969 when the original black and white prints became too poor to use. The following year thirteen new colour episodes were shot at the Abbey Road studios and these were repeated until 1976. Bill and Ben were the Flowerpot Men who lived in a shed at the bottom of a garden, and in between their large flowerpot homes lived Little Weed ('W-e-e-e-d'), who informed them when it was safe to come out and play and when the gardener was returning. Peter Hawkins, who later supplied the voices for Doctor Who's Daleks, invented Bill and Ben's 'flobadob' language, much criticised at the time for promoting immaturity, much in the same way as the Tellytubbies were in the 1990's. 'Rag, Tag and Bobtail', Thursdays offering, featured the escapades of three glove puppets; a hedgehog, a mouse and a rabbit. 26 episodes were made but numbers one and two were never screened. 'Picture Book' was hosted initially by Patricia Driscoll, with stories read by Charles E. Stidwell but was taken over by Vera McKechnie when Driscoll left to star as Maid Marion in ITC's The Adventures of Robin Hood. Friday's offering was brought to the screen by the same team responsible for 'Andy Pandy' and 'The Flowerpot Men.' The Woodentops were; Mummy, Daddy, twins Willie and Jenny, Baby Woodentop and Spotty Dog. The series was produced for three years and repeated until 1973. In the latter part of the 1960's additions to Watch With Mother came in the form of Tales From The Riverbank, Camberwick Green, The Herbs, Mary Mungo and Midge, and Pogles Wood. Later still came Mr Benn and Bagpuss, although many of these latter shows became so popular in their own right that many forget that they were part of the Watch With Mother strand.
When in 1987 the BBC put together a compilation of episodes from as early as 1952 up to 1963, it became a best selling video. By that time the series title had changed to 'See-Saw.' Affirming the enduring quality of these characters both Bill and Ben and Andy Pandy have recently been given a completely new make-over for a new generation of youngsters. Are you sitting comfortably?
THE WEST WING (2009)
US Drama series that took us behind the door at The White HouseClick Here for review
50's comedy series from the pens of Denis Norden and Frank Muir and starring Jimmy Edwards who had been awarded the DFC during the war when he fought with the RAF. Edwards, whose trademark was a magnificent handle-bar moustache, had been a radio star since the 1940's as Pa Glum, but it was for his role as Professor Jimmy Edwards, the corrupt, crafty and cane swishing headmaster of Chiselbury School for which he will always be most famously remembered. His bullying tactics were not confined simply to his students, and members of his staff were given a particularly rough ride, especially his weedy right-hand man, Mr. Pettigrew (played by Arthur Howard, brother of movie star Leslie). During it's initial four-year run Kenneth Cope (Marty Randall in Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)), and Peter Glaze of Crackerjack fame appeared regularly. A cinema version Bottoms Up was released in 1960. and the series itself was revived in 1971.
With America growing tired of the British produced 'swashbucklers' such as Sir Francis Drake and The Adventures Of Robin Hood ITC decided to have a go at producing the more popular US genre, the Western. Whiplash was based on the true story of Cobb & Co., a stagecoach line that grew up in Australia in the Wells Fargo mould following the 1850's gold rush. Boss of the company was US actor Peter Graves (brother of Gunsmoke star James Arness) who would later find fame as Jim Phelps in the 60's spy thriller series Mission Impossible, and Whiplash was filmed at Alice Springs and used for its backdrop such locations as the MacDonnell Ranges, the Ormiston Gorge and Ayer's Rock. Scripts were written by American writers which included Harry Fink and Gene Roddenberry and Australian writers Michael Noonan and Michael Plant, although there was (apparently) considerable concern amongst the Australian writers about 'unsuitable' American scripts - it was claimed that one script called for a scene featuring a 'herd of stampeding sheep!' The production was beset with other problems right from the beginning and before the series went into full production Executive Producer Ralph Smart resigned to be replaced by Leslie Harris. Peter Graves played company boss Christopher Cobb, a handsome 30 year-old Bostonian and son of Jeremiah Fulton Cobb, a transportation tycoon in the USA with a sprawling railroad and stagecoach empire. The empire that they set up in Australia meant that by 1870 Cobb and Co. were using 6,000 horses a day over incalculable miles a week of sometimes trackless outback and by 1880 they controlled over 4,000 miles of coach routes. Their 'Great Coach' with 12 horses pulled some ninety or so passengers but by far their biggest coach was the 'Leviathan', which was pulled by 22 horses! The series itself mainly concerned itself with standard Wild West stories with outlaws being replaced by bushrangers and the character got his name from his preference to using a bullwhip rather than a gun. At the time the series had a good following and was rated as slightly above average although it's star wasn't so certain that they really did it justice to it. Some years later Peter Graves told 'TV Week': "Whiplash could have been much, much better. It was kept in the mould of the American show because there was no time for proper research and production planning. The writers here should have gone down there and really studied the Cobb & Co era. Not enough was made of Australia itself, we were too often confined to the back-lot." The series is believed to be the first to feature aborigines acting in a tv film.
Beginning in November 1950, Whirligig was billed in the Radio Times as "the first Children's Variety Magazine Programme." The series was broadcast live from the BBC's Lime Grove stuios and alternated every other Saturday afternoon with, at first, Telescope, and later, The Saturday Special. Whirligig was devised by Michael Westmore and fronted by Humphrey Lestocq with the help, or more precisely, the hinderance of a string puppet called Mr Turnip, who was manipulated by puppeteer Joy Laurey and voiced by Peter Hawkins (Laurey, Lestocq and Hawkins are pictured with Mr Turnip). The series pinned its faith in the love of children for fun, magic and blood-and-thunder thrills. For the latter of these children were invited to write their own potted thrillers in a section called (appropriately) Write It Yourself. Other features included Box of Tricks (a conjuring slot) and a Western strip cartoon Hank Rides Again. Other Whirligig regulars were Steve Race at the piano and Edmundo Ros featuring in Room for Music while Rolf Harris made his TV debut with Willoughby, a drawing board character which sprang to life. There was also a helicopter-themed travel quiz called Flying Visit which transported viewers over seas as well as through years gone by.
Enchanting children's series originally made in 1965 as a collaboration between RTS (Radio Television Serbia) of Belgrade and BR-TV of Munich. The White Horses followed the adventures of Julia, a fifteen-year old girl, played by Helga Anders, who leaves Belgrade to spend a holiday with her uncle Dimitri (Helmuth Schnider), on his stud farm where, with the help of head groom Hugo (Franz Muxeneder), he trains valuable white Lappizaners. In the opening story, Boris, one of the horses is stolen by gypsies who dye his white coat brown so that no one will recognise him. Julia and Hugo set off to find Boris and upon his recovery an affinity is formed between girl and horse thus setting the scene for the 12 hour-long adventures that followed. The series was originally shown in Germany as Ferien in Lipizza and in Slovenian it is known as Poeitnice v Lipici. It didn't reach the UK until 1968 when the BBC began broadcasting a dubbed English language version at 5.20pm on Monday afternoons. Although the series still exists on film (in Germany) it is thought that the English soundtrack has long since been lost. Most people remember the evocative theme song, 'White Horses,' sung by Jacky, which reached number 10 in the pop charts in April 1968 and was recently used on a TV commercial prompting a new generation of fans to scan the internet trying to find a copy to download. What many may not know is that under the name Jacky Lee the same singer had another TV theme song hit with in 1971 with 'Rupert.
Who Pays The Ferryman? was the second major drama series from the pen of Michael J. Bird. Rooted in the tensions between old Cretan values and modern Greece, it tells how British ex-serviceman Alan Haldane's return to Crete after 30 years becomes the catalyst for a frightening chain of events. Haldane discovers that while he was on the island he fathered a child, who is now a young woman with a family of her own. Unable to tell them the truth he decides to settle on the island to be near his new family, unaware that there are others who are secretly plotting against him. The theme of undisclosed parentage was one to which Bird would return more than once in future writings, and the central story of an old-woman's "vendetta" is in every sense a Greek tragedy. Although not strictly a sequel to Bird's earlier series, 'The Lotus Eaters,' there were many similarities. Set in the same part of Crete it features one recurring character in the form of the police chief played by Stefan Gryff. Also very much in the style of 'Lotus Eaters' Bird offered diversions along the way in a couple of episodes unconnected to the main storyline. The soundtrack for the series, by Greek composer Yannis Markopoulos, became a phenomenon in its own right. It made the UK top ten twice and the soundtrack LP still comes up regularly for sale on E-bay. It was reissued on CD in 2000 by EMI Greece. 'Ferryman' ran for eight episodes beginning on 7 November 1977 and ending on Boxing Day. (Review: Dave Rice)
Four widows plan a daring armed robbery. Click Here for review
Crime novelist Rupert Wilde and his wife live in a luxurious lifestyle in an expensive and beautifully decorated apartment in an old Manor House in the city of York. They live an idyllic lifestyle. But amidst their extravagant taste for good food, fine wine and sports cars (he drives a Triumph TR7), they have one other weakness: They can't resist a good mystery. This very often results in them being caught up in a dangerous intrigue that could be straight out of a Rupert Wilde book. Although Wilde is a best selling author of detective stories to the frustration of his long-suffering literary agent, Christopher Bridgewater, he has to be constantly hounded to meet his deadlines. Luckily for both of them Rupert is married to the resourceful artist and designer, Lucy, who types up his notes (Rupert hates writing anything down himself) and organises his life in order for them both to live in the expensive lifestyle they have become accustomed to. Christopher lives in London with an office in Charing Cross Road but often becomes an unwilling companion in their adventures. Nothing is straight forward for the Wilde's. Take Mr Bailey, their neighbour, for example, who lives in the flat downstairs. A quiet, distinguished gentleman by all appearances who describes himself as an "artist", until Rupert discovers he makes and distributes soft-porn films. The man behind Rupert Wilde was writer Ian MacKintosh a former Lieutenant Commander in the Royal Navy who left the Service in 1972 with an MBE, and was approached by Yorkshire Television for ideas for a series. He had previously published his first novel in 1967 before approaching the BBC and the Navy with an idea for a drama series from which the successful programme Warship was born. He dreamed up the idea for Wilde Alliance, sold it to Yorkshire, wrote the first episode and become producer of the 13-part series. MacKintosh also created the spy series The Sandbaggers for the same company. "When I wrote the format and characters for Wilde Alliance, I was working necessarily in a two-dimensional form." MacKintosh once wrote. "Amy and Rupert were dear to me; but they could not come alive, take real shape, go out into the world, until the parts were cast and the artistes started to speak the lines. May I take this opportunity, therefore, to thank Julia Foster and John Stride for giving me parental pride, and for being two of the most professional and delightful people to whom any writer or producer could entrust his product. Amy and Rupert would surely approve." In a mystery worthy of one of his own creations, MacKintosh was surveying locations in Alaska in July 1979 (allegedly for a film, but rumours have it for naval intelligence) with his friend Graham Barber when the light plane he was in disappeared and was never found. A top rated show in its day, Wilde Alliance was broadcast in a prime time slot between 9pm and 10 pm on Tuesday nights and made the Top 20 programmes of the week list during its entire 13 episode run between 17th January and 11th April 1978, reaching a peak audience of 16.6 million viewers, sending it to number 4 in the chart.
Originally a Comedy Playhouse presentation from 1968, this was one of those rare beasts that was made into a full series but with an entirely different cast with entirely different character names. In the original, View By Appointment, Marjorie (played by Pauline Collins) and Jimmy (Derek Fowlds) are a young but friendless married couple who are struggling to sell their house so they come up with the idea of treating potential buyers as dinner guests to be wined and dined. This habit of solving problems using somewhat bizarre methods was explored more in the series. A change of title, cast and characters meant that Wink To Me Only starred Beryl Reid and Hugh Paddick as the somewhat older couple Irene and Sydney Jelliot. The writer for the series was Jennifer Phillips, one of the few women writing sitcom at this time.
Created by ATV as a starring vehicle for Peggy Mount, who had recently finished (or so it seemed) with her Ada Larkins character in the hugely popular sitcom The Larkins. Winning Widows was scripted by Sid Green and Dick Hills and produced by former "Larkins" producer Alan Tarrant. Peggy Mount starred as Martha, a thrice-married widower who, for reasons of economy, is forced to share a semi-detached property with her mild-mannered sister, Mildred, played by Avice Landon (later to star as Roy Dotrice's wife in the BBC comedy Misleading Cases). Mount's persona was very much in the same mould as her "Larkins" character, being something of a fearsome battleaxe who ran her household with an iron will, and Avice was really a substitute for Alf Larkins in this sitcom. (The same relationship was recreated in Mount's final sitcom, You're Only Young Twice, with Pat Coombs in the subservient role). The series was popular enough to run a second season and benefited from male guest stars Pete Murray, Hugh Paddick, Davy Kaye and Bernard Cribbins, all of whom tried to prove themselves as eligible bachelors for Mildred, before coming up against, and turning tail from her fearsome sister. Pop Singer Craig Douglas also made an appearance. Season two finished in November 1962 and the following year The Larkins returned to British TV screens for a further two-year run.
England 1942: What would make Liz Grainger, a mother with a five year-old daughter, leave her comfortable life in Devon to be an operative for Britain's secret service? Trained by the Special Operation Executive, she becomes a spy placed into occupied French territories, and her life becomes one of imminent danger as the fear of capture and death follows hard on her heels. Created by Jill Hyem and Lavinia Warner, (who had previously produced and written the BBC women prisoner of war series Tenko), Wish Me Luck was an outstanding tale of camaraderie in adversity endured by the brave civilian women recruited during the Second World War to operate as Allied agents behind enemy lines. Produced by London Weekend Television, the series was first broadcast in January 1988 and was based (as was series two) on the exploits of SOE agent Nancy Wake with much of the dialogue was copied from her autobiography "The White Mouse". A further two series followed in 1989 and 1990. Wish Me Luck was filmed on location in England and France. (Network DVD)
WKRP IN CINCINNATI (1978)
US Sitcom centered round a radio station Click Here for review
When we were first introduced to The Worker on 27th February 1965, he had already been found, and dismissed from 980 jobs over a period of 20 years, much to the frustration of local Labour Exchange counter clerk Mr. Whittaker (Percy Herbert), whose job it was to relocate him from the counter of his Weybridge office, where Charlie would bang on the counter every other morning, into permanent employment. Diminutive comedian Charlie Drake (born Charles Springall in South London on 19th June 1925) had been a TV regular since 1954 (having made his radio debut in 1951), when he first appeared as a children's entertainer alongside Jack Edwardes on Jigsaw. The pair formed something of a double-act, which lasted until 1957 when they decided to go their separate ways and Charlie moved into adult entertainment with a series called Drake's Progress, which also starred Irene Handl, Warren Mitchell and radio's famous Man-In-Black, Valentine Dyall. It is perhaps the second series of The Worker that is best remembered, when Percy Herbert was replaced by Henry McGee as the new clerk, Mr Pugh, a name which Charlie could never pronounce, instead referring to him as "Mr Peooh", the merest mention of which would lead the Labour Exchange official to yank 5 foot 1 inch Charlie off the ground by the scruff of his neck. (Drake's excuse for being so small was that as a child he'd been fed on condensed milk). These two were the only regulars on the series with a constantly changing supporting cast as Drake tried out a different job in every episode, without success. The series was revived in December 1969 for 13 more episodes and again in 1978 as part of Bruce Forsyth's Big Night Out, Henry McGee reprising his role in both runs. Drake, whose catchphrase was, "hello my darlings", also had a string of top-ten comedy records in the early sixties including 'Please, Mr Custer' and 'My Boomerang Won't Come Back.' as well as appearing in a string of British comedy films.
WORLD IN ACTION (1963)
Uncompromising investigative current affairs programme. Click Here for review
Possibly inspired by the success of ITV's Danger Man series, The World of Tim Frazer was shown under the banner of Francis Durbridge Presents and became, until Z-Cars, the longest running serial on BBC television being transmitted in a straight run of 18 episodes between 1960 and 1961. The Yorkshire born Durbridge sold his first play to BBC radio at the age of 21 and in 1938 he created the character Paul Temple, a crime novelist and detective, who's radio adventures soon became one of the Corporations best known broadcasts with recordings of the serials being sold to other Commonwealth countries where they were repeated long after they had stopped in the UK. In a departure from usual BBC practice (but common to ITV), Durbridge, who was Executive Producer, approached Clive Exton, Barry Thomas and Charles Hatton to serve as script associates so that he could spend more time producing and casting. Durbridge provided the basic story outlines to the three writers but then left them to their own devices. Tim Frazer (played by Jack Hedley) is an easy-going structural engineer who gets involved with a secret government department and is recruited as an undercover agent. Writing in the Radio Times in 1960 Durbridge described his character: "Let me start by saying that he is not a Private-Eye. Nor is he a tough, gimmicky, trigger-happy, dame-slapping, mid-Atlantic character of no fixed abode. Frazer spent four years in the Middle East with an engineering company, finally returning to England to start a small machine-tool business of his own. Unfortunately the firm went broke and Frazer's partner, Harry Denston, disappeared - owing Tim a fair sum of money. In pursuit of the money - and Harry Denston - Frazer suddenly finds himself engaged in a considerably more hazardous and dangerous occupation than engineering." At the end of the series the BBC publicity machine went into action again reporting in a 1961 issue of RT: "Tonight brings to an end the longest serial ever put out by BBC Television, and judging by the public reaction to it, one of the most successful." However, no further episodes were made and the series, at the time of writing, has not been released in any video format.
The series, scripted by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall that brought back Barbara Euphan Todd's popular talking scarecrow after a TV absence of 26 years. Starring former Doctor Who, Jon Pertwee (who suggested the project in the first place), as the turnip headed inhabitant of Scatterbrook Farm in Ten Acre Field, and Una Stubbs as his reluctant girlfriend Aunt Sally. The part gave Pertwee a chance to show off his comedy skills and funny voices that he had used on so many BBC radio shows including 'The Navy Lark', and was a huge hit, boosting sales of the original books and spawning a number of merchandise items, including a single by Pertwee called 'Worzel's Song'. The Crowman, Worzel's creator was played by former Catweazle star Geoffrey Bayldon. When programme makers Southern Television lost it's franchise production was halted until a New Zealand company purchased the rights to make Worzel Gummidge Down Under in 1987.