Bertie Wooster and his astonishing butler, Jeeves, were created by Pelham Grenville Wodehouse in a 1915 short story entitled 'Extricating Young Gussie,' before going solo in 1919 with My Man Jeeves, after which they became one of the most loved fictional creations in British literature. In this 1960's BBC series adapted by Richard Waring and Michael Mills, both Dennis Price and Ian Carmichael were ideally cast as the perfect (and perfectly snobbish) gentlemen's gentleman and his 'silly ass' of an employer. Although both actors were somewhat older than the characters as described in the original stories, a combination of perfect comic timing and delivery of dialogue turned the series into a resounding success. The plots invariably revolved around idle rich and rather dim-witted Bertie, dashingly dressed and monocle firmly in place, getting himself into some sort of social misadventure before the imperturbable Jeeves stepped in at the last minute to save the day. The series was revived (quite simply as Jeeves and Wooster) in 1990 to equal perfection with Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry in the leads. Although Jeeves' first name was never referred to in the series and indeed remained a mystery for many years (even to his employer), it was revealed in P G Wodehouse's 1971 novel, Much Obliged Jeeves. His name was Reginald.
Stop motion puppet series produced by Paddington's creator, Michael Bond. The series was made by London based animation studio FilmFair who gave it a distinctive look by having the characters as three- dimensional against 2 dimensional line drawing backgrounds. Animator Ivor Wood also worked on The Magic Roundabout and Postman Pat. The series was narrated by Michael Hordern. Paddington Bear first appeared in print in 1958. In the first story he is found by the Brown family, sitting on a suitcase at Paddington Station with a label attached to his coat: "Please look after this bear. Thank you." The inspiration for this was the author's recollections of WWII newsreels of evacuees being ushered away from London at various railway stations to the apparent safety of the countryside. Paddington had ventured a little farther. Deepest darkest Peru to be precise. His favourite food is marmalade sandwiches. A firm favourite for many years Paddington is now quite rightly regarded as a classic of children's literature, having been translated in book form into many languages and selling over 30 million copies. His most recent adventures were published in 2008.
THE PALLISERS (1974)
Lavish BBC costume drama based on Anthony Trollope's novels. Click Here for review
Although Panorama would later concentrate much more on current affairs, in its early days it tended to be a mixture of the arts, human-interest stories and scientific or medical topics. This was the vision for the programme of new Head of Talks Department, Leonard Miall, who wrote in the 1955 Television Annual that he saw Panorama as a piece of enterprising television journalism that needed to leave current politics and national affairs to programmes such as Viewfinder. Meanwhile Panorama, as the title suggested, took a much wider look at life and never shied away from controversy. A 1954 edition showed viewers how a dentist could remove a tooth from a patient while she was under hypnosis. Apparently, the patient, nineteen-year old Sylvia Langley, proved to viewers that the operation could be done quite painlessly.
In 1955, following the Election Results programme, the idea of a weekly Panorama with Richard Dimbleby as anchorman, was born. In the book 'Richard Dimbleby, Broadcaster' producer Michael Peacock recalled how in September of that year, because of the illness of his co-producer, he found himself in sole charge of what was to become the BBC's most important regular programme, one that today is the longest current affairs programme anywhere in the world. "With Richard Dimbleby, Malcolm Muggeridge, Woodrow Wyatt, Max Robertson and, six months later, with Chris Chattaway, we set out to explore the virgin lands of weekly television journalism." As far as Peacock was concerned, it was Dimbley who, more than anyone else, helped establish the programme. "For Richard, the years of preparation were over. At last he had a weekly major current affairs programme of his own. At last his skills as a newsman, reporter, commentator, and television professional could come together and find expression in one programme."
Leonard Miall remembered that when the BBC decided to make Panorama a weekly programme, he asked his deputy, Grace Wyndham Goldie, to supervise its new look. "She immediately set on it that stamp of quality which marked all her television enterprises. It was she who first demanded that Richard Dimbleby should be the new anchorman, and before soon moving off to energise in turn the start of Tonight and then Monitor she firmly settled the guiding lines of Panorama: integrity in its coverage of current affairs, showmanship in its intelligent exploitation of the television medium."
As far as Michael Peacock is concerned Panorama's finest hour was in the autumn of 1956. "It was during those dark weeks of the Hungarian revolution and the Suez invasion that Panorama grew up. The programme with Richard became a national institution." Leonard Miall also acknowledged the contributions of the wide selection of talented journalists that lent their talents to the programme. "All have been interested in politics, some with one foot in it. Some left Panorama for the House of Commons, like Christopher Chataway and Woodrow Wyatt. Some came to Panorama after failing to be elected, like Robin Day and Ludovic Kennedy. Panorama reporters were welcomed by such world leaders as President Kennedy, Pandit Nehru and the Shah of Persia. They were frequently involved themselves in controversy, for Panorama had to be involved in controversy, and they had to prise out cats which various vested interests preferred to keep in the bag."
In 1961, Panorama scored a notable first when the Duke of Edinburgh agreed to be interviewed by Richard Dimbleby, the first time that he, or any other of the Queen's immediate family, decided to allow himself to be questioned on a regular current affairs programme. Panorama didn't always feature strictly serious political subjects or noteworthy news stories of the week. Light-hearted features in the studio dealt with, for example, an ice cream tasting contest to guess which was made with real cream. By far the most famous 'stunt' the programme ever pulled was broadcast on Monday 1 April 1957. Dimbleby reported on the state of the Swiss spaghetti harvest. He explained to eager viewers how a bumper year for the spaghetti plantations was the result of an early spring and the "virtual disappearance of the spaghetti weevil." While walking between trees festooned with strings of spaghetti Dimbleby reported that with the danger of a late frost now over, the spaghetti harvest could go ahead. It turned out to be one of television's greatest hoaxes. Even an outsized calender on Dimbleby's studio desk proclaiming 1 April failed to alert a great number of viewers who jammed the BBC's switchboard with questions from "where can I buy a spaghetti bush?" to "please settle a family argument - I know that spaghetti grows on a bush but my wife insists it is made from flour and water."
One of the most famous Panorama programmes of the recent era was the 1995 interview of Diana, Princess of Wales by Martin Bashir, which occurred after her separation to Prince Charles in which she openly talked about the rumours surrounding her personal life. The programme still courts controversy to this day. On 29 November 2010, three days before voting for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Panorama aired an in depth investigation into bribes by senior FIFA officials. When England lost the bid to host the World Cup Finals many critics blamed the programme for turning the voting committee against the English. While it is arguable that this is the case what is beyond question is Panorama's integrity to report the facts as they were known to be in the best traditions of investigative journalism. Never more so than in June 2011, when secret Panorama cameras were smuggled in to a privately run care home for mental health patients after claims of abuse by support staff. An undercover reporter found and filmed evidence of physical and psychological cruelty and gross failings in the government regulator, the Care Quality Commission, which tried to suggest that despite the fact that this hospital was still able to pass their inspections, the system of regulating was not at fault. The programme was a prime example of public service television at its very finest.
Richard Dimbleby's son, David Dimbleby, presented the programme from November 1974 not only carrying on a family tradition but also linking the programme back to its early beginnings. Who's to say that Panorama won't continue on British television for another 50 plus years?
Comedy series produced by BBC Scotland based on the skipper and crew of a 'puffer' (small cargo boat) - 'The Vital Spark' written by Neil Munro and first published in 1905 in the "Looker On" column of the Glasgow Evening News. Munro continued writing these hilarious stories for most of his working life. He published them in three book collections: 'The Vital Spark' (1906), 'In Highland Harbours' (1911), and 'Hurricane Jack of the Vital Spark' (1923). The show quickly became a popular Friday night series with viewers for its easy-going humour and colourful characters which included Para Handy played by Duncan Macrae, Dan Macphall (John Grieve), Dougie (Roddy McMillan) and Sunny Jim (Angus Lennie) and their less-than legitimate dealings along the West Coast of Scotland. The series ran briefly for 6 episodes between 1959 and 1960 but the crew's adventures were revived in 1965 for an episode of Comedy Playhouse where Roddy McMillan returned this time as the skipper, Para Handy. Following that three series were made (entitled The Vital Spark) up to 1974. There might have been another series in 1977 but a pilot episode starring Billy Connolly, although filmed-was never aired. Then in 1990 Gregor Fisher (then famous for his Rab C Nesbitt character) returned to play the old sea salt in 9 50-minute episodes of The Tales of Para Handy.
Written by Murray Smith, The Paradise Club tells the story of two contrasting brothers, one a gangland boss and the other an ex-priest, who are thrown together for the first time in eight years upon the death of their notorious gangster mother. Leslie Grantham, in his first starring role since leaving EastEnders plays Danny Kane, a somewhat reluctant local villain who takes over the Kane family crime empire and the brilliant Don Henderson as (former champion boxer, ex-Foreign Legionnaire, ex-priest), Frank Kane, who returns to London to keep an eye on his wayward brother. On their mother's death it's Frank who inherits the Paradise Club in Paradise Street, Rotherhithe, much to Danny's dismay. Frank wants to run the Paradise Club as a legitimate business and have his brother work alongside him. But Danny is not all the villain he seems and he spends much of his time dealing with the attentions of other local gangsters, notably Peter Noonan, played by Philip Martin Brown. Of course the local constabulary are a constant thorn in his side and he theirs. DI Rosy Campbell is in charge of bringing down the Kane criminal empire, but she has her work cut out as Danny and his brother always seem to be one step ahead of them.
Although The Paradise Club came out at the tail end of the eighties it
is typical eighties fare, a sharp drama with a rich vein of humour, owing more to a series like
Minder than any other crime drama. The two main characters are totally opposite to each
other but manage to co-exist together and bounce off each other. Danny's sharp criminal mind
aligned to Frank's voice of reason enable the pair to run their seedy drinking and dancing den
whilst keeping at bay the attentions of the South London Underworld. The success of the series was
largely due to the casting and acting of Grantham and Henderson, who work amazingly well together.
The show was commissioned by the BBC and made by Zenith Productions and ran for two, ten episode
series. Murray Smith had written for some of the most memorable television series of the 70s and
80s like The Sweeney, Minder, Hazel and Lovejoy. Smith had also worked with Don
Henderson on three separate series that all featured the character DS George Bulman, first in the
series The XYZ Man, then Strangers and finally in the Bulman series. Sadly,
Don Henderson died in 1997, but he will be fondly remembered for The Paradise Club and the
other great work that he did. One of the most talked about episodes was from the second series-
titled Rock and Roll Roulette it guest starred Iron Maiden front man Bruce Dickinson
playing rock singer Jake Skinner who was being threatened by his management. EastEnders
actor John Altman also made an appearance in the episode. Bruce Dickinson and other members of
Iron Maiden actually appeared in another episode, entering the Paradise Club's "Worst Band
Competition". But at the end of the episode they take off their wigs and do a great version of
Gimme Some Lovin'. Unfortunately, The Paradise Club has never been released on DVD, partly
because Zenith Productions went bankrupt and there were a lot of issues concerning the rights to
the music used in the series. This is a shame considering how popular the show was and how well
remembered it is.
(Review: Glyn Howells 2014)
After facing bankruptcy, being defeated in the local Weatherfield elections and finally being left at the altar, Leonard Swindley packed his bags and moved out of Gamma Garments to take up the post of assistant manager in a branch of Dobson and Hawks national chain stores. In its 40+ year history, British supersoap Coronation Street has only produced two spin-offs. Pardon the Expression was the first. Actor Arthur Lowe brilliantly played on Swindley's comic self- importance as a floundering supervisor in charge of up to thirty staff, mostly female. Whilst trying to work his way up both the managerial and social ladder, Swindley, as played by Lowe was given a red-faced pomposity that would soon become the actors trademark. The first series of this half hour sitcom was screened immediately before Coronation Street and also starred Betty Driver as manageress of the firm's canteen. A few years later she was pulling pints behind the bar of the Rovers Return as Betty Turpin. Also passing briefly through Dobson and Hawks front doors were future 'Corrie' regulars Julie Goodyear and Amanda Barrie and Lowe's Dad's Army mates John Laurie and John Le Mesurier. Other notable customers were Dandy Nichols, Warren Mitchell, Pauline Collins, Wendy Richard and future Oscar winner, Ben Kingsley. Paul Dawkins played Lowe's boss, Ernest Parbold, but a real-life car crash precluded the actor from series two and Robert Dorning as Wally Hunt replaced him. The Dorning/Lowe partnership proved popular enough for a further spin-off: Turn Out The Lights, which saw the duo turn to amateur sleuthing following their dismissal from Dobson and Hawks. A year later Arthur Lowe would memorably confirm his lasting comedic immortality and public endearance by donning uniform and taking command of the nation's last, and most eagerly hapless line of defence, in the evergreen classic Dad's Army.
A hybrid of domestic comedy and musical variety, The Partridge Family was a successful example of how rock music could promote a television show-and vice versa. For a time, it made co- star David Cassidy a teen idol favourite-and who didn't want a mom like Shirley Partridge, who was not only cool, but also warm and wise? Columbia Pictures' Screen Gems television arm had a success with The Monkees from 1966 until 1968, when producer Bob Claver came up with the idea of having a family act as the centrepiece of a comedy. Plans initially called for a real-life family singing group -"The Cowsills"- to be featured, but Claver didn't think the singing clan would work in a scripted series, so it was decided to hire actors who weren't professional musicians, and use studio musicians to provide the music. Academy Award-winning actress Shirley Jones agreed to star as Shirley Partridge, a widow with five children who lived in California and decided to form a singing group. Jones' real-life stepson David Cassidy was cast as older son Keith; young model Susan Dey was tapped to play 15-year old Laurie and for comic relief, producers found rambunctious Danny Bonaduce, who played 10-year old con man and schemer Danny Partridge. Former Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In regular Dave Madden played agent Reuben Kinkaid, who hated child performers in general-and young Danny in particular. But Reuben knew talent when he saw it and decided to represent the Partridges.
Every week, the family either took off for concerts in their old psychedelic Chevrolet school bus, or the story revolved around home life in their California suburb. (Each episode ended with at least one performance by the Partridges.) Before the show even made its September 25th, 1970 debut on ABC, producers found songs from various artists and recorded them with studio musicians. (Shirley Jones and David Cassidy did provide the vocals, since both were good singers.) The pilot episode featured the Partridge's first single "I Think I Love You". Within weeks, The Partridge Family was a solid top 20 hit for ABC; even better, "I Think I Love You" soon after reached number one on America's Top 100 singles chart, helped by exposure on the TV show. Despite its hip rock image, The Partridge Family was squeaky-clean family fun, helped along by David Cassidy's charm; Susan Dey's good looks, and the comic talent of Danny Bonaduce. (Bonaduce and Dave Madden had many good scenes together, giving many episodes a much-needed injection of humour.) By the end of the show's first season, David Cassidy was a bonafide teen pop idol, but wanted to move beyond the love songs and ballads the producers wanted him to sing on The Partridge Family. And the producers were capitalizing on a "Partridge" merchandising bonanza, with the show's cast on everything from T-shirts to lunch boxes. None of the cast members received a piece of the merchandising profits, something that annoyed Cassidy to no end, so he cashed in on his television image with weekend concerts, after long grueling weeks on the Partridge Family set and in the studio. His manager later discovered Cassidy was a minor when he signed on to the show, making the contract null and void. Now an adult, Cassidy used his clout to get more money and a piece of the merchandising pie. Before long, Cassidy became one of the highest paid television performers of the early 1970's.
But not even more money could make Cassidy happy; he was tired of his squeaky- clean Keith Partridge image. In an effort to change people's perceptions, he granted an interview with "Rolling Stone" magazine, where Cassidy admitted to smoking pot and engaging in sex with his many "groupies". He also knocked the TV show while posing half-naked for a photo in the rock periodical "Rolling Stone." By the time Cassidy's contract was coming to an end ABC and the producers decided to pull the plug on The Partridge Family. Soon after the show ended, David Cassidy's time in the spotlight dimmed as fans gravitated to other. Co-star Bonaduce had his own drug and personal problems, but eventually became a successful radio announcer and briefly hosted a syndicated talk show. Susan Dey went on to her best known non-"Partridge" role as district attorney Grace Owen on L.A. Law and Shirley Jones still showed up as a guest on various television shows, forever linked as Shirley Partridge. (Review: Mike Spadoni)
THE PASSING SHOW (1951)
Music and music-hall acts from the Edwardian era in a drama setting Click Here for review
Following a few months on from Target Luna, a science fiction based drama series for Sunday afternoon family viewing, ATV, under the guiding hand of Sydney Newman, produced Pathfinders in Space (presented under the Family Hour umbrella title), a seven-part serial that tapped in to what was at that point the very popular public interest in space exploration. More an adventure series with science fiction overtones, 'Pathfinders' was, by Newman's own admission, the " ancestor to Doctor Who."
Written by Malcolm Hulke and Eric Paice, Target Luna (reviewed in more detail on this site) concerns itself from the point of view that getting a man into space is easy; the big problem is bringing him safely back into Earth's atmosphere. Pathfinders in Space continued along the same theme. Pre publicity from distributor Associated British-Pathe Ltd summed up the series thus: Professor Wedgwood leads the first team of Moon explorers and is successfully launched into space. His supply rocket, however, cannot take off by automatic pilot and his children, Valerie, Geoffrey and Jimmy volunteer to save the expedition. After their spaceship is in space they find a stowaway. The two rockets continue their journey into deep space and, as they near the moon, a third rocket appears...a spaceship from nowhere. Professor Wedgewood's rocket lands on the moon and the supply rocket, brought by his children, lands some 150 miles away. Wedgewood set out to find it and both parties discover that someone has already landed on the moon before them. The three children find a cave containing relics from a previous civilisation then make another startling discovery...Professor Wedgewood also finds proof of a landing in the distant past and now wonders if the alien spaceship will reveal its secrets.
There were a number of cast changes from the Target Luna. Wedgewood was now played by Peter Williams and each of the children were played by different actors to the original with Stewart Guidotti as Geoffrey, Richard Dean as Jimmy and Gillian Ferguson as Valerie. Gerald Flood appeared as astronaut / scientific journalist Conway Henderson. In interview Flood has previously recalled how the series went out live and the panic that was caused in the studio control room when it was realised that one character's words could not be heard once his space helmet had been latched down. It was long thought that no recordings were made of Pathfinders in Space but telerecordings do exist and were released on DVD courtesy of Network in December 2011. The box-set also included the two series that followed Pathfinders in Space; Pathfinders to Mars and Pathfinders to Venus. All three series were written by Hulke and Paice.
In Pathfinders to Mars, Conway Henderson (Flood) consents to pilot a new interstellar rocket. Young Geoffrey Wedgewood will be one of the crew and Henderson's niece, Margaret (Hester Cameron) - due for a holiday with her uncle - persuades him to take her, too. Meanwhile the place of Professor Dyson is taken by an unidentified man believed by Wedgewood and the rocket crew to be Dyson. The imposter, Harcourt Brown (George Coulouris), sabotages the rocket's radio receiver so that Henderson and the rest don't discover his real identity. Working for the mysterious "Sector Ten" Brown manages to take control of the rocket and hold Margaret as hostage. Pathfinders to Mars began in December 1960 and run through to 1961 with some variation on start dates depending on the ITV region.
Pathfinder to Venus picked up where the previous series left off. On their return from Mars, the crew of the British space ship M.R.4. intercepts a distress signal from a rocket in orbit around Venus. Manned by American astronaut Captain Wilson (Graydon Gould), it has been struck by a meteor and is fast running out of oxygen. Harcourt Brown fakes a message so that Conway Henderson believes the the American has been forced to crash-land on the planet's surface. Landing on Venus in a thick forest, out intrepid heroes soon realised they have been duped when the US space craft lands. But by the time Geoffrey and Margaret reach it, the pilot has vanished and his cabin has been torn apart by a creature of enormous strength. This was the final Pathfinder story, but some of the actors resurfaced later in Plateau of Fear. (Sources of reference: TV Times Magazines 1960/61; Doctor Who The Early Years by Jeremy Bentham.)
Based on the John le Carré novel and adapted for television by Arthur Hopcraft (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy; Hard Times, Bleak House, and Rebecca), A Perfect Spy centres round Magnus Pym (Peter Egan), a self-serving, unfeeling individual who leads a life of duplicity and betrayal. Growing up without a mother, Pym's early years are dominated by his con-man father who is delighted when his son shows and aptitude for deceit. When Magnus is sent to Switzerland for his education he is scouted by a British agent who sees him as a likely candidate for the Intelligence Service, reporting back on politically active students. His education continues at Oxford where he joins the service officially but it is not long before he becomes involved with the Czechoslovakia secret service and begins exchanging secrets with both sides. When both agencies become suspicious of his activities Pym becomes a wanted man and drops out of sight, moving to a small Victorian boarding house in Farleigh Abbot, the seaside resort where he had once spent a holiday with his father. Here he reflects on his life of deception. "It's not really a spy story", series director Peter Smith told the New York Times. "It's about the way one's parents and childhood make one the kind of person one is. Because Magnus is deprived of love as a child he grows up having to steal it. And although he spends his life trying to escape from his father, he goes on being the motivating force in his life." Peter Egan said of his character "Every single person Magnus Pym meets is betrayed by him. Because of his childhood, the negative input of his father, he has no moral standpoint of his own. He is the perfect spy basically because he has no inner feelings about anything."
PERRY MASON (1957)
Court room dramas featuring an invincible defence lawyer. Click Here for review
example of the mismatched crime fighting duo series which would later come to dominate the world's
TV producers imaginations, The Persuaders was arguably the most lavishly fun series ever
produced by the ITC juggernaut up to that time. The series was elevated far above its predecessors
by dint of the major casting triumph of securing both Roger Moore as Lord Brett Sinclair and
legendary Hollywood superstar, Tony Curtis as Danny Wilde. Taking the familiar international
action - adventure format, the plot was that Sinclair, the silver spoon fed aristocrat, and Wilde,
the self made millionaire, were brought together by retired judge Fulton (Laurence Naismith), and
blackmailed into becoming international sleuths. In the course of their adventures they bickered
with each-other, chased girls, fought villains and chased some more girls, while establishing a
sparkling rapport and with enjoyable subtlety, sending up their established screen personas in the
process. (In one episode Tony Curtis answers a hotel telephone with the words, "Bernard Schwartz?
Never heard of him." Bernard Schwartz was Tony Curtis's real name).
The whole format was given something of a 'dry run' in a Saint episode entitled The Ex-King of Diamonds which teamed Roger Moore in his Simon Templar role alongside Stuart (The Champions) Damon. The story was a deliberate attempt to find out how the relationship between Moore and a US co-star would work. However, there was never any question of Damon filling the role in The Persuaders as the producers felt as though what was needed was a 'big name.' Consequently, Rock Hudson was approached first to play the part of a Texan oil baron and when he proved to be unavailable Glenn Ford was offered the role, but he didn't want to leave the USA for location filming. It was ITC chief Lew Grade who secured the talent of Tony Curtis and according to series creator Robert S. Baker it was "the best thing that could have happened to the series." Although there have been rumours down the years that the two leads did not get on, both actors were quick to dispel this as nothing more than tabloid gossip. Roger Moore has gone on record as saying "Tony and I had a good on and off screen relationship, we are two very different people, but we did share a sense of humour". Lew Grade attempted to repeat Moore's international success in The Saint with this follow up series that, inexplicably, failed in the one market it was aimed at; the USA. ABC cancelled the series after just 24 episodes. The theme song was by John '007' Barry which, by coincidence, was Roger Moore's next major role. Whilst hardly deep or compelling drama, The Persuaders was an expertly produced and acted series which stood head and shoulders above its rivals, and is still tremendously amusing fun today. (Co- writer: Stephen R Hulse)
This hugely popular sitcom was almost (but not quite) a spin-off from The Beverly Hillbillies. Both came from the imagination of executive producer Paul Henning and it was Petticoat Junction that finally made a star (and deservedly so) of Bea Benadaret, who had first come to the public's attention as George Burns and Gracie Allen's next door neighbour, Blanche - and who had been heard for years as the voice of Betty Rubble in The Flintstones and appeared in The Beverly Hillbillies as Jethro's mother, Pearl Bodine. The small farming community of Hooterville provided the setting for widower Kate Bradley (Benadaret), owner of a small hotel called The Shady Rest. Helping her to run the hotel were her three beautiful daughters, Billie Jo, Bobby Jo and Betty Jo, as well as the girls uncle (not surprisingly called Joe), who assumed the mantle of hotel manager. In addition to running the hotel and keeping a wary eye on the romantic lives of her daughters, Kate was often at loggerheads with Homer Bedloe, vice-president of a railway company that was committed to closing down the steam-driven branch of the line that ran through Hooterville thereby scrapping its lone engine (The Cannonball) and firing its two engineers, Charlie Pratt and Fred Smoot. There was eventually a spin-off series to Petticoat Junction called Green Acres, which was set just a few miles 'down the road' and as a result of this characters would pop up from time to time in each-others series. The comedy began to suffer though when Benadaret missed a number of episodes due to ill health, which sadly led to her death before the start of the sixth series. Although June Lockhart stepped in as a mature female doctor in 1968 there was a notable loss of the old chemistry that had made the series work in the first place, and the show was finally laid to rest in 1970.
Made as the USA's answer to Coronation Street and based on Grace Metalious' novel, Peyton Place, with its tales of sexual intrigues became the first prime-time soap opera on American television. Set in a New England town, the story (which had already been filmed in 1957 for the big screen-Lana Turner starred) concentrated on the lives of its inhabitants, amongst who were Constance MacKenzie (Dorothy Malone) and her illegitimate daughter, Alison (Mia Farrow), who was romantically linked to Rodney Harrington (Ryan O'Neal), the son of a wealthy mill, owner and his wife of two occasions, Betty Anderson (Barbara Parkins). Linking the stories together was dashing young doctor Michael Rossi (Ed Nelson), whose work took him into the homes of all the characters. The series made major stars of most of the cast, not least of all O'Neal and Farrow (whose character wandered off on a foggy night, never to be seen again). Other stars during the shows run included Leslie Nielsen, Lee Grant, Wilfred Hyde-White and Lana Wood (sister of Natalie). The series was purchased by ITV in 1965 at a cost of £30,000 but unlike its inspiration, Coronation Street, Peyton Place was unable to maintain both its script or production standards and eventually viewing figures became so low that it was axed. At the time, Dr. Rossi was on trial for murder, a finale that Dutch viewers found so unbearable that they flew the cast out to Holland to film an alternative, happy ending. There have been several attempts to revive the series, a 1972 daytime offering Return To Peyton Place starring different actors and a couple of TV movies starring several members of the original cast Murder In Peyton Place (1977) and Peyton Place: The Next Generation (1985). The series is mentioned in 'Haper Valley PTA', a hit single for country singer Jeannie C. Riley in 1968.
THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW (aka BILKO) (1955)
Conniving Army sergeant always on the lookout for a money-making scheme. Click Here for review
An official spin-off series from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, this half-hour comedy followed the adventures of Mary Richards arrogant, self-absorbed landlord Phyllis Lindstrom. Cloris Leachman-the actress who played Phyllis-was certainly talented; she had won two Emmys during her five seasons on MTM, along with a 1971 Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her work in the now- classic Peter Bogdanovich film The Last Picture Show. Because Phyllis was such a polarizing character, the MTM producers used her sparingly-as a cook would use a pungent spice--with positive results. However, making her the centerpiece of a weekly sitcom proved to be a mistake, and Phyllis ran for just two seasons. When the series began its CBS run on September 11th, 1975, Phyllis-stunned by the sudden death of her wealthy but never-seen dermatologist husband Lars-- moved from Minneapolis, Minnesota to San Francisco, with her bright and level-headed teenage daughter Bess. The pair moved into the home of Phyllis' somewhat dizzy mother-in-law Audrey Dexter and her sombre second husband. Phyllis soon after landed the position of an assistant to studio photographer Julie Erskine. Actress Barbara Colby portrayed Erskine only in the pilot; just as production started, Colby was shot to death in a Venice, California parking lot. Liz Torres assumed the Julie Erskine character starting with the second episode. Initially, American viewers took to Phyllis; it quickly became a top ten hit because of the characters familiarity. But as the first season went on, ratings began to fall as viewers became tired of the unlikeable lead character. For its final season, producers softened Phyllis' rough edges somewhat, ditched the photography studio and gave her a job as administrative assistant. Also added to the cast was 86- year-old actress Judith Lowry as the saucy-tongued Mother Dexter, who proved to be a formidable foe for the annoying Phyllis. (Mother Dexter was an early version of The Golden Girls Sophia Petrillo, the feisty, outspoken senior citizen played by the late Estelle Getty.)
For the twelve young pilots of RAF Hornet Squadron, September 1939 brings the moment they have been waiting for; Britain has entered the War, and they prepare to leave for France with the prospect of flying beautiful aircraft in perfect formation, ready for any adversary. Eventually, they will be called upon to engage an enemy that is better trained, better armed and more experienced than they are. But life is still for living, and as they endure the mounting anticipation of the 'phoney war', the young novices - some still teenagers - are determined to sample the delights that France has to offer. Tim Woodward, Neil Dudgeon, Nathaniel Parker and Jeremy Northam star in this acclaimed LWT drama series, based on the novel by former RAF fighter plotter and Booker Prize nominee Derek Robinson. Meticulously researched combat scenes feature restored period aircraft - with former Red Arrows aerobatic team leader Ray Hanna as chief pilot - and are enhanced by stunning aerial photography and special effects. Piece of Cake also emphasises the fallibility and vulnerability of the pilots, offering rounded characterisations of the young heroes of the Battle of Britain - many of whom will make the ultimate sacrifice. (Network DVD)
Six part series made by the BBC documentary department that was a direct follow on from the 1951
experimental series I Made The News (see separate entry) and seen now as a direct
forerunner to Dixon of Dock Green. Although these programmes were described as
documentaries because they were based on cases from real-life police files, they were in fact
dramas acted out by actors. Previous police procedural series tended to focus on high-profile
cases and centered round the Criminal Investigation Department officers of Scotland Yard. Pilgrim
Street was the first of these docu-dramas to revolve around the work of policemen at a suburban
police station, and to feature cases, as the Radio Times of 1952 reported, that "never find their
way into the pages of the Commissioner's Report and in which the police act as helpers and
protectors of the public." The fictitious Pilgrim Street police station was, however, just a
stones-throw from Scotland Yard as the opening narrative indicated: "Our manor - our ground. It's
as varied as anything in London. The railway station is in the centre there, and around it are
cinemas, the shopping streets, the wharehouses, the pubs, the pawnbrokers, and the little streets.
Up here, luxury flats, spacious squares and gardens, and embassies. Skirting it all, the
Embankment and the river. That's our ground. Our Manor. And right here is our station: Pilgrim
The series was originally to have been called The Blue Lamp, however BBC bosses were concerned about using a title already used by the cinema for the feature film, even though the film was undoubtedly the inspiration for this television version. Clearly producer Robert Barr was hoping the short run (Pilgrim Street ran from June to July and was produced at the newly acquired Lime Grove studios) would give rise to a long running series. However, critical reaction and lack of support from his boss, Cecil McGivern, put paid the that idea. One critic described Pilgrim Street as "ordinary to the point of dullness." Nonetheless, Pilgrim Street is an important programme in the development of the British TV police procedural drama genre being the first steps towards a series featuring the exploits of 'an ordinary copper.'
The Pink Panther first appeared on cinema screens in the comical title sequence of the live action movie of the same name. The animated character which was created by Friz Freleng had nothing to do with the movie itself which centred round the theft of a diamond called the Pink Panther. However, Freleng's cartoon creation was such a success that United Artists signed him up to produce a series of theatrical comedy shorts. The first of these, 1964's The Pink Phink (which won the 1964 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film), featured the Panther tormenting a white moustachioed man (actually a caricature of Freleng), by constantly thwarting his attempts to paint his house blue - by painting it pink. In late 1969 the Pink Panther cartoons by Freleng and David H. DePatie made their way to television on The Pink Panther Show, a series by Mirisch Films and DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, created to showcase the cartoons. Each 30 minute episode began with a Doug Goodwin composed theme music replacing the more familiarly known Pink Panther Theme by Henry Mancini. Each show featured the Pink Panther and The Inspector, a cartoon version of the live-action Clousseau character. The opening sequence showed the Pink Panther and the Inspector alighting from the Panthermobile outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Announcer Marvin Miller acting as an off-camera narrator for the linking scenes between cartoons which now had canned laughter added to the original soundtrack. Other DePatie-Freleng series joined the Pink Panther, including Roland and Rattfink, The Dogfather, The Blue Racer and Crazylegs Crane as well as The Inspector, with the bumbling Clouseau and his Spanish-speaking sidekick Sgt. Deux-Deux.
In 1957 a dynamic new double act made their first appearance on BBC television, two puppet pigs
with a cheeky attitude and speeded-up voices named Pinky and Perky, the creation of Czechs,
painter and sculptor, Jan Dalibor and his actress wife, Viasta. "I had always been interested in
puppets," says Jan, "and Viasta suggested I make some puppet pigs because the pig is a symbol of
good luck in Czechoslovakia. I came up with twin boy pigs -Pinky who wore red and Perky who wore
blue." Originally aimed squarely at the children's share of the market, the player porker's
prancing around to the hit songs of the sixties unexpectedly transformed them into adult viewers
favourites. At their peak, they succeeded in attracting more viewers than the mighty US sitcom
import I Love Lucy with Lucille Ball, and even conquered the US themselves, making six
appearances on the prestigious Ed Sullivan Show and doing a year at the gaming capital of
the world, Las Vegas. The Dalibors were quick to realise the power of music for their creations,
and it quickly came to form an integral part of their shows. Their show's format underwent a
change which saw the duo running their own television station, PPC TV, along with various human
side-kicks including, Jimmy Thompson, Roger Mofat, John Slater, Brian Burdon and Fred Emney. Their
theme song was the catchy 'We Belong Together' and they even introduced a group of puppet "Fab
Four" called The Beakles. Amazingly, at the height of their fame, Pinky and Perky received almost
as much fan mail as the genuine Beatles! Ultimately, the Dalibors created a total of fifty
puppets. Besides Pinky and Perky there was Ambrose Cat, Horace Hare (the spitting image of popular
comedian, Ken Dodd), Basil Bloodhound, Morton Frog, Conchita the Cow, Bertie the baby elephant and
the sultry Vera Vixen, plus an endless supply of mice. Noteable human guest stars included Michael
Aspel, Stratford Johns (in 'Z Pigs'), Freddie and the Dreamers and Henry Cooper.
In 1966 the BBC took the drastic step of actually banning their show, charging it with being "too political". This had resulted from the The Dalibors planning an edition titled 'You Too Can Be a Prime Minister' but, fearful of any political content with a general election approaching, the BBC decided to postpone transmission until after polling day. However, a huge public outcry saw it quickly reinstated. Speaking at the time, Jimmy Thompson commented on how he was nonplussed by the corporation's drastic decision: "All that happens is I stand for election, have cabbages thrown at me and when I eventually arrive at Number Ten, I find Pinky and Perky already there." However, in a somewhat ironic twist when 'You Too Can Be a Prime Minister' was finally shown, it succeeded in attracting more viewers than Harold Wilson's party political broadcast which on the was on the ITV network at the same time. After a defection to Thames, in the late sixties, Pinky and Perky finally retired from the nation's television screens in 1972. But a successful run of video releases of their old shows paved the way for a return of the squeaky voiced veterans in the form of an all-new CGI-animated television series on CBBC, beginning in November 2008 on BBC One. 52 episodes of 13 minutes duration were made. The series was produced by Lupus Films, and line produced by Sally Marchant. The first DVD of the new look Pinky & Perky featuring eight episodes from the new series entitled 'License to Swill' was released in April 2009.
The world's first television sitcom. Click Here for review