Armchair Thriller

1978 | United Kingdom

There were actually three series titled Armchair Thriller, the first of which premiered on 22 April 1967 but is covered in more detail in the plays section of Television Heaven under the banner of ABC Armchair Thriller. This review concerns itself with the later two series from Thames, the first of which debuted on 21st February 1978. 

Each story in the series was unrelated to any of the others and some of them were adaptations of existing novels. They were each told over the course of either four or six episodes, most of which ended with a dramatic cliffhanger to bring the viewers back for more. The mood was set right from the off as most episodes commenced with the 'night time' version of the familiar Thames logo. Everyone remembers the usual version with a bright blue sky above the famous London landmarks, but occasionally in winter months Thames would use an alternative version to reflect the dark evenings. This darker, more mysterious Thames ident would then give way to the opening titles of Armchair Thriller, so very simple but highly effective: a short animation of a shadow coming to rest in a spotlit armchair, then, just as the shadow figure was seated, the hands would tense as though it were suddenly gripped with terror. And while these images were playing so too was an eerie melody. Even the trailers for the series heightened the horror element with their images of armchairs showered in blood and screaming faces.

By the time the final story of the first series was broadcast in May, Armchair Thriller had built up quite a following, resulting in the first episode (of 6) of 'The Limbo Connection', which starred James Bolam as a man in search of his missing wife, achieving an audience in excess of 17 million viewers. So ended series one, but with such enormous success in the ratings, the commissioning of a second series was all but guaranteed. It duly appeared in January 1980, again on Tuesdays and Thursdays but at the slightly earlier time of 8pm. Andrew Brown now shared the producer's chair with Brenda Ennis, whilst Robert Holmes took over as the new script editor. Armchair Thriller was not picked up for a third season, most probably due to cost implications and the second series not performing quite as well as the first. Some of the serials did get repeated in daytime slots and then later on the now defunct Super Channel but otherwise this often imaginative and sometimes chilling drama series has been allowed to fade from the memory - except that is for those really scary moments that will remain etched on the mind for many more years yet...

Published on November 27th, 2018. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.

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