Arthur's Treasured Volumes

1960 | United Kingdom

It's title inspired by the initials of the television company that produced the series, Arthur's Treasured Volumes appears to be, if the sole surviving episode is an example, an underrated and unfairly forgotten TV gem. 

Although regarded as the ultimate 'end-of-the-pier' performer and in spite of a hugely successful BBC radio series, Arthur Askey had great difficulty in finding a starring vehicle for television that was met with approval by both critics and viewers alike. In 1960 the diminutive comedian renewed an earlier successful association with producer Bill Ward, who had masterminded Arthur's earlier success on BBC with Before Your Very Eyes (1952-55). 

Ward acquired the services of experience scriptwriter Dave Freeman who came up with a formula in which Arthur's real life daughter (actress Anthea Askey) would pull a book down from a shelf and begin reading it to her father. This would be the cue for Arthur and his regular cast of supporting characters to launch themselves into the plot. Many other guest stars, who would soon become household names in their own right, appeared throughout the series and they included Wilfrid Barambell, June Whitfield, Barbara Mitchell and Geoffrey Palmer, and regular supporting roles were played by Sam Kydd and Arthur Mullard. But the real star of the show was Arthur Askey, whose personality positively shone through as he joked and ad-libbed his way from beginning to end of each episode. 

The half dozen stories that were related by Anthea over the series of six shows (all of which were made up by Freeman) were 'A Blow in Anger,' 'The History of Mr. Lacey,' 'The Command Performer,' 'The Curse of the Bellfoots,' 'A Slight Case of Deception' and 'Pillbeam of Twickenham' (of which only the first survives and is currently held by the British Film Institute). 

Published on November 28th, 2018. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.