Tonight’s ATV Midlands… in 1958 

31 January 2018 tbs.pm/14945

And a warm welcome to the depths of winter from TVTimes, which takes us through the ATV listings for 31 January 1958, festive celebrations having long since died in the nation’s ears. Never mind. There’s always telly.

ATV gets its religious obligations out of the way early, starting up with Thought for the Day at 12:43, a small penance for the titan of lunchtime at 12:45: Lunch Box with Noele Gordon. This edition has Jerry Allen & his Trio, who play the unforgettable theme tune, plus the singer David Galbraith and then-singer Diana Coupland, later to find fame acting in Bless This House, opposite Sid James.

This YouTube upload of the show from 1958 rather exploded my view of 1950s UK telly being staid, and the ladies prove beyond doubt that there’s no graceful way to get up after leaping into the splits. Although this clip of Lunch Box clearly isn’t from the day I’m looking at, it’s a rather interesting example of ATV taking a break for the afternoon straight after the show, with Noele acting as both presenter and continuity announcer.

As someone who works in Presentation in this 24/7 era, the broadcasting hours here makes me green with envy. However, as I’m one of those ladies you hear so much about, it’s unlikely I would have got my dainty hands on anything remotely mechanical in the control room in 1958. Hey ho. Onward, then…

At 1:25pm, it’s time to get your betting slips out with Racing from Doncaster, a regular instalment of TV’s love affair with the gee-gees. Horse racing has always been a poor relation in TV terms in comparison with the more mass-market sports of football or rugby, but from a Presentation point of view, it’s rather handy, given that the number and length of races are predictable, and the audience don’t particularly get disturbed by any of the horses going for a burton, so no extra time is racked up as a result of races being stopped, because they’re, er, not. All the nasty business takes place out of the view of the cameras and everyone’s happy. Apart from the horse, perhaps.

On that note, the schedule caters for a planned break in the racing programme by putting something improving on for the schoolkiddies at 2:43pm. Our Schools programmes are two episodes of From Cover to Cover, courtesy of Associated-Rediffusion to help with reading. Racing from Doncaster then returns at 3.50pm until closedown at 4:15pm, for a thrilling 45 minutes until the valves are warmed up for Childrens’ programming at 5, with A-R doing the honours yet again with the general entertainment programme, Let’s Get Together. But what’s THIS, dear viewers? Suddenly, I’m faced with a common phrase of my father’s, Hopalong Cassidy and the fact that he drunk sarsaparilla. I don’t recall him telling me that it was an actual children’s programme, although I probably should have guessed. My dad was around 11 at the time of this schedule, so the cultural reference makes perfect sense. In any case, this hero of the Wild West was scheduled for 5:30pm.

We go back to ATV programming just in time for Dad to get home at 6pm, with Under Fire: ’The Brisk Discussion Programme In Which No Holds Are Barred’, where two experts in London are, from the sounds of it, harangued in a manner suitable for teatime on a ’subject of vital interest to everyone’. How tantalising. I did wonder whether the London site was ATV Elstree (now BBC Elstree), but Transdiffusion’s own Roddy Buxton puts me right, stating that facilities at Wood Green and Westminster were being used at this point.

It’s amusing to think that Central continued the discussion show tradition, although Central Weekend was a very different prospect to Under Fire, ironically enough when you consider the names…

We can’t have fun all night, though, so ATV hands over at 6:30 for ‘The latest from the studios of Independent Television News’. This, from a modern perspective, is really quite a short bulletin, and I imagine there’s something to be said about the relative dominance of national news bulletins nowadays. It’s certainly a great deal easier to produce news content nowadays (I work on a news channel, so I can see that almost first-hand), and I think television news has probably replaced newspapers for a lot of people. Of course, the great irony is that this expansion of national news seems, for a number of years, resulted in local news being starved of funding. However, regional news on both the BBC and ITV have 30 minutes, rather than the quite remarkable 5 minutes here for Midlands News.

As the programme title suggests, Six-Forty-Five followed the regional news. It’s not entirely clear from the capsule what the nature of the programme was, but it seems that today, it was introducing Humphrey Lyttleton and his Band for ‘Here’s Humph’. It sounds, interestingly, not unlike LWT’s Six O’Clock Show.

ATV sails into prime-time with the US import of Captain David Grief, a literary adaptation of the Jack London stories about the South Seas adventurer, at 7pm, and then gets to show off its network production, the famous Emergency – Ward 10, at 7:30.

More iconic entertainment follows at 8pm with A-R’s Take Your Pick (this being the Michael Miles era), and Granada’s classic sitcom The Army Game at 8:30. At 9pm, there’s a meaty hour of ITV’s Television Playhouse, single plays produced by different ITV companies. It sadly isn’t clear which company produced ‘Cry Silence’ with Stephen Murray and David McCallum. [Granada – Ed.] The single television play hasn’t existed for a number of years now, presumably because limited budgets preclude taking chances on presenting something unfamiliar each week, but it seems a terrible shame to this particular TV viewer that this entry point for many talented writers has been taken away. The greater reliance on plays in television from this era is clear when we consider the cover photo of this TVTimes, advertising the play of the week: ‘Reunion in Vienna’, with Trevor Howard and Helen Cherry. The idea of having a Play of the Week is completely foreign to TV viewers nowadays, plays having been largely replaced some time ago by the drama series.

This was a pre-News At Ten era, so we have what is a very unusual sight for modern eyes at 10pm: About Homes and Gardens, the sort of advertising magazine which was eventually banned by the Independent Television Authority in the 1960s as not distinguishing itself enough as advertising material. Of course, a hangover from this ruling way back when is the requirement for all commercial channels broadcast from the UK to have ‘break bumpers’ distinguishing programme content from commercial breaks, which is still in force. Luckily, we can find uploads of these advertising magazines on YouTube, where we can decide for ourselves whether the IBA ruling was wise or not.

The ever-popular (they were still being shown when I was a child in the 80s) Alfred Hitchcock Presents followed, with a 15 minute (billed, fascinatingly, at the bizarrely precise 10:46) national news bulletin.

You couldn’t stop the US imports on ATV for long, however, so The Rosemary Clooney Show followed the news at 11pm, and then, I assume, ATV closed the day with their in-house production of The Epilogue at 11:30. Perhaps the thinking was that if viewers frantically prayed at start-up and closedown, they may save their souls, especially after About Homes and Gardens. Interestingly enough, the clip of advertising magazines above includes a promotion for Blue Cars holidays, promoted here amongst the listings in the TVTimes by Peter Butterworth and Janet Brown. Hilariously (in my view, at least), pricing is mainly in guineas, presumably to try to fool holidaymakers into thinking a 31 guinea holiday is 31 pounds, rather than the 32 pounds 11 shillings that it actually was, a guinea being one pound, one shilling. Some people would like to go back to pre-decimal currency, you know. [31 guineas is £32.55 in decimal, £700 in 2018 allowing for inflation].

The Mini Maid vacuum cleaner doesn’t bother with guineas, but offers a monthly payment option for 17/6 a month [87½p in decimal, £20 in 2018 allowing for inflation]. The ad doesn’t specify the number of months, though, and with the offer of suspending payments for sickness or unemployment, the really unlucky might be stuck paying for the Mini Maid for a great deal of time to come, especially when we consider that the Consumer Credit Act didn’t come along until 1974 to try to regulate a capricious credit industry. The past, eh? Marvellous.


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14 responses to this article

Arthur Nibble 31 January 2018 at 1:45 pm

I’d forgotten Helen Cherry, let alone that she was Trevor Howard’s wife – they’d been married for 13 years by this stage. I also had to look up Stephen Murray and didn’t realise his most famous role was in “The Navy Lark”.

Oo! Not one but two different versions of the lesser spotted ATV ‘dotted Z’ logo. The one at the end of “Lunch Box” is subliminal to the point of being scary, and the difference in the ‘eye’ dimensions between it and the quickly cobbled together main logo are jarring.

Alan Keeling 31 January 2018 at 3:39 pm

The second kids programme at 5.30 features Saturday morning matinee favourite Hopalong Cassidy, now in 25 minute TV shows made from 1952 to 1954, “Frame up for Murder was from season 2 (1953/54), episode 23. The series’ first season consisted of TV episodes ‘cut-down from Hoppy’s cinema films from 1949 to 1952.

Alan Keeling 31 January 2018 at 3:48 pm

At 7pm (before the soap slot) is Captain David Grief (1957- 1959) a two season adventure series, produced in colour by Guild Films Inc. This evenings adventure is episode 10 from season 1.

Alan Keeling 31 January 2018 at 4:03 pm

Alfred Hitchcock Presents falls into an ideal slot at 10.30 with “Vicious Circle” featuring Dick York who later starred in Bewitched. This is episode 28 from season 2 (1956/57). Alfred Hitchcock Presents had a seven year run from 1955 and became The Alfred Hitchcock Hour from 1962.

Geoff Nash 31 January 2018 at 4:33 pm

Interesting that while the network contributions from Associated-Rediffusion are credited as such those from Granada are not.

Russ J Graham 31 January 2018 at 4:42 pm

Granada had done a weird deal with the TVTimes where, in the Northern Edition, only Granada productions were credited Monday to Friday and all other companies were excluded. The quid pro quo appears to be that the TVTimes removed all Granada production credits from every other edition in return. This was a devastatingly poor decision by Granada and was soon reversed in both parts.

Geoff Nash 31 January 2018 at 4:45 pm

I believe I read in a book titled ‘The Tupenny Punch and Judy Show’that the Blue Cars commercial was produced and/or directed by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson.

Dave Roberts 31 January 2018 at 5:40 pm

Noele Gordon was a revelation in that filmed episode of Lunch Box. She was a born TV presenter with just the right mix of formality, irreverence and fun.

Alan Keeling 31 January 2018 at 8:52 pm

There was nothing better than The Rosemary Clooney Show (1956/57) at 11pm for sending ATV viewers happily to bed at 11.30. This is the 13th programme in this musical variety series, shot on 35mm film stock at Republic studios for Maysville Corporation and Revue productions.

Paul Mason 1 February 2018 at 2:30 am

The date is when a 30 something Mrs.T.Mason from Liverpool was about to give birth to her only son. So anything I say is learnt from 2nd hand. 2 channel TV didn’t come until October 1958 to my abode.
Anyway Granada would have avoided Lunch Box and started up with racing. Granada avoided the works of Noele Gordon until ’72. My late parents loved The Arny Game which came after the film Carry On Sergeant, or was it vice versa? Thence came Bootsie and Snudge.
In the play Cry Silence appearing courtesy of Warner Bros was the young David McCallum, who played Ilya Kuryakin in the Man from UNCLE and Colditz, Sapphire and Steel etc.Also on was Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Long after his death the series was remade with AHs intro and outdo, but ruined by latter day actors.

One of the few surviving Juke Box Jury is one from 1960 with David McCallum and his then (now late) wife Jill Ireland and the Danish singing aristos Nina and Frederik (deceased) VanPallandt.I have seen it and McCallum was so STUFFY. The audience seemed to be from rent-a-corpse. Its a shame the 1963 and 1964 JBJs with the Beatles and Stones weren’t kept, but never mind they were only a passing fad, forgotten next year old chap.

Paul Mason 1 February 2018 at 2:33 am

My parents loved the ARMY GAME, sorry about the Amy typo.

Paul Mason 1 February 2018 at 2:37 am

And before anyone shouts Mr Kuryakin was only in the Man from UNCLE.

Paul Mason 2 February 2018 at 10:50 pm

I remember guineas as well, but there was no “guinea” note in circulation,but my parents considered the guinea a ripoff to make something look cheaper. When goods are advertised as “under £100” they are often £99.99 . Things such as the 3d bit, tanner, Bob, florin and half crown were all swept away by decimalisation along with the hated guinea. Of the pre-1971 currency only the shillings would exist now, and even these are virtually worthless.

Joanne Gray 5 February 2018 at 12:20 am

I bet those Can-Can dancers all needed hip replacements in later life.

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