Tonight’s ABC North… in 1958 

22 March 2017 tbs.pm/11254

The TVTimes tells us what was on ABC in the North on Saturday 22 March 1958. Things worth noting include:

  • It’s many years before World of Sport was created by ABC, so the two and a quarter hours of outside broadcasts are individually presented by each company, under the umbrella title Afternoon Out
  • ITC’s The Adventures of Robin Hood is still in production, so gets the word “new” added to its title to differentiate it from repeats that are already a feature of this long-running series
  • This is episode 105 of 143; interestingly, the BFI suggests that ATV London showed “The Doctor” this week and “The Double” next week, so the BFI is wrong, the TVTimes is wrong, ABC is a week ahead of ATV or something else is not quite right. Too late to work out what now
  • ABC nips in with a round-up of Rugby League results – the variation of the game popular in its northern region – before the ITN news and sport at 5.40pm which will have the Rugby Union results for the rest of the nation
  • The “cliffhanger serial” at 6.25pm dates all the way from 1936 (it’s episode 13 of 13 of the 5th serial) and was made for Saturday morning children’s viewing in the cinema by Universal Pictures. The rights were picked up by Motion Pictures for Television Inc, who managed to sell a slightly re-edited version of the 22-year-old film shorts to stations around the world looking for cheap – very, very cheap – filler material for kids

  • This being the last episode of this serial, there is, of course, no cliffhanger on this Cliffhanger Serial
  • With Flash Gordon, Highway Patrol, The Restless Gun, another kiddyflick serial at 5.20pm with 1947’s Son of Zorro, M Squad, the film They Made Me A Criminal and the variety show with Florian ZaBach at 11.15pm, I make it four hours and 23 minutes of American imports (including the adverts – 6 minutes of them an hour) across this Saturday, versus 4 hours and 57 minutes (again including adverts, but excluding the open-ended Epilogue) of UK-originated material
  • That means ABC today is 53% British to an amazing 47% US imports. For any of the five current “network” channels in the UK, only poverty-stricken Channel 5 is likely to come anywhere close to that figure these days
  • Then again, Saturday in 1958 is a bit of a tough sell for the ITV companies, since the advertisers liked to reach people who are going shopping tomorrow. In 1958, nothing at all was open on a Sunday, so advertising your product was thought to be a waste of money. Sunday was the big night for both ABC and ATV in particular, especially as content restrictions to do with religion restricted the advertising time available right down, making it sell at a premium
  • Bid for Fame at 8.15pm appears to be Opportunity Knocks! in a skin, being as it’s mainly semi-professional acts (most other search-for-a-star shows use amateurs). At this time, OpNox was still a big hitter on Radio Luxembourg, having had an outing on ITV via Associated-Rediffusion that didn’t last in 1956. ABC would pick up the rights to the show in 1964 and run with it (via Thames) until 1978

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6 responses to this article

Arthur Vasey 22 March 2017 at 12:45 pm

Those “cliffhanger serials” later ended up on the BBC on their Saturday morning service, when Swap Shop was off the air in the summer – some ended up as teatime fodder on BBC 2 on weekdays, at some point in the 80s.

Thry used to be shown as part of Saturday morning picture shows in cinemas – you had to go every week to watch it – a bit difficult, for those who had parents who, as punishment for bad behaviour – or, for what they perceived as bad behaviour – decided to not let you go that week – I think you got a few cartoons, usually Disney shorts or Popeye The Sailor, the odd Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton or something like that, that only lasted a few minutes, a serial (that meant coming every week without fail) and a main feature – usually a Western or something – I never actually went – I think that Saturday morning pictures were a thing of the past – by around the 1970s, I think that they did away with serials, instead preferring films by the Children’s Film Foundation, usually getting actual kids to become amateur spies or something.

Quite a lot of American programming in the schedule, there – don’t remember any of the programmes featured – a combination of Westerns and police procedurals – an American living over here or in holiday over here, had they turned the telly on after about 6 might have been forgiven for thinking that ABC in England was simply a British version of its American equivalent – assuming that the American programming was made by American ABC and not CBS or NBC or any other networks!

Arthur Nibble 22 March 2017 at 3:06 pm

That’s an incredibly old looking bunch of teenagers on the front cover.

I love the fact boxing was transmitted from company canteens or outbuildings – we had another recently listed boxing tournament hosted by London Transport. I take it the evening programme showed different bouts and not highlights of the earlier contests?

The young Richard O’Sullivan appearing in “Robin Hood”, not “Robin’s Nest” just yet.

An unusual way of showing ‘Wardour Street’ for the 5.0 programme.

Did anyone ever devise a cartoon / action character actually called Cliff Hanger?

I never knew “OpNox” had an A-R series stranded from the successful re-run by eight years. What happened? Also, what happened to the winner of that eleventh edition, seeing as they were unable to ‘knock again’ the next week?

I’d never heard of Florian ZaBach. It turns out he was an incredibly fast violinist, capable of playing nearly 13 notes a second.

Victor Field 22 March 2017 at 7:31 pm

I doubt Spike Milligan would have tuned into “The Restless Gun” – in one of his wartime diaries he wrote about going to see one of Payne’s movies and gave the man a right kicking (“…he falls in love with Betty Grable’s legs, she falls in love with his bad acting…”).

Jim Nugent 23 March 2017 at 12:42 am

I well remember that showing of the first Flash Gordon serial during the first quarter of 1958. It was my favourite programme of the period. ABC had also showed other American cliffhangers in the same approximate time slot. Titles I can remember include “Daredevils Of The Red Circle” and “The Monster And The Ape”.

I’m not sure what is meant by “Serial 5”. That serial shown in the first few months of ’58 was the first serial, which started off with Flash, Dale Arden and Hans Zarkov not knowing each other but teaming up to travel to Planet Mongo to encounter Emperor Ming. This was definitely the first of those serials. However, ABC did show another two Flash Gordon serials over the next year or so. The second showed the trio returning to Mongo and the third was set on Mars.

Alan Keeling 24 March 2017 at 11:24 am

Four US shows screening during one night, that’s not bad going. The Flash Gordon serials were screened by the BBC, 20 years later.

ROYSTON MAYOH 4 April 2017 at 4:24 pm

I love your notes on BID FOR FAME. and OPNOX .
I remember this period as if it were a month ago. Everything was new and we ( the crew at ABC TV DIDSBURY) felt just like s bunch of pioneers trying new things on every show. I began my working career in Didsbury as a student earning £1 a day at the weekends. For that £1 we swept the floors, cleaned the loos, served coffee, polished brass door knockers in fact anything that needed to be done. When it came to actually working for a living, I was given a rather smart job as a Research Assistant in an ICI lab in NORTHWICH. This lasted 4 days and I RAN back to Didsbury to BEG on hands and knees for a job, after a lot of bowing and scraping the General Manager GERRY MITCHELL said I could return as the £1 a day boy doing the same things as before BUT this time allocated to a specific department for a couple of weeks. I did this in EVERY DEPARTMENT bar none and eventually got permanently assigned to the CAMERA DEPARTMENT. I cannot tell you how thrilled I was !!!!! So to cut a l.o.n.g. Story ( written up far better in the book that’s nearly ready for publishing) my only claim to any fame would be that
I swept the floor on the very first programme to be transmitted from ABC-TV Didsbury and I Produced and Directed the very last programme to be transmitted from ABC-TV Didsbury.
Now you can see why the sight of the ABC-TV LOGO does it every time for me !!!!!!

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