Tonight’s Independent Television… in 1968 

15 August 2018 tbs.pm/67216

I have decided to split what was scheduled in TVTimes above and what was actually transmitted in The Times cutting below. The reason this schedule did not go ahead as printed in the TVTimes was, of course, the two-week ITV strike following the changes in contracts and the subsequent national ‘emergency service’ of canned programmes.

 

KEY
✽ Not transmitted due to the ACTT dispute
☆ Transmitted on the same date at a different time

 

2:40 Show Jumping – the Wills Jumping Tournament – from Hickstead, Sussex

This is from before Sussex was split into two counties in 1974. Hickstead is now in West Sussex. Nothing much to say about this individual programme, as I’m really not a sporting fan of any kind. But these outside broadcasts (usually of sporting events and church services) were very good ways of the smaller ITV companies to get their names and idents partially or nationally networked, before the repeal of the broadcasting hours regulations in 1972. Such outside broadcasts also didn’t count towards the maximum number of daily broadcasting hours imposed by the Postmaster General and the General Post Office.

(Southern Independent Television Outside Broadcast)

 

4:20 The ABC of Do It Yourself

I can’t work out why this wasn’t transmitted. Unlike the above (a live outside broadcast, which required many skilled technicians to cover the horse racing, which a skeletal management-run ITV service would have no hope in Hell of covering), this was a repeat of a ABC-branded programme (with Thames branding played out and carefully timed to cover up the ABC branding). So this would have needed the same number of people to operate the equipment as most of the other programmes transmitted that day, as most came from videotape or film. I did think that the newspaper snippet below could have come from an evening paper (which frequently missed morning and early afternoon listings for that day’s TV), but a check through the Guardian Digital Archive confirms that the schedule was exactly the same. For whatever reason, this DIY programme was not transmitted.

(Thames Television Network Production) (Repeat)

 

4:40 Jimmy Green and His Time Machine

Quite a bit before my time, this, but looking at images of it and noting its production company, I can see that Yorkshire Television’s expertise in children’s puppet shows with disturbing-looking puppets began with this, and continued for many years, with Animal Kwackers in the 1970s and The Riddlers – a programme from my own childhood – in the 1990s.

All episodes were wiped and promotional photographs are the only visual records of the programme.

(Yorkshire Television Network Production)

 

4:55 The Bugs Bunny Show

A shameless attempt to repackage hundreds of old Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons intended for the cinema into a television programme. Probably from a creaky old 16mm positive print made from a negative consisting of even more creaky old positive prints. Probably made even filthier from the number of telecine machines it’s been passed through before being passed on to Thames Television by Warner Bros.’ distribution arm.

Can you tell I couldn’t stand those old Warner Bros. cartoons? I don’t think I’m making it at all obvious…

 


5:20 The Queen Street Gang

This is another series that met its fate with either an electromagnetic eraser (if recorded on videotape) or a bonfire (if on film), as no episodes exist. According to sources online, this series was an attempt by ABC Television (as it would have recorded under them) to make a modern-day (for 1968) Famous-Five-type series. This was 10 years before Southern Television made a much more successful and memorable (among a certain age group) attempt by directly adapting most of Enid Blyton’s most famous works for a late 1970s audience (only 3 of the 21 FF books were not adapted).

However, from what I can find of the Queen Street Gang, it is more of the same “worthy”, ITA- and GPO-pleasing children’s drama that would likely have patronised its audience. There is a fine balance between patronising children with what they do want to watch, and what they want to avoid like the plague. Freewheelers is an example of the former and the total opposite of this. QSG was probably made by a middle-aged Producer who imagines this is the sort of thing that “hip” kids of the late 1960s would have looked forward to watching after school and homework. For that reason, its date with the “delete” or “wipe” button on an RCA TR-70 videotape recorder was probably the best thing to happen to it (apologies in advance for anyone reading this who may have worked on it, no offence intended).

(Thames Television Network Production)

 

5:50 NEWS from ITN

Take your pick from one of ITN’s newscasters and the stories of the day.

 

6:04 Today

The news of the capital. All not covered owing to the ACTT union dispute.

 

6:30 Stand By for Action:
FILM: Merrill’s Marauders

I haven’t seen this film, so I can’t comment on its plot. However, it is likely to be like The Bugs Bunny Show above, in the sense that it’s probably from a really ropey 16mm or 35mm positive print that was put through Lord knows how many cinema projectors before being returned to the distributors at the end of circulation, gathering dust for a few years, then spending the next few years travelling all over the world being played through telecine machines with varying degrees of maintenance applied to them…

Initially this may have been intended for transmission in the Thames TV region alone, as the ITV companies back then purchased film rights as a network (usually Granada coughed up the cash) and had the same scheduled film slots in peak time, but the actual films displayed depended on the choice of your local ITV company’s programme scheduling team. However, circumstances means this is getting a national transmission from the former ATV technical building in Foley Street, London. Some films did get a national transmission in a networked slot, but these were usually big blockbusters and even then usually only on weekends or Bank Holidays.

Also, Thames Television get a little above their station by claiming this as one of their own productions. (Yes, yes, I’ll stop joking. I know it’s just a printing error from TVTimes).

 

8:00 Nearest and Dearest: Series, Episode 1

Unlike most of the programmes on this page, I have seen this (so it obviously still exists – on 405-line, dropout-laden 2” Quad VT, since you ask), and it’s on DVD. This became a big hit for Granada TV, ensuring its place as a late-night pre-closedown repeat staple on single ITV stations for a number of years after its 46-episode and one film spin-off run ended in 1973. Its popularity spawned a strongly-related but not-quite-a-spin-off sitcom with Hylda Baker for LWT soon after N&D ended, called Not On Your Nellie, where a character similar to Nellie Pledge moves south to run a pub. N&D‘s popularity was cemented by coverage in the tabloid press of the personality clash between its two main stars. No signs of that rift in this first episode, however, as both Jimmy Jewell and Hylda Baker begin cracking up over a line and just narrowly avoid ruining the scene completely by bursting into laughter.

This is one of the oddest mainstream sitcoms I have seen (aside from completely left-of-field, sitcoms that have developed a cult following like Red Dwarf or Blackadder). Its humour is quite coarse, crude and vulgar (a sort of Lancashire On the Buses), with a large age-gap marriage between a very plain woman in her early 40s and a mute, doddering, bald elderly man being the butt of many jokes that sent the audience catatonic with laughter (more often than not sparked by Jimmy Jewel sarcastically blurting out something like “eh up! It’s Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull!” when the couple enter the Pledge’s front room). This programme is a guilty pleasure of mine, and it is much more distinctly “Northern” and grittier in style than sitcoms from the BBC and the other big four of the big five ITV companies.

If anyone wants to show an example of Granada TV encapsulated into a single programme, I think this would be a strong contender!

(Granada Television Network Production)

 

8:30 Crime Buster

A single-series drama from ATV (who else could make this sort of oddball crime drama?) depicting a professional cyclist portrayed by Mark Eden who takes over as sports column writer for a fictional newspaper. Through this, he begins to fight crime and corruption in the world of sport wherever he finds it.

Survival of this series is patchy, with none of the episodes surviving on their original 2” Quad VT, but the episodes that do survive reside on 35mm or 16mm telerecordings made for international distribution. However, this accounts for roughly half of the 13 episodes of the series (the episode featured above is the second). Oddly, some surviving episodes survive in vision-only, the soundtracks having gone missing.

(ATV Network Production)

 

9:30 This Week

“Intermezzo” from Sibelius’s Karelia Suite rings out again, as another Thames Television (or possibly Rediffusion London, depending on when this was made) reporter reports on something happening in the world that you may or may not care about. This week’s subject is the particularly harsh famine in Biafra.

(Thames Television Network Production)

 

Good scheduling from the ITV companies for news and current affairs junkies, for this is directly before…

10:00 News at Ten

I assume there are enough ACTT “scabs” and “blacklegs” to put a half-hour news programme together?

 

10:30 Cinema

How could they possibly cram a review of John Wayne’s large and long career into half an hour? An editor at Granada shows you how (although half of all Westerns being essentially the same movie helps)…

(Granada Television Network Production)

 

11:00 World of Crime

I can’t find anything on the internet about the plot of this series, but it appears to be a documentary series following either the work of a police force or members of the criminal underground.

This was an ABC production that carried over to Thames Television and in the event was brought forward in transmission and actually transmitted on the 13 August (according to Kaleidoscope’s database).

Listed as a “Thames Television Network Production”, when it was actually made by ABC.

 

11:30 What the Weeklies Say

A spin-off from Granada’s part-networked What the Papers Say, focussing on weekly papers and magazines. Had this schedule gone ahead as planned but shown nationally, this would have been this series’ first exposure in many areas of the country. As it happens, this was dropped (as it was usually recorded close to transmission, it’s unlikely there would have been many members of management at Granada to record this).

(Granada Television Network Production)

 

11:45 Verdict on Uppsala

The planned epilogue makes reference to the World Council of Churches’ Fourth Assembly in Uppsala, Sweden.

 

WHAT WAS ACTUALLY TRANSMITTED

 

As TVTimes listings, except:

From The Times for 15 August 1968

6:04-6:30 Driveway

Very little appears online about this TV series, but it appears to be a twice-weekly drama series. Kaleidoscope lists all episodes as missing, apart from some film sequences from episode one in vision only (presumably some location shoot footage or some other film inserts).

(ATV Network Production)

 

10:00-10:15 News at Ten

Oh, it turns out there aren’t enough members of production staff to make this half an hour.

 

10:15-10:45 Cinema

See TVTimes listings for programme details.

(Granada Television Network Production)

 

10:45-11:45 Man In A Suitcase

And to send you off to bed, those kind members of ITV management trot out yet another of the dependable glossy, 35mm ITC schedule fillers. Again, the film will probably look as though it had been pulled through a full hoover bag before being loaded onto the telecine. Telecine operators, please don’t take offence, I was merely commenting on the quality of the film prints themselves, not your technical skills, which of course we are all grateful for.

 

I hope the ACTT go back to work next week, this took me hours to type up!

Your Independent Television announcers: David Hamilton, Sheila Kennedy, John Benson, Jill Bechley, Philip Elsmore

You Say

8 responses to this article

Arthur Vasey 15 August 2018 at 12:05 pm

I myself was only about five at the time, so I can’t really remember this particular strike – but you were lucky to get programming at all – even if it was stuff your normal region refused to show and commercials for shops not in your area!

In 1979, ITV had no programmes at all for about three months (unless you lived on the Channel Islands).

There were several strikes in other periods both prior and subsequent which saw, at best, a limited service – one in 1978 saw a 1977 David Hamilton-fronted Top Of The Pops edition broadcast in place of the scheduled one, plus some other changes – one, affecting only the Tyne Tees region, saw no Tyne-Tees exclusive programmes broadcast at all – no adverts, no local news (mam had to watch Nationwide) – network programmes still went out – but Tyne Tees were doing a Channel 4 before Channel 4 was even invented – only the caption was silent – one at Yorkshire prevented the Christmas 3-2-1 going out (finally went out in summer) – one affecting radio saw a weird mix of programming from all networks broadcast on all networks – which must have seen a bit odd. – hearing The Archers on Radios 1, 2 and 3, pop music on Radios 2, 3 and 4, hearing music of any kind on Radio 4 (not counting programme themes, the bits of music you hear on radios in radio plays and so on and the short snippets on Desert Island Discs), classical music on Radios 1, 2 and 4 – and hearing Radio 1 in stereo!

Aidan Lunn 15 August 2018 at 2:16 pm

Indeed, one benefit of using online newspaper archives is that they reveal in much more detail which ITV companies went on strike and when. ATV had a day or two off in July 1979 and STV had some time off near Christmas one year in the 1970s. I want to say it was 1978, but I can’t remember for sure.

Mark Jeffries 17 August 2018 at 12:50 am

As a Warner Bros. cartoon fan, I believe that what Thames had and was showing to the rest of the country in 1968 was the “Bugs Bunny Show” series that Warners made for the American ABC network from 1961 to 1963, with new animated sequences leading into the vintage shorts and the programmes taking on a different theme every week. There were 52 half-hour episodes made and I would probably not bet that Warners serviced Thames with new prints. Although the new animated linking sequences were made in colour, the series has never been shown in colour as originally produced anywhere, since starting in 1969 CBS picked up “The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour,” which randomly dropped the links into a different set of shorts without any attempt at the original continuity.

Geoff Nash 17 August 2018 at 8:27 am

“The Bugs Bunny Show” had seen life previously on ABC, Southern also showed it at weekends presumably taking a feed from ABC. Thames brought it to London along with a few other ABC imports that had never been seen in the capital such as “Lost In Space”and the cartoon series “Arthur”.

Arthur Nibble 17 August 2018 at 10:55 am

Ah, “Nearest and Dearest” and its catchphrases.. “Have you been?”, “Be soon”, and “You knock-kneed knackered old nosebag”. Marvellous, hmm, isn’t it?

Mark Jeffries 18 August 2018 at 8:51 pm

Following the success of “All in the Family” from “Til Death Us Do Part” and “Sanford and Son” from “Steptoe and Son,” American ABC tried to do the same thing with “Nearest and Dearest.” Their version was called “Thicker Than Water” and ended up being burned off in the summer of 1972, a time when summer on American television meant cheap variety shows, unsold pilots screened as one-offs and repeats. The distinguished stage actress Julie Harris played Nellie, without the ugly jokes, since Miss Harris, though not a raving beauty, was definitely attractive. ABC’s greatest asset with this show was having the studio audience response looped onto tape cartridges to make up their Hollywood facility’s first laugh tracks beyond one applause loop–and these audiences were heard for years on end in particular on ABC’s trails, often adding uproarious laughter to straight lines (especially if they in any way racy) and canned applause at the point where the continuity announcer read the “tonight at 8 Eastern” tag (the trails themselves were voiced by the iconic Ernie Anderson, who gave each show title its own distinct reading, most famously with “The Loooooooooove Booooat”).

bogan 29 August 2018 at 3:24 pm

I’ve seen that ‘Nearest and Dearest’ as well..

The screening date, according to Wikipedia, was (as this article states) 15 August 1958, a thursday, with the strike ending on the following Sunday, at close-down – according to another article on this website.

Now the interesting bit – the recording is book-ended by a ‘Granada In The North’dipole-type card, with a white background – not the new-fangled-two-black-stripes-on-grey card that was on the second and subsequent episodes of series 1.

By series 2, in July of 1969, they’ve got the ‘G’ logo – when it was pretty much a brand-new invention – but the card is white with dark lettering – the opposite of what it would become before the end of everything being made in monochrome, by default.

Rick Holland 5 September 2018 at 7:10 am

World of crime at 11.00pm,I remember this being aired on Sunday lunchtimes, most striking feature I recall was the frequent use of extreme close ups,a good documentary series.

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