Stuck for a Christmas gift for someone who has just got into television history, and wants a perfect primer? Then consider the brand new boxset “ITV60” from Network. This 12-DVD set includes 60 episodes, features a mix of both classics and rarities from the archives, including some programmes thought lost forever.
This set contains previously unreleased episodes of Crossroads, Rainbow, Tiswas, Coronation Street, World in Action, The Bill and Whicker's World – together with some exceptionally rare items from the Associated Rediffusion archive, namely No Hiding Place, Mystery Bag, Crane and Our Man at St Mark’s. With each disc themed to provide an ‘evening's entertainment’, this dip into the archives provides a trip down Memory Lane as well as a timely reminder of some of the best television of the last sixty years.
Since the summer of 1955, the ITV network has entertained the nation with some of the most memorable programming ever created for British television. This collection celebrates those six decades with an outstanding, specially selected collection of superb dramas, hilarious comedies and thought-provoking documentaries – some of which haven’t been seen since their original transmission.
It’s an entertaining journey, sometimes needing a sharp intake of breath as we see how our cultural attitudes have changed over the years, but it gives an insight into how our society has changed since these shows were broadcast. Without further ado, here’s a summary of the items which are included in this package.
ITV Opening Night Preview - a short little introduction to how the 1955 debut of ITV was heralded.
Thunderbirds – “Trapped in the Sky”. An unrestored version of the first episode, arguably one of the best, which establishes the International Rescue universe, as well as their nemesis The Hood, and has a perfect pace between tension and action.
The Army Game – “April Fool”. From April 1960, high-jinks are the order of the day as everyone is playing pranks on everyone else, it being April 1st. Starring Alfie Bass as Bootsie, and Bill Fraser as Snudge, with able support from Frank Williams and Harry Fowler.
Man About the House – “While the Cat's Away”. From January 1974, landlords George and Mildred Roper (Brian Murphy and Yootha Joyce) are off to visit Mildred’s sister and husband for the evening, meaning lodgers Robin (Richard O’Sullivan), Jo (Sally Thomsett) and Chrissy (Paula Wilcox can hold a house party. Unfortunately, the Roper’s plans are curtailed, leading to a clash of the generations. Guest starring Ian Lavender and Jenny Hanley.
Robin of Sherwood – “The Greatest Enemy”. From January 1985, Michael Praed’s departure from the series was one of the most shocking tales, and weaved its way into television folklore. The Sheriff (Nickolas Grace) is ordered by the King to put a stop to Robin of Loxley once and for all. Setting up an ambush at Wickham, with bloodhounds to follow the outlaws as they try to escape back into the depths of Sherwood, a life-or-death chase through the forest ensues. Watch out for series regular Ray Winstone as Will Scarlet.
The Prisoner – “Checkmate”. With the opening credits doing such a good job of setting the premise out for new viewers, this early episode allows guest Number 2 Peter Wyngarde the opportunity to verbally joust with Partick McGoohan’s Number 6, while creating such memorable set pieces as the ‘human chess game’. An excellent story to help newcomers fathom out exactly why this story of a man who resigns his job and is whisked away to an inescapable idyllic retreat still has the impact it has today.
Pathfinders in Space – “Convoy to the Moon”. From September 1960, a mission to the Moon is put in peril when one of the rockets develops a malfunction in its guidance system shortly after take-off. A second rocket launches in a desperate effort to save the crew. Written by Malcolm Hulke and Eric Paice, the series was produced by the legendary Sydney Newman. Pathfinders was a trio of series, with Pathfinders to Mars and Pathfinders to Venus following over the next couple of years.
The Larkins – “Frightful Nightful”. This sit-com ran from 1958 to 1964, with this episode from October 1960. The show starred David Kossoff (who had come to fame as the Sheriff of Nottingham in The Adventures of Robin Hood) as Alf and Peggy Mount (later to be Gabrielle in George and the Dragon) as Ada, with Shaun O’Riordan as Eddie (who would go on to produce and direct Sapphire and Steel).
Sunday Night at the London Palladium (28 November1965). Jimmy Tarbuck presents, with star guest Sid James. This was one of several episodes which were temporarily rebranded as The New Palladium Show from September to December 1965, done when Tarbuck took over as host.
The World at War – “It's a Lovely Day Tomorrow – Burma 1942-1944”. From February 1974, narrated by Laurence Olivier, Allied forces were totally unprepared for the Japanese invasion of Burma, who quickly overran the country. The Allies counter-attacked using troops unfamiliar with jungle warfare, but they soon adapted to their surroundings.
Callan – “Let's Kill Everybody”. From February 1969, David Callan (Edward Woodward) sees ‘The Section’ put on red alert when it is revealed that it has been targeted by persons unknown. All agents from Hunter (Michael Goodliffe) down are at risk of assassination. Co-starring Russell Hunter as Lonely and Anthony Valentine as Toby Meres.
Catweazle – “The Sun in a Bottle”. The first episode from February 1970, where we see Geoffrey Bayldon’s central character alchemist’s journey forward from the 11th Century to what was the present modern-day. To give you an idea of what a magical place he thinks he has arrived at, the title of the episode refers to a light bulb.
The Arthur Haynes Show (08 December 1962). The first episode of the eleventh season, Nicholas Parsons plays straight man to Arthur in this comedy sketch series, with guests Michael Caine and singer Yana. Beginning in September 1956, the series had its last episode in April 1966, only concluding due to the death of its star from a heart attack in the November of that year – he was only 52. At the time, he was just about to start filming what would have been the sixteenth series.
The Avengers – “The Winged Avenger”. A 1967 colour episode, several businessmen have been apparently clawed to death, and Steed (Patrick Macnee) and Mrs Peel (Diana Rigg) are called in to investigate. Suspicion turns to an author who owns a bird of prey and had something against a victim in charge of a publishing house. However, the discovery of a superhero comic called ‘The Winged Avenger’ changes the direction of enquiries.
Public Eye – “My Life's My Own”. From August 1969, private detective Frank Marker finds himself unemployed, and kills time by house sitting for his landlady. He lives to regret letting a room to the emotionally troubled Shirley Marlowe (Stephanie Beacham).
An Audience with Dame Edna Everage (26 December 1980). The first ever “Audience with…” show, which featured a celebrity being questioned by a celebrity audience. The Barry Humphries-created Antipodean Dame was perfect for setting the format.
Crossroads (26 October1983). Meg (Noele Gordon) returns briefly for a reunion with Jill (Jane Rossington) and Adam (Tony Adams) on their honeymoon in Venice, with actually location footage incorporated in the edition.
On the Buses – “The Strain”. From November 1971, bus driver Stan Butler (Reg Varney) strains his back and the doctor suggests he wear a corset. Things are not helped when Inspector Blake (Stephen Lewis) notes that wearing a corset ruined his brother's life.
The Saint – “The Contract”. A 1965 episode directed by Roger Moore, with a screenplay by Terry Nation. Simon Templar is the target of an attempted hit-and-run. Years earlier, the driver was in the forces at an American airbase and involved in a robbery. Sent to jail, the goods from the heist were never recovered. Look out for an uncredited Nicholas Courtney (The Brigadier in Doctor Who) as a Policeman.
The Tommy Cooper Hour (21 April 1974). Magic, music and comedy sketches (including “A Day in the Life of a Scoutmaster”) with guests John Comer, Frank Thornton, Richard Wilson, Norman Chappell, Robert Dorning, Hugh Paddick, Sheila Steafel, The Alex Welsh Band, the pop group Design, and singer Anne Marie David (who won the 1973 Eurovision Song Contest for Luxembourg. She also represented her home country France in 1979).
Auf Wiedersehn Pet – “The Alien”. In this 1984 episode, the lads reluctantly bail out Magowan (Michael Elphick), a violent Irish worker jailed for fighting and reluctantly allow him to move in with them after he has been thrown out of his hostel. Look out for Michael Sheard (Mr Bronson in Grange Hill) as Herr Grunwald.
Rainbow (26 December 1975). Geoffrey, Zippy, George and Bungle in a festive edition of the much-loved lunchtime pre-school show. Created by Pamela Lonsdale (Ace of Wands) look out for Matthew Corbett, here part of a trio with Rod Burton and Jane Tucker (no Freddy just yet, or even Roger his immediate predecessor), as well as Ali Bongo providing some magic.
Pipkins – “Cowboys”. Hartley Hare, Pig, and Topov were the stars of ATV's pre-school series which ran from January 1973 to 29 December 1981. It was one of the first children's programmes on British TV where the characters had regional accents (Pig had a Black Country accent while Topov the monkey was a Cockney and Octavia the ostrich had a French accent). This edition has Johnny (Wayne Laryea) trying to keep order amongst the puppets as they re-enact a Western. Out of a total of 333 episodes, only 135 have survived. 198 episodes no longer exist in any format whatsoever, while two others exist only as incomplete. Fortunately, Nigel Plaskitt, who provided the show's narration as well as voicing and operating Hartley and Tortoise, made off-air domestic videocassette recordings of around 56 episodes (now the only format in which these are known to exist).
Doctor in the House – “What Seems To Be The Trouble?” From April 1970, a medical sit-com where in this episode David Jason guest stars as Mr Drobnic, an elderly patient, one of a ward where the students are each assigned a patient to assess, with a report required by Noon. Michael Upton (Barry Evans) has Drobnic in his charge, who is a Slav with no command English, who manages to escape the ward with his electric wheelchair.
The Power Game – “The New Boy”. First episode of the 1965-69 sequel to The Plane Makers, seeing the return of John Wilder (Patrick Wymark), Don Henderson (Jack Watling), Kay Lingard (Norma Ronald), and Pamela Wilder (Barbara Murray), this time playing their part in Caswell Bligh’s (Clifford Evans) Bligh Construction. Also in this episode is Peter Barkworth as Bligh’s son, Kenneth, and there’s a cameo by Tim Brinton (Alternative 3) as an ITN Newsreader. The series only finished due to the death of Patrick Wymark.
21 Up. The Up format is a series of documentary films produced by Granada Television that have followed the lives of 14 British children since 1964, when they were seven years old. Since then, and every seven years, the director, Michael Apted, films material from those of the fourteen who still choose to participate. This edition is from 1977. The latest was “56 Up” in 2012, in which 13 of the 14 featured.
Magpie (26 November 1976). Hosts Mick Robertson, Jenny Hanley and Douglas Rae introduce the magazine show which was very much ITV’s answer to Blue Peter, with studio guests and the hosts in filmed segments gathered from around the world.
Shut That Door! (22 September 1972). The final episode of the first of the two series of this stand-up and interview format, hosted by the future host of The Generation Game. The guests are Joan Rhodes, Diana Dors, and Dennis Plowright on the piano.
Space: 1999 – “Breakaway”. The debut episode from September 1975 of the magnum SF opus, which saw our Moon blasted out of Earth orbit, following problems with nuclear waste storage and magnetic radiation. Season one concluded in finding the origins of Mankind in deep space, and was produced by Sylvia Anderson and executive-produced by Gerry Anderson. Martin Landau and Barbara Bain were drafted in to star from Stateside, and filming began in late 1974, some five years after the couple had left Mission: Impossible. A second season followed, helmed by former-Star Trek third season producer Fred Freiberger, which couldn't have been more different to what had come before.
No Hiding Place – “A Bird to Watch the Marbles”. Det Chief Supt Lockhart (Raymond Francis) tackles robbery and insurance fraud, with the help of Det Insp Baxter (Eric Lander) in this 1963 episode of the show which ran from 1959 to 1967. Guest stars include Delphi Lawrence and Derek Francis. The script was by Bill Strutton (Doctor Who “The Web Planet”).
The Sweeney – “Tomorrow Man”. From September 1976, John Hurt and George Cole are the guest stars in a tale of computer fraud in a time before it had even been thought of. Tony Gray (Hurt) is out for revenge on Dennis Longfield (Cole), intending to drop him in it by stealing a gold bullion consignment with the help of computer trickery. John Thaw as Regan and Dennis Waterman as Carter show why their onscreen camaraderie was pivotal to the ground-breaking nature of this police series.
Tiswas (30 August 1975). Fronted by John Asher and Peter Tomlinson, this is a pre-networked ATV edition, minus the cartoons and episode of Tarzan. This was from a time when the main driver of the show was to read out requests and dedications from post received from its young audience.
Four Feather Falls – “Horse Thieves”. The first Gerry Anderson ‘Supermarionation’ series was a western, with the star sheriff, Tex Tucker, voiced by Nicholas Parsons, whose dog and horse could also speak English.
The Stanley Baxter Moving Picture Show (1974). Nationwide is spoofed with questionable racist jokes across the UK, plus sketches “Thumpalong with Reg Varnish”, “Upstage Downstage”, and “2001 - A Royal Wedding Odyssey”. The show won three 1975 BAFTAs – Best Light Entertainment Programme, Best Light Entertainment Performance, and Best Design.
Gideon's Way – “The Wall”. John Gregson stars as Commander George Gideon with Alexander Davion as Det Chief Insp David Keen and Daphne Anderson as Kate Gideon in this police procedural from March 1965. Netta Penn's (Ann Bell) husband, Michael (Richard Carpenter, creator of Catweazle and Robin of Sherwood), has a big win on the football pools but then disappears. It appears as though he has run off but is he the victim of foul play?
Tales of the Unexpected – “Royal Jelly”. From March 1980, Timothy West and Susan George star as Albert and Mary Taylor in Roald Dahl’s anthology tale of how one father’s way to treat his ill baby doesn’t turn out for the best. The theme is another classic from Ron Grainer, of Doctor Who and The Prisoner fame.
The Adventures of Robin Hood - “The Coming of Robin Hood”. From September 1955, the Richard Greene series was one of the first to play on ITV, and this is the first episode, with a theme which has become a classic, mainly due to Monty Python taking an interest. Sir Robin of Loxley returns to England from fighting in the Crusades to discover that the notorious Sir Roger DeLisle has been given his family’s lands and castles, and has had Robin declared an outlaw.
Nearest and Dearest - “What Seems to be the Trouble?” From October 1969, Hilda Baker and Jimmy Jewel star as Nellie and Eli Pledge, reluctant inheritors of Colne’s Finest Pickle Factory. Nellie is bedridden and bedsore, but could it all be a mistake? After all, Eli had the symptoms, so why should she end up with the blanket bath?
Rising Damp – “Black Magic”. First broadcast in December 1974, Alan (Richard Beckinsale) teases his landlord Rigsby (Leonard Rossiter) by suggesting to him that fellow lodger Philip (Don Warrington) has ten wives and has the powers of black magic. Unfortunately, Ruth (Frances de la Tour) misinterprets the rouse, and is sure it’s a sign that Philip wants her body.
Mystery Bag – “Lockhart Finds a Note”. Also known as Murder Bag, this is the earlier of two appearances for Superintendent Lockhart (Raymond Francis) on this DVD set, declaring in its credits “In the story you are about to see the methods of detection have been used in actual cases”. This 1958 tale, the final 30th episode of season one (a further 28 stories would follow) starts with mail theft, itself a clue to the crimes of a forgery gang, the two men and a woman involved themselves part of a love triangle. Guest starring Jane Hylton (Queen Guinevere in The Adventures of Sir Lancelot) and Peter Swanwick (The Supervisor in The Prisoner).
Upstairs Downstairs – “Miss Forrest”. From November 1974, the action takes place in the spring of 1912, where Lady Marjorie Bellamy (Rachel Gurney) prepares to go visiting in New York, while James Bellamy (Simon Williams) takes an interest in Richard's (David Langton) fascinating new secretary, Hazel Forrest (Meg Wynn Owen, making her series debut).
Year Zero – “The Silent Death of Cambodia”. From October 1979, John Pilger presents the winner of the Broadcasting Press Guild’s 1980 Award, which was also nominated for the BAFTA Best Documentary programme 1980. It recounts the bombing of Cambodia by the United States in 1970 during the Vietnam War, the subsequent brutality and genocide that occurred when Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge militia took over.
Ace of Wands – “Peacock Pie - Part 1”. Tarot (Michael MacKenzie) tracks Mr Peacock (Brian Wilde), a man with the power of suggestion. In Peacock's hands, his landlady takes torn strips of newspaper as bank notes, Tarot’s assistant Mikki (Petra Markham) thinks of taking a holiday at a place she normally wouldn’t, and security guards leave cash boxes in derelict houses. This was a three-part story from September 1972, the show’s third and final season. The first two seasons – all 25 half hour episodes – are missing from the television archives.
Coronation Street (18 May 1964). The death in the Street of Martha Longhurst sees Ena Sharples (Violet Carson) take charge of arrangements. Look out for Arthur Lowe as Leonard Swindley. The amazing thing about the episode, aside from the excellent acting, is how many characters remained around for so long in the show - Annie Walker (Doris Speed), Elsie Tanner (Pat Phoenix), Len Fairclough (Peter Adamson), and Albert Tatlock (Jack Howarth) amongst them.
Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) – “Could You Recognise the Man Again?” Mike Pratt and Kenneth Cope star in the original series which Messrs Reeves and Mortimer would later try to play homage to. This January 1970 episode sees Jeff (Pratt) recognise racketeer George Roden (Stanley Meadows) as being the man who killed rival gangster Jennings (Roland Curram) and Roden is consequently arrested. His mother (Madge Ryan) has Marty Hopkirk’s (Cope) widow Jeannie (Annette Andre) abducted as security against Jeff testifying when her son appears in court.
Crane – “A Cargo of Cornflour”. From 1965, and the 36th of 39 episodes over three series, offered a job of transporting cornflour, retired city businessman Richard Crane (Patrick Allen) is suspicious when they won't let him inspect the cargo. Then his friend, ex-Foreign-Legionnaire Orlando O’Connor (Sam Kydd) goes missing. Guest starring Peter Bowles as Vincent Moro, Edina Ronay as Carmena, Mark Kingston as Flavio, John Hollis as Djiba, David Nettheim as Aziz.
Soldier Soldier – “Stormy Weather”. From September 1994, the men return from Bosnia and discover that they're heading to Cyprus. Dave Tucker (Robson Green) discovers that he could find himself on the wrong end of a paternity suit. Tony Wilton (Gary Love) puts his life on the line training for the SAS, but ends up with some good news.
A Fine Romance – “Boulogne”. From February 1982, in this edition it’s a Sunday, and Laura (Judi Dench) longs for an adventure with Mike (Michael Williams), but one after another her schemes fall flat. Then Harry (Geoffrey Rose) arrives and suggests they all go out to dinner - in France.
World in Action – “The Chart Busters”. An August 1980 look at pop chart hyping, vigorously denied by the trade organisations involved, but with plenty of witnesses to describe how the sales logs books were the target for bribes, just to fill in extra ticks.
The Professionals – “Blind Run”. From December 1978, Bodie (Lewis Collins) and Doyle (Martin Shaw) of CI5 are on a routine bodyguard operation of Middle Eastern diplomat Hanish (Kevork Malikyan). No sooner have they picked him up than they are pursued by assassins, who seem to know every move on their itinerary.
Inspector Morse – “Driven to Distraction”. From January 1990, after two beautiful women are stabbed to death a month apart by the same killer, the only connection between the pair is their car dealership. John Thaw as Morse, Kevin Whately as Lewis, with guest stars Patrick Malahide, Jake Wood, David Ryall and Christopher Fulford. Creator Colin Dexter plays an uncredited role of a man in the launderette.
George and Mildred – “Moving On”. In the first episode, from September 1976, the Roper’s house is subject to a compulsory purchase order, so they must move out. Mildred (Yootha Joyce) eyes her dream house in the suburbs, next door to yuppie couple Ann and Jeffrey Fourmile (Sheila Fearn and Norman Eshley) and their seven-year-old son Tristram (Nicholas Bond Owen), although husband George (Brian Murpy) doesn’t endear himself to them.
Jason King - “To Russia with… Panache”. Superior episode of the Peter Wyngarde-fronted series, seeing the author kidnapped by the Russians, so that he can solve the inexplicable murder of three scientists in a modern apartment-block lift. Guest starring Pamela Salem, Elizabeth Counsell, Milton Reid and Richard Marner.
The Main Chance – “The Best Legal System in the World”. From October 1970, this is a Yorkshire TV production (although rebranded as Trident Colour Television on this print). John Stride as David Main, a solicitor whose life transforms when he moves from London to Leeds. Anna Palk is Sarah Courtenay, his secretary. Driven by a thirst for success, Main seeks out the most lucrative cases, but is also a man with a conscience who often acts for the most vulnerable and underprivileged. This episode guest stars Peter Bowles, Glynn Edwards and Georgina Hale.
Justice – “A Nice Straight-forward Treason”. From December 1971, Margaret Lockwood stars as Harriet Peterson in Yorkshire Television’s series about a female barrister in the North of England. It was based loosely on “Justice is a Woman”, an instalment of ITV Playhouse broadcast in 1969 where Lockwood had also played a barrister. John Stone is in support as Dr Ian Moody. This episode guest stars Paul Eddington, Peter Armitage and Clifford Rose.
The Strange World of Gurney Slade (Episode 1). From October 1960, and a favourite of David Bowie. Anthony Newley stars as an actor who lives in a fantasy world. He indulges in random conversations with both animals and inanimate objects, where characters can step out of advertising posters and he can hear the most intimate thoughts of passers-by. Created by Newley it was written by Sid Green and Dick Hills, who were soon to become the key writers for Morecambe and Wise in the 1960s.
Our Man at St Mark’s - “The Facts of Life”. From September 1963, Leslie Phillips is Rev Andrew Parker, the vicar who struggles with leading a normal life, including having a girlfriend who feels peer-pressured for seeing a man who wears a dog collar.
The Bill – “The Short Straw”. From March 1993, this episode is from the ninth season. When her car has a breakdown on the way to the station, Viv Martella (Nula Cornwell, in her final appearance of her 203 episodes) misses an important CID briefing about an observation task on a suspected armed robbery. She is annoyed when she is removed from the case by Frank Burnside (Christopher Ellison).
Man at the Top – “I'll Do the Dirty Work”. Edited and produced by George Markstein (The Prisoner) and Lloyd Shirley (The Sweeney, Minder), and from January 1971, the series featured the character of Joe Lampton (Kenneth Haigh), the protagonist of John Braine's novel “Room at the Top” in an ongoing tale of business intrigue. Zena Walker played Joe’s wife Susan, and guest starring in this episode are Prunella Ransome, Gawn Grainger and Kevin Colson.
Whicker’s World Aboard The Orient Express. With a bizarre running time of 39 minutes, this 1983 edition has Whicker charting his journey aboard the newly refurbished Orient Express from London Victoria to Venice. Among the famous and wealthy fellow travellers is Liza Minelli.
Armchair Theatre - “Afternoon of a Nymph”. From September 1962, Elaine (Janet Monro - Jeannie in Val Guest's 1961 movie "The Day The Earth Caught Fire") is a young naïve actress who struggles to come to terms with the plastic nature of the business, with everyone around her hustling her, rather than being interested in her as a person. Rogers (Patrick Holt), her agent, invites her to a party so as to meet all the ‘right people’. She sees a chance to move on from commercials, the latest of which ia a "Romeo and Juliet" riff for chocolates has led her to have a crush on David Simpson (Ian Hendry), the director, who she shares a common interest in real Shakespeare. Also starring Peter Butterworth, Aubrey Morris, Jeremy Lloyd, David Bauer and William Gaunt.
All in all, this is a fascinating collection, which will attract those who want to get hold of the many rarities within its five dozen items. The quality is variable, which will mean that those who get impatient with the occasional rolling picture or flicker may not be the right people to present this to. However, from the point of view of historical reflection, this is a grounding that anyone interested in the art of creating for the small screen will find engaging. It is unlikely that much of the monochrome content which is presented here, as well as some of the colour videotaped items, will ever get a broadcast transmission ever again, but in that lies the reasoning as to why this is an essential purchase for students of the TV media.
“ITV60” is out now from Network Releasing. This 12 DVD colour and B&W set has a ‘15’ certificate, a running time of 2,400 mins approx., and a RRP of £79.99, or get it for less at www.culttvstore.com