Tonight’s ABC Midlands… in 1956 

13 May 2016

The TVTimes gives us a run down of ABC Television programmes in the midlands for Sunday 13 May 1956. Things worth noting include:

  • The Morning Service and Adult Education programmes that would come to fill Sunday mornings on ITV have not been invented yet, so we’re not on until 4pm.
  • Until quite recently, the start-up time had been 2pm, but ITV’s financial state is so bad they’ve retrenched to providing the bare minimum asked of them.
  • The first programme is Number Please. The top tunes are played by your favourite bands – but at this point in music history, the music and the bands were quite often far divorced. A band would come in and play a selection of songs from the Top Ten, of which, possibly, one of them might be theirs – the Top Ten being based on sheet music sales, not on records per se.
  • ABC Family Hour continues the long tradition in broadcast of anything with “Hour” in its name not being an hour long. BBC radio’s Children’s Hour has shrunk to 30 minutes by the coming of the Regional Scheme of the 1930s; Woman’s Hour to this day is 45 minutes long, with a 15-minute drama filling the rest of the time and pretending to be part of the show.
  • The ABC Family Hour presenter is scream-queen Hazel Court (1926-2008), who even then was best known for horror films, despite having made some light comedies.
  • Fury at 5pm is a US programme made for NBC and imported to the UK by ITC – the opposite of almost everything else they ever did. It featured Peter Graves (1926-2010) and Bobby Diamond (born 1943). Graves went on to many things. Diamond, followed around by the awfulness of the character he played in Fury, saw his career splutter and fade, despite a couple of attempted comebacks.
  • This episode of Fury first aired on NBC a few months earlier – 7 January 1956.
  • The Adventures of Robin Hood had started with ATV in September 1955. When ABC began in the midlands they started the series from the beginning, so this is episode 24, seen in London back in March.


  • This is ABC’s second weekend as a “network”, the Winter Hill transmitter having opened on 3 May 1956 with ABC debuting in the northwest on Saturday 5 May. One wonders if they started The Adventures of Robin Hood from scratch there or just picked up with episode 23?
  • Celebrity Spot is cheap filler material betraying the financial state of ITV, the costs to ABC of recently starting its second region and the fact that the Associated British Picture Corporation had privately told ABC’s managing director Howard Thomas that he was permitted to lose £1 million in total. The day that amount was hit was the day ABPC closed ABC and walked away from its contract. ABC came close to that limit, but cheap filler material like Celebrity Spot and repeatedly delaying paying their ITN dues saw ABC limp in to profit just in time.
  • We go off air at 6.15pm to allow the audience to nip out to attend evensong at their local church. This 45-minute gap was covered by different regulations to the hour-long “toddler’s truce” gap in transmission on weekdays and Saturdays. That 6pm-7pm break was removed by the Postmaster-General in mid-1957 and was most famously filled by Tonight on the BBC. The evensong closedown lasted a further year – churchmen had been horrified and appalled by the prospect of it being removed and said so very loudly – and only disappeared in mid-1958. Even then, the regulations insisted that the slot could only be filled with items of a religious, spiritual or moral nature and must not contain advertising.
  • The advert for G-Plan furniture has a fascinating mistake in it: the advert will be shown on Channel 9 tonight, they say. Channel 9 is ATV London, so either this is a London advertisement bleeding into the Midlands edition of the TVTimes or they mean Channel 8.
  • One of the reasons ABC was reluctant to pay a quarter of ITN’s costs can be seen at 7.30pm and 10.45pm, where the total amount of news adds up to comfortably under 15 minutes compared to a weekday output of almost half an hour.
  • 7.35pm has episode 3 of season 2 of I Love Lucy. This was the 38th produced and went out on CBS in September 1952. The episode number gives away the fact that when ABC started, it took I Love Lucy at the point ATV in London were already at and, unlike Robin Hood, didn’t start over from the beginning.
  • One wonders what it going on with 9pm’s ABC Playhouse Presents, which appears to be a showing of an edition of ITV Television Playhouse from Associated-Rediffusion in November of 1955. At this point, the TVTimes doesn’t mention production companies in the listings. Just as well, really.
  • 10.30pm is another 15 minute filler, this time in the form of a hidden subsidy/advertisement from ABC parent ABPC: the profiles were of ABPC stars and featured a wealth of clips from ABPC films, with the star in question coincidentally often having a film out on the ABC Cinemas circuit next week.

You Say

6 responses to this article

Arthur Nibble 13 May 2016 at 4:21 pm

My my, is this the first time in the duration of this feature that the description of the Palladium show has actually listed who’s appearing?

‘Television’s most popular gardener’ Fred Streeter was coming up to his 77th birthday at this time. He passed away aged 96.

Damien Cahill 13 May 2016 at 6:59 pm

Eric Rogers conducts in the Palladium show.. The Carry On composer, I presume? How many Palladium shows did he do?

Alan Keeling 13 May 2016 at 11:40 pm

The 9pm slot play is “Frolic Wind”, which was shot on film at Highbury Studios, it’s second & final repeat was in the early 60s.

Victor Field 14 May 2016 at 1:19 pm

“Fury’ was a Saturday morning show in the US, and Peter Graves wasn’t pleased about it because it was going to on primetime. But it was a bigger hit than the other sort of Western he did in handled by ITC, “Whiplash.”

Paul Mason 15 May 2016 at 4:11 am

Sorry not 1956 TV- even I wasn’t around then – but Weekend Woman’s Hour IS an hour long.

Ronnie MacLennan Baird 24 May 2016 at 9:19 pm

I am sure I remember hearing Fred Streeter’s catchphrase “Cheerio Frank. Cheerio Everybody” on the radio. But googling reveals I was only 5 when he died, so it is a very deep memory!

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