Tonight’s Yorkshire Television… in 1970 

7 February 2018

The scene: Wakefield, the turn of the 1970s. Saturday morning.

No school, not much to do. Apparently there was a sexual revolution a couple of years ago, but it didn’t seem to get this far north. You’re sure you’d have noticed if it had. Not a bad place to live all the same. But right now there’s not much on the telly. Two channels of testcard and BBC-1 trying to improve you with adult numeracy programmes for the working classes followed by Répondez s’il vous Plaît and Wie bitte? to teach the middle classes French and German for their motoring holidays on the continent. Whatever.

Anything else on yet? Click. Oh, hey. What’s this music? Are they showing The Dambusters? Ah no. A voice tells you that this is in fact Yorkshire Television, broadcasting from the Emley Moor, Scarborough and Sheffield transmitters of the Independent Television Authority. More like the remains of the Emley Moor transmitter, you think – the mast up there fell down last year and the place is still a building site. Those tough days of March 1969 when all there was to watch was BBC-1 will be spoken of at school for years to come, although your mum has annoyed your dad ever since by talking about a bloke called Harold Pinter.

“Yorkshire Television – In Colour” the TV reminds you. Not on your set it isn’t. Only one person you know at school has a colour set, and he’s from one of those houses where you just know his parents were watching Répondez s’il vous Plaît this morning while trying to find the Auvergne in the Times Atlas of the World. Your dad says colour sets are still too dear (plus you have to pay a higher licence fee), so for now you just have to tolerate black and white.

Right then. Let’s take a look and see what’s in the TVTimes for today. (You live in a TVTimes house. The kid at school with the colour set lives in a Radio Times house. Another kid claims his house gets both, but you know he’s lying. There’s no such thing as getting both. It has to be one or the other except at Christmas.)

On the cover, someone called Hildegard Neil who is appearing in some play or another. She’ll pop up again in Ace of Wands later this year and a few years from now will marry another actor, a guy by the name of BRIAN BLESSED.

Flip to page 23 to find today’s programmes. What’s on first? Paulus at 12:10pm is an imported Dutch puppet show, originally Paulus de boskabouter (“Paulus the woodgnome”). It’s been dubbed by Arthur Lowe, the bloke from Dad’s Army.

The Adventures of the Seaspray follows that. About as far as you can get from Wakefield in February, it’s a story from Australia about a family who explore the Pacific on a sailing boat. Definitely nicer weather where they are, but there doesn’t seem to be much sign of a sexual revolution in Australia either.

All this kids’ stuff is just filler leading up to what is either the main Saturday afternoon event (if you like sport) or something which might as well be four hours of testcard (if you don’t) – World of Sport, presented by Richard Davies. This week: Jimmy Hill punditises the football into submission, there’s bobsleigh from St Moritz which nobody will really understands but which is exciting anyway, “They’re off” (billed as “ITV’s seven Saturday races”) and more. It would be a year or two before both Dickie Davis and the ITV Seven started using the names they’re remembered for today.

There’s wrestling. Of course there’s wrestling – it’s World of Sport. From relatively glamorous Greenwich, this week’s straining men grappling sweatily in homemade leotards include Manuel Pollman of exotic Madrid and Tony Charles of even more exotic Tonypandy.

And there’s a competition! Put a team together, fill in the coupon in this week’s TVTimes, get permission from your games master and the winning boys will get to take penalties at Wembley. Boys, that is. Girls not mentioned so presumably not allowed. This is 1970, after all. Everyone knows it’s a scientific fact that girls are physically incapable of playing football due to the uterus.

Fast forward four hours. World of Sport finally wheezes to a close with a long list of football results during which your dad briefly checks his pools coupon and sighs… and then you switch over to BBC-1 along with 7.3 million other people to watch episode 2 of trivia quiz favourite Doctor Who and the Silurians. Still not sure about this new Doctor Who. All frilly shirts and fancy hair. Looks like he belongs more on Top of the Pops.

If you’d stayed with ITV you’d be watching the penultimate episode of season 2 of The Big Valley, an imported Western serial made for ABC in the US. This rather gives the impression that ITV knew a new Doctor Who would sweep the teatime audience on a Saturday, so didn’t try too hard to compete with it.

We’re now solidly into the tea-and-pilchard-sandwiches part of the day. At 6:15pm, ATV’s The John Davidson Show (with Lulu, who was required by law to appear at least once on every television light entertainment show). Chiselled crooner Davidson will be less well known in 2018, but his sidekick Mireille Mathieu is a superstar in France. You take a quick glance at the regional variations and realise that if you were lucky enough to live in the Tyne Tees area you could be watching Batman instead. BBC-1 has the equally wholesome It’s Cliff Richard, with Una Stubbs. BBC-2 is (along with most of its viewers) enjoying a well-deserved nap before Gardener’s World.

At 7, one of the few programmes London Weekend Television have produced for this Weekend’s Television – Tommy Cooper’s half-hour show, with the comedian/magician at the height of his powers. It will be half a decade or more before alcohol starts to erode his mastery of his craft, and a full 14 years before he becomes one of the few people to literally, rather than figuratively die on stage – also during an LWT show.

Embed from Getty Images
Lyricist and composer Lionel Bart (1930 – 1999) with actress Barbara Windsor during rehearsals for Bart’s musical ‘Twang!!’ at the Shaftesbury Theatre, London, 15th December 1965. Windsor plays Delphina in the musical, a humorous retelling of the legend of Robin Hood. (Photo by Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)


Half an hour later, Edgar Wallace: Death Trap. This is actually a “second feature” film series from the early 1960s which originally played in ABC cinemas, and it shows. Note an early-career Barbara Windsor playing “Babs Newton”, a step up from a year earlier or so when her credits were mostly for e.g. “Switchboard operator (uncredited)” or “Girlfriend (uncredited)”. BBC-2 takes a slice of audience away at this point for sports coverage – Wales v Scotland at Cardiff Arms Park means a substantial increase in the number of viewers watching BBC-2 from Wenvoe, Llandonna, Black Hill and friends.

At 8:30, Hot Spell – a 1958 feature film starring Shirley Booth, who despite winning an Oscar never became a household hame in the UK and only did one more film after this before concentrating on television and starring in 154 episodes of Hazel for NBC and later CBS. Co-starring a young (and better known in 2018) Shirley MacLaine. Opposite Val Doonican on BBC-1 and, rather delightfully, figure skating from Leningrad. On BBC-2, The Young Generation is a vehicle for Dougie Squires’ dance troupe of the same name produced by BBC light entertainment supremo Stewart “Run the roller!” Morris.

It’s now 10pm. After a short news bulletin the ATV ident blares and blazes across the screen yet again to herald the dangerously intellectual-sounding Saturday Night Theatre. This week it’s “Wolly Wenpol, The Complete Works”. Star Robert Hardy will become a household name long before his death in 2017. If you’re not feeling up to the challenge, Match of the Day just started over on BBC-1.

To round off the evening’s viewing, a repeat of The Avengers – an episode from the final, Emma Peel-less series. This week, the team investigates the sudden mysterious deaths of a number of ear, nose and throat specialists in an episode that is probably more gripping than the synopsis makes it sound. By the time the case is done and dusted it’s after midnight and you should have been in bed hours ago. YTV are there help you up the wooden hill by rounding off the day with weather and a rousing rendition of the national anthem (you don’t stand up, this isn’t the cinema) followed by a gentle good night. Don’t forget to switch off your set.

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8 responses to this article

Dave Rhodes 7 February 2018 at 2:13 pm

Great piece Mike. Interesting to see Tommy Cooper on London Weekend’s books; Cooper King Size having of course been shown (in part!) by Thames on their first night in July ’68. He returned to Thames later in the decade.

The ATV play looks decent – nice premise and a solid cast. Unlike many from the era, it’s in the archive.

Were Yorkshire using the anthem at closedown Mike? They weren’t by the eighties, and Granada didn’t either, but with their small ‘c’ conservative ethos around presentation I suppose it could fit their early operations.

Checking The Times archive, it seems there were two ITN bulletins available to companies – one at 9.35 and the one shown above at ten. Everyone took the network play but timings varied.

Perhaps the most intriguing effort from the companies for their own territories was ‘Tommy’s Tavern’ on Ulster at 9.30. My best guess is it starred Tommy James, apparently a pianist who earlier
fronted ‘Tommy’s Teatime’ – perhaps readers in Northern Ireland can clarify?

By the way, BBC2 that night were showing Disco 2; a clip from an early edition with Tommy Vance recently featured on Transdiffusion’s Facebook page via the BBC Archive.

Alan Keeling 7 February 2018 at 3:37 pm

12.20 on a Saturday morning is the ideal slot for Adventures of the Seaspray, an Aussie adventure show about a schooner and its crew, produced by Screen Gems in 1966, “The Black Sapphire” is episode 27.

Alan Keeling 7 February 2018 at 3:49 pm

The Big Valley at 5.15 ran for 4 seasons (1965/69) & starred Barbara Stanwyck in her second TV series, plus a young pre Six Million Dollar Man Lee Majors. This western series was produced by Four Star Productions, a company responsible for shows such as Burke’s Law, The Dick Powell Theatre, etc.

Alan Keeling 7 February 2018 at 4:03 pm

After a short ITN News bulletin, there’s The John Davidson Show, a musical variety series from ATV/ITC videotaped at Elstree Studios for the US market, and we are now on the last but one programme out of 13.

Alan Keeling 7 February 2018 at 4:12 pm

The 7.30 slot is right for the Edgar Wallace mysteries, a series of 47 B-films running for a little over an hour long, produced at Merton Park Studios. The episodes of this series were cut down to 50 minute lengths for US TV under the title, Tales of Edgar Wallace.

Arthur Nibble 7 February 2018 at 4:57 pm

If you didn’t see her name, you could be forgiven for thinking it was Tara Palmer-Tomkinson on that cover.

Alan Keeling 7 February 2018 at 8:31 pm

Rounding off programmes for the night is The Avengers, it’s now the second colour series with Linda Thorson replacing Diana Rigg and it’s episode 9 of the serie’s final season of this slightly tongue-in-cheek crime/action series of 1968/69. 8 years later John Steed returns in The New Avengers, but that’s another story.

Arthur Nibble 7 February 2018 at 9:30 pm

Never mind those two exotic wrestlers, the star turn on the bill is the inimitable Les Kellett, who managed to combine comedy with a ‘hard man’ style to brilliant effect.

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