Tonight’s ABC Weekend TV… in 1964 

31 October 2018

It’s Thursday 29 October in 1964 and I’ve just rushed down to the newsagent’s after school clutching my ‘tanner’ to get the TVTimes for the coming week, that by now always starts on a Saturday in the world of TV – it’s the weekend that attracts the maximum number of viewers so it’s always best to have the weekend listings at the start of the magazine (although it wasn’t always so).

Television in the UK still isn’t in colour but the cover of TVTimes is, announcing Monday’s The Sound of Murder (Anglia TV), an episode in the Play of The Week series, starring Marius Goring and Elizabeth Sellars. Goring is already well known for roles in the British film industry as far back as 1936 and to the teen generations of the late 50s and early 60s as Sir Percy Blakeney in The Adventures of the Scarlet Pimpernel, a series made by ITC and shown on the independent television network from 1956. Elizabeth Sellars, now aged 97 as I write, (or 95 depending on where you look), had a career of over 40 years in films and television. Her credits include Love Story, The Power Game, Thirty Minute Theatre, The Wednesday Play, and Churchill’s People.

We can also see from the cover that The State Opening of Parliament (there’s a Special Colour Feature inside) is televised this week, although we won’t get to see much inside the House. It so happens that 1964 was the year that recommendations were made for a trial period for the televising of Parliament, although we must wait another 25 years before the Commons allows cameras into the Chamber.

Granadaland is put on hold for the weekend as ABC – ‘Your Weekend Television in the North’ (and the Midlands) fires up for two more days of sport, music, comedy and drama and some good old religion too. Whilst we’re not yet in the Dickie Davies era and World of Sport, there’s plenty of action to be had in Saturday Sportstime, and page 25 of the TVT has a handy list of the afternoon’s events at the top of the page with the more in depth detail below.

ATV and Southern Independent Television provide most, with the ABC Weekend outside broadcast unit out at the St George’s Hall, Bradford for Professional Wrestling at 3.40. The action kicks off with Tenpin Bowling at 12.55 and we’re treated to Make That Spare at 1.20 from Wembley, a competition between top men and women bowlers for prize money totalling a not-to-be-sniffed-at £100 [£2,000 in 2018 allowing for inflation]. Tenpin bowling rarely figures at all on television in the 21st century but it was a much loved TV sport in the 60s, thanks to ITV. The News is snuck in at 1.15 before the competition starts and then they’re off at Lingfield from 1.50 with further visits at 2.20, 2.55 and 3.25 with ATV cameras providing the coverage and stalwarts Ken Butler and John Rickman adding to the excitement. Eastbourne is the venue for some Amateur Boxing at 2.5, 2.40 and 3.10 brought to you by Southern and there’s a Racing Results Round-up at 3.35.

Probably the highlight of the sporting afternoon though, is inevitably Professional Wrestling and ABC offers a full 90 minutes. Not featured today, but who doesn’t remember Jackie (‘Mr TV’) Pallo, Les Kellet, Giant Haystacks, Vic Faulkner, Mike Merino or Kendo Nagasaki? There’s thrills and spills in and out of the ring, with handbagged ladies in hats and smoking allowed. Whether it’s sport or entertainment, we didn’t really care. And if you want more, tune in on Wednesday evening when Kent Walton signs off wishing us a cheery ‘Happy Thursday, Friday – see you Saturday!’

After ten minutes of the Sports Results, it’s down to business with a repeat of The Adventures of a Jungle Boy, but forget Kipling – the Jungle Boy here is orphaned after he survives a plane crash in which both parents perished. This is a British production (ABC/Grosse Krasne) starring Michael Carr Hartley and filmed on location in Africa. Carr Hartley had grown up with animals being the son of a famous animal handler. He went on to take part in shooting at the Summer Olympics and also appeared in BBC’s Animal Magic.

It’s over to ITN at 5.45 for a five-minute look at the world and then we’re treated to ‘television’s top pop show’ Thank Your Lucky Stars presented by Brian Matthew. There’s ‘groups, artists, discs and comment’ on the pop scene and tonight, Dusty Springfield, Gary Miller, Wayne Fontana and The Mindbenders, The Shangri-Las, The Sun Specs, The Zombies, Lorne Gibson and 18 year-old Helen Shapiro all feature. Don Moss is the guest disc jockey for the Spin a Disc segment, assisted by Black Country girl Janice (‘Oi’ll give it foive’) Nicholls. Billy Butler, later a Radio Merseyside/Radio City DJ famous in Liverpool for the hilarious (or excruciating, depending on your view) Hold Your Plums phone in quiz show also was a Spin a Disc reviewer. Other Spin a Disc ‘judges’ over the show’s run included Jimmy Young, Sam Costa, Jimmy Savile, Pete Murray, Barry Alldis and ABC’s voice of wrestling, Kent Walton.

TYLS had a five year run and presenters other than BBC Light Programme Saturday Club host Brian Matthew, (who was probably the best remembered of all and went on to host Sounds of The Sixties, BBC Radio 2), were Keith Fordyce who also presented Ready, Steady, Go! for Associated-Rediffusion, and Jim (Carry On…) Dale. Dale was also a pop star in his own right and had previously had a stint as a presenter on Jack Good’s Six-Five Special (BBC) in 1957. He also had a run as host of ATV’s Sunday Night at the London Palladium in 1973.

TYLS wasn’t the first ABC ‘pop’ show. Oh Boy! (1958–59) was in direct competition to Six Five Special and Jack Good was lured from the BBC to produce. TYLS itself was a rival to the rather more staid Juke Box Jury on the BBC (although didn’t we love it when the singer of a reviewed pop song was hidden in the wings after the song had been slated by the panel!)

The ABC Weekend continues at 6.35 with David Nixon’s Comedy Bandbox. Nixon, an ex-ENSA man, first appeared on television in 1947 in an early BBC Television variety show Café Continental that was beamed live from Alexandra Palace. He later became a regular on What’s My Line? (BBC) and briefly presented Candid Camera (originally an American show). He had his own series The David Nixon Show and others over the years, mainly embracing his magician’s talents and he was always keen to use the advancing television technology (e.g. ‘chroma key’) to the full, adding mystery to an audience that could still be thrilled by simple magic. Additionally, he was the first ‘straight man’ to that lovable omnivore, Basil Brush.

Tonight, Nixon is joined by Bob Monkhouse and Rolf Harris, together with The Viscounts, singer Debbie Lee whose picture appears top left on this page of TVT, and Bob Sharples with the ABC Television Showband. The show is produced by Mark Stuart who went on to work with Benny Hill, Larry Grayson, Tommy Cooper, Jim Davidson and Tony Hancock and produced a host of other television series.

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea starring Richard Basehart as Harriman Nelson fills the 7.30–8.25 slot. Here was a series that took the name from the film and even used some of the film sets for the TV spinoff. The creator Irwin Allen remained with the show on its journey from film to television and some of the film footage was also used in the series. Allen also produced The Poseidon Adventure (water again) and action sequences for The Towering Inferno. First produced for ABC (America) in black and white, most of the later episodes were shot in colour.

Before we turn the page of this week’s TVT to see what’s next on the box, (don’t be tempted to look at your Radio Times – please stay with your weekend ITV contractor), the Stella Radio and Television Company Ltd have placed an ad at the bottom of the page for their Peto Scott 960 19” model. It’s a dual standard set so it’s 625 line-ready when “B.B.C.2” comes to your region. (I spy a couple of push buttons on the fascia… please select 405 or 625). It benefits from a forward-facing speaker which is always a good thing and can be yours for 71 guineas [£74.55 in decimal, £1,500 in 2018 allowing for inflation] (that includes the purchase tax). A saving can be made however if you’re not concerned about future-proofing with a UHF tuner (why on earth would you want three channels?) and if you’re happy for your set to be legless, another 2 guineas [£2.10, £42] can be shaved off the price. Whatever decision you come to, it all adds up to better viewing with Peto Scott. You can ring them on Gerrard 7086 – (that’ll be GER… ah the days of actual exchange names).

A little research reveals (and I know some of you will already know this) that Peto Scott also manufactured some early TV cameras. The company was taken over by Pye and Philips and its name lives on courtesy of those that know a thing or two about Vidicons, four-lens turrets and the like.

Let’s get on with the viewing as it’s nearly 8.25 and ABC is taking ATV’s The Arthur Haynes Show. As always, Nicholas Parsons and Dermot Kelly appear with Haynes along with Rita Webb too and there’s some jazz with Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen. Jack Parnell provides the main music for the show and the scriptwriting is by Johnny Speight who was the brain behind Haynes’ tramp persona.

At 9.0 the familiar Non-Stop theme by John Malcolm heralds the ten-minute News from ITN (sadly rarely heard in full – it’s a cracking tune) before we settle down to Redcap starring John Thaw. This is an ABC Weekend Network Production and is week three of series one (only two series were made). Thaw is Sgt John Mann in ‘Epitaph for A Sweat’ and others include Leonard Rossiter (later Rigsby in Yorkshire’s Rising Damp), Ian McShane (Lovejoy), Kenneth Farrington (Billy Walker, Coronation Street) and future Blue Peter presenter John Noakes as Sapper Evans. The series revolves around the Special Investigation Branch of the Royal Military Police and in this episode, Mann is sent out to Aden to investigate the beating of an Arab worker. John Bryce produces, and had already been producer of another ABC favourite The Avengers in the Honor Blackman (Cathy Gale) era. Readers can refer back to page 10 of this edition if they want to know more about this series.

Before we move on, who remembers Dadolin on the bathroom wall? The ad on this page tells us that it’s only 70/- (another way of saying £3/10/0d – £3.50) [£70 allowing for inflation] and it’ll only take 70 minutes. No need for tiles in the modern home, just paste the wall and roll it on – it’ll last for years. You can see how easy it is by the picture and wow! it certainly must be easy, because look – it’s a woman doing it, so there’s obviously no need for hubby to take over. If you want a job doing properly…

And talking of advertisements – or ‘commercials’ whatever your preference – ABC for a time used ‘break bumpers’ at the start of a commercial break and even between each advertisement. I’ve no knowledge whether or not such devices (known as ‘optics’) were being used on this particular weekend in ABC’s tenure but they were a nifty and quite attractive little mechanism to separate programme from break. Based on the company ident, these mini-animations were fired at you, zooming and spinning towards the viewer.

The night’s viewing continues (you haven’t switched over to ‘the other side’ have you?) so why not settle down now as ABC takes ATV’s The Sullavan Brothers. The synopsis says ‘a plea of provocation has never been pleaded by a woman’, so the Sullavan Brothers decide to make this a test case. Created by Ted Willis, the brothers are solicitors and barrister within the legal profession. The show stars Tenniel Evans, Anthony Bate, David Sumner and Hugh Manning. Producer is Jack Williams and amongst his credits are Mrs Thursday (in which Hugh Manning also starred with Kathleen Harrison), The Gentle Touch, Within These Walls, Sergeant Cork and quite a few ITV Sunday Night Theatre episodes.

If pop’s your thing and TYLS earlier wasn’t quite enough for you, stay around for The Pop Spot at 11.5, ABC’s weekly look at one particular artist or group (bands were ‘groups’ in those days). Tonight, it’s The Migil 5 – the group who put ‘blue beat’ into the charts. They play a selection of their hits on disc but it’s only a five minute spot before a new series from ATV hits the Saturday night schedule with Galton and Simpson’s Milligan’s Wake. ‘The outcome is unpredictable’ says TVT which in itself is probably quite predictable with Galton and Simpson’s ‘words and ideas’ in the hands of goon Spike Milligan.

George Cregeen of the Liverpool Daily Post and Echo gives some ‘lively comment on the week in the North’ in Personal Column at 11.45. It doesn’t say it’s an ABC Weekend production, and it sounds more like something Granada might have come up with, but anyway it’s just a five minute slot so we won’t worry too much about that.

If you’re still around following a quick ITN bulletin at 11.50, that very British institution that the commercial channel pinched from BBC radio – but not favoured by the likes of Granada – The Epilogue, ensures we get off to bed with a short fireside ‘sermonette’, tonight with the Dean of Liverpool’s (as yet unfinished in 1964) Cathedral, who, whilst not credited in TVT, is The Very Rev Edward Patey. The man was quite a radical and although educated at Marlborough, Oxford and Cambridge, he became a firm favourite with his Scouse flock and was something of a reformer, and ruffled many a clerical feather at the General Synod of the Church of England.

Close-down follows, likely as not with ‘Diddy’ David Hamilton as he bids his ‘special goodnight to you’ followed by a pause and then… avid ABC Weekenders will wait for that final reminder. No ‘standby’ on those 1964 sets…

The curtain falls on another ABC Day One. There’s been a feast of sport, drama, music, comedy, comment and religion. Join me in the morning for the Sunday start up routine and lots more weekend television in the North before Granada clocks on from Monday.

Ching, ching, ching!

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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4 responses to this article

steve brown 31 October 2018 at 1:01 pm

On TYLS,Gary Miller was probably singing Aqua marina,the closing theme song to stingray,which made its debut in October 1964

Arthur Nibble 31 October 2018 at 1:55 pm

“Redcap” also included Mike Pratt, who played Randall in “Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)” but was the first to depart, in 1976 aged just 45. Pratt was also a celebrated songwriter, co-writing several hits with Tommy Steele and Lionel Bart.

Alan Keeling 1 November 2018 at 10:39 am

The Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea episode, “Mist of Silence” is the fourth episode from season one, the series went into colour from season two and had weekday teatime slots. The original pilot episode for season one was filmed in colour.

Tina King 14 November 2018 at 2:38 pm

Was the rule in 1964 that broadcasting hours on a Saturday was limited to 7.5 hours?

I remember reading somewhere that the Postmaster General in 1964 provided a 50 hour broadcasting week divided into 35 hours Mondays to Fridays meaning 7 hours a day, and then 15 hours over Saturdays/Sundays at 7.15 hours a day. Is that correct?

Then of course the exemptions of religious programmes, schools, adult education joined by sporting events/outside broadcasts under their quota made weekend television on the air much longer than weekdays.

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