Tonight’s ABC North… in 1966 

27 March 2019

Today starts with an unusual version of the standard Morning Service. St Thomas church in Oakwood had had an interesting history. The first building, a hut, was erected in 1938 as the area around Enfield West (now Oakwood) tube station developed. The church itself was built at the start of World War II, being finished in 1941, but planned developments stopped due to the conflict. The original hut was used to house Belgian refugees and then as an emergency primary school for the baby boom children after the war.

The development plans were resumed in the late 1950s, with the hut being replaced by a church hall and the church itself being extended. These were now complete, so today was an opportunity to rededicate the buildings in the presence of senior Church of England clergy.

The church’s wooden spire suffered from its hurried World War II construction and was blown down in 1974. It was not properly replaced until 2010.

Peter Lloyd commentates, which is interesting as he’s usually a sports presenter. Director Bill Allenby was generally a sports OB director too – the pair worked together on ATV’s Seeing Sport. It’s an ATV Network Presentation because whilst Lloyd and Allenby are from ATV, the equipment is all from Rediffusion.

Sunday Session was the joint ABC-ATV branding for adult education, although there was no joint continuity. Some other regions also used the name Sunday Session, although the programmes varied in times and episodes.

There were no domestic video recording devices available to the masses in 1966, so missing an episodes meant missing that lesson entirely. This was fine for something like The Grammar of Cookery – you could pick up what had been missed as Philip Harben went along – but not so much for learning Russian.

To get round this, today’s episode of Say it in Russian from Tyne Tees will be repeated next Saturday morning, allowing learners to catch up.

Each episode of each programme is clearly labelled with what number they’re up to, allowing learners to keep track of what they have and haven’t seen – especially useful for the Saturday repeats and for when the programmes themselves got a Sunday repeat six months later.

The Television Act and Independent Television Authority rules meant that The Opinion Makers at 2.15pm couldn’t interview Lord Hill (Chairman of the ITA) or, say, Howard Thomas (Managing Director of ABC) – people in positions of power within ITV were not allowed to appear on ITV. But they can interview Sir Hugh Carleton Greene, Director-General of the BBC. Meanwhile, Hill and Thomas could quite happily appear on the BBC… as could Greene, as the rules didn’t apply over there.

ABC’s Howard Thomas

Another similar rule prevented faces strongly associated with ITV programmes from appearing in adverts on ITV, so the famous faces talking about products in the commercial breaks were largely BBC stars. Both BBC and ITV stars could front advertisements in print and on Radio Luxembourg, but it was clearly more lucrative to have a long running part on a BBC show than an ITV one.

Producer H K Lewenhak had an interesting career, starting at Granada in 1956, becoming Head of Features at Tyne Tees in 1959 and then Head of Production at Westward from 1962. Having reached such dizzying heights, he then stepped back down, becoming a producer and director at ATV in 1964.

Association Football had had an uneasy relationship with television. TV people thought that only live matches would gain an audience; football bosses thought that live matches on television would suck the crowds away from the stands. The advent of BBC-2 started to change this, as the new upstart channel created a weekly programme with highlights of a football match played the day before. This pleased the football people, as nobody was going to stay home from a game in order to watch highlights of it the next day, and the programme itself – named Match of the Day – would act as a billboard advertising next week’s football games from the teams covered.

ITV was slower on the uptake, but as Match of the Day transferred to BBC-1 and started pulling in huge figures, they had to react. World of Soccer (playing on the World of Sport branding) is ABC’s version, and usually covered a North or Midlands-based match. ATV’s version was called Star Soccer.

The TVTimes listing is little more than a placeholder. At the time the magazine went to print, almost a week before today’s listings, there was no way of knowing which matches were likely to be thrilling enough to be chosen for the highlights package. The commentator and director are known, but who’s playing? You’ll have to consult the duty continuity announcer, who will have mentioned it at 2.10 and 2.15pm.

This afternoon’s film isn’t a film, despite being advertised as such. It’s actually an episode of the CBS drama anthology Playhouse 90, similar in concept and quality to ABC’s Armchair Theatre. The CBS presentations, as was the style of the time, featured Dick Joy doing an introduction to tonight’s play. These were usually removed when the programme was shown in the UK – not least because it gave away the fact that this was TV and not film. Playhouse 90 gave a start to a lot of later well-known television writers, including Rod Serling, who would use the introductory format for his series The Twilight Zone, also for CBS.

This play, Ain’t No Time for Glory, first aired on CBS in June 1957. As the Playhouse 90 name suggests, each play was 90 minutes long including commercial breaks in the US. With the much more tightly controlled advertising rules in the UK, and with Dick Joy edited out, those 90 minutes become 80.

David Nixon’s Comedy Bandbox had been doing great numbers for years on ABC at 6.30pm on Saturdays after Thank Your Lucky Stars. It’s a surprise to find it in this backwater of 4.40pm on a Sunday. It sticks out somewhat between the war film and The Forest Rangers.

We’re now into the closed period, where programmes must be of a religious or moral character and advertising is banned. This hour was compulsory for ITV on Sundays, although the programmes themselves often pushed as far as they could at the boundaries set by the Postmaster General.

A bible reading by David Kossoff starts the bloc, with Cy Grant as a guest star, no doubt using his wonderful singing talents to provide a calypso or guitar song in the middle.

Motive at 6.35pm is unusual. ABC sets up a pretend current affairs discussion programme and uses that format to discuss the events around the story of John the Baptist as if they were happening now. The director is Voytek (born Wojciech Roman Szendzikowski), until this time best known for his stunning designs for the stage and Armchair Theatre.

7.05pm is one of those programmes that pushes at the boundaries of the closed period. Here it’s Cleo Laine singing, scatting and reading poems… almost but not quite not what the slot is for at all. It’s notable that it overruns the bloc’s hour-long slot into primetime, suggesting that ITV knew that too.

The religious slots were where viewers in the major regions were most likely to see productions by the smallest ITV companies – Westward, Border, Grampian and even tiny little Channel. They didn’t have the resources to make programmes that could challenge the Big 4’s entertainment shows, but they could get a network hearing for something they could afford if they gave it a religious spin.

Sunday Night at the London Palladium has evolved into The London Palladium Show, and Jimmy Tarbuck has replaced Norman Vaughan as the main presenter. The format has not really changed, mind.

Tonight’s big film at 9.25pm is the ‘moving film drama’ (actually, turgid melodrama) Edward My Son. This mid-atlantic MGM film is from 1949 lost money at the box office, but still earned Deborah Kerr an Oscar nomination – although Olivia de Havilland beat to the podium for her role in the far superior The Heiress.

The night rounds off with ABC’s Eamonn Andrews Show, a huge hit for ITV. We still maintain that ‘Tonight from London!’ is pushing it a bit for a show that was made in Teddington, but there we go. For the second time today, the TVTimes listing is a placeholder – who was appearing depended on what stars were ‘in town’ that night and whether they could be persuaded to get a paid taxi out to the studios. The programme was generally recorded earlier that day, but was more-or-less open-ended: on a bad day, it could run a mere 35 minutes, but with sparkling discussion could get close to an hour. The only limit is the need to run the weather, the epilogue and be off by midnight on the dot – the transmitters officially belonging to Granada from 00:01.

You Say

4 responses to this article

steve brown 27 March 2019 at 2:02 pm

On World Of soccer it was leeds 1 blackpool 2

Pete Singleton 28 March 2019 at 12:27 am

Another great piece from the premier source of broadcasting history throughout the UK and Europe.

And a very sedate version of the National Anthem at closedown, appropriate for the penultimate weekend of ABC Television!

I often wonder whether ABC ever ‘stole’ the odd minute or two after midnight from Granada, just for the sheer hell of it…

Alan Keeling 28 March 2019 at 10:31 am

5.30 is an ideal Sunday teatime slot for The Forest Rangers, produced by ASP Productions for CBC and owned by ITC. The episode shown is from season three. This series and ITC’s Mr Piper were the earliest Canadian TV shows that were filmed in colour.

Alan Keeling 28 March 2019 at 8:34 pm

After religious programmes, the evening’s entertainment begins with an episode from season two (1965/66) of the US sci-fi adventure series, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, this time filmed in colour, but ITV viewers didn’t see colour episodes repeated until the early seventies.

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