Back in time for TV: 1977 

10 July 2019


This is the year the number of colour television licences overtook the number of black and white ones. Finally, a decade after the first colour programmes were broadcast in the UK, the majority of people were able to enjoy the glories of colour. And what were all these colour televisions displaying to the nation? Well…

This week my ITV programmes are coming from Anglia.

1st March
Crown Court ‘Crime Passionel’

I’ve seen a lot of praise for this daytime courtroom drama, which otherwise probably wouldn’t have stood out to me. The jury are, I think, real members of the public, but the cases are entirely fictional and wholly scripted. In this week’s case, a man is accused of deliberately stabbing his neighbour in the leg. It emerges their families have been feuding for generations.

This victim, Sir Harold Dupuis, comes across as a rather eccentric old fellow, having been provoked into a confrontation after the accused sent a letter to The Times saying Gibraltar should belong to Spain. As well as being seen to drink from a hipflask in court, Dupuis’s language is archaic and wouldn’t be out of place in a Shakespearean play, with him at one point exclaiming, “Me leg will not see a horse’s flank this side of Michaelmas!” What comedy value there might be from this gradually disappears as after 20 minutes of nothing but him droning on, I was thoroughly fed up.

2nd March
Crown Court ‘Crime Passionel’

I thought, ‘today has got to be an improvement on yesterday’s edition’ and my wish was answered. We had three people on the stand today so there was at least some variety. First up was the accused’s housekeeper, a German lady, who used the phrase “Zat is so” to answer as many of the questions as possible. She’s supposed to have worked for Jasper Fortesque for over four years and yet the script has her making basic mistakes in her spoken English. Maybe she doesn’t get out much. She tells us that Fortesque is a gentleman, but as he’s her employer and she appears something of a small drama queen, I’m taking everything she says with a pinch of salt.

Next up was the policeman who came upon Dupuis and Fortesque just after the incident happened. I could barely get past Dupuis’s irritating manner yesterday but it seems Dupuis burst in to Fortesque’s home and gained his stab wound shortly afterwards. The policeman won’t be making the mistake of leaving his reading glasses at home again, which he clearly did today as he had to hold his notebook at arms’ length throughout his entire time on the stand.



Fortesque and Dupuis are having their best go at slagging each other off and it seems that in addition to the family rivalry, Fortesque is having an affair with Dupuis’s wife, whom Dupuis has refused to divorce. The judge has spent most of the trial looking either bored or exasperated and it doesn’t get much better with Fortesque on the stand as Dupuis shouts across the court, “You are a cad, sir! A seducer of women! You should be horsewhipped!” Bonus points to any programme that brings out the word ‘cad’.

In small doses, Dupuis is considerably more bearable and today’s episode was much more interesting. As irritating as I had found Dupuis, I was convinced of Fortesque’s guilt, but then in Fortesque’s testimony he claims that he was holding the dagger while trying to lock the doors of the French windows. When Dupuis forced his way in, he ran into the knife. I’m no longer sure and am beginning to think Dupuis’s statements have all been theatricals.

3rd March
Crown Court ‘Crime Passionel’

Yesterday ended on a cliffhanger as Lady Dupuis prepared to enter court. I was expecting a twee lady in a twin set and pearls but this image was swept away as a middle-aged hippy-type took the stand and began banging on about stars aligning, while trying to out-quote the lawyer’s Latin. I struggled to pay attention after a while as she went off on tangents, everything from a word’s Greek etymology to complimenting the judge’s voice. I wasn’t the only one growing tired of the case as the policeman had dropped off in a corner. The judge too was also in a bit of a grump.

What really mattered was the intent behind the actions. One of the lawyers speculated that Lady Dupuis had actually been playing both gentlemen off against one another and enjoyed that, so she wasn’t keen for one to go to prison as it would spoil her manipulation games. I hadn’t trusted Lady Dupuis at all and felt this whole bollocks of caring about astrology was a bit put on. I’d lost track of things and today’s evidence seemed to add little, but was still inclined towards my feelings at the end of yesterday’s episode – the incident was an accident and Fortesque was innocent.

All in all, I had found the proceedings most bizarre. I’ve never been in a court before but I had certainly never expected them to be like this. It was a strange bunch of characters to bring together and despite the fact that I hadn’t particularly enjoyed all three episodes as much as I had hoped, Crown Court is such an interesting concept that I want to see some more. It would be good to see what other types of cases are written and, probably more importantly, what sort of characters.

Special Branch ‘Entente Cordial’

I last saw Special Branch in 1970, with the start of its second series. I know that at some point following this the programme was revamped with new characters and started to be made on 16mm film by Euston Films, the same company who would later be responsible for The Sweeney. This late night repeat is from the fourth series in 1974 and I have been curious to find out how different it is to the earlier episodes.

The pre-title sequence follows Chief Inspector Haggerty (Patrick Mower) as he and another officer are preparing to confront a man in a hotel room. Haggerty decides to surprise him by entering through the adjacent hotel room. We don’t see what happens but as there’s a bullet in the wall and another in a man, I’m willing to believe Haggerty’s story that it was all in self-defence.

The man appears to be tied in with some drug dealers and Haggerty spends the rest of the episode looking into it, while also being the subject of an internal inquiry into the death. While the shooting does seem a fairly cut and dry affair, I’m surprised that Haggerty is allowed to continue working. He’s just shot a man and he hasn’t just brushed it off – it’s clear that it has had an emotional impact on him. Also, he’s a police officer who shot a man with no eyewitnesses – surely that needs looking at properly!

An aspect that the original Special Branch touched on but is present far more here is that the officers clearly have a home life. We saw the wives of the protagonists in both Gideon’s Way and Perry Mason back in the 1960s, but they were mere window dressings really – someone to iron shirts, cook meals and kiss them out the door, while occasionally helping to give some exposition. They practically stopped existing once their husbands had walked out of the kitchen.

There is a marked step up here with the ex-wife of George Sewell’s Alan Craven being a central character in this episode. Claudia comes to him for help, suspecting her boyfriend of being mixed up in something as he’s got a gun and signed them into their hotel under false names. We soon discover that her boyfriend is the man Haggerty has shot and then Claudia herself disappears, prompting a search.

In this episode Craven is given some of the traits that have since become almost stereotypical of a television detective. Along with his broken marriage, he’s seen to disobey his superiors by ignoring his orders to stay off the case. It was the former characteristic that interested me though. As mentioned above, our 1960s’ policemen had wives and if there was reference to a home life, it was generally depicted as a stable one. Even Derren Nesbitt’s Inspector Jordan was shown to have a steady girlfriend.

Many of television’s heroes have been depicted as single bachelors and occasionally we’ve met the odd widow, but divorce hasn’t really been depicted on our screens all that much. One of the reasons divorce has been so taboo is that for most of the 1960s and prior to it, fault had to be proven in order to obtain a divorce. ‘Fault’ usually meant adultery and even if there had been none, an insincere one could be arranged. This changed following the 1969 Divorce Reform Act, which came into effect a couple of years later. Divorce was now based on ‘irretrievable breakdown’ and as well as enabling more people to leave their marriages, it gradually changed how most people viewed divorce.

Alan Craven is one of the first of, by 2019, a moderately lengthy line of divorced police detectives. We don’t discover the reasons behind the Craven’s divorce, but several of our TV inspectors will eventually be shown to be married to the job. Alan and Claudia are at least on speaking terms, although there is clearly still tension between them.

Visually, the programme is more gritty and we barely spend any time in the offices. More location filming has always helped provide programmes with greater verisimilitude and here it’s the most effective difference for me compared to the ‘original’ series. It is also a world away from most of the filmed series that have been on our screens, which have either been US imports or ITC’s glossy 35mm productions. Special Branch certainly doesn’t look cheap but it would have been ineffective for a police-cum-espionage series to have the glamour that ITC’s programmes strived for. I’m really curious what else Special Branch will do with it and how much was achieved, as it seems obvious now that these skills would have been honed before we get a sharper version in The Sweeney.

Similar to some early episodes of The Sweeney, in this episode Haggerty and Craven don’t execute much work as a double act and in fact share few scenes. They both separately encounter a superior in the form of Strand, played by Paul Eddington. He’s an interesting character, who seems untrustworthy. He reminded me of the Hunter character in Callan, particularly in a scene when he told Haggerty he was off the case because it was being closed. Haggerty initially wants to know why, but there is no why – that is simply the decision being passed down. Despite being frustrated, Haggerty is not as demanding as Callan about the answers and only decides to defiantly continue the investigation when Craven returns with more information. Strand’s part in this episode was all too brief for me as it seems he has the potential to be a wonderful character. Additionally, as I am mostly familiar with Paul Eddington from his later sitcom roles, I enjoyed seeing him play someone slightly villainous.

4th March
Raffles ‘A Costume Piece ‘

I can’t help but be drawn in by a name I know and I picked Raffles due to its star, Anthony Valentine. I’m most familiar with him from Callan but I’ve also seen him in a couple of other programmes. He’s a sadistic bully in Callan and he’s a bit of a rogue in other roles, so it was great to see him as a good guy for a change.

Raffles is accompanied by his friend, Bunny, played by Christopher Strauli, and as far as I can gather they appear to be two wealthy young men, possibly part of the aristocracy, who enjoy robbing nasty rich men. Raffles makes claims about being an artist, though I’m not sure if he genuinely believes this or if it’s a convenient cover for how he comes by his ‘profits’.

The nasty rich man chosen to be their victim in this episode is Reuben Rosenthall, played with magnificent villainy by Alfred Marks. He’s new money, having made his fortune in South African diamond mines. Having been invited to a dinner at Raffles and Bunny’s gentleman’s club, he makes a ghastly speech to show off not just his wealth but his power, shooting his initial into a sign.

Raffles and Bunny employ several disguises for their mission to rob Rosenthall’s jewels, with Raffles dressing as an old tramp in order to watch the house for several days. On the night itself, it’s striped shirts and eye masks. The whole episode up until now has been light-hearted and fun, but when they get caught red-handed, Rosenthall manages to hold onto Bunny while Raffles escapes. Along with his right-hand man Purvis, he’s been drinking with a couple of lady friends and as they tie Bunny up, it begins to get tense. I was rather worried for Bunny, who lacks Raffles’ confident bravado and seemed entirely at the mercy of the all too trigger-happy Rosenthall. I was also slightly annoyed at Raffles for leaving his poor friend behind.

Luckily when Rosenthall’s gun is fired, it is Purvis’s hand that suffers and he does his best to hide it when a nearby policeman comes to enquire about the shot he’s heard. With his hat, cloak and large moustache, he’s the perfect old-fashioned policeman and turns out to be Bunny’s saviour as he insists on taking the thief to the police station. It is only once they are in a carriage outside that the policeman is revealed to be Raffles.

Based on the tone of the first half of the episode, I wasn’t expecting it to then turn with Bunny trapped with such a vile and volatile villain. Nonetheless, the episode remained great fun and though I had half an inkling that the policeman might be Raffles, I couldn’t see through the disguise at all – I was most impressed. I’m surprised that Raffles is on so late – 9pm seems a waste for a show that would perfectly suit an early evening ‘family’ slot.

5th March
Wings ‘The Burning Question’

Based on the programme’s brief synopsis, I had automatically assumed that Wings would be set during the Second World War so was surprised when a caption for ‘August 1915’ appeared. I was, if anything, even more intrigued though because I know very little about the Royal Flying Corps – Britain’s predecessor to the Royal Air Force. In fact, I realised most of my knowledge was probably gained from an episode of Blackadder Goes Forth.

There were a couple of interesting developments for the characters in this episode, who mostly consist of pilots. Planes have been disappearing, presumably shot down, but there are never any witnesses and they can’t figure out how it’s being done. Secondly, a new pilot joins the team. He’s come from the cavalry and has voluntarily come down a rank in order to join the RFC. His upper-class arrogance doesn’t endear him to any of the others, who have a mixture of backgrounds but value themselves on proven skill.

Despite the programme being based around pilots who must spend a fair bit of time in the air, I didn’t expect us to join them up there for much of it. I had thought it would be too difficult to film so was impressed when we did head up with them. For these scenes, close-ups of the actors are combined with wide shots of planes in the air. There is a lot of cloud around so an all white background suffices and the noise of the plane’s engine drowns out the need for dialogue.

These handful of scenes were good for demonstrating how basic aerial combat is at this time. The planes are wooden two-seaters and the pilots are entirely exposed, with only clothes and a set of goggles to protect them against the freezing temperatures. While on a reconnaissance mission, one team encounters an enemy plane and the senior officer decides to engage. This consists of him leaning over the edge of the machine and firing his rifle at the plane below! Upon their return an even more senior officer berates the junior officer for their actions, telling him, “In a B52 you have less than a 50/50 chance of survival against any Hun you might meet.”

Other scenes in the episode act as great contrasts to one another. An injured pilot in a hospital ward won’t stop screaming out and shouting in the middle of the night, calling out for his friend, Freddie. The young nurse on duty is anxiously trying to shush him for the benefit of the other patients. He describes the accident in dribs and drabs. It’s all broken phrases. We gather that the plane got hit. “That’s it you see, you have to decide. They don’t give you a parachute – you either jump or you burn. Freddie jumped.” I had no idea that the early pilots didn’t have parachutes (another scene explains that they haven’t developed any with a delayed opening it seems) and the pilot’s description of his experience is terrifying. On the base, other pilots are laughing, singing silly songs and cycling around, wonderfully carefree.

6th March
Charlie’s Angels ‘Angels on Wheels’

If you can get past the fact that this episode is based in the competitive and apparently slightly-vicious world of commercial roller derby, you are halfway there for enjoying an episode of Charlie’s Angels. I’ve long been aware of the show, which is probably partly down to the promotion for the 2000 film version, though I had seen neither that nor this original US television series. To begin with, I was fuming that I hadn’t realised that Charlie is a man and they are his angels. We don’t see him as he appears to be just a voice at the end of a phone, but he doesn’t even seem to refer to them by name – they are just ‘angels’.

In some ways, it’s great to have a programme that puts women front and centre, with them being both the heroes and villains of this episode. On the other hand, there is still a stretch to go. Our three leads, played by Kate Jackson, Farah Fawcett-Majors and Jaclyn Smith, do not exactly look like everyday, ordinary women and I can’t decide if, at times, the dialogue is atrocious or superbly ridiculous. Posing as a new player, Fawcett meets the owner of a roller derby team, who remarks, “Mind if I look you over? You’ve got a body that will sell tickets.” Yeah, sod your roller-skating ability, love – are you enough of a turn-on while speeding round an indoor circuit? I will give her the benefit of the doubt for being desperate to get inside to investigate, but Fawcett simply twirls and smiles, completely unperturbed by this.

Jaclyn Smith’s angel poses as a writer to enter a dead girl’s apartment and do some digging, where she encounters the landlord, Red. She tells him she works for a women’s magazine and he asks, “Isn’t that the magazine with the male centrefold?” Red himself is six foot everything, almost as wide and his lack of shirt shows off his tanned torso, prompting the following not-so-subtle exchange:

“You know what, Red? I think you’d make a great Stud of the Month. You make Burt Reynolds look like one of the seven dwarves.”
“You know, I get real tired of being looked at like nothing but a sex object.”
“If I lived here, I’d want to do more than just look.”

I could take neither the angel’s attempts at flirting nor Red’s indignation seriously and instead spent most of this scene guffawing.

The main plot involved the use of multiple fake driving licences to stage car accidents for insurance fraud, which I thought was fairly credible. With so much money being made, the organisers are keen to protect their scam and that’s why the angels find themselves at risk when they start investigating.

The set up of the show felt problematic as each of the angels was immediately separated, with one joining the roller derby team of a girl who had died, another posing as an insurance investigator and the other as the writer. I didn’t think this worked as they aren’t seen to work together and aside from their briefings with Charlie, they share few scenes. It also creates three separate strands of the story to try to follow. The writers seem to be trying to make sure each actress gets an equal amount of screen time in the episode, something that never works in this kind of ensemble piece – they should take it in turn across a series.

I liked the action scenes and was impressed by an exploding car, though the angel in it spent far too long trying to find somewhere suitable to park, having been told there was a bomb in her car with an unknown time-delay on it. But even with the appeal of Farah Fawcett’s absolutely amazing flicked hair, overall, Charlie’s Angels just misses the mark for me.

Oh No It’s Selwyn Froggitt ‘Raffles’

I pick my programmes based on a variety of factors, but this one was chosen purely because I liked the silly name in the title. This sitcom follows Selwyn Froggitt, played by Bill Maynard, who appears to be on some sort of union committee. After that year’s old folks’ outing ends up way over budget due to their raucous antics (sadly we only hear about them commandeering the bus), Selwyn is asked to top up the kitty by hosting a raffle. Unfortunately there have been quite a lot of raffles and the only prize he manages to get is a cruet set of his mother’s.

Bill Maynard seemed familiar and I discovered that I’ve seen him in several of the Carry On… films. Having never heard of it and with no particularly interesting premise, I didn’t have high hopes for this sitcom but actually rather enjoyed it. The writing was fairly good and Maynard’s performance held the programme together well. Scenes are mostly split between the house and the club, where there are a variety of characters for Selwyn to interact with. There was a bar so regular readers may have guessed that I was naturally attracted to it, and Selwyn’s chat with the landlord gave me plenty of time to peruse what was on offer.

Advertising slogans across the back include the simple ‘DRAUGHT GUINNESS’, though it has a red background with white text instead of using the black and white more commonly associated with the brand today. A partially obscured sign is more difficult to decipher but, with assistance, I managed to find out that it reads ‘TETLEY FALSTAFF PALE’ and it was a light mild served on keg. Several seasoned beer drinkers helped me discover that a fourth read ‘Grünhalle: Lager brewed the Bavarian way’. There is also a suggested request of ‘pint of Festival please’, but this is such a vague name that I haven’t been able to identify the beer. In 1976 I spotted a t-shirt on Tiswas advertising CAMRA, the recently-formed Campaign for Real Ale, and they are clearly sorely needed in this part of the world as there isn’t a handpull in sight.

You Say

2 responses to this article

Quentin Dunning 11 July 2019 at 6:28 am

Ahem? Crown Court – ‘Crime Passionel’?

The person responsible for the script title or the maker of the titles should should have sacked for dereliction of duty in spelling.

The correct spelling is “Passionnel” and the meaning is “Crime of Passion”, a title which perhaps was avoided because of the well known excellent ATV series “Crime of Passion”, which was in a completely different league to Granada’s low budget lunchtime soap style, but sometimes entertaining, production.

The worst “Crown Court” episode of all time must surely be the comedy edition one where in summing up the judge speculated on the possibility that the perpetrator of the crime had escaped in a helicopter.

Andrew P 11 July 2019 at 3:10 pm

Another *very* enjoyable read! Great to get your fresh appraisals of some shows which I’m very familiar with, some I saw at the time but not since, and some I’ve never caught. In particular, I am so very delighted that you’ve discovered the sheer stylish fun of “Raffles” – a very deft blend of adventure, drama and a dose of humour which I was delighted to rediscover a few years was every bit as good as when I’d first viewed it in the 1970s.

Thank you again for such a great blog!

All the best


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