T.V. Plans 

2 June 2023 tbs.pm/78685

 

Radio Show 1957 brochure cover

From the 1957 National Radio Show visitors’ guide

As the veils come off the new models at this year’s Radio Show, Britain’s growing army of viewers are on the brink of the most exciting era of television entertainment this country has so far known.

With the new commercial service striding on across Britain, the level of competition for the best shows and the best artistes reaches a peak.

This autumn, more cash than ever before – millions of pounds of it – has been poured into giving the parlour screen the most lavish send off to the winter fare. All summer the planning has been going on. All summer the battle for ideas and stars to back them has been weaving round the West End and the provincial cities where the I.T.V. companies are breaking new ground.

In radio, too, a brand new format is on the way this autumn, to match the style of the new V.H.F. radio sets which colour the Earls Court stands this year.

This is the time of the year when a new life begins to surge through the vast electronics industry. The New Look they spread over the sets which will soon be in your sitting rooms is a bit pointless unless the men behind T/V and radio throw out some new ideas as well.

What do the men who run T/V have to say about the immediate future in this boom autumn? First, lets call in at the B.B.C. Behind the programme chief’s desk is burly, bespectacled Kenneth Adam, the man who built the Light Programme, the man who took over the key job of fighting commercial competition only a few months ago. Adam tells you this: “This autumn the B.B.C. television service aims to present the widest variety of programmes to the largest number of viewers. The B.B.C. audience – it now numbers over twenty millions – will find the autumn programmes will be especially strong in three directions – in light entertainment, in serials and in sport,

“In the new quarter stars like Tony Hancock and Jimmy Edwards will be seen in new situation comedies. Charlie Chester will be seen in a new role – as Edgar Wallace’s character ‘Educated Evans’.

“There will be three types of serial – the classic (Jane Eyre’ established tremendous acclaim for these adaptations), the contemporary adventure and the drama of everyday life.

“We shall be doing even more for the sporting viewer by making Tuesdays sportsman’s night. Sunday Night Theatre has become an institution – it will go on with many more plays specially written for T/V”. The B.B.C.’s new programme boss will be drawing on Peter Dimmock and the “Sportsview” team for the big Tuesday night sporting show.

 

Tony Hancock

Tony Hancock, the popular comedian, who is well-known to B.B.C. listeners and viewers.

 

In the drama field, there is to be another cycle of plays by T/V’s own playwright, Iain MacCormick, this time with the thread of British rule in India running them together. Writer Nigel Kneale is working on another “Quatermass” horror, due about Christmas – and look out for his first full-length T/V play, a tender little number called “Mrs. Wickens in the Fall”.

Another interesting move in the drama field coming up: A serialisation of “The Last Days of Pompeii”. Who is adapting this somewhat rowdy book? A gentle middle-aged lady named Freda Lingstrom, the creator of Andy Pandy and the woman who used to run B.B.C. children’s T/V.

Michael Barry tells me his drama department is no longer planning its plays so far ahead. One reason is so that he and his team of producers can use any visiting talent – like American film and stage stars – to star in T/V plays. Feelers have already been made in the U.S. so that stars on their way to Britain can be sure of doing a T/V play over here if they like the idea.

With Tony Hancock and Jimmy Edwards, Light entertainment brings back two artistes who have done wonders with situation comedy on T/V, lifting it out of the doldrums more than any two comics I can think of. Another pretty safe bet is Wilfred Pickles, due soon to have his first straight-acting comedy series on the B.B.C. screens.

Music? Well, there’s news for everybody who thought the famous Show Band might not be seen on the screen after its special programme from the Radio Show. Cyril Stapleton tells me the band is in for a new series of regular appearances.

And this September, the B.B.C.’s opera department mounts one of its most lavish and expensive productions – Richard Strauss’s operatic shocker “Salome”, with orchestra and cast filling two whole studios, all under the control of Rudolph Cartier, the man behind that memorable production of “The Saint of Bleeker Street”.

 

Four people beam at the camera

The Lyons family at home.

 

The B.B.C. looks like pulling out all the stops it can against the growing might of the commercial T/V companies. In the commercial world, the motto seems to be “There’s MORE on Channel 8 and 9”. For the service will be staying open later – until 11.30-and, who knows, by Christmas it might be T/V until midnight weekdays and week-ends.

I asked Lloyd Williams, deputy operations boss of Associated-Rediffusion about the new week-day commercial shows going out from London. He tells me the company has its eye on the latest technical devices, and any time now it will be getting an expensive new gadget which records T/V shows on tape instead of in the conventional manner of film telerecording. Apparently the quality of these tape recordings is almost equal to the “live” product – and it means that many artistes who can’t appear on T/V because they’re busy in the theatres at night will be able to record shows during the day, for later transmission, just as they do for radio.

Big event of commercial’s new variety set-up is the transfer of the Lyon family to commercial for a series from September 19. I spot another new star, too, in the commercial sky – Peter Brough. He is scheduled to be turning up with Archie Andrews in a month or two. A-R T/V is still putting a lot of its eggs in a basket labelled Peter Sellers. He will be turning up again weekly from September 20 with his own zany type of humour which began on T/V with “The Idiot Weekly” and reached its peak in the controversial “Show Called Fred”.

One of the most successful and authentic crime series T/V has yet seen comes back weekly from September 16 – “Boyd, Q.C.”. Michael Denison, who made a tremendous hit earlier this year in his first T/V series as Boyd, is expected to be back in his old role.

But I.T.V. is not all light entertainment these days. A-R T/V are bringing more and more informative programmes into the spotlight, covering the world pretty adventurously and courageously. Caryl Doncaster, A-R’s bright and competent head of documentary, is working on a 60-minute feature on Russia, one of a series in which cameramen have been sent all over the world to try to get a reflection of international contemporary life. Miss Doncaster is also jumping into the permanent controversy on religion. She plans an hour’s focus on “The British and God”.

 

Peter Sellers outside in a pith helmet and carrying a shotgun

Peter Sellers as the fabulous ‘goon’ character Major Bloodknock.

 

Associated Television’s ace showman chief Val Parnell sends a pledge to the Radio Show that he will be bagging all the international variety stars, including the big names from New York and Hollywood, through the winter.

A.T.V’s. half-hour film series have always been best. From September, watch out for a new routine of regular heroes and heroines.

A new Abbott and Costello comedy series turns up at six on Saturdays, followed by the latest battle-against-oppression serial “William Tell”. They’ve cast Conrad Phillips in the title role, with curvaceous Jennifer Jayne as his wife Hedda. The lad who balanced That Apple on his head is young Richard Rogers.

Singer Rosemary Clooney will be starting a new Sunday afternoon show on film, alternating with Liberace. For the kids there are two new heroes on the screen – Jon Hall as “Ramar of the Jungle” and “The Last of the Mohicans”, which will feature Lon Chaney and John Hart.

The A.T.V. comedy team will take in a lot of the old favourites – Joan and Leslie Randall, Lucille Ball and (if you look at it that way) the “Free Speech” team. All the big cash quizzes, including “The 64,000 Question” will be back, too, for the winter.

I am glad to see that chubby-faced Arthur Haynes, one of the comedy stars A.T.V. has done much to develop, is coming back in a new series as well. Arthur introduced a new character to T/V – “Oscar Pennyfeather”. Now Oscar goes into the Navy and the man who “never expected to be a star” will take his very televisual type of humour into thousands of new I.T.V. homes after this year’s Radio Show.

 

A boy and a man in medieval garb look off into the distance

Conrad Philips and Richard Rogers in the serial ‘William Tell’.

 

Two other commercial companies, A.B.C. and Granada, will be developing more live actuality television-the technique of getting out and about with mobile cameras, concentrating on pushing into the national I.T.V. programmes a flavour of the Midland and Northern areas which they serve.

A.B.C’s. chief Howard Thomas tells me: “We believe in live television. We believe in this magic ability of T/V to take millions of people to see places and meet people in the news, and we shall be going all out to see that our armchair travellers get plenty of value”. Thomas is the man who got I.T.V. the exclusive rights to 25 of Korda’s famous films for autumn and winter showing. The list is packed with classic films like “The Private Lives of Henry VIII” which millions will love to see again.

A.B.C.’s actuality broadcasts get a new fillip from now on. A right-on-top-of-the-news live documentary will soon be kicking off the Sunday afternoon programmes. Outside broadcasts will be running up to about four hours every week-end.

But A.B.C. has always been strong on its drama. Look at this list of stars who have promised to appear in their Sunday night plays in the coming months: Sir Ralph Richardson, Sarah Churchill, Eric Portman, Gracie Fields, Margaret Lockwood, Joan Greenwood, Ronald Howard.

A.B.C. are also going into the international T/V film market. More stages at the parent company’s Elstree studios are being made available for T/V film work. Already Elstree has “promoted” ex P.C. 49 Brian Reece to Scotland Yard Sleuth, and is about to screen him with William Gargan in a Saturday night crime film series.

 

Two men in "Indian" costume

John Holt and Lon Chaney in Hawkeye.

 

All this is, of course, an incomplete picture of the T/V set-up for this coming few months, the first real battle of competitive television. It is enough, though, to convince anybody that T/V is moving far more rapidly than many people thought to its rightful place as the top entertainment medium of the country.

But what about radio? We can’t call it “steam” any longer. The B.B.C. has trimmed its sound broadcasting to meet the new needs of a population which is bound to feel itself drawn more and more towards television.

As chief radio programme planner, the B.B.C. has put at the head a man who believes strongly that there is still a big future for radio, that there is still much it can do, with its immediate world-wide coverage, its appeal to the imagination, that T/V cannot do. The man is a Canadian go-ahead called H. Rooney Pelletier, the man who took over the Light Programme from Kenneth Adam, and who has been responsible for some challenging radio ideas over the past few years. This is what he has to say as radio enters its New Era this autumn: “We have been excited by the challenge of remodelling a radio system that has, of course, grown and changed since it was established at the end of the war, but which has not up to now been re-thought from its foundations up.

“Changes are being made gradually. This year, for instance, the B.B.C. gave for the first time a ball-by-ball Test Match service. Now we are starting an alternative choice of programmes in the mornings between 7 and 9 a.m.

“Also, by Radio Show time, we should be just about ready to give listeners a taste of some of the experiments in radio which are now going on. For want of a better term we call these experiments in multi-music’. What we are aiming at are programmes of considerable duration – say, two hours or perhaps even more – made up of music of the most varied kinds. These programmes will be designed to please those who want to listen without stop; but they will include all the many kinds of dance music so that listeners can dip in and out according to taste”.

 

A woman and a man smile

Barbara Kelly and Bernard Braden

 

What about the new baby, Network Three, which will take up two hours a night of the old Third Programme wavelength? Mr. Pelletier is going to give that wavelength time to cater for the younger generation-with specialist attention being paid to people with hobbies.

And the new Mr. Microphone sent this message to Earls Court: “It may be useful to remind you that half the nation hasn’t got T/V and depends on radio; that V.H.F. is an immensely improved form of radio and is gradually making its way into those British homes which want the best; and that the B.B.C. is staffed with people who are trying in the most energetic way to provide a radio service of highest quality and greatest variety”.

Pelletier’s idea is not to let the old favourites go, but to augment them with programmes with a new slant and a new appeal. So you can couple on to the list of favourites like Billy Cotton, Al Read, Frankie Howerd and Archie Andrews, a string of new shows due this autumn. Here are some of them: Reg Dixon in a new comedy racing series called “Confidentially – They’re Off”, Jimmy Edwards running a comic panel show, Vanessa Lee in a romantic song programme to balance “Top of the Pops”, a Brian Reece comedy whodunnit (I.T.V. are not the only ones who have promoted him) and Barbara Kelly in a comedy-thriller serial called “Hotel Splendide”.

A final word for those who are still dickering over a new radio: B.B.C. executive Jim Davidson has picked that fine character actor Anthony Newlands to star in a “Henry Morgan – Buccaneer” pirate series which aims to get people away from the folks-next-door kind of serial. And talks are going on about co-starring Bernard Braden and Dick Bentley for the first time.

With the T/V battle hotting up to its first real peak with competitive programmes all the way from Scotland to the South coast, with the New Deal in radio taking shape, I predict that this will be the greatest, the most fascinating year in the history of home entertainment. It looks as though it will be able to snow all winter without disturbing the millions who have a switch to turn which will bring almost everybody who matters in show business bang into the parlour, right beside the hearth.

 

A Transdiffusion Presentation

Report an error

Author

James Thomas Contact More by me

Your comment

Enter it below

A member of the Transdiffusion Broadcasting System
Liverpool, Sunday 25 February 2024