Tonight’s BBC-2… in 1964 

20 April 2024

TV and radio listings from The Times for 20 April 1964

From The Times for 20 April 1964


From the Times for 20 April 1964 comes this run down of what you could be watching. Things worth noting include:

Line-Up. An interesting idea: start the day’s broadcasting (Playschool every weekday morning from tomorrow not withstanding) with the presentation staff talking for ten minutes about that night’s programmes, showing clips and bringing on stars to interview.

It should work, but it didn’t. Ten minutes is too long to keep up a running commentary on some of the startlingly dull evenings BBC-2 had planned. Tomorrow, for instance, it’s all adult education until Jazz 625 at 9.40pm, the news and closedown. That would be stultifying.

But bring on Duke Ellington (unlikely, the Jazz 625 was recorded, but bear with me) and the 10 minutes simply isn’t enough: everybody would want more.

The solution, hit upon in September, was to move the show to the end of the BBC-2 day and make it open-ended. If there was nothing doing, give a run down of tomorrow’s programmes and bugger off. If there was, for instance, Duke Ellington in the studio, bring him on and talk jazz for as long as is allowed by the various BBC unions.

The Alberts’ Channel Too. This trio were a favourite of Spike Milligan, thanks to their blend of surrealism and satire. As the Radio Times puts it “Also appearing are: Ivor Cutler of Y’hup, O.M.P, Professor Bruce Lacey, John Snagge, Sheree Winton, Benito Mussolini, Major John Glenn, Adolf Hitler, David Jacobs, Birma the Elephant (by courtesy of Billy Smart’s Circus) and other celebrities. Script written down by Denis Gifford by order of the British Rubbish Corporation. Electrical interference by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.” Of that eclectic list of guest stars, Mussolini, Glenn and Hitler are the only ones not appearing in the flesh. Cartoon cutaways were done by Biographic – Bob Godfrey’s mob.

Arkady Raikin and Leningrad Miniature Theatre Company. Very BBC-2 to bring on “the Soviet Union’s leading comedian” (not, one feels, a crowded field at the time) for what is in effect a variety performance. Raikin, born in what is now Latvia to Jewish parents, was also a film actor and theatre director. This appearance was one of two times the Soviet authorities allowed him to visit London – he would also get to the United States just before his death in 1987 thanks to the warm winds of Glasnost.

Off with a Bang. Five minutes of fireworks lit by Brian Johnston. This survives in the archives, but I’m unsure whether they went out (on BBC-1) today or on the hastily rearranged second attempt at a launch night tomorrow.

Newsroom. The only programme that actually did go out. Sort-of. BBC News was based in the old BBCtv studios in Alexandra Palace, far enough outside of London-proper to still have power. With a 625-line camera to hand, it fell to Gerald Priestland to make BBC-2’s first opening announcement, give a round up of the (otherwise dull) news and shut the station back down again, ready for another try tomorrow.


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