Monday, 9 November 2015

ITV 60 (1955 - 2015)

ITV is 60 years old this year, and to help commemorate that fact, Network have released this 12 disc pick ‘n’ mix sampler of some of the best of the television station’s output over that period. It’s impossible to include everyone’s favourites, but what Network has managed to do is provide a fascinating time capsule of changing attitude to television drama, comedy, and even documentaries over the years. Each disc has been designed to provide an evening’s entertainment, with a mixture of programming on each one. I can’t possibly hope to cover everything on all twelve discs here, so instead, here are some of the things that caught my eye as I sifted through this massive treasure trove.

ITV provided role models for children...
Disc One kicks off with ITV’s opening night broadcast from 1955 and then we’re into an episode of THUNDERBIRDS followed by comedy from THE ARMY GAME and MAN ABOUT THE HOUSE. The disc is rounded off by an episode of Richard Carpenter’s ROBIN OF SHERWOOD and the excellent Checkmate episode of THE PRISONER.

…and adults
Disc Two starts with episode one of  PATHFINDERS IN SPACE from DR WHO & CROSSROADS writer Malcolm Hulke, then period comedy with THE LARKINS, SUNDAY NIGHT AT THRE LONDON PALLADIUM with guests Sid James, Cleo Lane, and a topliner I’d never heard of. An episode of THE WORLD AT WAR is followed by CALLAN”s Let’s Kill Everybody.

Gratuitous owl stroking in ACE OF WANDS
Disc Three gives us the first episode of CATWEAZLE with weird medieval wizard Geoffrey Bayldon being catapulted forward in time by jumping in a pond. THE AVENGERS is represented by The Winged Avenger, and doesn't the restoration look gorgeous? AN AUDIENCE WITH DAME EDNA features such ‘celebrity guests’ as Lord Longford and Rula Lenska.
Disc Four kicks off with the immortal CROSSROADS. Benny’s present but there’s no Miss Diane and somehow we get to go to Venice! ON THE BUSES and THE TOMMY COOPER HOUR show prove (along with STANLEY BAXTER on a later disc) that TV wasn’t always better ‘back then’, but at least we get a b&w episode of THE SAINT, plus AUF WIEDERSHEN, PET.

A logo that made many of us excited as kids. No, really. 
Disc Five took me back to my childhood with episodes of RAINBOW & PIPKINS. Children’s TV really has changed over the years. These programmes are so quiet, and so charmingly cosy, telling you how to have fun with a cardboard box or make a terrible hat out of an old newspaper. I actually found both of these rather pleasant and actually felt a streak of melancholy for a simpler time. That also had Hartley Hare in it. DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE shows us just how sexist the TV of 1969 was, and then we get Patrick Wymark in THE POWER GAME.
Disc Six gives us MAGPIE. Wasn’t Jenny Hanley pretty? Here she’s playing Cinderella & is most becoming in her rags before playing the cello while wearing red leather boots. SHUT THAT DOOR gives us 24 minutes of Larry Grayson, then it’s the Breakaway episode of SPACE:1999 before the disc is rounded off with THE SWEENEY, a programme I haven't watched since its original broadcast - now it feels like a poshed up version of an Italian Poliziotteschi movie. 

Probably not allowed today
Disc Seven and TISWAS from 1975, when it was still just at ATV. I was lucky enough to get it in Wales and it was something of a Saturday morning Holy Grail for me. All the cartoons and film clips have been cut but it’s still a serious blast of kids’ TV nostalgia. FOUR FEATHER FALLS is a Gerry Anderson Western puppet show with voices by Nicholas Parsons and Kenneth Connor. Plus a talking horse! We also get one of the best TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED’s with Royal Jelly.

Dr Starr auditions for a BT advert
Disc Eight and while I can easily believe everyone loved RISING DAMP did anyone find NEAREST AND DEAREST funny? There’s also an episode of THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD and UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS.
Disc Nine and episode one of Peacock Pie from ACE OF WANDS with pretty Petra Markham and Roy PSYCHOMANIA Holder with guest star Brian NIGHT OF THE DEMON Wilde. Then a creaky episode of CORONATION STREET followed by classic RANDALL AND HOPKIRK. Patrick Allen is tough adventurer CRANE and the disc is rounded off by SOLDIER SOLDIER.

The best. 
What else? There’s more crime with THE PROFESSIONALS, JASON KING, INSPECTOR MORSE and THE BILL, comedy with GEORGE AND MILDRED and A FINE ROMANCE, and even Alan Whicker gets a look in on Disc 12 with WHICKER ABOARD THE ORIENT EXPRESS. 
So like I said, a real assortment of ITV’s rich heritage. I would have liked to see something from HTV’s golden era - an episode of SKY or KING OF THE CASTLE perhaps, and some more highbrow comedy like END OF PART ONE or some of Andrew Marshall and David Renwick’s earlier efforts, but there are so many obscure rarities on these discs as well as obvious choices that it feels unfair to complain. Instead, dig in and enjoy.

Network have released the massive 12-DVD set that is ITV-60 and as far as I can tell it's available to buy from their site now. If you want to get it from somewhere Amazon it looks like you'll have to wait until the 23rd of November

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