23rd September 1955. Is There Anything on the Telly?
The year 1955 saw the Post Office extend the weekly viewing hours from forty-one to fifty, with evenings extended to 11 pm, at a time when 38% of the British population had TV rising to 75% in 1959.
By the end of the 1950.s TV would become dominant over radio which bowed to the inevitable when Children’s Hour, running since 1922 ended in 1961 and Mrs Dale’s Diary in 1969.
TV ‘Soaps’ had their genesis in the 1950.s and 1960.s with BBC’s Grove Family in 1954 and Association Rediffusion’s, fifteen minutes, daily serial, Sixpenny Corner which began Today in 1955. (1)
April 1956 saw the first TV broadcast by a Prime Minister-Anthony Eden-and in 1959, an election year, the first all-night results programme hosted by Richard Dimbleby, which also included psephologist David Butler, and Robert Mackenzie the analyst with his Swingometer.
‘Soaps’ really got into their stride on December 9th 1960, when Granada’s Coronation Street appeared, originally set to run thirteen weeks! Ken Irwin the Daily Mirror critic in 1960 didn’t give the programme much hope: [as it] ‘is doomed from the outset with its dreary signature tune and its grim scene of a row of terraced houses’.(2)
It took the BBC 25 years later to dip its toe into ‘Soap’ with ‘Eastenders’.
At 11 am on 21st April 1964, a day late, owing to a fire at Battersea Power Station, BBC 2 was launched with a remit to bring a little culture into our lives: remember the pedantic, ‘Civilization’ and ‘Ascent of Man’?, though the strain proved too much and swiftly degenerated.
The first programme was Play School and with the arrival of colour on December 2nd 1967, it didn’t take long to realise that snooker ball colour could now be differentiated, thus July 1969 saw ‘Pot Black’.
Regional ITV in the 1960.s pushed boundaries with the slick, glossy and action packed series The Saint starring Roger Moore, originally turned down by Associated Rediffusion, and The Avengers.
The next decades were the golden years of BBC ‘sit-coms’, written by Jimmy Perry and Jeremy Lloyd, with the 1972, ‘Are You Being Served‘?, based on Lloyd’s experience at Simpsons in Piccadilly.(3)
Jimmy Perry’s personal experiences inspired, Hi de Hi, It Aint Half Hot Mum and the classic 1968, Dad’s Army, originally rubbished, but regularly shown today.
One BBC ‘sit-com’ often overlooked, as it became part of the furniture, was ‘Last of the Summer Wine’, piloted in 1973 and set to last a record-breaking 37 years.
By the new millennium TV’s mine was exhausted and so the medium was thrown open to amateurism, the people’s chance for ’15 minutes stardom’ in reality shows, health food and diet programmes, with antique experts the new stars.
(1) The children’s ‘soap’ the Appleyards ran 1952-57.
Sixpenny Corner was written by Jonquil Anthony (writer of Mrs Dale’s Diary), and Hazel Adair who also wrote along with Peter Ling for ATV’s Crossroads centred on King’s Oak Midland Motel, which began on 2.11.1964.
(2) William Roache (Ken Barlow) has appeared from the first screening.
(3) The BBC didn’t initially favour the programme as being ‘down market’.
bbc.co.uk/mag. 7.6.2006/Pic of Harben.
mikedemsey.typepad.com/Pic of Negus.