Tonight At 8.30 (BBC-1 1991 with Joan Collins and Anthony Newley)

UK / BBC One – Knaves Acre / 8×30 minuute episodes / Broadcast 14 April – 2 June 1991

Writer: Noel Coward / Costumes: Colin Lavers, Jill Taylor / Production Design: Graham Lough / Musical Director: Burt Rhodes / Associate Producer: Joan Collins / Adapter and Producer: Bryan Izzard / Directors: Paul Annett, Bryan Izzard, Sydney Lotterby, John Glenister

The BBC lured Joan Collins back to the UK after her triumphs (and excesses) in Dynasty for this anthology series of playlets based on a collection of short plays by Noel Coward. All very different in style, but all period set, the plays were quite often performed together (in various permuations) on the stage and here Collins treated the whole thing as a theatrical experience, surrounding herself with a reportory company (who included ex-husband Anthony Newley) of top players that included the likes of Simon Williams, Denis Quilley, Sian Phillips and John Alderton.

Opening titles were good and made it look as if everyone was arriving at the theatre to put on that evening’s performance, each of the episodes also had an intro from Joan herself. Not sure why but there was some highly dodged canned laughter added to the soundtrack.

HANDS ACROSS THE SEA (14 April 1991)
London 1940 at the height of the phony war: A comedy of manners in which a gathering at the home of Piggie Gilpin is made uneasy by the arrival of a colonial couple visiting from Malaya. Lots of cross talk and amusing dialogue, the guest stars included John Nettles, Sian Phillips, Miriam Margolyes, Bernard Cribbins, Nikolas Grace.

RED PEPPERS (21 April 1991)
Medway 1935: Variety double act George and Lily Pepper come to the realisation that the best years of their act are well and truly behind them and begin to allow old grievances to come to the surface. A pretty melancholy piece that works as one of the best episodes in the series. Great to see former husband of Collins, the great Anthony Newley having one of the lead roles here, other guest stars also included Reg Varney, Moyra Fraser and Henry McGee.

In the 1950’s an old school friends causes problems for respected psychiatrist Christian Faber and his wife Barbara. Played pretty straight as drama and with Sian Phillips, John Alderton,

FAMILY ALBUM (5 May 1991)
Set in the Victorian era Family Album is the slightly bizarre tale of middle-upper class life, played for laughs and with several period style songs. Features John Alderton, Denis Quilley, Bonnie Langford, Jessica Martin and Lisa Sadovy.

FUMED OAK (12 May 1991)
Another co-starring role for Anthony Newley as henpecked husband Henry Gow who finally decides enough is enough. Also with Prudence Oliver.

WAYS AND MEANS (19 May 1991)
In post world war II Cannes frivolous Toby and Stella Cartwright are fast running out of money but maybe all that will change when a cat burgler breaks into their villa. Guest starring John Standing, Sian Phillips, Miriam Margoyles and Tony Slattery.

STILL LIFE(26 May 1991)
Destined to be turned into the movie Brief Encounter, Still Life is the story of three couples meeting at Milford Junction Station. Guest stars are Jane Asher, John Alderton, Norman Rossington, Diane Langton and Steve Nicolson

SHADOW PLAY (2 June 1991)
In this dream filled drama Vicky Goforth is convinced her husband is on the verge of leaving her for another woman and during a troubled nights sleep flits uneasily between thoughts of past, present and a possible future. Complete with song and dance routines! Guest stars include Simon Williams, Robert Meadmore, Carrie Ellis and Jean Anderson.