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Classic TV Revisited: Campion

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Channel: BBC1, 1959 , 1960s, 1989

Starring:Bernard Horsfall, Brian Smith, Peter Davison, Brian Glover.

Posh private detective series introducing a gentleman sleuth from the Golden Era of detective heroes.

Nicely pickled no doubt?
Campion was a dapper 1930s aristocratic sleuth who combined a pampered lifestyle with a bit of crime-busting.

Posh eh?
Posh but had redeeming qualities. Had what critics describe as a charming, daffy-diffident manner.

His genesis?
He was created by Margery Allingham. She dreamed up a posh sleuth who made his literary debut in 1929.

Pedigree writer this Allingham?
Mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Agatha Christie. Like Agatha, she wrote about a 1930s golden era when oikish plods needed genteel types like Campion, Marple and Poirot to help them solve crime among the well-to-do.

This Allingham was a toff?
Not exactly. She went to a poly and lived in Essex.

Who was this Campion?
Albert was an aristocrat who dabbled in amateur sleuthing among the well-heeled of East Anglia. He was charming and mild-mannered, but also a man of strong moral principles. He also drove a Lagonda and wore horn-rimmed glasses.

How spectacular!
His bookish demeanour proved an excellent sleuthing tool. Wrong ‘uns would be lulled into letting vital clues slip. But they soon learned dogged Campion was not a chap to be trifled with.

This Campion chap was a lone Sloane Ranger?
Like many great sleuths he had a helpful but inferior sidekick, Lugg.

Charming name.
The brawny, down-to-earth reformed burglar was his manservant. As well as taking care of the luggage, he would also garner clues from the working-class circles his master was incapable of penetrating.

Invincible together?
Smooth operators who always beat Scotland Yard’s Stanislaus Oates to solving a crime.

Small-screen debut?
Campion was seen solving his crime in 1959 on BBC1. Bernard Horsfall played the toff in Dancers In The Mourning and a year later in Death Of A Ghost.

Bernard Horsfall?
Not a massive star but a well known TV face of the era.

Definitive Campion?
Brian Smith took up the role in the detective serial in the ’60s. Then came Peter Davison.

Peter Davison was champion as Campion?
Davison, who donned the horn-rimmed specs for a BBC1 series in 1989, is definitely the best-known in the role.

And Lugg?
The fab Brian Glover played the benign bruiser.

Any chance of a revival?
Unlikely. While the public’s appetite never seems to be satiated for period crime drama such as Poirot, Campion was popular but never had quite the same appeal.

Distinguishing features?
Horn-rimmed glasses, burgundy Lagonda car, bespoke tailoring, plummy accents and a steely charm.

Do say?
Toodle pip; good show old boy; what what; you sir are an absolute bounder; Lugg, bring the Lagonda round.

Don’t say?
Elementary my dear Watson, come the revolution, four-eyes.

Not to be confused with?
“Campion” The Wonder Horse. Jockey Bob Champion.

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Kick-Ass TV Heroines: Xena – Warrior Princess

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Xena Warrior Princess

What was not to love about Xena? As Lucy Lawless says: “Xena is a bad-ass, kick-ass, pre-Mycenaean girl.” Evildoers, clearly, must stand down, but not only bad guys (and girls) have Xena-phobia. Even heroes quake when she swings her broadsword.

Originally created as a syndicated complement to Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena pretty much kicked Herc to the curb. It was like when the Bionic Woman made us lose interest in the Six Million Dollar Man–only more so.

Unlike Lindsay Wagner’s early half-woman, half-machine, Xena wasn’t prone to frailty. Nor did she need robot parts. In fact, the Warrior Princess never lost. If she’s down, it’s not for long.

Plus, she was in touch with the dark side: This big-boned bruiser had definite moments of blood lust, as well as lust of some other varieties. Garbed in a leather miniskirt and armed with her trademark razor-edged, boomerang-action chakram, we watched Xena single-leggedly kick down entire platoons of Roman soldiers.

Sure, there were murmurings about Xena and her softer female sidekick, Gabrielle (actress Renée O’Connor). So what if they liked to conserve bathwater by doubling up? And what’s wrong with close friends frenching once in a while?

Then again, maybe it was true–and there’s anything wrong with that.

Actress: Lucy Lawless
Show: Xena: Warrior Princess
Character: Xena

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Classic TV Revisited: McMillan And Wife

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McMillan And Wife

Starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, McMillan and Wife was a super cute crime-solving saga from the 1970s made for the NBC’s Mystery Movie series.

Who were they?
Hubby was the debonair San Francisco police commissioner Stewart McMillan.

And wifey?
Sally was a foxy, rather scatterbrained dame with a knack for finding corpses.

Worked down the morgue did she?
Hardly. Sally’s finds were usually in some glitzy mansion which the couple were frequenting for a weekend cocktail party. She also had a habit of getting her life threatened or being kidnapped.

Who was in it?
Tragic Hollywood star Rock Hudson no less. He took on Stewart McMillan in his first TV role, after years as a matinee idol with movies such as Giant.

Tragedy?
Fans of the lantern-jawed star were dismayed when he went public about having Aids. He had long kept his homosexuality secret. He carried on working in ’80s glam drama Dynasty, but make-up could not disguise the deterioration of this once-statuesque man. He died in 1985, aged 59.

What about Sally?
That role fell to raven-locked Susan Saint James. The Ali MacGraw lookalike was previously in shows such as Alias Smith And Jones and The Name of the Game.

Other characters
A vital ingredient to McMillan And Wife was sharp-tongued housekeeper Mildred, played by Nancy Walker. Somebody needed to keep the place tidy while they gallivanted about solving crime.

Famous guest stars?
Kim Basinger

The couple’s conception?
Like Hart To Hart, the idea was borrowed from Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man books of the ’30s.

Gritty crime drama?
Hardly. These were cosy whodunnit cases, where the brutality of murder was never portrayed. The show was more about the interplay between McMillan and Sally.

Had viewers arrested?
Certainly in the US. It was the fifth highest-rated show in 1972 and 1973.

Fate of the golden couple?
Susan Saint James quit in 1976 over a contractual dispute. Nancy Walker also packed away her duster as housekeeper Mildred.

The dame’s exit was a fatal blow?
Certainly for the character of Sally – she was killed off in a plane crash. But Rock soldiered on with new assistant Sgt Steve DiMaggio (Richard Gilliland). The show became McMillan.

A winner?
Audiences dwindled and the plug was pulled.

Distinguishing features?
Cosy pillow talk, cocktail parties, Rock Hudson, pyjamas and numerous corpses.

Do say
Let’s go to bed. Turn the light out, darling.

Don’t say
Must you eat toast in bed, darling. Apologies, but I’ve got terrible flatulence. Separate bedrooms.

Not to be confused with
My Wife Next Door, Harold Macmillan, The Merry Wives Of Windsor and Mr And Mrs.

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Classic TV Revisited: The Royal

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The Royal

The Royal was an ITV drama commission and was inspired by its sister programme Heartbeat.

The lowdown: This nostalgic family drama is set in the swinging 1960s and centres on the staff of a cottage hospital in Yorkshire. Newly qualified doctor David Cheriton (Julian Ovenden) is determined to make a difference to the world and arrives at St Aidan’s Royal Free Hospital in Elinsby full of big ideas. But he clashes with the hospital’s secretary TJ Middleditch (Ian Carmichael) who is determined to run things his way. Then there is the Matron (Wendy Craig) who rules her nurses with a rod of iron and tries in vain to stop them being distracted by the handsome arrival.

Memorable moments: Watch out for former Heartbeat favourite Bill Maynard who crosses dramas and continents as Claude Jeremiah Greengrass. Greengrass has returned from a Caribbean holiday with a mystery illness but that doesn’t stop him trying to earn a fast buck. It doesn’t take long before Claude attracts Matron’s ire.

Trivia: The Royal is a family affair for real life husband and wife Robert Daws (Ormerod) and Amy Robbins (Weatherill). No fewer than seven members of their clan have appeared in the series including their daughters and stepson.

Michelle Hardwick, who played receptionist Lizzie, says her favourite moment in the whole series didn’t come on screen but in the actors’ green room. She says: “I was sitting in there with Wendy Craig and Honor Blackman and we were having a lovely conversation. I sat back and thought ‘Wow, this is great, I can’t wait to tell my gran’.”

A modern day set version called The Royal Today aired 7 January – 14 March 2008.

First broadcast: 2003

Starred: Wendy Craig, Ian Carmichael, Michael Starke, Robert Daws and Julian Ovenden

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