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Classic TV Revisited: Ivanhoe

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Clunky black-and-white ITV adaption of Sir Walter Scott’s novel of knights in shining armour battling the forces of evil and corruption. Roger Moore starred along with Andrew Keir and with guest appearances from others destined for greatness such as Christopher Lee. It ran on ITV from 1958-1959.

Why is it so timeless?
Most notable for providing beauty-spotted ex-cardigan model Roger Moore with his first TV role. It’s a short hop from cable knit to chain mail, you know.

Why was it so good?
Perfect ’50s TV fare, pitting noble, dashing, pre-Bond hero Roger Moore against the boo-hiss nasty Prince John of Andrew Keir. There was plenty of swordfighting, horse riding and stunts to keep viewers entertained.

A whole armoury of attractions, then.
Oh yes, and a classic theme song to boot: “Ivanhoe, Ivanhoe to adventure, bold adventure watch him go, There’s no power on earth can stop what he’s begun”. Poetry.

Distinguishing features:
Young Roger Moore’s super-smooth screen presence was here unleashed upon the world. Despite sporting a very un-heraldic quiff, the man with the golden eyebrow went on to star in The Saint and The Persuaders, before winning immortality in seven Bond movies.

And spectacular action, too?
Well, in terms of ’50s TV, yes. The show was filmed at Beaconsfield Studios, hence “exterior” sequences had dodgy scenery and hollow-sounding undergrowth.

The show that made Roger Moore a star, he must have loved it?
Not really. “Nobody seemed to know what we were doing and we all stumbled about feeling like boy scouts dressed up in armour,” he once said.

Ivanhoe

Why would he say that?
Could be something to do with performing his own stunts. He was knocked unconscious by a battle-axe, had his hands slashed and cracked three ribs. He accidentally injured fight instructor Peter Diamond with a broadsword, too.

Was Roger Moore the only star on show?
Far from it. Notables who guested included Christopher Lee as an evil German knight and Oscar-winning director John Schlesinger. Executive producer Peter Rogers was the man behind the Carry On films.

Sounds a real winner
It only ran for a year, actually. Thirty-nine half-hour episodes were made. It first aired on January 5, 1958 and ran almost continuously until the last broadcast on January 4, 1959.

Could it be revived?
It has been. The BBC made a series in 1970, an American TV movie starring Anthony Andrews appeared in 1982 and the BBC had another crack in 1997.

Do say:
This Moore lad should go far.

Don’t say:
Nice cardigan, Rog.

Not to be confused with:
Ivor The Engine, Ivan Lendl, the girlfriend of a 12th-century rapper (Ivan-ho), Sean Connery.

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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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Features

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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