That Was The Week That Was was a ground-breaking satire which ran on BBC One from 1962-1963 and lampooned the Establishment and turned unknowns (David Frost, Millicent Martin, Roy Kinnear, Lance Percival, William Rushton) into household names.
Bright-eyed and fresh-faced black-and-white satire show.
Produced by Ned Sherrin.
Why was it so good?
It was the first of its kind. It ridiculed the three Rs.
What reading, writing and arithmetic?
Heavens, no. Religion, race and royalty. This was 1962 and those things were deemed too important to tease.
Who was in it?
It was fronted by the virtually unknown David Frost. He was partnered by Millicent Martin, Roy Kinnear, Lance Percival and William Rushton, to name but a few.
Didn’t it cause a bit of a stir?
Dear me, yes. Bernard Levin angered people with his plain-speaking attitude and one vicar in Cheshire got really, well, rather cross.
What did he say?
In his parish mag, he called Levin a “thick-lipped Jewboy”.
Was satire new to TV?
Absolutely. Some viewers hated the Establishment being criticised. Hard to believe, I know.
…Jokes fell flat?
Not with most of its 10 million viewers. But Ned Sherrin and Frost were called “pedlars of filth and smut and destroyers of all that Britain holds dear”.
Rather. And people hated Frost’s teeth, Roy Kinnear’s beer gut and William (he wasn’t called Willie then) Rushton’s lack of dress sense.
How did the show work?
Producer Ned Sherrin explains: “The whole point was that it picked up on events that week.” He adds: “We did the first sketch ever commissioned by the Royal Family.” (Princess Margaret).
Sherrin met her at a party and she asked him: “Why don’t you do a sketch about the absurd reverential way the press reports us?” So the next week the team did a skit about the Queen’s barge sinking in the Thames.
Didn’t the BBC impose ridiculous rules on entertainment shows in those days?
Yes, but TW3 (as it came to be known) escaped them.
It was made by the Current Affairs department.
I don’t follow.
Well, the BBC Light Entertainment section forbade gags like “How do you make a Maltese cross?” and equally silly jesting.
How do you?
Poke him in the eye.
It must have brought the house down.
In a way it did. Gerald Kaufman dug out a list of MPs who hadn’t spoken in the Commons for more than 10 years.
The silent minority?
Sort of. The Government, led by Alec Douglas-Home, was slowly falling to bits and most of the MPs listed were Tory.
Did they pass a motion?
A motion? Some of them passed bricks! One red-faced Honourable Member called for the BBC to be impeached.
Did it take the mickey out of everyone?
No, Frost and co. showed discretion.
The evening after President Kennedy was shot, the show contained almost no jokes at all.
Must have been dull.
No way. Millicent Martin sang In The Summer Of His Years. The ultimate show-stopping moment. Not a bad effort bearing in mind she’d been given the words at 4pm that day. “It showed we could do something very moving and very serious,” she said.
“Good evening, peasants,” said Bernard Levin to a dozen farmers.
“We’re used to dealing with dumb animals.” Farmers’ reply to Levin.
“If you’re Home Secretary, you can get away with murder.” (Frost) “But he’s doing a grand job.”
Impeach the cheeky swines!
Not to be confused with…
Weekend World, That’s Life, Alan Weeks.
Kick-Ass TV Heroines: 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
Classic TV Revisited: 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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Audiences dwindled and the plug was pulled.
Cosy pillow talk, cocktail parties, Rock Hudson, pyjamas and numerous corpses.
Let’s go to bed. Turn the light out, darling.
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.
Classic TV Revisited: 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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