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The Complete History Of Small Time



Small Time was Independent Television’s 15-minute slot for the under fives broadcast from 1955 to 1966.

Produced and Presented for the Network by Associated-Rediffusion Television.

Researched by Malcolm Batchelor, with thanks to the TV Times and the British Newspaper Library at Colindale.

Small Time began the day after Independent Television’s Opening Night in London on Thursday, 22nd September, 1955.

At 12.15pm on Friday, 23rd September, 1955 the very first Small Time programme was broadcast. Johnny and Flonny, a glove puppet series, with Paul Hansard.

The following week on the Monday saw The Big Black Crayon with Rolf Harris and Jean Ford and on the Wednesday was Toybox with Susan Spear.

There were no Small Time programmes on Tuesdays nor Thursdays until Tuesday, 8th November when The Little House That Stood On The Hill joined the 12.15-12.30pm line-up and on Thursday Snoozy The Sea-Lion made the complete original Monday to Friday set.

From Monday, 28th November, 1955 the slot was moved back a little to 12.08pm and ran to 12.20pm according to the TV Times. But this initial lunchtime transmission was short lived because from Monday, 9th January, 1956 Small Time was moved to a 4.05-4.15pm slot.

But then we were soon to lose our five slots a week. Because from week commencing 20th February, 1956 we were down to a Tuesday and Thursday 4.30-4.45pm slot only.

This lasted until May 1956 when Small Time disappeared completely and the only remnants that were left could be seen on Tuesdays when Rolf Harris appeared in the Children’s Hour from 5.00-6.00pm and on Thursdays when Snoozy The Sea Lion had a fortnightly run at 5.27pm in the same programme. Only Snoozy remained from June 1956 though and lasted as the programme became Jolly Good Time with Jimmy Hanley in September 1956 right the way through to September 1957.

On Monday, 16th September, 1957 at 4.30pm the Small Time 15-minute slot was back.
The programmes were hosted by Mr. Happy, the controller of birthdays, script was written by John Myers and Mr. Happy read your birthday greetings before presenting a different Small Time programme each day, Monday to Friday. This format lasted until Christmas.

Wednesday, 13th November, 1957 saw the very first episode of The Adventures Of Twizzle.

No Small Time programmes were broadcast between January and April 1958.
But The Adventures Of Twizzle were shown on Tuesdays in the Jolly Good Time show with Jimmy Hanley between 5.00 and 5.30pm.

In April 1958 Oliver Postgate joined the team with Mr Happy and from Monday, 14th April Small Time was running in the 4.45-5.00pm slot with a different programme each day.

Monday, 8th December, 1958 debuts Muriel Young reading the tale of Little Rocky.

Thursday, 11th December, 1958 saw the very first edition of the long running series
The Musical Box, but not with Wally Whyton until 12th August, 1959. This first edition was compered by Jill Adamson. Rolf Harris hosted the programme from 21st April, 1959.

Small Time didn’t settle into its 4.45-5.00pm slot until Monday, 14th September, 1959.
Although the programme continued to run five days a week from Monday, 14th April, 1958, after Christmas on Monday, 29th December, 1958 it was moved back to the lunchtime slot of 12.47-1.00pm and if that’s not enough musical chairs on Monday, 5th July, 1959 it was moved forward again to a 5.05-5.15pm slot! Throughout the rest of its life it did settle at 4.45-5.00pm apart from a very short period between Monday, 28th December, 1964 and Monday, 1st February, 1965 when for the first month in the life of Crossroads, the new ATV soap serial, Small Time is designated to a 4.20-4.35pm slot.

On Friday, 16th October, 1959 Patrick Boyle told us the very first Tum story which was followed by Muriel Young talking to Pussy Cat Willum, a glove puppet devised and animated by Janet Nicholls. This started regular birthday chats following the Small Time programme and over the years Pussy Cat Willum appeared with Liz Shingler, Bert Weedon and Wally Whyton as well as Muriel Young. The other “soon to become famous” puppets started life here before making it big in the Five O’Clock Club were Ollie Beak, voiced by Wally Whyton and Fred Barker, voiced by Ivan Owen.

Monday, 28th December, 1959 heralds the start of that little engine from the Welsh valleys Ivor The Engine.

Tuesday, 23rd February, 1960 saw the launch of Torchy The Battery Boy.

Tuesday, 27th February, 1962 gave us the first adventure with Sara and Hoppity.
Who can remember that song? This was the theme song to the show: –
“Sara Brown has a toy as naughty as can be, he’ll start to sing if you wind up his key.
He’ll sing and he’ll dance all over the floor and when he stands still you wind him some more. Dear old Hoppity, naughty Hoppity, there is no toy more naughty than he. Dear old Hoppity, clever Hoppity, he sings diddle-lee-dum and he sings diddle-lee-dee!”

In September 1962 one of Children TV’s greatest glove puppets Basil Brush was born on ITV in Small Time. He appeared with his friends Bert Scampi and Spikey in The Three Scampis. His voice was created by Ivan Owen.

From Monday, 27th September, 1965 Pippy The Telephant made regular appearances.

The final week of Small Time commenced on Monday 19th September, 1966 and the line-up of programmes looked like this: –
Mon: Kuff. Tues: Twizzle. Weds: Musical Box. Thurs: Pippy’s Party. Fri: All At Sea.

Then from Monday, 26th September, 1966 away went the Small Time header along with all the regular programmes and into the 4.45-5.00pm slot came Playtime where Gwyneth Surdivall and Jennifer Naden invited the younger viewers to join in the singing, dancing and painting in their magic park. This programme ran from Mondays to Thursdays leaving Friday free for the Adventures Of Twizzle into 1967. By 1968 Playtime had gone and was replaced with Hullaballoo and various other programmes filled this slot including Ivor The Engine until Rediffusion lost its franchise to Thames Television in July, 1968.



Kick-Ass TV Heroines: Xena – Warrior Princess




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




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.

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




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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