Spy drama series detailing the cases of dour British secret service agent David Callan (Edward Woodward). Initially developed by ABC and then taken on by Thames when it secured the ITV London franchise in 1968, ‘Callan’, with its distinctive ’swinging lightbulb’ opening sequence, remains one of the great TV dramas.
Influenced more by the down at heel Harry Palmer style of British spying than the glamorous James Bond version, Callan was an edgy, friendless and reluctant assassin trapped in a job he loathed.
Callan first appeared in A Magnum for Schneider, a pilot episode screened in February 1967 as part of the Armchair Theatre series of one-off television plays. Disgraced former top agent David Callan is given an opportunity to redeem himself with one more liquidation. The catch is that his superior, Colonel Hunter, frames him for the killing and, in so doing, traps Callan into working through 44 more episodes during which he must face all manner of menacing adversaries against every hazardous location that could be dreamed up, from a Canadian atomic power stations to sunken ships.
The great strength of Callan was its humanity. Woodward, who was in his late thirties when the series began, was an ordinary looking man with extraordinary skills. Hunter, who was played by a variety of actors during the course of the four series, knew that Callan’s weakness was that he cared about people even though his profession made it impossible for him to get emotionally involved. In turn, the urbane Hunter needed Callan’s brilliance, even though he accepted that Callan was the one man he could not completely control.
No account of Callan would be complete without mention of one of the most enduring supporting characters in British television history. The relationship between Callan and Russell Hunter’s smelly, petty villain, Lonely (Russell Hunter), was fascinating. Callan treated Lonely, who supplied him with under-the-counter firearms and useful information, with complete disdain. At the same time, however, he also protected his little accomplice, finding him a job as driver of the communications car, a taxi filled with high-tech listening devices.
In 1974 there was a big screen outing which was based on the plot of the Armchair Theatre entry (which James Mitchell had already published as a tie-in novel). Then in 1981 Callan returned for a one off feature length drama called Wet Job.
On 4 September 1971 the first episode of The Edward Woodward Hour (which ran for three episodes and aired between series three and four of Callan) featured a segment called Father Dear Father Meets Callan – this saw the cast of the popular ITV sitcom (Patrick Cargill and Natasha Pyne) get involved with spy Callan and sidekick Lonely (Russell Hunter was a regular on this show too).
CALLAN COMES IN FROM THE COLD
Millions of viewers thought they’d seen the end of “Callan” when he was left for dead in his last T V series. But this morose spy comes in out of the mortuary cold tonight in a new series. You must hand it to Thames TV—they know a good cliffhanger ‘ending’ when they devise one. It was Thames who put their favourite ” Public Eye” Frank Marker into jail, apparently finishing the career of a first-rate T V ‘original.’ Then they brought him back in a series to spotlight the problems of a prisoner on parole. With Callan, the resurrection had to be conditioned by the busy working life of the spy himself, Edward Woodward, current holder of the ” Best TV Actor ” award.
Straight after making this series he goes into his first film – starring part in “A Fine and Private Place,” then he plays the title role at the National Theatre in “Cyrano de Bergerac.” But Thames hope to bring him back for a further run of ” Callan” stories—without having to ” kill him off ” again.
Missing from the new series is the sadistic Toby Meres (Anthony Valentine) who was responsible for the shot that nearly killed Callan, (Valentine is now playing another secret agent role in BBC-2’s new ‘Codename’ series.
But Russell Hunter is back as Callan’s pathetic pal, Lonely, and William Squire takes over as “Hunter” – code name for the head of Callan’s department. Hunter’s secretary is still played by the leggy Lisa Langdon, and Patrick Mower joins the cast as a tough newcomer named Cross. (Daily Mirror, Wednesday 8 April 1970)
Cast: EDWARD WOODWARD as David Callan; RUSSELL HUNTER as Lonely; ANTHONY VALENTINE as Toby Meres; PATRICK MOWER as Cross; Hunter was played by RONALD RADD, MICHAEL GOODLIFFE, DEREK BOND, AND WILLIAM SQUIRE,
Creator: James Mitchell / Developed by James Mitchell and Terence Feeley / Theme Music: Jack Trombey / Associate Producer: Terence Feeley / Executive Producer: Lloyd Shirley / Producer: Reginald Collin
UK / ABC – Thames / 43x60m-e / Broadcast 8 July 1967 – 24 May 1972
ARMCHAIR THEATRE SERIES 9 EPISODE 2
A MAGNUM FOR SCHNEIDER (4 Feb 1967)
SERIES 1 8 July – 12 August 1967
1. THE GOOD ONES ARE ALL DEAD (8 July 1967)
2. GOODBYE NOBBY CLARKE (15 July 1967)
3. THE DEATH OF ROBERT E. LEE (22 July 1967)
4. GOODNESS BURNS TOO BRIGHT (29 July 1967)
5. BUT HE’S A LORD MR CALLAN (5 Aug 1967)
6. YOU SHOULD HAVE GOT HERE SOONER (12 Aug 1967)
SERIES 2 8 January – 16 April 1969
1. RED KNIGHT, WHITE KNIGHT (8 Jan 1969)
2. THE MOST PROMISING GIRL OF HER YEAR (15 Jan 1969)
3. YOU’RE UNDER STARTER’S ORDERS (22 Jan 1969)
4. THE LITTLE BITS AND PIECES OF LOVE (29 Jan 1969)
5. LET’S KILL EVERYBODY (5 Feb 1969)
6. HEIR APPARENT (12 Feb 1969)
7. LAND OF LIGHT AND PEACE (19 Feb 1969)
8. BLACKMAILERS SHOULD BE DISCOURAGED (26 Feb 1969)
9. DEATH OF A FRIEND (5 Mar 1969)
10. JACK-ON-TOP (12 Mar 1969)
11. ONCE A BIG MAN, ALWAYS A BIG MAN (19 Mar 1969)
12. THE RUNNING DOG (26 Mar 1969)
13. THE WORST SOLDIER I EVER SAW (2 Apr 1969)
14. NICE PEOPLE DIE AT HOME (9 Apr 1969)
15. DEATH OF A HUNTER (16 Apr 1969)
SERIES 3 8 April – 24 June 1970
1. WHERE ELSE COULD I GO? (8 Apr 1970)
2. SUMMONED TO APPEAR (15 Ap 1970)
3. THE SAME TRICK TWICE (22 Apr 1970)
4. A VILLAGE CALLED “G” (13 May 1970)
5. SUDDENLY – AT HOME (20 May 1970)
6. ACT OF KINDNESS (27 May 1970)
7. GOD HELP YOUR FRIENDS (3 June 1970)
8. BREAKOUT (10 June 1970)
9. AMOS GREEN MUST LIVE (24 June 1970)
SERIES 4 1 March – 24 May 1972
1. THAT’LL BE THE DAY (1 Mar 1972)
2. CALL ME SIR! (8 Mar 1972)
3. FIRST REFUSAL (15 Mar 1972)
4. RULES OF THE GAME (22 Mar 1972)
5. IF HE CAN, SO COULD I (29 Mar 1972)
6. NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS (5 Apr 1972)
7. CHARLIE SAYS IT’S GOODBYE (12 Apr 1972)
8. I NEVER WANTED THE JOB (19 Apr 1972)
9. THE CARRIER (26 Apr 1972)
10. THE CONTRACT (3 May 1972)
11. THE RICHMOND FILE 1: CALL ME ENEMY (10 May 1972)
12. THE RICHMOND FILE 2: DO YOU RECOGNISE THE WOMAN? (17 May 1972)
13. THE RICHMOND FILE 3: A MAN LIKE ME (24 May 1972)
WET JOB (2 September 1981)