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That Was The Week That Was (BBC Satire, David Frost, Millicent Martin)



Satirical comedy That Was The Week That Was was the first to take pot shots at the establishment, incredibly popular, talked about and influential and also much disliked by the Government. David Frost headlined and also appearing were Kenneth Cope, Millicent Martin, William Rushton, Roy Kinnear, Lance Percival, Bernard Levin, David Kernan, Al Mancini, Timothy Lang (season 1) and Robert Lang (season 2).

Writers included David Frost, Dennis Potter, Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall, David Nobbs and Peter Tinniswood, Kenneth Tynan, Johnny Speight, John Braine, John Antrobus and Bernard Levin. Each week Millicent Martin sang a topical song each week over the theme tune.

Despite only running for two series TW3 as the show was mostly known has been hugely influential, most satirical comedy since owes more than a nod of gratitude to this production. At the time the BBC had strict rules on what could be talked about in comedy shows but TW3 circumvented them by being made by the current affairs department.

Producer Ned Sherrin said of the topical nature of the show: “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.

It wasn’t all fun and games though. The evening after President Kennedy was shot, the show contained almost no jokes at all. 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.

Creator and Producer: Ned Sherrin

UK / BBC / 37×50 minute episodes / Broadcast 24 November 1962 – 28 December 1963 black and white