HE Cooper takes a time machine back to 18-24 February 1960 for a look at what was on the telly
I have spent the last few years exploring several programmes, each of which has given me a different glimpse into an era long before my birth. I am fascinated by the window on a world that is slightly familiar, but not quite. It feels within touching distance.
Though not planned, I found myself watching a number of 1960s’ shows and there are some I have come to really love. Inspired by the now-defunct TV Minus 50 blog, I spent a month in 1968 and, having thoroughly enjoyed it, decided to spend a lot more time in the decade.
I’m spending a week with each year’s telly – this week, that year. As I don’t possess an actual time machine, there are a few limits on what is available for me to watch – I may not always get to see the exact episode from that day – but, hopefully, there should be something watchable every day.
A lot of the programmes I’m familiar with are from the latter half of the decade. After putting a schedule together from this week’s listings, I realise just how much of a step into the dark this is as I have never seen any of the shows before. How exciting!
This week all of my ITV programmes are coming from Granada and ABC.
Roger Moore plays a medieval knight doing all the good things knights do. For instance, in this episode, he is escorting a stroppy Irish princess. Having seen a few episodes of The Adventures of Robin Hood, it felt like similar territory watching Sir Ivanhoe gallivanting on horseback in between sword showmanship with bad guys. There seems to be a bit more location work seen in Ivanhoe, whilst the episodes of Robin Hood I have seen are very studio-bound. This occupies a similar teatime slot and I can see the appeal because I find them both great fun. The villains are wonderfully pantomime-style and you are guaranteed action every episode.
The Four Just Men ‘The Battle of the Bridge’
It works out nicely that Granada has given me the very first episode this week. Four men who first met during World War Two are brought back together when their former commanding officer dies and leaves them some money, which is to be used to fight injustice. This episode is a flashback to their wartime mission together. Nazis, resistance, fire fights and a bridge being blown up – this was quite something and it is an awful lot to put into the first episode of a series. This is filmic yet they pull it off in a half hour television programme.
The Lone Ranger ‘Bad Medicine’
There are loads of Westerns on this week – at least one most days. The Lone Ranger was action-packed from the start as it opens with two brothers robbing a bank. Our eponymous hero soon sets out after them. Shoot-outs, horse pursuits and a bit of climatic tension all helped to make this gripping. 1960 must have been fantastic if you loved Westerns and clearly quite tiresome if not. I haven’t seen many Westerns and though I enjoyed this, I have the feeling it could all get a bit samey by the end of the week.
77 Sunset Strip ‘Vicious Circle’
I would class this as a detective drama, I suppose. A young man is kidnapped and, after the ransom is paid, his father isn’t interested in going to the police, believing it will cause more trouble for him. The son ends up engaging our leads, two private detectives. They are partly assisted by a young lad, who at one point begins combing his hair in the middle of a gun fight. He is clearly meant to be a cool, modern guy but considering a wounded man lay bleeding nearby, I thought this one action made him look a prick. The show is certainly slightly more glamorous than everything else I am watching this week.
Maverick ‘The Cats of Paradise’
It’s another Western, although this one was not what I expected. This episode involved a cat lady, theft, murders, and several people who all wanted the Sheriff dead. I quickly warmed to our lead, Brett Maverick (James Garner), who after being fleeced by the cat lady, finds the Sheriff gunning for him. There was not a great deal of fighting and the episode had a fairly light-hearted tone, with Brett providing most of the quips. Maybe I can get on with these Westerns after all.
Face to Face
This week, John Freeman interviews Henry Moore. The name seemed familiar and the description told me Moore was a sculptor but otherwise I knew nothing about him. I have little interest in art yet decided to give this show a go, in part because I’m watching a fair bit of ITV this week. This was actually an interesting look at an interview from that time. After some establishing shots of the room, the camera never left Moore. It was odd to never cut away to the interviewer. I was left wondering if production teams assumed the audience had no interest in the journalist so it would be best to keep the focus on the interviewee. Modern interview programmes tend to be ‘chat shows’ and it is much more of a two-way conversation. The interviewer can make a lot of difference to what we get out of someone. I think I would like to see something in between the two. This was intense, detailed and definitely highbrow.
Wagon Train ‘The Tracey Sadler Story’
It’s a day ending in Y so there is another Western on. After enjoying Maverick so much I had high hopes but Wagon Train left me a little flat. A woman is seeking to get her son back, who was taken from her when she was wrongfully sent to prison for 12 years. It was heavy and emotional and soppy. The one thing I can say is that these Westerns do all seem to vary more than I expected.
I knew little about William Tell before watching this. Basically just that he was Swiss and I thought he was sort of like Robin Hood. In the titles, he shoots an apple off a lad’s head with a bow and arrow. He’s in some sort of resistance and sends his mate to get a letter containing a list of names that must not get into the wrong hands. This does not prove easy. It gets hidden in a shoe that turns out to belong to the Lamberger, the big baddie – literally, the fellow is huge. One of the soldiers was played by Derren Nesbitt, whose voice I recognised under his mountains of armour.
Highway Patrol ‘Detour to Death’
I felt the title adequately described this programme as in it contains police officers patrolling the highways. The ‘highway’ bit tells us we are in the US so I expected high-speed pursuits with the baddies shooting back at the cops. No such luck. This episode saw the bad guys setting up road blocks with detour signs, then robbing the drivers at knife point. Yet it has to be one of the dullest cop shows I have ever watched. The action just seemed to be so slow, which is never ideal but especially not when it’s only a half hour show. Aside from one fight – and I use the word loosely because it was more of a struggle – there was very little action. The cops must clearly be the regular characters in this but any distinctive character was lacking. I just couldn’t find anything decent to cling to and the programme dragged.
What you could have won – missing and unavailable
Here are some of the listings that intrigued me but I was unable to watch this week.
UNAVAILABLE Spy-Catcher – ‘A series of true stories of the search for spies in wartime based on the experiences of Lt.-Col. Oreste Pinto.’ There were four series of this and, oddly, a couple of radio series were also made and its broadcast overlapped with that of the third series.
UNAVAILABLE Glencannon – I’ve been able to find out little about this sitcom following merchant sailors, which makes me ponder whether it has ever had a repeat. Every episode exists but has never had a release.
MISSING Studio Two – ‘An ABC Advertising Magazine’ this programme invites you to join them for ‘lively shopping information’. I have heard about these advertising shows and would be keen to see one as they were banned within a few years.
UNKNOWN No Passport – ‘Richard Dimbleby suggests a holiday that needs No Passport. A journey to The English Lakes with David Dimbleby and Jonathan Dimbleby. The second of four films to help you choose your holiday.’ Who would pass up the opportunity to see the Dimbleby clan on holiday?