HE Cooper takes a time machine back to 18-24 March 1962 for a look at what was on the telly
I’m travelling through the 1960s by spending a week with each year’s telly – this week, that year.
We have one of those lovely years where Sunday here is Sunday there etc. It’s nice when the days of the week match up.
This week all my ITV programmes are coming from ATV. I’ll be in the Midlands all week before finishing up in London for Saturday night. First though, I’ve been lucky/unfortunate enough to embark on a trip abroad.
Grand Prix Eurovision 1962
NTS (Nederlandse Televisie Stichting – Dutch Television Foundation)
I have never watched the Eurovision Song Contest. Modern talent contests hold little appeal for me and, even though the ESC seems different, the cries of ‘but Terry Wogan!’ and ‘it’s so bad it’s good’ have never managed to convince me. I’ve seen clips. It’s been enough.
The entire presentation was in French – CLT in Luxembourg were the hosts – although BBC viewers had commentary from David Jacobs. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the BBC and was stuck with the Dutch commentary. I was able to identify some words throughout the programme and take a good guess at others but most of it remained a complete mystery.
1962’s Eurovision was a much more static affair than its modern-day version. One of the acts decided to take a comedic turn and ran about the stage and among the orchestra, which proved a nightmare for the cameras, whose operators must have been grateful no one else wanted to do this. Every act was accompanied by an orchestra and a different conductor each time, so I presume they represent the country as well as the singers.
I’d hoped some of the artists might be familiar but even the UK’s entry of Ronnie Caroll with Ring-a-ding Girl didn’t ring any bells (sorry). I did get an interesting surprise when the German act appeared. I did a couple of years of German evening classes and I realised that our teacher had played us this song. This made it one of the only songs where I actually knew what half the lyrics meant.
While initially intrigued, my interest began to wane about 50 minutes in. There seemed to be a good 20 minutes afterwards that consisted solely of the voting results coming through, with a giant scoreboard getting updated. I was ready to fall asleep. To top it all, France won and I thought their song was rubbish.
I managed to avoid the prolific Westerns during 1961 but knew it was inevitable I would encounter them again. This is the second season of Bonanza and I am really surprised to discover that the UK is only about five weeks behind the US run.
It was, well, Western-y. A fellow got shot so his brother decided to try and shoot the fellow who shot him, whose family decided they would probably have to shoot the brother. This seemed less action-driven, with plenty of high emotions and animated discussion.
I realised I had no idea when most Westerns are set and my general stab in the dark has been ‘before widespread US car ownership’. They all dress as cowboys and ride horses. As far as I’m concerned, a 20th-century cowboy probably doesn’t look that different to a 19th-century one.
This late 1950s’ series is among several repeats this week. Two truckers are asked to give a lift to a guy who they quickly guess is related to the boss. Their passenger is also an alcoholic. They aren’t keen on him but when they encounter a traffic accident, it’s clear the alcoholic is also a doctor.
My medical knowledge is minimal yet I became sceptical about the programme’s realism when the doctor snapped a man’s rib, cut him open, reached a hand in and started pumping the heart. All of this is slightly out of shot, saving the production team the need to show any bloody improvised surgery and saving me from having to endure it. We are supposed to buy that the doctor managed to keep this manual heart-pumping up for over an hour until the ambulance arrived (for a fellow who he had initially pronounced dead) and then, inspired to believe in himself again, would be allowed to return to practicing medicine. Time to get firmly back to reality.
I am an occasional viewer of Granada’s modern-day Coronation Street. Ever since the show’s 50th anniversary in 2010 when ITV repeated the first episode, I have wanted to see more of the show’s early years. Marvellously, a selection of episodes from each year of the show’s history has been released on DVD. Having watched Coronation Street‘s first few weeks from 1960, I am familiar with most of the characters from tonight’s episode.
Jack Walker has been faking an illness and his wife Annie, The Rovers’ landlady, has found him out. Ena Sharples (my favourite character) declares laundrettes are for lazy people but does then decide to go along to one with Minnie and Martha. I love the dialogue between them here and Coronation Street‘s humour is one of the main reasons I enjoy the programme. The three ladies agree to go to the pictures that evening but Ena never shows up and the other two are annoyed that she has stood them up. The final shot shows us Ena, collapsed on the floor.
British Actors’ Equity Association had been staging a strike since November while trying to negotiate better pay with the ITV companies. The result was an increasingly limited number of new programmes and existing ones, including Emergency – Ward 10 and The Avengers, had their production affected so started to drop out of the schedules. Several months in, the effects are evident in this week’s schedule, which contains numerous US imports and repeats.
However, Coronation Street fared rather well. Although some actors only had short-term contracts and therefore quickly disappeared from the programme, several of the regulars were on long-term contracts so remained onscreen throughout the strike. This did limit the storylines but a little over a year after it started, Coronation Street was consistently featuring in the top ten programmes each week.
As far as I can gather, this local programme consisted of various film clips that covered local stuff for local people. I was delighted to find that a clip from this day’s episode was available from the BFI. Our young interviewer begins by interviewing various Irish people, sat on a plane, about to head back home. There is a nurse who came over to train and others who miss family. We then go to see various English people being interviewed. The Irish people were asked how they found England, Birmingham and the English, so likewise the Brummies are asked what they think of the Irish.
You get the feeling the reporter is hoping for a bit of variety, quite possibly a touch of controversy. Unfortunately for him, there isn’t that much from the Irish, who speak positively or just don’t find that much to say.
Reporter: “How do you think Ireland differs from England?”
Irish lady: “Well not much really.”
There was one young lady whose contribution was presumably cut because after the following exchange:
Reporter: “Why are you going back?”
Young lady: “Because I hate it so much over here.”
Nothing is expanded it on and we move on. She did state that she had been living in Coventry so perhaps that was deemed sufficient explanation.
The Midlanders give more of a mixed response.
Man: “I’ve got three mates that are Irish. Alright if they don’t have too much beer.”
One young man with half a tub of Brylcreem in his hair reckons most of the Irish are alright but says:
“The thing I do object to is the way they come to this country to scrounge on us. But I wouldn’t, like, class them all as one. But there are a few that I think ought to be taken back to Ireland where they came from.”
A middle-aged fellow believes sending all the Irish home would be barmy.
“I think Birmingham would come to a standstill.”
Immigration is not a modern political phenomenon but in among the influx from Commonwealth countries like Jamaica, India, Pakistan and, later, Uganda around this time, I think the Irish sometimes get overlooked. The fact this film was made, and that it references another one, demonstrates that Irish immigration to England was considered an important issue. The English people interviewed certainly all have opinions about it and so would the viewers – few as they may be at 11.05 at night.
Danger Man ‘The Lonely Chair’
I’ve seen a number of episodes from Danger Man‘s first series so it is nice to end the week on familiar turf. This episode was first broadcast in October 1960 so it appears it is now getting a late night repeat. Tonight John Drake is assisting a man whose daughter has been kidnapped. The man uses a wheelchair and Drake impersonates him when it is time to meet the kidnappers. Patrick Troughton makes a late appearance as the head villain, using what seems to be his standard foreign accent voice. It is suitably vague enough to possibly hail from a number of countries. I rather like these half-hour episodes because the plot moves so fast. There is no time for your attention to drift else you are likely to miss something.
What you could have won – missing and unavailable
There wasn’t much that grabbed me in the listings this week, although there was one programme that intrigued me.
Your Life in their Hands: Depression – ‘More than 5,000 suicides in Great Britain each year – Depression causes a large number of them. Can these tragedies be prevented?; Can depression be cured? From St. Thomas’s Hospital, London’.
Your Life in their Hands normally looked at surgery so this seems like a rather different type of episode. The ‘more than 5,000’ statistic is interesting as, in over fifty years, suicide statistics haven’t varied all that dramatically – in 2016 5,965 committed suicide. I know that suicide was not talked about as much so I was surprised to see this in the listings. This episode would certainly make good viewing, particularly as suicide had been decriminalised less than a year earlier.