Tonight’s BBCtv… in 1963

The Radio Times tells us what was on BBCtv on Saturday 23 November 1963. Things worth noting include:

  • This is not an accurate recording of what BBCtv put out today: yesterday, at 5.30pm GMT, the president of the United States was brutally murdered by person or persons unknown
  • There’s no geostationary satellite connection between the US and Europe, so the extended news reports and extra bulletins were largely rip-and-read; what did come through on Relay 1, a periodic satellite, was mainly stills
  • The death of Kennedy cast a shadow over the whole night’s viewing – Brits were shocked and upset in a way they hadn’t been since the war and wouldn’t be again until 31 August 1997
  • There was no power cut disrupting television production or electricity to viewers homes. The knock-on effect on later schedules during the next week is entirely due to the Kennedy assassination and nothing to do with the electric going off
  • The news at 5.55pm was extended, but without much in the way of film and with the news not having changed in 24 hours (“Kennedy still dead” is not much of a headline), only by four minutes
  • Likewise, the 10.05pm news was extended slightly, knocking TW3 to about 10.30pm
  • The Telegoons were not as funny as the radio Goon Show, but they were still a fun, and surreal, 15 minutes. Two series of 13 episodes each were made, and immediately repeated after their first showing. And then never shown again, nor released on DVD, even though all 26 still exist
  • Dixon of Dock Green is in its tenth series (out of 22, for a total of 432 episodes) but this was your only chance to see this episode – it was wiped
  • Two hours and 15 minutes of Western action from 7.20pm. Tales of Wells Fargo, its name shortened by the BBC, had been cancelled by NBC a year and a half earlier. Santa Fe Passage was a Republic B-movie (all Republic movies were B movies) vehicle for John Wayne from 1955 and has some truly shocking depictions of Native Americans
  • The Comedy Playhouse at 9.35pm was one of 17 pilots in the 1963-4 series. Two got a full commission. The Chars was not one of them. Elsie and Doris Waters were the sisters of Jack Warner, seen earlier in Dock Green
  • Jack Rosenthal and Harry Driver were not, according to Rosenthal, having a good weekend. With the shock of Kennedy’s death, comedy seemed inappropriate, so they were shocked when Granada repeated their episode of Bootsie and Snudge on Friday evening. They then had The Chars premiere the next night on BBCtv, when comedy was still not on people’s radar
  • The TW3 at 10.20pm here tore up the planned comedy script in favour of a somewhat mawkish tribute to the slain US president


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