October 7, 1978 on ITV: Bruce Forsyth’s Big Night

Bruce Forsyth’s Big Night

Bruce Forsyth’s Big Night (1978), title card [UKGameshows]
Bruce Forsyth’s Big Night was a TV show screened on ITV on Saturday nights throughout the autumn and winter of 1978. It starred Bruce Forsyth. A total of 12 episodes were broadcast between October 7, and December 31, 1978. A further one off special was shown on April 4, 1980.

The show was made by London Weekend Television. Following the huge success enjoyed by The Generation Game, Forsyth was poached from the BBC for a reported £15,000 a show with each show having a budget of £250,000. The idea was that the show would provide Bruce with a vehicle for his many and various talents. The show was designed to take up an entire Saturday evening on ITV and win the ratings battle with the BBC. However, it was poorly received and was broadly unsuccessful with The Generation Game (now hosted by Larry Grayson) winning higher audiences. The first episode topped the UK television ratings, but episode two didn’t feature in the top 20, causing several attempts to revamp the format. Eventually, the show was cut to just 90 minutes in length and moved to a much earlier Saturday night slot, but still the ratings did not improve. Forsyth claimed in many subsequent on-screen interviews that the retooling did result in an increase in ratings, but this was not borne out by contemporary data.

The show featured some mini-games, like “Beat The Goalie” (a phone-in game with similarities to The Golden Shot) and little games with the studio audience – it also featured mini-comedies, such as a revival of 1960s series The Worker, with Charlie Drake as The Worker and Henry McGee (one of Benny Hill‘s stooges) as the man at the labour exchange, and also The Glums, a TV adaptation of short sketches from the radio series Take It From Here, with Jimmy Edwards reprising his role he immortalised on radio as Mr Glum, Ian Lavender (Private Pike from Dad’s Army) playing the role of Ron (played by Dick Bentley in the radio series) and Patricia Brake as Eth, the role played on radio by June Whitfield. Both those series were eventually made into a full series in their own right, but they were short-lived. The show also featured Cannon and Ball doing their own sketches, but the producer decided to axe their part from the show every single week, as they believed more Bruce was the answer to the problems to the show.

Each show also featured a game of The £1,000 Pyramid, hosted by Steve Jones, which was the first UK adaption of the popular American game show Pyramid. This show later became a standalone programme on ITV, with Jones remaining as host. In addition, Jones would go on to be one of the hosts of the UK adaptation of Jeopardy!


TV Times

7.25pm: Bruce Forsyth’s Big Night

Bruce in sparkling style fronting his brand new star-spangled series of 12 entertainment specials. Games for the studio audience plus viewers at home, situation comedies, music, celebrity spots and, what’s more, Anthea Redfern helps Bruce to host the shows.

Games included Teletennis, Beat the Goalie, and the £1,000 Pyramid. The first episode features situation comedies based on The Glums, starring Jimmy Edwards, Ian Lavender and Patricia Brake, plus Charlie Drake as The Worker, with Henry McGee. Rod Hull & Emu were visiting towns around the country, and Bette Midler performed with Alyn Ainsworth & his Orchestra.


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Joe 90 (ITV, 1968-1969) debuts on ITV

Joe 90 (1968-1969), titlecard

Joe 90 is a British science-fiction television series that follows the adventures of a nine-year-old boy, Joe McClaine, who starts a double life as a schoolchild-turned-superspy after his scientist father invents a device capable of duplicating expert knowledge and experience and transferring it to a human brain. Equipped with the skills of the foremost academic and military minds, Joe is recruited by the World Intelligence Network (WIN) and, as its “Most Special Agent”, pursues the objective of world peace and saving human life. Created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and filmed by Century 21 Productions, the 30-episode series followed Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons.

First broadcast in the UK between September 29, 1968 and April 20, 1969 on the ATV network, Joe 90 was the sixth and final of the Andersons’ productions to be made exclusively using the form of marionette puppetry termed “Supermarionation”. Their final puppet series, The Secret Service, used this process only in combination with extensive live-action filming. As in the case of its antecedent, Captain Scarlet, the puppets of Joe 90 are of natural proportions as opposed to the more caricatured design of the characters of Thunderbirds.

Although not as successful as Century 21’s previous efforts, since its inception, Joe 90 has been praised, among other aspects, for the level of characterisation of its smaller puppet cast and the quality of its model sets and special effects. Critics have interpreted Joe 90’s spy-fi theme and the choice of a child character as the protagonist as either a “kids play Bond” concept or an enshrinement of children’s powers of imagination. Points of criticism range from the violence depicted in a number of episodes to the absence of female characters, which is interpreted either as the inevitable result of the series’ composition as a “boy’s own adventure” or as being tantamount to sexism.

As for its earlier productions, Century 21 launched a number of merchandising campaigns based on Joe 90, which included toy cars and comic strips featuring the continuing adventures of Joe McClaine. The series was syndicated in the United States in 1969, re-broadcast in the UK during the 1990s and released on DVD in most regions in the 2000s. The idea of a live-action film adaptation of Joe 90 has been considered more than once since the 1960s, but without further development.

Find out more at WikipediaIMDb*, and BIGRAT*.

Sources: Wikipedia* (information, pictures etc), IMDb* (movie release dates), and YouTube* (videos) unless stated otherwise.

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The Champions (ITV, 1968-1969) debuts on UK TV

The Champions (1968-1969), title card

The Champions is a British espionage/science fiction/occult detective fiction adventure television series. It featured Stuart Damon, Alexandra Bastedo and William Gaunt as agents for a United Nations law enforcement organisation called ‘Nemesis’ who have been granted perfected human abilities. It was produced by Lew Grade‘s ITC Entertainment production company, and consists of 30 episodes broadcast on the UK network ITV during 1968–1969.

Sources: Wikipedia* (information, pictures etc), IMDb* (movie release dates), and YouTube* (videos) unless stated otherwise.

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How We Used To Live (ITV, 1968-2002)

How We Used to Live is a British educational historical television drama, produced by Yorkshire Television, that debuted on September 24, 1968. The series traced the lives and fortunes of various fictional Yorkshire families from the Victorian era until the 1960s, in and around the fictional town of Bradley, using self-contained short dramas interspersed with archive footage.

Each series was broadcast as part of ITV Schools, on ITV between 1968 and 1987 and then on Channel 4 and S4C.

Periods covered

  • Series 1: late Victorian era. For only this series, there were on-screen presenters, including broadcaster Geoffrey Wheeler.
  • Series 2: 1908-1918 and 1925-1945.
  • Series 3: 1874-1887.
  • Series 4: 1936-1953.
  • Series 5: end of the Boer War in 1902 to the General Strike in 1926.
  • Series 6: 1954-1970.
  • Series 7: from this point on format included documentaries, and covered “Victorians: Early and Late”, “Expansion, Trade and Industry”, plus the Civil War, the Tudors, Isaac Newton, and The Spanish Armada.

Notable Actors

  • Rosalie Williams, Series 4 & 6, “Esme Birkett”
  • Peter Howitt, series 5, “Tom Selby”
  • Sue Jenkins, series 5, “Charlotte Holroyd”
  • Stanley Lebor, series 5 & 6, “Tom Selby”
  • Bobby Knutt, series 6, “Albert Selby”

Find out more at Wikipedia*, IMDb*, and YouTube*.

Sources: Wikipedia* (information, pictures etc), IMDb* (movie release dates), and YouTube* (videos) unless stated otherwise.

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Strange Report (ITV, 1969)

Strange Report (1969) titlecard

Strange Report is a British television drama starring Anthony Quayle as Adam Strange. It was produced by ITC Entertainment and first broadcast on September 21, 1969.

Adam Strange, a retired Home Office criminologist, solves bizarre cases – which had been marked “Open File” by various government departments – with the help of Hamlyn Gynt (Kaz Garas), Evelyn (Anneke Wills) and Professor Marks (Charles Lloyd-Pack). He employed the latest techniques in forensic investigation, which he undertook in his own laboratory in his flat in Warwick Crescent in the Maida Vale/Little Venice area of Paddington.

Unlike other ITC productions, which were created in order to be sold to the U.S. market, Strange Report was created in collaboration with NBC’s films unit Arena in the United States (the show’s executive producer was Norman Felton, better known for his involvement in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), with the suggestion that the first half of the series would take place in the United Kingdom and the second half would see Strange visiting the United States. This fell through, which explains why such a short season of episodes was created. The second series also fell through because Quayle and Wills decided not to continue due to personal concerns.

In the United States, NBC broadcast Strange Report from January 8, 1971.

The series opening theme was composed by Roger Webb.

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Sources: Wikipedia* (information, pictures etc), IMDb* (movie release dates), and YouTube* (videos) unless stated otherwise.

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September 18, 1978: The Sandbaggers first broadcast on ITV

The Sandbaggers (1978-1980)

The Sandbaggers (1978-1980) is a British television drama series about men and women on the front lines of the Cold War. The Sandbaggers examines the effect of the espionage game on the personal and professional lives of British and American intelligence specialists. The series was produced by Yorkshire Television.

The theme music was composed by Roy Budd (Get Carter, The Wild Geese).

Neil D. Burnside, played by Roy Marsden, is Director of Operations in Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (abbreviated ‘SIS’—the organisation is also known as ‘MI6’, although that name is never uttered in the series). Burnside oversees a small, elite group of British intelligence officers nicknamed the “Sandbaggers”. This group is composed of highly trained officers whose work includes dangerous missions that tend to be politically sensitive or especially vital, such as escorting defectors across borders, carrying out assassinations (sandbagging), or rescuing other operatives who are in trouble behind the Iron Curtain.

Also appearing were Sue Holderness (Only Fools and Horses), Diane Keen, and Michael Cashman (EastEnders).

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September 15, 1958: The Adventures of William Tell are told on ITV

The Adventures of William Tell (1958-1959), title card

The Adventures of William Tell is a British swashbuckler adventure series, first broadcast on the ITV network, and produced by ITC Entertainment. William Tell is a folk hero of Switzerland. His legend is recorded in a late 15th-century Swiss illustrated chronicle.

The outdoor scenes were filmed around the mountains and lakes of Snowdonia in the UK. The film base and make-up were at a small farm in Cwm-Y-Glo in Snowdonia. This is beside Llyn Padarn, a lake which can be seen in many shots (as can cars on the A4086 road on the opposite side of the lake!).

The series’ star, Conrad Phillips, had an accident during filming which led to his retirement from acting. He was asked to keep stepping back until he stepped off a 12-foot drop, injuring his knee. Phillips wore support bandages during filming but sometimes forgot, causing him to struggle with some action scenes.

The series featured a long-remembered theme song, with music based on the William Tell Overture by Gioachino Rossini. For the show, the song lyrics were by Harold Purcell and were sung by David Whitfield.

Notable Cast & Crew

  • Conrad Phillips, William Tell
  • Willoughby Goddard, “Landburgher Gessler”
  • Nigel Green as “The Bear”

Guest actors appearing included Wilfred Brambell, Michael Caine, Roger Delgado, Frazer Hines, Sid James, Christopher Lee, Warren Mitchell, Donald Pleasance, Robert Shaw, Patrick Troughton, and Deborah and Jack Watling.

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