Sunday, 25 January 2015

British Shows on American Network Television in the Fifties and Sixties Part Three

Today it is nearly unknown for a British show to air on the American broadcast networks. What it is more, this has been the case for decades. This was not always the case, however, as in the Fifties and Sixties the American broadcast networks regularly aired shows that had originated in the United Kingdom. The appearance of British shows on American broadcast network schedules reached its peak in the 1965-1966 season, when no less than four British shows aired on American networks (Secret Agent AKA Danger Man, The Baron, The Avengers, and Court Martial). While the peak for British shows on the American broadcast networks may have been in the 1965-1966 season, the late Sixties would see the debut of some of the most successful British shows to air on the networks.

Indeed, it was during the 1966/1967 season that The Saint would finally air on an American broadcast network. Except for The Avengers, The Saint was arguably the most successful British show to air on the American networks in the Sixties. Of course, when The Saint finally debuted on an American network it was hardly a new show. It had begun production in 1962 and debuted in the United Kingdom on ITV on October 4 1962. The Saint was not even new to American shores. It had entered syndication in the United States in 1963.

The TV show The Saint was based on the character of Simon Templar, also known as "The Saint". The Saint first appeared in Leslie Charteris's novel Meet the Tiger in 1928. He is essentially a "Robin Hood" type figure who uses his considerable skills as a con man and thief to battle the "ungodly" (as he calls criminals who prey upon the innocent). Simon Templar proved to be one of the most successful creations of the 20th Century. He appeared in numerous novels and short stories by  Leslie Charteris, as well as several movies, and four different radio shows. It was perhaps inevitable that Simon Templar would eventually find his way to television.

It was in 1961 that film producers Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman decided to a TV series based on the character of The Saint. Messrs. Baker and Berman. Fortunately, the two men were acquainted with director John Paddy Carstairs, who had directed the 1939 film The Saint in London and, more importantly, also happened to be a friend of Lesile Charteris. Mr. Carstairs was able to arrange a lunch at which the two producers could meet Leslie Charteris. Fortunately, they were able to convince the creator of The Saint to give them a three month option for a TV series. The proposed series for The Saint was pitched to Associated-Rediffusion (the ITV franchise that provided weekday programming for London), who turned it down due to the proposed series' projected budget of £15,000 per episode. Fortunately they were able to sell the proposed series to Lord Lew Grade of ITC. Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman then bought the television rights to The Saint from Leslie Charteris, with the condition that Mr. Charteris would have input on the show's scripts.


As the star of The Saint Patrick McGoohan, who had just finished with Danger Man, was considered, but it soon became apparent that he would not be right for the part. He objected to the character becoming entangled with women, and also lacked the tongue in cheek sort of humour necessary for the show. Ultimately the role of Simon Templar would go to Roger Moore, who was already familiar on both sides of the Atlantic. He had already starred in the swashbuckler series Ivanhoe (shown in the UK on ITV and syndicated in the United States), the American adventures series The Alaskans, and one season of the popular Western Maverick (on which he played Beau Maverick). Arguably Roger Moore was perfect for the part. Aside from having the necessary sense of humour and no objections to the character becoming involved with women, he was already a fan of The Saint. Indeed, according Sir Roger Moore in his book Bond On Bond: Reflections on 50 years of James Bond Movies, Mr. Moore had earlier tried buying the television rights to The Saint himself.

The Saint debuted on October 4 1962 on ITV in the United Kingdom. It proved extremely successful, so much so that it was second in popularity among male viewers only to wrestling.  Lord Lew Grade offered The Saint to the American broadcast networks, only to have it rejected by all of them. In fact, Mort Werner, then senior vice president for programming at NBC, commented after viewing two episodes of the show, "I have never seen so much crap in my life." Needless to say, NBC would eventually change their minds on The Saint.

With none of the American networks having bought the show, The Saint then entered first run syndication in the United States in 1963. It easily became the most popular syndicated show in the United States at the time. Curiously, among the stations that picked up The Saint in syndication was NBC's flagship station, WNBC in New York City. WNBC aired The Saint at 11:15 PM on Sunday night following their nightly news. The Saint proved phenomenally successful in the time slot. The Saint would also prove a success on NBC's stations in Chicago and Los Angeles. The success of The Saint on NBC owned stations was not an isolated case, as throughout the United States the show proved extremely popular. In the end The Saint would become one of the most successful syndicated shows of all time in the United States.

After 71 episodes of The Saint nearly every one of Leslie Charteris's short stories had been adapted as episodes of the show. At the same time Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman's contract with Leslie Charteris was set to expire. There was a very real possibility that The Saint could end in 1965. A new contract with Leslie Charteris was then signed. Producer Robert S. Baker and star Roger Moore then formed a new company, Bamore, to produce a new series of The Saint in colour. As to Monty Berman, Mr. Baker's partner on the first 71 episodes of The Saint, he went onto produce The Baron.

The move to colour would be one of the reasons that The Saint would finally land a spot on an American broadcast network schedule after several years in syndication. While NBC had rejected The Saint when it was initially offered to them by Lord Lew Grade, the network could hardly ignore its success in syndication. With the show now being shot in colour, NBC then bought The Saint.

The Saint debuted on NBC on May 21 1967.  It went off the network in September 1967, only to return in February 1968 as a mid-season replacement. The Saint would leave NBC again in September 1968. It returned for one last time as a summer replacement in April 1969. In all NBC broadcast 32 of the 47 colour episodes of The Saint. The colour episodes were aired on ITV in the United Kingdom in black and white, as ITV would not made the transition to colour until late 1969.

After six series and 118 episodes of The Saint Roger Moore decided it was time to quit playing Simon Templar. The final episode of The Saint aired on ITV on February 9 1969. The Saint ended its run on NBC on September 12 1969. In the end The Saint came in second only to The Avengers as the longest running British adventure series of the Sixties. And like The Avengers its reruns would persist in syndication in the United States for literally years.

By the 1967-1968 television season the spy craze was coming to an end in the United States. The Man From U.N.C.L.E., the series that had started the cycle towards spy shows, had dropped in the ratings during the 1966-1967 season. During the 1967-1968 season yet other spy shows, including I Spy and Get Smart, would falter in the ratings. While the latest James Bond film, You Only Live Twice, did well at the box office in 1967, several other spy films bombed that year, including Billion Dollar Brain, Casino Royale, Fathom, In Like Flint, and The President's Analyst. It should be little wonder, then, that the next British spy show to debut on an American broadcast network would not last long. In the United States Man in a Suitcase really did not have a chance.

Man in a Suitcase was created by Dennis Spooner (a veteran of Gerry Anderson's Supermarionation shows, Doctor Who, and The Baron) and Richard Harris (who had written episodes of The Avengers, Adam Adamant Lives!, and Armchair Theatre). The show was originally going to be titled McGill after the show's protagonist and only continuing character. Man in a Suitcase centred on McGill (his first name was never given), a former American intelligence agent living in Britain. Forced to resign from American intelligence, McGill made a living as a troubleshooter for hire (at times a private detective, at other times a bounty hunter). Man in a Suitcase had a much grittier feel than many of the British adventure shows of the time, and the places that appeared in Man in a Suitcase were much more disreputable than the upscale ones featured on The Saint or The Baron. In many respects, Man in a Suitcase owed more to Sam Spade than Simon Templar.

Early in the development of the show Jack Lord was considered for the role of McGill. Jack Lord had played  Felix Leiter in Dr. No (1962) and starred in the TV show Stoney Burke. He would soon go onto lasting fame as Detective Steve McGarrett in Hawaii Five-O. Ultimately the role of McGill went to American actor Richard Bradford, who had studied at the Actor's Studio. After working several years on stage he was cast in a small role in Arthur Penn's film The Chase (1966). In turn Mr. Bradford's part in The Chase attracted the attention of Lord Lew Grade, and the actor was cast as McGill in Man in a Suitcase.

Man in a Suitcase was produced by Sidney Cole, a veteran of British film who had also produced the TV shows The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Buccaneers, Sword of Freedom, The Four Just Men, and the hour long version of Danger Man (aired in the United States as Secret Agent). In addition to Sidney Cole, several other people who had worked on the hour long version of Danger Man would work on Man in a Suitcase. Rose Tobias Shaw, who was the casting director on Danger Man, served in the same capacity on Man in a Suitcase. Several writers who wrote scripts for Danger Man wrote scripts for Man in the Suitcase as well, and the crew of Man in a Suitcase included cameramen, sound men, and set dressers who had worked on Danger Man.

Man in a Suitcase debuted in the United Kingdom on ITV on September 27 1967. It debuted in the United States on ABC on May 3 1968. Man in a Suitcase proved popular in the United Kingdom, but that would not be the case in the United States. Although scheduled against rather weak competition on NBC (a low rated science fiction show titled Star Trek), it was scheduled against Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C. (which ranked #3 for the season) and the first half hour of The CBS Friday Night Movies (which ranked #15 for the season) on CBS. Ratings for Man in a Suitcase were then less than sterling and ABC cancelled the series. This meant that there would be no second series for Man in a Suitcase in the United Kingdom either.

Sadly today Man in a Suitcase is largely known only to those who had the opportunity to see it when first aired, television historians, and connoisseurs of classic British television. This would not be the case for the next British show to debut on an American broadcast network in the 1967-1968 season. In fact, it would become one of the most famous British television shows of all time.

The Prisoner was created by Patrick McGoohan, at that point best known for playing John Drake in Danger Man (the hour long version of which aired in the United States under the title Secret Agent). While The Prisoner should probably not be considered a follow up to Danger Man (more on that later), its origins can be traced back to that show. Quite simply, the very first episode of Danger Man, "View from the Villa", was shot at Portmeirion, Gwynedd, Wales. In "View from the Villa" Gwynedd stood in for an Italian village. Portmeirion would also have a significant role in the 36th episode of Danger Man, "Under the Lake", in which it appeared as a German village. Portmeirion appeared briefly in four other episodes of the first series of Danger Man as well. In a 1977 interview with Canadian journalist Warner Troyer, Patrick McGoohan said that The Prisoner, "...initially came to me on one of the locations on Secret Agent when we went to this place called Portmeirion, where a great deal of it was shot, and I thought it was an extraordinary place, architecturally and atmosphere-wise, and should be used for something and that was two years before the concept came to me." Portmeirion would serve as "the Village" on The Prisoner.

The ideas that would form the basis of The Prisoner appear to have come to Patrick McGoohan over time. In the interview in the  October 9-October 15 1965 issue of TV Times Patrick McGoohan said, "You know, I fear by A.D. 2000 we'll all have numbers, no names." The article also says, "Just now his imagination has been caught up with the idea of a film of life in A.D. 200; of the day when workmen 'will be able to operate their lathes by push-button from their beds. How are we going to educate people for an abundance of leisure like that?'" In particular, the replacement of names with numbers would form the basis for much of The Prisoner.

Regardless, it was in April 1966 that it was announced that Patrick McGoohan was working on a new series. In the April 16 1966 issue of The Daily Express there was an article in which it was announced that "Now McGoohan has put up a new TV idea to ATV's managing director Lew Grade." Lord Grade said, "It is another adventure series but a very different sort of character. It promises to be very exciting. Lord Grade said:  Mr. McGoohan is coming to see me tomorrow to discuss the details." Patrick McGoohan went to that meeting with Lord Lew Grade with a format for The Prisoner, as well as photographs of "the Village". According to later accounts from Mr. McGoohan, Lord Grade did not read the format. Instead Mr. McGoohan talked to Lord Grade for ten minutes, after which Lord Grade gave the go ahead for The Prisoner. According to Lord Lew Grade in his autobiography he later met with William S. Paley, founder and chief executive of CBS, regarding The Prisoner.

From the beginning The Prisoner was intended to be what would later called a "mini-series" or a "limited series". That having been said, there is some question as to how many episodes were initially planned to be made. In a July 1966 article by Robert Musel published in the Los Angeles Times, Patrick McGoohan was quoted as saying that there would be a minimum of 13 episodes and a maximum of 30 episodes. An August 1967 article by Dorothy Manners published in The Washington Post reported that CBS had wanted Patrick McGoohan to produce 36 episodes, but he would only agree to 17 episodes. According to Mr. McGoohan in the 1977 interview with Canadian journalist Warner Troyer, he had only wanted to produce seven episodes of The Prisoner, but Lord Lew Grade maintained he could not make a sale to CBS unless he had 26 episodes. Patrick McGoohan thought that 26 episodes would be spreading it thin. Patrick McGoohan was able to develop 17 stories, and in the end the series would last for 17 episodes.


The Prisoner centred on a British intelligence agent who had resigned, and afterwards found himself abducted and sent to a mysterious place called the Village. In the Village individuals are assigned numbers that they use in lieu of their names; the British intelligence agent is designated "Number Six". Escape from the Village is not permitted, and is often prevented by balloon-like creations called "Rovers". Throughout the series try a variety of methods to extract information from Number Six. The series combined elements of spy drama, psychological drama, allegory, and science fiction.

It has assumed by many that John Drake of Danger Man and Number Six of The Prisoner are the same character. That having been said, there is a good deal of evidence to suggest that this is not the case. In the above cited April 1966 Daily Express article Lord Lew Grade said that the new series would have "... a very different sort of character." In the above cited July 1966 Los Angeles Times article, Patrick McGoohan said, "John Drake of 'Secret Agent' is gone, but we're not foolish enough to try to change the image we have established with TV." In a 1985 interview with Barrington Calia published in the Fall–Summer issue of New Video, Patrick McGoohan said that Number Six was not the same character as John Drake, and he had even considered having a different actor play the role of Number Six. From articles both before and during the broadcast of The Prisoner, as well as remarks made later by Patrick McGoohan, it would appear that The Prisoner was not meant to be a follow up to Danger Man and Number Six was not supposed to be John Drake.

The Prisoner debuted in the United Kingdom on ITV on September 29 1967. The series proved very popular in the United Kingdom. That having been said, many viewers were unhappy with the final episode "Fall Out". Rather than a climax one might see in a Bond film or another spy drama, "Fall Out" was instead one of the most surreal episodes of any show on television. The episode's ambiguity caused a great deal of controversy when it first aired in the United Kingdom, with both viewers and critics unhappy with the episode. Reportedly, Patrick McGoohan even had to go into hiding for a few days.

The Prisoner debuted in the United States on CBS on June 1 1968. Although at the time it was widely covered in the press that CBS would air all 17 episodes, the network ultimately aired only 16. The reasons for CBS's alleged objections to "Living in Harmony" have varied from the use of a mind altering drug to what could be perceived  as the episode's anti-war sentiment. According to Moor Larkin on the blog Number Six was Innocent, it seems more likely that the omission of "Living in Harmony" was simply due to the fact that the episode set to air on CBS on June 8 1968 was pre-empted by coverage of Robert Kennedy's funeral. To stay on schedule, then, CBS could only air 16 episodes. "Living in Harmony" was then most likely dropped because it played out as a Western and even lacked the show's usual opening sequence. Moor Larkin points out that at the time there was no mention in the press that CBS had censored one of the 17 episodes of The Prisoner. Regardless, The Prisoner was very well received in the United States. CBS reran the series in the summer of 1969.

The Prisoner would not be the only British show to air on an American broadcast network in the summer of 1968. In fact, The Champions would be the last new spy series to debut on an American network in the Sixties. The Champions was created by Monty Berman (who helped bring The Baron to the small screen) and Dennis Spooner (co-creator of Man in a Suitcase). The series centred on three agents for the international law enforcement agency called Nemesis (Craig Stirling the cryptographer, played by Stuart Damon, Richard Barrett the pilot, played by William Gaunt, and Sharron Macready the doctor, played by Alexandra Bastedo), whose plane crashes in the Himalayas. The trio are rescued by a mysterious civilisation and given such abilities as superstrength, telepathy, and heightened senses. Their head at Nemesis, Tremayne (Anthony Nicholls) remained unaware of his agents' new-found abilities.

Lord Lew Grade obtained funding for the series from NBC in the United States. It is for that reason that Stuart Damon, who had guest starred on Naked City, Man in a Suitcase, and The Saint, was cast as Craig Stirling. Ian McShane tried out for the role of Richard Barrett, but the part ultimately went to William Gaunt, who had starred in the Victorian police drama Sgt. Cork. For the role of Sharron Macready several actresses were considered, including Ilona Rogers (who had guest starred on both Doctor Who and The Avengers) and Annette Andre (who guest starred on The Avengers and The Prisoner and would go onto to be a regular on Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased). Alexandra Bastedo would be cast in the role after director and creative consultant Cyril Frankel found her in a European advertising campaign.

The Champions would debut in the United States before it debuted in the United Kingdom. It debuted on NBC on June 10 1968. It would not debut in the United Kingdom until September 25 1968, and then only in London. It would not air throughout Britain until November 1968. The Champions proved very popular in the United Kingdom, and even around the world. It would ultimately air in 60 different countries. Unfortunately, it performed poorly in the ratings in the United States so that NBC cancelled the series. Since The Champions needed funding from the United States to survive, it ended after thirty episodes.

The next British show to debut on an American broadcast network would be very different from the majority of British shows that aired on American television in the Sixties. The vast majority of British shows that had aired on the American networks throughout the decades had been adventure shows of some sort. Journey to the Unknown  was not only a horror, fantasy, and science fiction show, but it was also an  anthology show. It was also the first television series ever produced by Hammer Films, the British studio best known for their horror movies.

In many respects Journey to the Unknown was a Transatlantic production. While it was produced by Hammer Films, it was distributed by 20th Century Fox and shot at MGM British Studios in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire. Its executive producers already had considerable experience with anthology shows. Both Joan Harrison and Norman Lloyd had worked as producers on Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The line producer on Journey to the Unknown was Anthony Hinds, who had served as the producer on such classic Hammer films as The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Dracula (1958), The Kiss of the Vampire (1963), and others. It would be his last work with Hammer Films.

Like many British shows produced with an eye on the American market, Journey to the Unknown utilised both British and American actors. Among the British actors to guest star on the show were Jane Asher, Edward Fox, Michael Gough, Barbara Jefford, Bernard Lee, Justine Lord, Sue Lloyd, and Roddy McDowall. Among the American actors who appeared on the show were Joseph Cotten, Patty Duke, Brandon De Wilde, Chad Everett, Julie Harris, Carol Lynley, Vera Miles, and Stefanie Powers. Directors on the show included Don Chaffey,  Michael Lindsay-Hogg, and Robert Stevens.

Journey to the Unknown debuted in the United States before it did the United Kingdom. In the United States it debuted on ABC on September 26 1968. In the United Kingdom its air dates varied according to region. The earliest it aired appears to have been on November 16 1968 on London Weekend Television. It would not air on ATV Midlands until June 23, 1969. Unfortunately, Journey to the Unknown would not prove be a success. Iit aired against CBS Thursday Night Movies on CBS and Dragnet 1969 and the first half of The Dean Martin Show on NBC. ABC cancelled Journey to the Unknown at mid-season. 

Strangely enough, Journey to the Unknown would be replaced by another British show, although this sgiw would also be very different from all of the British shows that had aired in the United States in the Sixties. This is Tom Jones was a variety show starring Welsh singer Tom Jones. Tom Jones had already had a string of hits in the Sixties, including "It's Not Unusual", "What's New Pussycat", and "Delilah". This is Tom Jones featured equally big names guests, including Peter Sellers, The Moody Blues, Davy Jones of The Monkees, Terry-Thomas, Shirley Jones, The Dave Clark Five, Barbara Eden, and many others.

This is Tom Jones was produced by Lord Lew Grade's company ITC. Episodes were shot in both Los Angeles and London. This is Tom Jones aired on American television before it did in the United Kingdom. It debuted in the United States on ABC on  January 9 1969. It debuted in the United Kingdom only a few days later, on ATV Midlands on January 12 1969. This is Tom Jones proved somewhat successful. It was nominated for Emmys for Outstanding Achievement in Music Direction of a Variety, Musical or Dramatic Programme and Outstanding Achievement in Makeup in 1970, and won the Emmy for Outstanding Achievement in Choreography. Ultimately it run for three seasons and 65 episodes.

In many respects the 1968-1969 season can be considered the end of an era for British shows. In fact, it was that year that both The Avengers and The Saint, the two most popular British shows to air in the United States in the Sixties, would end their runs. At the same time the number of British shows airing in any given season on the broadcast networks had declined from what it had been in the 1965-1966 season. While the next few seasons would see a few British shows air on the American broadcast networks, there were not nearly as many as there once were. The early Seventies would see the end of British shows regularly airing on the American broadcast networks.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

British Shows on American Network Television in the Fifties and Sixties Part Two

Today it is almost unknown for British television shows to air on the American broadcast networks. What is more, this has been the case for nearly the past 45 years. That having been said, there was a time when the American broadcast networks regularly aired shows produced in the United Kingdom. During the Fifties several British shows aired on the American broadcast networks. The Sixties would be the height of British shows on American television network schedules. Not only would some of them achieve lasting popularity in the United States, but one of them would even receive Emmy nominations.

Starting with The Vise in 1954 several British shows aired on the American broadcast networks in the Fifties, including The Adventures of Robin Hood, Calling Scotland Yard (under the title Adventure Theatre), The Buccanners, and The Adventures of Sir Lancelot. For most of the Fifties the British shows aired on the American broadcast networks tended to be either crime dramas such as The Vise or swashbuckling adventures such as The Adventures in Robin Hood. It was in 1958 that a show debuted that would presage the sort of British shows that would air on the American broadcast networks in the Sixties. The Invisible Man was neither a crime drama nor a swashbuckling adventure, but instead a spy show with elements of science fiction. It would not be long until the American airwaves would be filled with similar British spy shows.

In fact, the first British show to air on an American broadcast network in the Sixties would be a spy show. Danger Man was created by Ralph Smart, who had also created The Invisible ManDanger Man grew largely out of Lord Lew Grade's desire for his company, Associated TeleVision Limited (ATV), to expand into the American market. While ATV had a good deal of success with The Adventures of Robin Hood in the United States, subsequent shows (such as The Adventures of Sir Lancelot and The Buccaneers) did not do as well. The Invisible Man fared no better than The Adventures of Sir Lancelot or The Buccaneers. Lord Lew Grade then commissioned Ralph Smart to develop a show that would be a success in both the United Kingdom and the United States.

With the popularity of Alfred Hitchcock's espionage thrillers and Ian Fleming's "James Bond" novels, there should be little wonder that Ralph Smart conceived a show that would be centred around a secret agent. In fact, Ralph Smart even met with Ian Fleming to discuss the potential series. Ian Fleming would eventually drop out of the project, after which Ralph Smart turned to Ian Stuart Black, who had written episodes of The Invisible Man, to develop the show's format. Ultimately Ralph Smart and Ian Stuart Black developed the concept of an agent who worked for NATO. The agent was also very much in the James Bond mould, a man who was smooth, cool, and a lady killer. It was after Lord Lew Grade gave the go-ahead for the series that Irish American actor Patrick McGoohan was cast in the role of secret agent John Drake.

Before Patrick McGoohan would take the part, however, he wanted changes made to the character of John Drake.  While Drake would remain smooth and cool like most spies of the era, Patrick McGoohan wanted him to be a man of honour who did not particularly care for violence. Mr. McGoohan did not want Drake to so much as kiss a woman, much less sleep with her. Ralph Smart complied with Patrick McGoohan's requests and as a result Danger Man would be very different from any other spy show, either in the United Kingdom or the United States. Quite simply, John Drake relied upon his wits rather than a gun or his fists, and he treated women as human beings rather than mere objects.

Danger Man debuted in the United Kingdom on ITV on  September 11 1960. The show proved to be extremely successful in the United Kingdom, so much that it was one of the shows that sparked the spy craze of the Sixties in the United Kingdom. Danger Man debuted in the United States on CBS on April 5 1961 as a summer replacement for the Western Wanted: Dead or Alive. Despite the popularity of Danger Man around the world, it was decided to end the series after 39 half-hour episodes.

While Danger Man was gone, the show was hardly forgotten. It was only four months after the debut of Danger Man that another popular spy show, The Avengers, would debut in the United Kingdom. Danger Man and The Avengers would fuel a spy craze that would last for nearly the entirety of the Sixties in the United Kingdom and would eventually find its way to the United States. The spy craze ignited by Danger Man and The Avengers would lead to a plethora of spy dramas and similar adventure shows on British television, including Man of the World, The Saint, Adam Adamant Lives!, Callan, and Department S. The spy craze would also pave the way for the return of Danger Man only a few years after it had ended its initial run.

Before the onslaught of British spies on American television, however, one last swashbuckler would arrive on an American broadcast network. Coincidentally, the lead character's surname would also be "Drake". Sir Francis Drake (also known as The Adventures of Sir Francis Drake) was the last hurrah for the British swashbuckling shows that had proliferated in the mid to late Fifties. Sir Frances Drake was produced by Anthony Bushell, an actor who had worked with Lord Laurence Olivier and played Colonel James Breen in the classic mini-series Quatermass and the Pit. Ian Stuart Black, who had written episodes of The Invisible Man and Danger Man, served as the show's story editor.

Sir Francis Drake was notable for its cast. Terence Mogan, who had appeared in such films as Captain Horatio Hornblower (1951), Forbidden Cargo (1954), and The March Hare (1956), played the title role. Legendary British actress Jean Kent played the role of Queen Elizabeth I. Michael Crawford, later famous for the stage musical Phantom of the Opera, played Sir Francis Drake's nephew John Drake. Roger Delgado, who later played The Master on Doctor Who, played Spanish Ambassador, Mendoza, a recurring villain on the show.

Sir Francis Drake was a particularly expensive show to produce, particularly as some effort was made to recreate Elizabethan England. A replica of Sir Francis Drake's ship The Golden Hind was built for  £25,000. Beatrice Dawson, who had worked on such films as The Pickwick Papers (1952) and A Tale of Cities (1958), designed many of the costumes for the series. Historical research for the show was conducted by E. Hayter Preston. Ultimately Sir Francis Drake would be a much more lavish production than many of its fellow swashbuckling shows.

Sir Francis Drake debuted in the United Kingdom on ITV on November 12 1961. NBC aired the show as a summer replacement for the sitcom Car 54, Where Are You?. It debuted in the United States on that network on June 24 1962. Sir Francis Drake ended its run after 26 episodes.

Even as Sir Francis Drake brought the cycle towards swashbucklers to a close, a cycle towards spy dramas and similar adventure series was already going strong in the United Kingdom. The success of Danger Man and The Avengers was followed by such shows as Man of the World, The Saint, and The Sentimental Agent. Some of these shows would eventually find their way to the United States. If the popularity of these shows had not been enough to add more fuel to the craze for spies and sophisticated adventurers in the United Kingdom, then the release of the first James Bond film, Dr. No, on October 5 1962, would be. Indeed, it would be the American premiere of Dr. No on May 8 1963 that would finally bring the spy craze to the United States.

In fact, it would only be five months after Dr. No had hit American theatres that a British show devoted to spies would air on NBC. Espionage was an anthology series centred on spies as they went about their business. The show's episodes covered a wide range of time periods, everything from the 18th Century to World War II to the 1960s. What is more, the characters featured on Espionage varied in their nationalities. The show featured everything from American spies to British spies to spies from behind the Iron Curtain.

Espionage is notable for featuring both British and American actors who were either already famous or soon would be. Among the actors who appeared on Espionage were Steven  Hill, Dennis Hopper, Patricia Neal,  Patrick Troughton (soon to become the Second Doctor on Doctor Who),  Anthony Quayle, and Billie Whitelaw. Episodes of Espionage were also directed by one director of note. Michael Powell, the director of such classic films as Black Narcissus (1947), The Red Shoes (1948), and Peeping Tom (1960), directed three episodes of the show.

Espionage debuted in the United States on October 2 1963. If IMDB is to be believed, it debuted on British television the same day. Despite growing interest in spies on both sides of the Atlantic, Espionage would end its run after 24 episodes.

Espionage was not the only show of British origin to air on NBC in the 1963-1964 season, although the other British show would not air in primetime. Fireball XL-5 aired on NBC's Saturday morning schedule instead. Fireball XL-5 was the creation of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, producers known for television shows shot using a form of puppetry called Supermarionation.  Gerry Anderson's first Supermarionation show was Four Feather Falls, but it would be his second Supermarionation series that would prove to a success. In fact, Supercar would not only prove to be a success in the United Kingdom, but would also prove popular in the United States in syndication. Fireball XL-5 would be Mr. Anderson's only series to air on an American broadcast network.

Fireball XL-5 centred on Colonel Steve Zodiac of the World Space Patrol, who commanded the spaceship of the title. His crew included medical officer Dr. Venus; scientist, engineer, and navigator Dr. Matt Mattic; and the ship's co-pilot Robert the Robot. The spaceship Fireball XL-5 patrolled Sector 25 of space in the year 2065. The show was pure space opera, with the crew of the Fireball XL-5 battling space pirates and facing hostile aliens.

Fireball XL-5 actually debuted in the United States before it did the United Kingdom.  In the United States Fireball XL-5 debuted on October 5 1963. It would not debut on ITV until October 28 1963. On both sides of the Atlantic Fireball XL-5 proved popular. In the United Kingdom particularly there was a good deal of merchandising, everything from colouring books to model kits. While only one series of Fireball XL-5 was made, NBC would repeat the series on Saturday morning during the 1964-1965 season.

Fireball XL-5 would be Gerry Anderson's only Supermarionation series to air on an American broadcast network, although most of his subsequent Supermarionation shows would be syndicated in the United States. Stingray, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, and Joe 90 all aired in syndication in the United States. Thunderbirds, in particular, would prove very popular in the U.S. Gerry Anderson's subsequent live action shows (UFO, The Protectors, and Space 1999) would also be syndicated in the United States.

Even as the anthology show Espionage had been cancelled by NBC the spy craze that had begun in Britain with Danger Man and The Avengers was ready to overtake the United States. Even before the release of Dr. No an American television show was in development that would help start a cycle towards spy shows on the American broadcast networks. That show was The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Debuting on NBC in September 1964, after a slow start the show became an outright phenomenon.  At the same time the latest James Bond film, Goldfinger, proved to be the most successful film in the franchise so far. The United States was then swept up in the spy craze that had already existed to some degree in Britain since the early Sixties. With the spy craze sweeping both the United Kingdom and the United States, the time was then ripe for the return of Danger Man.

Danger Man would see some changes from when it had left the air in 1961. Originally only a half hour, Danger Man was now an hour long. In the first series John Drake had worked for NATO. In the new series he worked for a British agency known as M9. At the same time, however, the hour long Danger Man differed little from the original half hour version. It was still a serious spy show that eschewed the lighter touch of The Avengers or the James Bond movies. John Drake still avoided violence when he could and he still did not become entangled with women. One major development during the hour long Danger Man was the occurrence of episodes in which John Drake is clearly even more jaded about the business of espionage.

The hour long version of Danger Man debuted in the United Kingdom on October 13 1964.  It proved to be phenomenally popular in the United Kingdom, It was easily ITC's most successful show, even surpassing The Saint in popularity. With the show's success Patrick McGoohan became the highest paid actor in British television.

Like the original half hour version of Danger Man, the hour long version of Danger Man would also find its way to the Untied States. That having been said, it would see a few changes in doing so. In order to take advantage of thee ensuing spy craze, Danger Man was retitled Secret Agent in the United States. It was also given a new opening sequence and a new theme song, "Secret Agent Man" by rock performer Johnny Rivers.  

Secret Agent debuted on April 3 1965 on CBS as a summer replacement series. Secret Agent performed well enough that it returned to the CBS schedule in December 1965. Unfortunately, in its second season on CBS Secret Agent found itself scheduled against the high rated spy spoof Get Smart on NBC. While Secret Agent received overwhelmingly positive reviews from American critics and developed a fiercely loyal following, it did not do particularly well in the Nielsen ratings. Ultimately CBS cancelled Secret Agent. According to then President of CBS Michael Dann in an interview he gave in February 1967, "It was the ratings. They were really much too low to justify the expenditures." Without money coming in from CBS, Danger Man effectively ended its run.

Two more episodes of Danger Man would be shot in colour ("Koroshi" and  "Shinda Shima"), but they were never shown on CBS. The two episodes were eventually edited together into the feature film Koroshi. Koroshi was shown in cinemas in Europe and aired on NBC in 1968. As to Patrick McGoohan, he would not be absent from television screens on either side of the Atlantic for long. Even as Danger Man was coming to an end, he was conceiving his next series: The Prisoner.

While the British shows that aired in syndication in the United States in the Sixties is beyond the scope of this article, it must be noted that many did so. The British swashbuckling shows of the mid-Fifties had given way to such adventure shows and crime dramas as The Four Just Men, The Third Man, and Dial 999 (all from 1959). By the Sixties the British shows syndicated in the United States had shifted towards the new wave of espionage and sophisticated adventure shows sparked by Danger Man and The Avengers, with a few exceptions. ATV's adventure series Man of the World, ATV's adventure series The Beachcomber,  ABC Weekend Television's psychiatric drama The Human Jungle (starring Herbert Lom), and ATV's police drama Gideon's Way (under the title Gideon CID) were all syndicated in the United States. When it came to British shows perhaps the biggest hit in American syndication was The Saint starring Roger Moore as Simon Templar. Entering syndication in 1963, it proved to be a phenomenal success in the United States.

With British shows seeing success in syndication and the spy craze well under way in the United States, it should be little wonder that the 1965-1966 season would see the debut of yet more British shows on the American broadcast networks. What is more, one of them would become the most popular British show to air in the United States in the Sixties. That having been said, all of them would either debut as mid-season or summer replacements. The first of the these was The Baron, which debuted on ABC in January 1966.

The Baron was largely an outgrowth of ATV's phenomenally successful show The Saint. By 1965 there were growing concerns that another series of The Saint might not be made. The producers of The Saint, Robert Baker and Monty Berman, then looked for another property that they could adapt into a television series. They then bought the rights to the character of "The Baron", who had first appeared in the 1937 novel Meet the Baron by John Creasey. In making his way to television screens, however, The Baron would be greatly altered. In John Creasey's books John Mannering (known as "The Baron") was a reformed British jewel thief who then put his skills to use fighting crime. In the television series John Mannering would become a Texas rancher who operated both as an antiques dealer in London and an undercover agent for British Intelligence. He was played by American actor Steve Forrest.

The American market would also have another impact on the television show The Baron. With the American broadcast networks increasingly wanting only series shot in colour, Lord Lew Grade of the Independent Television Company (ITC) decided that The Baron would be shot in colour. This made The Baron the first British hour long, live action show to be filmed in colour. Previously only the last fourteen episodes of the half hour adventure series The Adventures of Lancelot and Gerry Anderson's Supermarionation shows Stingray and Thunderbirds had been shot in colour. It was largely because the series was shot in colour that it was picked up by the ABC network in the United States.

The Baron actually debuted in the United States before it did the United Kingdom. The Baron debuted in the United States on ABC on January 20 1966. It would not debut on ITV in the United Kingdom until April 29 1966. Of course, much of the reason for the debut of The Baron at midseason in the United States was the fact that the fall 1965-1966 season had proven to be a disastrous one for ABC. It was then in January that ABC cancelled many of its shows, debuted many new shows, and moved others to new time slots. In fact, the network replaced more shows at mid-season than any network had done before. ABC advertised this reshuffling as the "Second Season".

Unfortunately, The Baron would not prove to be a success in the United States. Scheduled against the hit Dean Martin Show on NBC and The CBS Thursday Night Movie on CBS, it ratings were less than spectacular. ABC then cancelled The Baron. Although The Baron proved somewhat popular in the United Kingdom, its cancellation by ABC would insure that there would not be a second series.

The second British show to debut on an American broadcast network in the 1965-1966 season would ultimately prove to be the most popular British show in the United States of the Sixties. By the time The Avengers reached the United States it was hardly a new show; in fact it was already five years old. Despite this it would prove to be a success in the United States and grow even more in popularity in the United Kingdom.

The Avengers actually grew out of an earlier show produced by ABC Weekend Television, Police Surgeon, which starred Ian Hendry as the title character. While Police Surgeon prove to be a failure, audiences liked its star. Sydney Newman, then Head of Drama at Associated British Corporation (the "ABC" in "ABC Weekend Television") then developed a new vehicle for Ian Hendry. In the new series Mr. Hendry would play a similar character, a surgeon named Dr. David Keel. It was when Dr. Keel was investigating the murder of his fiancée that he encountered a mysterious figure named Steed (played by Patrick Macnee), who may or not have connections to British Intelligence. Together the two of them became partners and continued to fight criminals, foreign agents, and other threats to Britain.

The first series of The Avengers differed from the show as it would come to be known later. At the beginning of the series, John Steed dressed in a trench coat, just as David Keel did. It was later during the first series that Steed started to dress in his familiar bowler, suit, and umbrella. While Keel and Steed were partners, Ian Hendry also received top billing. Despite this, as the show progressed, however, John Steed began to play a larger and larger role until he was actually featured in episodes without Dr. Keel. Most of the first series of The Avengers was also much more grounded in reality, although Keel and Steed did face such outré threats as a fascist organisation seeking to revive a Nazi war criminal in cryogenic suspension (the episode "Dead of Winter") and germ warfare in the episode "The Deadly Air".

The Avengers proved extremely popular, so that there was no question of a second series; however, a strike by the actor's union Equity would put any plans for a second series on hold. It was during the strike that Ian Hendry decided he wanted to leave The Avengers to pursue a career in film. John Steed then became the main character on The Avengers and he was given two new partners who would rotate episodes. One was nightclub singer Venus Smith (played by Julie Stevens), who would not remain with the show for long. The other was anthropologist and judo expert Mrs. Catherine Gale (played by Honor Blackman). Cathy Gale was like no female character to have ever appeared on British television. Quite simply, she was the first female action hero in the history of either British or American television. Cathy Gale proved to be the more popular of Steed's two new partners, and when time came to make the third series of The Avengers, she would be his only partner.

It was with the show's second series that The Avengers evolved into the show that we know today. While the episodes featuring Venus Smith were generally standard espionage and crime thrillers, episodes featuring Cathy Gale could often be downright bizarre. "Warlock" involved a new formula for fuel and a group practising black magic. "The Golden Eggs" featured egg shaped containers which held a deadly virus. The third series would see episodes featuring even stranger plots. "November Five" involved a group intent on re-enacting the Gunpowder Plot, only this time with a nuclear device. "The Grandeur of Rome" involved a group intent on reviving the Roman Empire.

It was with the second and third series of The Avengers that the show went from being merely a popular television programme to an outright phenomenon in the United Kingdom.  The British press was often filled with news on The Avengers. Patrick Macnee and Honor Blackman were the celebrities of the day. Both the second and third series of The Avengers would be aired in Canada and Australia, where the show was also extremely popular. Ultimately The Avengers phenomenon was so huge in the United Kingdom that it even attracted attention in the United States. On December 15 1963 The New York Times published a story on the show. An American television network even expressed interest in bringing The Avengers to the United States

Unfortunately it was not long after the end of the third series that Honor Blackman announced that she would be leaving The Avengers for a career in film. With a deal with an American broadcast network a possibility, it was decided to revamp the show as a filmed series (previously it had been shot on videotape) and to find a new partner for John Steed. John Steed's new partner would be Mrs. Emma Peel, a young widow skilled in chemistry, the martial arts, and fencing. Initially British actress Elizabeth Shepherd was cast as Mrs. Peel, but after watching the rushes for the episode "Town of No Return" it was decided that she was not suited for the part. She was replaced by Diana Rigg.

As noted earlier, notice had already been taken of The Avengers in the United States. NBC had expressed an interest in the show, but ultimately decided that such an outré series, especially one so British, could not succeed in the United States. Eventually a deal was struck with ABC whereby the network would buy the first, black and white series of The Avengers featuring Emma Peel, with an option for a second series of The Avengers featuring Emma Peel to be shot in colour.  With Diana Rigg as Emma Peel, The Avengers would grow even more outré. Steed and Mrs. Peel fought everything from a modern day version of the Hellfire Club (in "A Touch of Brinstone") to a sentient, man eating plant (in "Man-Eater of Surrey Green") to killer housecats (in "The Hidden Tiger").

The Avengers debuted in the United States on March 28 1966 as a summer replacement series on ABC. As American audiences were unfamiliar with the idea behind The Avengers, a prologue was added to the opening of the show with John Steed, Emma Peel, and a murder victim on a chessboard. The prologue explained precisely who John Steed ("top professional") and Emma Peel ("talented amateur") were and what they did. Due to differences in what was considered acceptable on television between the United States and United Kingdom, The Avengers occasionally ran afoul of ABC's censors. In fact, ABC found the episode "A Touch of Brimstone" so objectionable that they refused to air it (it would later air in American syndication). Of course, here it must be noted that "A Touch of Brimstone" also ran into trouble with ABC Weekend Television in Britain as well.

While it was not exactly a smash hit in the ratings,  The Avengers received largely positive reviews from critics and developed a loyal cult following. The show received a good deal of coverage in the American press, with articles on the series in Newsweek, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and other publications. The Avengers would also grace the cover of TV Guide, and the magazine would devote articles to the series during its run. The Avengers was also nominated for Emmy Awards during both the 1965-1966 and 1966-1967 seasons: the Emmy for Outstanding Dramatic Series and Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Dramatic Series for Diana Rigg as Emma Peel.  After its initial run in the United States, The Avengers left ABC for a short time to return to the network in January 1967. This time it would be in colour. While the show was still not a smash hit in the ratings in the United States, it maintained a cult following and received a good deal of critical acclaim.

Unfortunately, Diana Rigg decided to leave The Avengers during her second series (and the show's first in colour). This meant that once more a new partner for Steed would have to be found. Ultimately she was replaced by Linda Thorson as Tara King. Unlike Cathy Gale and Emma Peel, Tara King was not a "talented amateur", but instead a full fledged secret agent, although one with little experience. While Tara King was never as popular as either Cathy Gale or Emma Peel, The Avengers remained popular in both the United Kingdom and Europe. This would not be the case in the United States.

For the first time in its history of being broadcast in the United States The Avengers would have a place on ABC's fall schedule. Unfortunately it was scheduled in possibly the worst time slot of the 1968-1969 season. The Avengers aired opposite two top rated shows: Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In on NBC (the no. 1 show for the season) and Gunsmoke on CBS (the no. 6 show for the season). As a result ratings for The Avengers plummeted and ABC cancelled it in February 1969. Without the funding from ABC in the United States, Thames Television (the new company that emerged from the merger of ABC Weekend Television and  Rediffusion) simply could not afford to continue with The Avengers. The show then ended its original  run in 1969. It was the longest running spy show on either side of the Atlantic.

The third British show to debut in the 1965-1966 season was Court Martial. Court Martial was in many respects a Transatlantic production. It was produced by ITC in the United Kingdom  in conjunction with the American company Roncom Films, a company that had produced the American shows Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall, Kraft Suspense Theatre, and Run for Your Life. Two of its stars (Bradford Dillman and Peter Graves) were American. It even had its origins in a two part episode that aired on an American anthology show. "The Case Against Paul Ryker" had aired on Kraft Suspense Theatre on October 10 1963 and October 17 1963 on NBC. Despite this, in addition to being produced by ITC, Court Martial  was shot at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire and utilised a largely British crew. Its guest stars also included both American and British actors.

Court Martial was set during World War II and followed in the investigations of Captain David Young (played by Bradford Dillman) and Major Frank Whittaker (played by Peter Graves) of the  Judge Advocate General. As essentially a legal drama in a wartime setting, Court Martial was then set apart from the British spy shows and adventure shows that were airing in the United States at the time.

Court Martial debuted in the United Kingdom on ITV on September 12 1965. It debuted in the United States on ABC on April 8 1966 as a summer replacement for The Jimmy Dean Show. Court Martial received positive reviews from critics on both sides of the Pond. In the United Kingdom it even won the BAFTA TV award for Best Dramatic Series. In the United States writer Gerry Day was nominated for a Writers Guild of America award for Episodic Drama for the episode "Judge Them Gently". Unfortunately the acclaim for Court Martial would not be enough to save it in the United States. It was scheduled against the television phenomenon The Man From U.N.C.L.E. on NBC, which ranked #13 for the season in the Nielsen ratings. ABC then cancelled Court Martial and it ended production.

The 1965-1966 season marked the peak for British shows airing on the American broadcast networks in the Sixties. Secret Agent (or Danger Man, if you prefer), The Baron, The Avengers, and Court Martial  all aired during the season. While only The Avengers would survive the season, this hardly meant the end of British shows on American television. In fact, the late Sixties would see some of the most popular British shows to air in the United States make their American debuts on the broadcast networks.

Friday, 23 January 2015

British Shows on American Network Television in the Fifties and Sixties Part One

Since the Seventies there have been only a few venues where one could see British television shows in the United States. Over the years the vast majority of British shows aired in the United States have been on PBS or on individual PBS stations, either as segments of Masterpiece Theatre (Upstairs, Downstairs; Downton Abbey) or on their own (Are You Being Served?; Call the Midwife). The advent of BBC America in 1998 created another avenue for British shows on American television. Over the years BBC America has aired everything from Doctor Who to Ripper Street. Since 1972 a few British shows have even been syndicated to local stations in the United States, including The Protectors, Space: 1999, and Blake's 7. Since the 1970s the one place in American television where one generally has not seen British television shows has been the broadcast networks. In fact, the number of British shows that have aired on the American broadcast networks since 1972 can probably be counted on one hand.

This was not always in the case. In the Fifties and Sixties it was not unusual for the American broadcast networks to air shows that had originated in the United Kingdom. In fact, some of the most popular shows to air on the American networks in the Sixties were actually British in origin. While it has been almost unknown for the American broadcast networks to air British shows in the decades since the Seventies, in the Fifties and Sixties it was hardly a rare concurrence.

It is difficult to say what the first British show to air on American television was. That having been said, it could well have been Colonel March of Scotland Yard. While Colonel March of Scotland Yard was produced in the United Kingdom, however, its primer mover was American. Hannah Weinstein was an American journalist who had been active in left-wing politics. It was in 1950 that Mrs. Weinstein moved to Europe to escape the anti-Communist hysteria that was taking place in the United States at the time. It was in France that she produced her first film, Fait divers à Paris, that same year. Afterwards Mrs. Weinstein acquired the rights to the book  The Department of Queer Complaints by John Dickson Carr, which centred on Colonel March, an official who worked for Scotland Yard's Department of Queer Complaints. It was then in 1952 that she met with writer (and fellow American) Abraham Polonsky and English screen legend Boris Karloff and the three of them planned a TV show based on the book. That TV show would be Colonel March of Scotland Yard.

While Colonel March of Scotland Yard was produced in the United Kingdom by Fountain Films, it first aired on American television. In either 1953 or 1954 Colonel March of Scotland Yard, starring Boris Karloff in the title role, was syndicated to local stations in the Untied States by Official Films. Colonel March of Scotland Yard would air in the United Kingdom, where it became one of the earliest shows to air on the brand new commercial network ITV. It made its debut there on February 1 1956. Not only is Colonel March of Scotland Yard notable for being one of the earliest (if not the earliest) TV show produced in Britain to air in the United States, but also for the fact that it used writers who had been blacklisted in the Untied States due to alleged Communist sympathies. Both Abraham Polonsky and Walter Bernstein wrote episodes of the series under pseudonyms.The practice of using writers blacklisted in Hollywood would be one that Hannah Weinstein would continue on her next television series.

Of course, Colonel March of Scotland Yard never aired on an American broadcast network. What might have been the first show produced in Britain to air on an American broadcast network was The Vise. Like Colonel March of Scotland Yard it was also the product of expatriate Americans. Brothers Edward and Harry Danziger (known collectively as the Danzigers) were born in New York City. Elder brother Edward J. Danziger was an attorney who served as one of the prosecuting counsels on the Nuremberg Trials. Younger brother Harry Danziger was a violinist, trumpeter, and orchestral conductor. Together they ran a sound studio in New York City that specialised in dubbing foreign language films into English. It was in 1949 that the Danzigers entered into film production with the film noir Jigsaw. The two of them produced two more films in the United States, So Young So Bad (1950) and St. Benny the Dip (1951), before moving to the United Kingdom in early 1952.  In the United Kingdom the Danzigers would become well known for both their television shows and their many second features.

The Danzigers' first television series was the anthology Calling Scotland Yard. While it was produced in 1953, Calling Scotland Yard would not air in the United States until much later. The honour of the first of the Danzigers' television shows to air in the United States would then go to their anthology show The Vise. Indeed, not only was The Vise the first of the Danzigers' television shows to air in the United States, but it might well have been the first show made in Britain to air on an American broadcast network.

The history of The Vise is a somewhat complicated one. It began as a crime anthology series hosted by Australian actor Ron Randell.  It was in this form that it made its debut in the United States on the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) on October 1 1954. Curiously, while The Vise aired on a network in the United States, it was never broadcast on a network in the United Kingdom. The Vise would be ran in various ITV regions starting in late 1955, while some of its episodes would find their way into syndicated packages in Britain such as The Crooked Path and Tension. The Vise featured some notable guest stars, including Honor Blackman (soon to be famous as Cathy Gale on The Avengers), Gordon Jackson (later of Upstairs, Downstairs and The Professionals), Michael Caine, and Patrick McGoohan (of Danger Man and The Prisoner fame). Among the directors on the show was Richard Lester and among the writers on the show was Brian Clemens (later producer of The Avengers).

It was late in 1955 that The Vise shifted from an anthology format to that of an episodic format with a continuing character. The show now starred Donald Gray as one armed detective Mark Saber. Mark Saber worked primarily in London, although he also worked cases in such locales as Paris and the Riviera. It was with the episode "A Lady Is Missing" (which aired on ABC on December 23 1955) that The Vise became Mark Saber's show. Here it must be noted that this was not the first television show to feature detective Mark Saber. Tom Conway had previously played the character from 1951 to 1954 on the series Mark Saber. In this series Mark Saber was a British Detective Inspector working in a large American city.

The Vise, starring Donald Gray as Mark Saber, ran on ABC until the end of the 1956/1957 season. It then moved to NBC where it debuted with a new title, Saber of London, on September 13 1957. Saber of London  ran on NBC until 1960, ending its run after six seasons.

While The Vise is now largely forgotten on both sides of the Pond, the next British show to air on an American broadcast network is remembered to this day. What is more, it would become the first British show to become a hit in the United States. That show was The Adventures of Robin Hood starring Richard Greene in the title role. Of course, while The Adventures of Robin Hood was produced in the United Kingdom, its executive producer was an American. In fact, she was none other than Hannah Weinstein, who had produced Colonel March of Scotland Yard only a few years earlier.

It was following the production of Colonel March of Scotland Yard that Hannah Weinstein set up the production company Sapphire Films with the goal of producing television shows for Britain's first commercial network, ITV. Mrs. Weinstein had noted that British history had become very popular in both literature and film in the United States. It occurred to her that Sapphire Films could produce shows based in British history and considered a show about either King Arthur or Robin Hood. She settled upon a show about Robin Hood.

Financing for The Adventures of Robin Hood came from a variety of sources. In the United Kingdom Hannah Weinstein received funding for the series from British television Associated Television (ATV) and its subsidiary ITC. She received additional funding from American television distribution company Official Films, who would have distribution rights to the series in the United States. The Adventures of Robin Hood was sold to CBS in the United States for their 1955-1956 season. Like Colonel March of Scotland Yard before it, Hannah Weinstein employed writers blacklisted in Hollywood, including Ring Lardner Jr. Ian McLellan Hunter, and Waldo Salt. A variety of pseudonyms were used so that no one would suspect who was actually writing the show.

Curiously for a show that was produced in the United Kingdom by an American with some of its financing coming from an American distribution company (Official Films), The Adventures of Robin Hood was first aired in neither the United Kingdom nor United States. The Adventures of Robin Hood made its world debut in Canada at 6:00 PM Central Time on September 22 1955 on Toronto's CBC station, CBLT. The Adventures of Robin Hood debuted three days later in the United Kingdom on September 25 1955. Given ITV was only three days old at the time (it launched on September 22 1955), The Adventures of Robin Hood was then one of the first shows to ever air on the network. The next day, September 23 1955, The Adventures of Robin Hood debuted on CBS.

The Adventures of Robin Hood proved very successful in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, and yet other countries around the world. The show generated a large number of merchandise on both sides of the Atlantic, everything from playsets to jigsaw puzzles to books. The theme song was recorded as a single by Dick James and went to #14 on the UK singles chart. A version by Gary Miller went to #10 on the UK singles chart. Yet other versions were recorded by  Frankie Laine, Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra, and yet other artists.

The success of The Adventures of Robin Hood would see several more swashbuckling television shows produced in the United Kingdom, many of which found their way to the United States. Sapphire Films would follow the success of The Adventures of Robin Hood with the swashbucklers The Adventures of Sir Lancelot, The Buccaneers, and Sword of Freedom. Like The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Adventures of Sir Lancelot and The Buccaneers would air on American broadcast networks (more on that later). While Sapphire Films' Sword of Freedom would not be aired on a broadcast network, it was syndicated in the United States, as were swashbuckler shows from other production companies, such as The Adventures of the Scarlet Pimpernel and The Adventures of William Tell.

The Adventures of Robin Hood would not be the only TV show produced in Britain to air on an American network in the 1955-1956 season. As mentioned earlier, the Danzigers' very first television show was the crime anthology series Calling Scotland Yard. The series never aired on British television, although two feature films compiled of three episodes each from the show, Gilbert Harding Speaking of Murder (1953) and A Tale of Three Women (1954), were released to British cinemas. Episodes of Calling Scotland Yard were also released to both British and American cinemas by Paramount as short subjects or "featurettes" in 1954 and 1955.  Calling Scotland Yard finally found its way to television screens as a summer replacement show on NBC in 1956 under the title Adventure Theatre. As Adventure Theatre the series was hosted by American actor Paul Douglas. Adventure Theatre debuted on NBC on June 16 1956 and ran throughout that summer. NBC reran Adventure Theatre during the summer of 1957.

As mentioned earlier, the success of The Adventures of Robin Hood would see yet more swashbuckling TV shows produced in Britain. Two such shows would find their way to American networks in the 1956-1957 season. It should perhaps come as no surprise that both of these shows would be produced by Hannah Weinstein and Sapphire films. The first to debut (at least in the United Kingdom) was The Adventures of Sir Lancelot, starring William Russell as Sir Lancelot and Ronald Leigh-Hunt as King Arthur (Bruce Seton played the role in the first two episodes).

Like The Adventures of Robin Hood before it, The Adventures of Sir Lancelot utilised writers who had been victims of the Hollywood blacklist. Both Ian McLellan Hunter and Ring Lardner Jr. wrote for the show using pseudonyms. While The Adventures of Sir Lancelot would not be as successful as The Adventures of Robin Hood, it would occupy a singular place in British television history. The last fourteen of its thirty episodes were shot in colour, making it the first British TV show ever filmed in colour. Despite this, the episodes would only be aired in colour in the United States, as neither ITV nor the BBC would broadcast in colour until the mid-Sixties.

The Adventures of Sir Lancelot debuted in the United Kingdom on ITV on September 15 1956. It debuted in the United States on NBC on September 24 1956. Unfortunately The Adventures of Sir Lancelot would not prove to be a hit in the United States. It was scheduled on Monday night at 8:00 Eastern time, opposite the high rated George Burns and Gracie Allen Show on CBS and Make Room for Daddy on ABC. NBC then cancelled it after one season. ABC reran The Adventures of Sir Lancelot on Tuesday afternoons during the 1957-1958 season.

On British television the debut of The Adventures of Sir Lancelot was followed only a few day later by another swashbuckling TV show produced by Sapphire Films. The Buccaneers debuted on ITV on September 19 1956, only four days after The Adventures of Sir Lancelot. Despite this, it would actually debut on American television before The Adventures of Sir Lancelot. The Buccaneers debuted in the United States on CBS on September 22 1956, about two days before the Stateside debut of The Adventures of Sir Lancelot.

Today The Buccaneers is perhaps most notable for giving Robert Shaw his first starring role. On The Buccaneers Mr. Shaw played Captain Dan Tempest, a former pirate who protected British interests in the Bahamas circa 1722. Of course, Robert Shaw would go onto a highly successful career in film, appearing in such movies as From Russia with Love (1963), A Man for All Seasons (1966), The Sting (1973), and Jaws (1975). Like The Adventures of Robin Hood and The Adventures of Sir Lancelot, The Buccaneers was also notable in using writers who were victims of the Hollywood blacklist. Ring Lardner Jr., Ian McLellan Hunter, and Waldo Salt all wrote for the show.

While The Buccaneers would develop a cult following that it maintains to this day, it did not prove particularly successful in its first run on American television. It had the misfortune of being scheduled against the high rated Art Linkletter game show People Are Funny and the first movie anthology series on American network television, Famous Film Festival, on ABC. Ironically Famous Film Festival exclusively showed British films, ABC having struck a deal with  J. Arthur Rank Film Distributors. It was on Famous Film Festival that such classic British films as The Man in Grey (1943), The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), The Red Shows (1948), and Hungry Hill (1947) all made their American network television debuts. Regardless, CBS cancelled The Buccaneers after a single season and 39 episodes.

While both The Adventures of Sir Lancelot and The Buccaneers would no longer be on American network primetime schedules in the 1957-1958 season, that is not to say The Adventures of Robin Hood (then in its third season) would be the only British show on American networks in primetime during the season. Two more shows of  British origin debuted on an American broadcast network in the 1957-1958 season, although strictly speaking it did not originate as a TV series. Beginning in 1953 Anglo-Amalgamated produced a series of short subjects, each of which were introduced by crime writer Edgar Lustgarte and centred on a real life criminal case (with names changed to protect the innocent, of course). The Scotland Yard shorts were shown in British cinemas during the Fifties as support for feature films.

Here in the United States the Scotland Yard shorts were shown on ABC as the TV show Scotland Yard. The series debuted on that network on November 17 1956. Unfortunately it would be scheduled against some very strong competition on the other two networks:  The $64,000 Challenge on CBS and The Loretta Young Show on NBC.  ABC then cancelled Scotland Yard at the end of the season. Anglo-Amalgamated would continue to produce the Scotland Yard shorts until 1961, and these shorts would later appear on British television.

The other British show to debut on American television in the 1957-1958 season would also be on ABC. O.S.S. centred on Captain Frank Hawthorne, an agent of the Office of Strategic Services assigned behind enemy lines in occupied France during World War II. O.S.S. debuted in the United Kingdom on ITV September 14 1957. It debuted in the United States on ABC on September 24 1957. Unfortunately in the United States it was scheduled against the high rated Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford on NBC and Playhouse 90 on CBS. It ended after only one series and 26 episodes.

During the Fifties British television shows that aired in the Untied States generally fell into one of two categories. One category was that of crime shows typified by Colonel March of Scotland Yard and The Vise. The other category was that of the swashbuckling shows, typified by such network entries as The Adventures of Robin Hood and The Buccaneers and such syndicated shows as The Adventures of the Scarlet Pimpernel  and The Adventures of the William Tell. It was in 1958 that a British show debuted on American television that belonged to neither of these categories. What is more, it foreshadowed the sort of British shows that would air in the United States in the Sixties.

Quite simply, The Invisible Man was a spy show with elements of science fiction. It was very loosely based on H. G. Wells's novel of the same name and created by Ralph Smart, who would go onto create Danger Man (which would also find its way to the United States). The show centred on Dr. Peter Brady, a scientist trying to develop invisibility. Unfortunately he does succeed after a fashion--the only problem is that he is permanently, irrevocably invisible. Afterwards Dr. Brady used his invisibility to help both British Intelligence and ordinary people in trouble.

To generate publicity for The Invisible Man on both sides of the Atlantic, the identities of the actors playing Dr. Peter Brady were kept secret. It is now known that in the unaired pilot Canadian actor Robert Beatty provided the voice of Dr. Brady. Afterwards Canadian actor Lee Patterson and then Canadian actor Paul Carpenter voiced Dr. Brady for the first few episodes. Starting with the episode "Picnic with Death" British actor Tim Turner provided the  voice of "the Invisible Man" for the remainder of the show. It is also known that Johnny Scripps played Dr. Brady when he did not have bandages covering his head, but was wearing clothes (Mr. Scripps was a little person and could see through the button holes in Dr. Brady's shirts). To this day, however, the actors who portrayed Dr. Brady's body when he was either wearing his bandages or was totally invisible remain a mystery.

Beyond its status as the first British spy show to air on an American broadcast network, The Invisible Man is also significant due to the talent who worked on the show. Both Brian Clemens, who would go on to  produce The Avengers and write many of its episodes, and Philip Levene, who contributed frequently to The Avengers, wrote episodes of The Invisible Man. Playwright and screenwriter Michael Pertwee, who would go onto write episodes of Danger Man, Man of the World, and The Saint, would also write episodes of the show. Two veterans of Gainsborough Pictures also wrote episodes of The Invisible Man. Leslie Arliss directed such classic films as The Man in Grey and The Wicked Lady, while Doreen Montgomery wrote the screenplay for The Man in Grey. The Invisible Man also featured guest appearances by Ian Hendry (soon to be Dr. David Keel on The Avengers), Honor Blackman (soon to be Mrs. Cathy Gale on The Avengers), Desmond Llwellyn (soon to be Q in the James Bond movies), Charles Gray (who would play Blofeld in Diamonds Are Forever), Patrick Troughton (who would play The Second Doctor on Doctor Who), and other notable actors.

The Invisible Man debuted in the United Kingdom on ITV on September 14 1958. Nearly two months later it debuted in the United States on CBS on November 4 1958. Two series of thirteen episodes each were made, and all 26 episodes were aired during the 1958-1959 season on CBS. Unfortunately in the United States The Invisible Man was scheduled against popular Westerns Cheyenne, Bronco, and Sugarfoot on ABC (they rotated from week to week) and The George Gobel Show and The Eddie Fisher Show on NBC (they also rotated from week to week). In the end, then, The Invisible Man did not receive particularly high ratings in the United States. CBS cancelled it at the end of the 1958-1959 season.

While The Invisible Man had ended its run, it had a set a precedent for British shows on both sides of the Atlantic. British television producers began to move away from the crime shows and swashbuckler shows that had aired in the Fifties in favour of spies and high adventure. With a spy craze overtaking both sides of the Atlantic, the Sixties would see more British television shows air on the American networks than ever had before or since.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Why Twitter's "While You Were Away" Feature Might Be a Big Mistake

For the past several years I have used HootSuite to access Twitter. My reason is that it seems that with each passing year Twitter makes more and more changes that reduce its website's usefulness. I started using HootSuite when they combined the retweets and mentions feeds. Since then Twitter has made yet more changes that make using their website unattractive to me. Twitter changed the way it displays conversations so that they are harder to follow. To make matters worse, only a little later they introduced inline images that cannot be disabled on the website (at least not without a Greasmonkely script or Stylish userstyle). Last year they changed user profiles in such a way that they are ugly and often hard to read unless (you guessed it) modified by a Greasemonkey script or Stylish userstyle. Now it seems Twitter is determined to reduce the usefulness of its website even further.

Quite simply, Twitter has introduced a "while you're away" feature called Recap that will display the "top" three tweets since one last logged into Twitter. Currently Recap is only available on iOS devices, but Twitter plans to roll it out to Android devices and the website eventually. Twitter’s vice president of product, Kevin Weil, claims that the first thing one will see upon opening Twitter will be this quick recap and then Twitter will revert back to its normal content. He also claims this is not a move towards a feed determined entirely by algorithm, such as the one for which Facebook is notorious.

Speaking for myself, Recap sounds like a horrible idea. While I do not visit Twitter often, when I do so I want to see the most recent tweets, not three tweets that Twitter has somehow determined to be "top tweets". To me Recap, much like inline images, is yet another feature that detracts from what I want out of Twitter: a clear, concise, uncluttered feed in strict reverse chronological order.

Of course, I do not think I would be bothered as much by Recap if I knew that Twitter would give us a way to disable it. Unfortunately I am not sure that is likely. Despite the fact that one can disable inline images on the Twitter Android app (and I suspect the iOS app as well), there is as of yet still no option to do so on  the website. I suspect the same case will be true of Recap. I then suspect that individuals will have to rely on a Greasemonkey script or Stylish userstyle to do away with Recap if they do not like it. That is hardly the best way for Twitter to go about doing things.

In the end, like many of the changes Twitter has made the past few years I think Recap could be a big mistake. I have no idea how many Twitter users access Twitter through clients other than Twitter itself, but I know enough people who do so that it is probably a significant number of them. Much like previous changes Twitter has made, I then suspect Recap will drive more people away from the Twitter website itself (or Twitter's mobile apps, for that matter) and to clients such as HootSuite and Tweetdeck. Yet others (although I'm guessing not many) may stop using Twitter all together. It is then to Twitter's advantage to give people a way to disable Recap, not to mention more ways to customise their Twitter experience (such as disabling inline images) over all.  And personally I think it is also to Twitter's advantage to stop making changes, unless it is to restore the site to the way it was in 2009!

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Cinematographer Takao Saitô R.I.P.

Takao Saitô, the cameraman and cinematographer who worked with director Akira Kurosawa on such films as Seven Samurai, Ran, Yojimbo, Throne of Blood, and many others, died on 6 December 2014 at the age of 85. The cause was chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.

Takao Saitô was born in Kyoto, Japan on 5 March 1929. He went to work for Toho Co., Ltd. in 1946. His very first work in film was as an assistant cameraman on Akira Kurosawa's One Wonderful Sunday (1946). In the Fifties he worked as an assistant cameraman on the films Ikiru (1952), Seven Samurai (1954),  I Live in Fear: Record of a Living Being (1955), Throne of Blood (1957), The Lower Depths (1957), The Hidden Fortress (1958), and The Bad Sleep Well (1960).

It was with Sanjuro in 1962 that Takao Saitô first worked as a cinematographer. In the Sixties he served as a cinematographer on such films as Nippon musekinin jidai (1962), Attack Squadron! (1963), High and Low (1963) , The Lost World of Sinbad (1963), Red Beard (1965), Nippon ichi no goma suri otoko (1965), The Killing Bottle (1967), Sasaki Kojiro (1967), Red Lion (1969), and Dodes'ka-den (1970). He worked as an assistant cameraman on Yojimbo (1961) and an aerial photographer on Kurenai no sora (1962) and My Daughter and I (1962).

In the Seventies Mr. Saitô served as cinematographer on Futari dake no asa (1971), Mitsuyaku: Gaimushô kimitsu rôei jiken (1978), Shag (1978), and Kagemusha (1980). In the Eighties he served as cinematographer on Lake of Illusions (1982), Ran (1985), Oracion (1988), and Dreams (1990). In the Nineties he served as cinematographer on Rhapsody in August (1991), Madadayo (1993), and Rainbow Bridge (1993). He served as a photography consultant on After the Rain (1999).

There can be no doubt that Takao Saitô was a master with a motion picture camera. Even when he was working as an assistant cameraman (the secondary "B" camera) many of his shots would wind up in Akira Kurosawa's final cuts. Indeed, according to legend, despite the fact that Kazuo Miyagawa was the chief cinematographer on the film, the majority of Yojimbo is composed of shots taken by Mr. Saitô. With fellow cinematographers Shôji Ueda and Asakazu Nakai he earned an Academy Award nomination for Ran. Not only did he deserve many more such nominations, there were many times he deserved to win the actual awards. Along with fellow Kurosawa collaborator Kazuo Miyagawa, Takao Saitô was one of the few cinematographers in the history of film whose every frame would make a good still photograph. While much of the greatness of Akira Kurosawa's films is largely due to Mr. Kurosawa's direction, there can be no doubt that much of  their greatness is due to the talents of such cinematographers as Takao Saitô as well.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Trevor "Dozy" Ward-Davies R.I.P.

Mick, Beaky, Tich, Dave Dee, and Dozy
Trevor Ward-Davies (better known by his nickname "Dozy"), bassist for the legendary British rock band Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich, died on January 13 2015 at the age of 70. The cause was cancer.

Trevor Ward-Davies was born on November 27 1944 in Enford, Wiltshire. He attended the County Secondary Modern School in Durrington, Wiltshire. He was only thirteen years old when he saw Buddy Holly and The Crickets perform in Salisbury. He started out playing an acoustic bass before moving on to an electric bass guitar. He joined The Beatniks, which featured guitarist Ian “Tich” Amey.

It was by 1961 that both Dozy and Tich had joined the band Ronnie Blonde and the Bostons. In addition to its lead vocalist Ronnie Blonde, the band featured rhythm guitarist John "Beaky" Dymond, guitarist David "Dave Dee" Harman, and drummer Stan Poole. After Ronnie Blonde left the band, Dave Dee took over lead vocals and the group became known as "Dave Dee and the Bostons". The band played dates in the Salisbury area and even performed in Hamburg and Cologne. It was after Dave Dee and the Bostons returned from Hamburg that drummer Stan Poole left due to family commitments. He was replaced on drums by Michael "Mick" Wilson. The band was now Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich in all but name.

It was in 1964 that songwriters Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley took an interest in recording the band.  Messrs. Howard and Blaikley changed the band's name to Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich in order to stress the members' individuality. They also arranged a recording session with legendary producer Joe Meek, which proved unsuccessful. Despite this they were signed to a recording contract with Fontana Records.

The band's first two singles ("No Time" and "All I Want") failed to chart, but their third single "You Make It Move" hit #26 on the UK singles chart. Their fourth single proved to be an international hit. "Hold Tight!" went to #4 on the UK singles chart, #21 on the Australian singles chart, #4 on the German singles chart, and #8 on the New Zealand singles chart. Ultimately Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich would have a string of international hits, including "Bend It!", "Save Me", "Touch Me, Touch Me", "Zabadak!", "The Legend of Xanadu", and   "Last Night in Soho" among others. In the Sixties Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich ultimately spent more time on the UK singles chart than The Beatles. The band was phenomenally popular in Germany as well.

Despite their success in the United Kingdom and Europe, Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich saw little chart success in the United States or Canada. In the United States only  "Zabadak!" reached the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number 52. "Bend It" (whose lyrics were considerable objectionable by most American radio stations) only went to #110 and "Last Night in Soho" to #123.  Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich did a little better in Canada, where five singles actually charted. In Canada "Zabadak!"went to #1 and "The Legend of Xanadu" to #10. While Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich saw less success in North America than they did the United Kingdom or Europe, they did develop a cult following in both Canada and the U.S.

The band also released several albums in the Sixties, including Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & TichIf Music Be the Food of Love... Then Prepare for Indigestion; What's in a Name; If No One Sang; DDDBM&T; and Together.  Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich's early work was written almost entirely by Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley, although starting with their second album If Music Be the Food of Love... Then Prepare for Indigestion the band began contributing their own songs.

It was in September 1969 that Dave Dee left the band to pursue a solo career. The band continued as DBMT. It was under that name they released the album Fresh Ear. The album produced their last top forty single in the UK, "Mr. President" (which went to #33 on the singles chart). The band continued to release singles until they broke up in 1972. Dozy, Beaky and Tich regrouped in 1974 and were joined by Pete Lucas of The Troggs. They performed gigs at small clubs under the name "Tracker".  It was in 1976 that DBMT regrouped with Pete Lucas on guitar and Beaky on drums.

DBMT would be reunited with Dave Dee, resulting in the 1983 single "Staying With It". The band would continue to this day with various changes in its membership. John "Beaky" Dymond left in 1989 and returned in 2013. Dave Dee died in 2009. Through it all, however, Dozy and Tich remained with the band.

Dozy also performed as part of a country and western duo called Woodsmoke. He also continued to write songs.

While Dave Dee received much of the attention surrounding Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich in the Sixties, there can be no doubt that Dozy and Tich were the heart of the band. They were the only members to remain with the group for its entire history. What is more, Trevor "Dozy" Ward-Davies made significant contributions to the band. The success of Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich's hook-laden singles depended largely upon their rhythm section, and Dozy's talent as a bassist never failed them. Dozy also sang lead on various album tracks and provided harmonies on nearly all of the band's songs. He wrote on many of the band's songs as well. The simple fact is that without Dozy, Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich probably would not have been possible.