Friday, 24 December 2010

Home to Roost (continued)

“I have found [the part of Henry] the most frightening in 24 years of acting.  To make people laugh in a TV comedy is the most unfunny thing I could have done.

“In a series like that you are acting.  It’s far tougher than playing Regan – or Inspector Morse” --  John Thaw quoted in “Sweeney” John cops new crime beat by Garth Pearce, Daily Express Sat 5 July 1986.

Series Two was recorded in April-May 1986, during Elizabeth Bennett's hiatus between seasons 1 and 2 of You Again, and not long before John Thaw began filming what was to become arguably his biggest role, that of Inspector Morse.

Broadcast for 7 weeks from 5th September, again on Fridays at 8.30pm, I recall being quite disappointed in this run.  Looking back on it now it's still a funny show, but perhaps lacking in the very strong punchlines of the first series.  Incidentally, if you're flicking channels and stray upon the show on ITV3, this series can be immediately identified by Reece Dinsdale's long hair - surely not inspired by his US counterpart...?
Anyway, highlights this time round include Matthew learning to drive in "The Test", featuring a short film sequence, "Protest" with Matthew liberating Henry's goldfish in the name of animal rights, and "Julie", starring Rebecca Lacey in the first of three appearances as Matthew's younger sister, who calls her father 'dumpling' and can wrap him round her little finger in a way Matthew most certainly cannot!

The episode "Open House" deserves a mention for its now terribly dated depiction of teenagers at a party Matthew holds at the house in Henry's absence.  Matthew himself largely avoids these shortcomings throughout the 5 year run thanks in no small part to the deft performance of Dinsdale, always likeable and believable in the role, but I think it's fair to say the series was walking a continual tightrope in this regard.

A quick mention of the series' production methods: Home to Roost, like most Yorkshire Television sitcoms of the era, rehearsed in London before being recorded in Studio 4 of YTV studios in Leeds - a look at the sets for Series 2 by production designer Mike Joyce can be found here, whilst a nifty 360° tour of the studio is here.

Like in most of Eric Chappell's sitcoms, the studio audience seem particularly receptive which adds to the enjoyment of the show immeasurably.  A million miles away from the hollow guffawing which passes for  audience appreciation in today's, admittedly few, multi-camera comedies.

Ratings of around 10 million guaranteed a further series the following year.

Series Three began on 24th October 1987, this time on Saturdays at around 8pm.  A big change was the absence of Elizabeth Bennett.  With the US show now defunct, perhaps she felt she had portrayed Enid for long enough?  I'm inclined to say it was a last minute decision however, because apart from the opening episode which deals with her departure - Enid has won £100,000 on the premium bonds! - and the hunt for her replacement, the remainder of the scripts contain her in all but name.

Actress Joan Blackham more than capably portrayed her successor, Fiona Fennell, for this run - another widow with a keen interest in her employer.  Other guest stars include Leslie Ash, Nicky Henson as Henry's younger, better-looking and supposed more successful brother Edward in "Success Story", and Lysette Anthony as Matthew's object of infatuation in "The Real Thing".

Whether due to the change in timeslot or John Thaw's higher profile after the debut of Morse, this series enjoyed the show's highest audience to date with an average 12m tuning in.

Funnily enough, or not as the case may be, I just have to mention the change in lighting style from this point onwards in the series.  Lighting cameraman Peter Squires takes over from Vince Barber and invests the principal location, the Willows house, with a much more subdued look which I personally feel gets in the way of the comedy.  I missed the bright look of Series 1 and 2, but there are conflicting schools of thought on this issue.

This wasn't quite it for 1987 as, in keeping with Eric Chappell's other big hitters, the show enjoyed a solitary Christmas edition, the double-length "Family Ties" on Sunday 27th December.  In this, Henry hopes to enjoy Christmas at a luxury hotel with a lady friend, Cynthia - played by Sherrie Hewson, currently of Loose Women fame - but his plans are greatly complicated by the arrival of all his offspring, including youngest son Frank, a bedwetter, who book into the hotel too.
In keeping with the festive spirit, there is more of a farcical element to the proceedings here as Henry tries to keep the presence of his children in the hotel from Cynthia for as long as possible.  It is also much more of a vehicle for John Thaw himself than usual, perhaps in deference to his newfound fame as Morse.  But then again, perhaps not and I'm reading too much into it.  Wouldn't be surprised.

The Enid/Fiona housekeeper character was dropped from this point on, with neither Elizabeth Bennett nor Joan Blackham reappearing.  Creative?  Budgetary?  Who knows.

No series appeared in 1988, possibly due to Thaw's commitment to the Arthur Miller play "All My Sons" at the Manchester Royal Exchange theatre taking up his annual hiatus from Morse, but a fourth and final batch of seven episodes followed in 1989.

Recorded in March-April but not screened until December, this last run was very welcome and proved as strong as ever, with "Bridge of Sighs" kicking things off with guest star Jill Gascoigne as Henry's old flame, the thrice-married Judy Schwartz, returning from America to pick things up where they left off.  Matthew's jealousy rears its head at the thought of his father's departure. 

Guests in this series include Sam Kelly and Ray Winstone.

The series ended on 19 January 1990 in a touching but far from cloying manner with "Leaving" as Matthew finally goes off to University - Reece Dinsdale was 30 by this point - having passed his "A" levels in the Series 3 finale "Paper Chase".  He got the same results as me by the way, watch the episode if you're interested!

And so Henry looks forward to resuming his quiet life, until in the closing moments youngest son Frank comes to stay, his mother having decided that its his turn to look after him!

Like Only Fools and Horses.... six years later, this final episode rather fittingly gained the highest ratings of them all, with almost 14m tuning in.

The generation gap is usually a good starting point for a sitcom, and like Steptoe and Son before it the conflict in Home to Roost came from right vs. right, as both parent and child have, or should have, equally valid points of view.  Maybe that's why I like it so much.

Or maybe simply because it's so funny, plus in my opinion it's a masterclass in comic delivery by these two guys below.

Home to Roost is somewhat overlooked in the John Thaw canon, not to mention that of Eric Chappell and I've never understood why.  Occasionally corny but always a good laugh, well acted and at its best, sheer brilliance.  Check it out.

"I loved working with John.  He gave me good advice.  He said keep people guessing.” - Reece Dinsdale quoted in interview with Steve Hendry, Sunday Mail 5 April 2009

Merry Christmas one and all!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010


If the world can celebrate the 25th anniversary of Back to the Future, then I can do likewise for Home to Roost, the 1985-90 Yorkshire TV sitcom which similarly featured a talented and likeable 20-something actor locked throughout the run of the series in a late teens timeframe -- none too convincingly, even from the start.

Not sure I can stretch the similarities any further.

Home to Roost, written by sitcom veteran Eric Chappell, starred John Thaw as Henry Willows, middle-aged divorcee leading a quiet life until his wayward 17-year old son Matthew -- Reece Dinsdale -- turns up on the doorstep having run away from home, or been thrown out.

The humour in the series comes from the conflict between the two as we, not so much they, discover how alike they are.  Eric Chappell's scripts were wonderful - indeed I would argue the first series of seven is the finest thing he ever wrote, Rising Damp included - and John Thaw and Reece Dinsdale, two fine, classically-trained actors both from the North of England, bounced off one other with great skill in the usual sitcom tradition.

It is also something that is now, regrettably, extinct, at least in the British Isles: a pre-watershed comedy that is good.  A study should be done on exactly how and why this format perished, for perish it did.  Comedy in this country now belongs to the git, and the git alone.

My first exposure to the show came with a rather unusual trailer they ran some weeks before it began.  Basically, it was the entire opening scene.  Unusual then, and indeed now.  Here it is:

INT hallway.  Evening.

Doorbell rings.  HENRY WILLOWS answers to see a young man (MATTHEW WILLOWS) standing there.  He looks him up and down.

Matthew: Hello

Henry: Yes?

Matthew: Remember me?

Henry: Yes

Matthew: I'm your son.

Henry: I know

Matthew: Aren't you going to ask me in?

Henry: No.

Matthew: I'm Matthew.

Henry: I know you're Matthew, I was at the christening.

Matthew: Aren't you surprised to see me?

Henry: No, I've been expecting it.

Matthew: How could you have been expecting it?  It's been seven years!

Henry: I know.  You're not going to make a habit of this are you?

Matthew: I thought you'd be pleased to see me.

Henry: Well, life's full of disappointments.  Now do you mind moving your foot out of the door, there's something I want to catch on the television.

Matthew: But dad!

Henry: Don't call me that!  You made your choice.

Matthew: That was seven years ago, I was only t-- what am I supposed to call you?

Henry: (thinks) What about Mr Willows?

Matthew: That was seven years ago Mr Willows, I was only ten.  Look, do you mind if I come in, it's cold out here.

Henry: I'm not responsible for the weather.

Matthew: I've got something to tell you.

Henry: Well, tell me.

Matthew: I'm frozen.

Henry: Is that it?

Matthew: No.

Henry: That's the trouble with the younger generation, they're soft.  When I was your age I was doing the evening newspaper round in this sort of weather.  And I didn't have a topcoat, my mother had to thaw me off the bike...  All right, you can come in for five minutes.

And it is played beautifully right from the off.

Something else to mourn in the world of comedy is the demise of the writer, i.e. someone with their own unique turn of phrase, someone who can craft wit in dialogue outside of actual jokesLast of the Summer Wine may have outstayed its welcome by a decade or two, but Roy Clarke is a bone fide writer and right to the end the programme still had that going for it.  I fear most sitcoms nowadays are penned by comedians.  I shudder at such a thought.

Eric Chappell too is most definitely a writer, and his legacy will live for ever thanks to Rising Damp but it was by no means his only triumph.  Home to Roost was the last of his three big solo successes, the other being Only When I Laugh, but it's the least remembered never mind celebrated, which I think is a shame.  To be fair, it was never the ratings juggernaut the other two were, but it's one of my personal favourite sitcoms ever and deserves a bit of celebrating in this its anniversary year.

The show began on Friday 19th April 1985 at 8.30pm with the episode "A New Life", wherein Matthew does indeed inveigle his way into his father's home, disturbing not only Henry but also his cleaning lady Enid Thompson - played by Elizabeth Bennett - a widow with an unrequited interest in him.  And over the next seven weeks much hilarity ensues, as they say.  Except that it genuinely does here, I promise.

Particular highlights of the first series include: "Bad Apples", where Henry tries to get Matthew admitted to his old school; "Suspect", where Matthew is under suspicion for theft of a silk tie, not to mention "something worse, far worse" a joke that should remain unspoiled; and "Dating Henry" with the elder Willows smitten with a girl young enough to be his daughter.  All well-worn sitcom subject matter even back then, but executed with such elan it would be churlish to complain.

The series ended with "The Way We Were" guest-starring Sheila Hancock in fine form as Henry's ex-wife, and Matthew's mother, Sue - unfortunately the one and only appearance of the character.

Ratings were good, over 11m average, and a second series was put in motion.

In the meantime though, I just have to digress and mention the US version, You Again, starring Jack Klugman as Henry, John Stamos as, er, "Matt" - and Elizabeth Bennett as Enid!

It is, I guess, a testament to the original's impact that it transferred across the Atlantic so speedily.  You Again debuted as a mid-season replacement on NBC during 1985-86, immediately broke the top twenty and was renewed.

Like many of these UK-to-US revamps, it initially remade Eric Chappell's scripts for the original before forging its own path - an inevitability given the disparity in episode numbers between American and British shows.  It wasn't long before the Beach Boys guested - alas, not a new "jump-the-shark"-esque idiom to denote bad sitcoms getting worse, the Beach Boys really did guest star, in Season 2's "The Audition".

But back to Elizabeth Bennett - uniquely in sitcom history, she reprised her housekeeper role for this version, albeit here called "Enid Tompkins".  I would love to know how this came to pass, but my guess is that the US producers simply loved her in the original.  Not surprising, she's brilliant.

The little I've seen of You Again - Channel 5 here in the UK showed it in the wee small hours in the late '90s - I haven't liked any more than any other US revamps of UK shows.  The very precise comic timing of the originals is always lost, American actors being too laid back in their approach for this kind of thing.

Anyway, having been a replacement itself, You Again needed one as it only made it to half-way through the 1986-87 season before being cancelled.

But jumping back six months or so...

Monday, 6 December 2010

Sitcom oddities

I watched a couple of sitcom rarities the other day, neither very good but both interesting because of their connection to other, much better, shows.

First up, the moderately famous "No Ill Feeling!" episode of LWT's 1971 series Doctor at Large starring the late Barry Evans as newly graduated Dr Michael Upton, former student from the earlier show Doctor in the House

Written by John Cleese (one of six episodes he penned for the show), "No Ill Feeling!" was something of a prototype for Fawlty Towers, depicting as it does Upton's stay in a hotel where he is unnerved by the proprietor, played by Timothy Bateson, and one of the guests, a tiresome jokester (Roy Kinnear) whose eventual comeuppance is the episode's raison d'etre.

Basil Fawlty was of course inspired by Cleese's 1969 stay at the Gleneagles Hotel in Torquay where he observed first hand the antics of its misanthrope proprietor Donald Sinclair.  And so this brilliant idea for a sitcom received its first airing here, a full five years before Fawlty Towers.

Unfortunately however, it's terrible.  Little of Cleese's unquestionable genius for the form is evident here, in a tiresome 25 minutes featuring annoying, impossible characters at every turn.  Bateson's hotelier is not so much misanthropic as just plain strange, and given to Spoonerisms - not a particularly rich vein of humour onscreen in my opinion, possibly because I've never actually heard anyone use one in reality.

And as I've intimated, the hotel manager is so far down the list of importance in the storyline that it's hardly been worth anyone commenting on its existence - as Fawlty in nascent form that is - all this years.

Connie Booth deserves every inch of her credit for the later series, especially as she had nothing whatsoever to do with this.

Next up, was the pilot for Cosby, Bill Cosby's 1996-2000 follow-up to the mighty The Cosby Show, and based on no less an original source than One Foot in the Grave!

This was undoubtedly one of the worst things I have ever seen.  Bill Cosby's loose improvisatory style was completely at odds with the necessarily tight structure of David Renwick's original creation; not to mention the miscasting of the essentially good natured-seeming Cosby as a curmudgeon.

The show ran for four seasons, and I would hazard a guess that its resemblance to the original, tenuous even here, was invisible by the end.

Never screened in the UK to my knowledge, and not available on DVD.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Terry McCann, the existential hero

“A new series starring Dennis Waterman as Terry (the minder) and George Cole as Arthur (his guv’ner)”
TV Times listing, 27 October 1979
“A new series about entrepreneur Arthur Daley and his long-suffering minder, Terry McCann”.
TV Times listing, 4 September 1985

“[Terry]’s the only honest man in London.  He may not respect the difference between what’s right and what’s wrong with the law, but he certainly knows about the differences between good and evil”
Leon Griffiths
City Limits 20-26 Jan 1984, interview by Dave Hill

A hero then, that’s what Minder was about.  Something akin to a modern retelling of Shane.

Taking a close look at the beginnings of very long-running series can be fascinating.  I remember watching a late-80s repeat of the very first Only Fools and Horses.... from 1981, which I’d never seen, and being surprised that right from the off, Rodney was dissatisfied with his lot and keen to get out from under Del’s shadow.  I’d assumed this had been gradual.  Guess I was confusing it with real life...

But at least Britcoms usually enjoy the continuity of the original writers’ vision right to the end.  Dramas or comedy-dramas can rarely afford such luxury on account of the sheer impossibility of one writer meeting the demand.  It must be especially difficult in this situation for the original concept to remain undiluted.  And 1979 was a long time before the concept of the “showrunner”.

Minder sprang from the pen of the 50 year old Leon Griffiths, a Sheffield-born, Glasgow-raised left-leaning writer who had come to London at the age of 16 and fell in love with the city, and its residents.  One of his earliest television credits was eight episodes of ATV's 1955-60 The Adventures of Robin Hood starring Richard Greene, and this is fitting enough, because doesn’t Terry McCann owe a small debt to the legendary outlaw?

Griffiths was keen to depict a different kind of screen hero, being fatigued by the usual doctors, lawyers and policemen.  As such he was influenced by The Rockford Files – as incidentally was Robert Banks Stewart when creating Shoestring.  The US series starring James Garner as the down-at-heel LA private eye had been running since 1974, playing over here on BBC1 to huge audiences and winning much kudos for mixing its traditional mystery plots with light comedy.

Leon Griffiths, in his original pitch to Euston Films, correctly stated that “there is no police or private eye story that cannot be adapted to Minder.  And Dennis Waterman has spoken about series’ appeal lying in the limitless possibilities of storyline the format offered, with minder Terry and businessman Arthur becoming plausibly involved with all manner of individuals, regardless of class, race or gender.

Terry takes centre stage in that first series of Minder, more than half of which was written by the series' creator, with at least one more episode based on his idea.  It’s a series about an ex-con tough guy whose uppermost quality is his loyalty: to Arthur, to his friends and family -- his mother is out there somewhere, although never seen in the series -- to anyone he feels needs looking after.

It’s a classic structure and Arthur, his employer, is definitely the secondary character despite stealing the best lines.  I certainly don’t think Minder should ever have avoided the attention that naturally started gravitating towards Arthur, for he was a brilliant comic creation of the Thatcher era brought wonderfully to life by George Cole; however I don’t think they should ever have lost sight of Terry being the principal character either.

The tension between the soft hearted Terry and the exploitative Arthur created the magic, but Griffiths is the only person I’ve ever heard who still talked about Terry as being the principal character by the time the show was at its peak of popularity in the mid-80s.

In fact, for the purest distillation of the idea you could probably do worse than simply watch the 15 episodes written by Leon Griffiths -- a count that would've been higher had illness not prevented him from working on Series 2 in 1980.

He even gives the show an ending, of sorts, in his last episode “Waiting for Goddard” in 1985 – intended at the time to be the final series’ episode.

But it wasn’t just the writers who didn’t always get what the series was at the beginning.  Script executive Linda Agran, who “found” Griffiths and Minder for Euston, has stated that neither did the directors: Peter Sasdy, who helmed the opener, “Gunfight at the OK Laundrette”, and two others in that series, is very fond of zooms, extreme close-ups and a traditionally thriller-like musical score.  This just looks bizarre now.

Roy Ward Baker, next in line to helm, eschewed all this in favour of a “flat” look designed to showcase the writing and acting as much as possible and which quickly became the Minder style.

Incidentally, the late, great Roy Ward Baker, a huge admirer of the series who directed more episodes than anyone else, played at least one other important part in the series’ development.

In his first episode, “The Smaller They Are”, written by Griffiths, Terry and Arthur get roped in to helping a seedy, alcoholic acquaintance, Scotch Harry, who has stolen a briefcase full of hundred dollar bills.  Arthur smells an opportunity and leaves Terry to look after him in his squalid bedsit; in the climax to Act One Terry chases after Arthur into the cramped stairwell but soon realises he’s always going to be the one lumbered with the dirty work: “After we had shot [it], Dennis told me that this short scene had given him the key to the relationship with Arthur”.
Roy Ward Baker in “The Director’s Cut: A Memoir of 60 Years in Film and Television”: Reynolds & Hearn, 2000.

So what of the bold Arthur himself?  Well, the differences in the first series from what eventually developed are more than just cosmetic, although there is that too: for being such an integral part of the Daley look, the trilby is only worn a handful of times in those 11 episodes.  Note that there’s no sign of it in the opening titles, filmed before anything else.  And his accent is much closer to Cole’s own for the first half-dozen or so episodes.

But more important is the fact that neither Arthur, nor the series itself, were intended to be quite so comedic.  Griffiths’ original novel about the characters, published by New English Library three months before the series transmitted, is wryly amusing but more philosophical than the series, with much text devoted to Terry’s plight.  A good guy, but with a background unlikely to allow him much scope for improvement and who sticks with Arthur more on the principle of “better the devil you know” than anything.

For his part, the Arthur of the book is an East End villain who has gone ‘respectable', meaning he doesn’t have room any more for the more overtly villainous activities of his younger days*.  But the threat remains nonetheless.  He, er, also has a girlfriend, a Britt Ekland lookalike called Pat Maxwell, who runs a fashion boutique.

*Arthur Daley is a ex-borstal boy!

And she who became ‘Er Indoors is one Sarah Daley, a fully fledged character in the book, described by Griffiths thus: “Forty five sat on her badly, she had a lot more wrinkles, hip flesh and wiry white hairs than she could cope with, and she went about her outdoor business under a variety of hats and layers of Estee Lauder”.

Hmm.  I suspect much of this went straight out the window as soon as George Cole was cast.  The inherent likeability of the man makes the idea that Arthur was ever a serious villain a tough sell, and his comic instincts simply pushed the character in a different, and much more rewarding direction.

Interestingly, Leon Griffith's Euston pitch states: "a leavening of humour is essential", which suggests that it was only ever intended as an undertone.  Later on he expressed regret that the intended "cynicism which would reflect the times in which we live” was replaced with “a kind of Boulting Brothers thing”.

Almost certainly this was true, and it eventually led to Griffiths, Waterman and producer George Taylor calling it a day.  However, the blossoming of Arthur Daley was inevitable, and he's one of television's greatest ever creations.

But Terry's great too, as is Dennis Waterman playing him.  We need our heroes.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

ROBERT HOLMES - the complete credits

Nothing whatsoever to do with Euston, but in the spirit of celebrating classic British TV I thought it might be interesting to try and draw together all the credits amassed by the screenwriter Robert Holmes, justly celebrated for his work as both writer and script editor of Doctor Who, but who also worked on many other television series, some very famous, some largely forgotten, over a period of almost 30 years (1958-1987).

Some brief biographical data: Robert (Colin) Holmes was born on 2 April, 1926.  In 1944 he joined the army, becoming the youngest ever commissioned officer in the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders and serving in Burma.  After demob he joined the police and eventually on to court work, where he left the force to become a court reporter and journalist.  Working in the Midlands as a sports journalist in the mid-1950s, he became the final editor of the famous "John Bull" magazine, and started to write sample scripts for popular TV series.

His first credits for television are alleged to have been four episodes of the popular twice-weekly ATV hospital drama Emergency - Ward 10 in 1958, but I can find no record of these.  His regular work on this show doesn't come until 1962.

In September 1959, he began work as Story Editor on a new Granada series called Knight Errant '59, kind of a precursor to The Equalizer but probably without the violence or Stewart Copeland theme tune.  Credits will run chronologically as regards the first episode of each different series he worked on.

Knight Errant ‘59, becoming Knight Errant ‘60 [Series 1]/Knight Errant Ltd [Series 2] (Granada 1959-1961, 75 x 50m)
Crime drama series following the private investigations of the Knight Errant agency.
Story Editor (1959-60), plus writer:
1.19 “The Creditor” (16.02.1960)
1.29 “The Wall of Death” (26.04.1960)
1.31 “Brother Cain” (10.05.1960)
1.37 “The King of Kandoga” (01.07.1960)

Harpers West One (ATV 1961-63, 32 x 50m)
Weekly soap opera set in a large West End department store, created by John Whitney & Geoffrey Bellman.  Tagline: “Shopping with the lid off!”
1.02 tx 03.07.1961
2.10 tx 19.11.1962
2.14 tx 24.12.1962

Family Solicitor (ATV 1961, 24 x 50m)
Series starring Robert Flemyng and A J Brown as, respectively, Anthony Freeman and William Naylor, the senior partners in solictors' firm "Naylor and Freeman".  Also starring a 34 year-old Geoffrey Palmer as junior solicitor Hugh Cowley.  Produced by Jack Williams.
1.05 “Man of Straw” (26.07.1961)
1.07 “Strike Action” (09.08.1961)
1.20 “Statement of Affairs” (09.11.1961)

Deadline Midnight (ATV 1960-1961, 39 x 50m)
Drama series featuring the characters and events involved in the workings of a national newspaper, the Daily Globe.  Sounds good, actually.
2.17    “Man in a Frame” (30.9.1961)

Emergency – Ward 10 (ATV 1957-1967)
A stupendous 50 episodes tx between 19 June 1962 and 20 December 1963

Dr Finlay’s Casebook (BBC/BBC One, 1962-1971)
Very famous drama series created by A. J. Cronin, about the doctors of a country practice in the Scottish village of Tannochbrae.  Starring Bill Simpson as Finlay, the junior partner in the practice, Andrew Cruickshank as Dr. Cameron, the craggy senior partner, and Barbara Mullen as unflappable housekeeper/receptionist Janet.
2.33    “The Hallelujah Stakes” (10.5.1964)
2.36    “The Old Indomitable” (31.5.1964)
2.40    “The Doctor Cried” (28.6.1964)
3.07    “Charity, Dr Finlay” (14.2.1965)

No Hiding Place (Associated-Rediffusion 1959-1967, 236 episodes)
Being the adventures of Detective Chief Superintendent Tom Lockhart of Scotland Yard, played by Raymond Francis.  The character of Lockhart had already toplined no less than two earlier series, Murder Bag (1957-59) and Crime Sheet (1959).  Spin-offs are fun.
7.07    “Blood and Water” (15.3.1965)
7.21    “A Cry for Help” (24.6.1965)
8.07    “Run Johnnie, Run” (15.12.1965)
9.07    “The Night Walker” (15.6.1966)
9.10    “Golden Boy” (6.7.1966)
10.12    “Who is this Mortimer?” (8.6.1967)

Undermind (ABC 1965, 11 x 50m)
Robert Banks Stewart-devised series about a group of extra-terrestrials attempting to undermine human society from within.  Jeremy Wilkin starred as a young personnel officer who was on their case.  Shades of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and the still-to-come US series The Invaders.
1.10 “Waves of Sound” (10.7.1965)
1.11 “End Signal” (17.7.1965)

INVASION (feature film!) (Merton Park Studios, classified "U" by the BBFC on 21.10.1965)
Written by Roger Marshall from an original story by Robert Holmes.  Produced by Jack Greenwood and directed by Alan Bridges.
The unexpected arrival of an alien space traveller creates problems at a rural hospital.  Starring The Day the Earth Caught Fire's Edward Judd with Valerie Gearon, Lyndon Brook, Barrie Ingham and Yoko Tani.  Ultra-low budget and quite dull, but interesting in that several story elements were reused by Holmes for Doctor Who - "Spearhead from Space" four years later.

Intrigue (ABC 1966, 13 x 50m)
Industrial espionage drama series starring Edward Judd (so soon?) as a freelance security expert, Gavin Grant.  Created by Tony Williamson.
1.08 “Fifty Million Taste Buds Can’t Be Wrong” (19.11.1966)

Mr Rose (Granada 1967-8, approx. 26 x 50m)
William Mervyn starred as retired Chief Inspector Charles Rose, a character who had featured in two earlier Granada crime series, The Odd Man (1962-3) and It’s Dark Outside (1964-5).  There should be far more such jumping about from series to series for television characters nowadays.
1.05 “The Jolly Swagman” (17.3.1967)
1.06 “The Unquiet Ghost” (24.3.1967)
2.01 “The Frozen Swede” (31.5.1968)

Market in Honey Lane (ATV 1967-68, 26 x 50m)
Drama-soap series, created by Louis Marks, set in a London street market.  Starring John Bennett (Li H'sen Chang in Holmes' 1977 Doctor Who story "The Talons of Weng-Chiang").
S1 E04 “Snap” (24.04.1967)
S2 E06 “The Matchmakers” (1.2.1968) by Louis Marks based on an idea by Robert Holmes
S2 E09 “The Organisers” (22.02.1968)

Frontier (Thames TV 1968, 8 x 50m)
A very early series from Thames Television, which began transmissions on 30 July 1968.  Adventure serial recounting tales of a fictitious British batallion in Northern India during the 1880s.  Produced by Michael Chapman.
1.06 “Mutiny” (04.09.1968)

Honey Lane (ATV 1968-69, 52 x 25m / 13 x 40m)
Twice-weekly afternoon half-hour revamp of Market in Honey Lane (see above).  Weekly again from Series Two.
At least 16 episodes over a 10-month period:
S1, E07 tx 22.10.1968
S1, E08 tx 28.10.1968
S1, E17 tx 26.11.1968
S1, E18 tx 28.11.1968
S1, E25 tx 24.12.1968
S1, E26 tx 26.12.1968
S1, E33 tx 20.01.1969
S1, E34 tx 22.01.1969
S1, E41 tx 17.02.1969
S1, E42 tx 18.02.1969
S1, E46 tx 04.03.1969
S1, E49 tx 17.03.1969
S1, E50 tx 18.03.1969
S2, E02 tx 17.07.1969
S2, E06 tx 14.08.1969
S2, E09 tx 04.09.1969
Series ended on E13 – possibly others written by Holmes

The Saint (ATV 1962-9, 118 x 50m)
The most famous screen incarnation of Leslie Charteris’ modern day Robin Hood, starring Roger Moore as Simon Templar.
6.11 “The Scales of Justice” (1.12.1968)

Doctor Who (BBC tv/BBC1 1963-89, 695 episodes usually of 25m)

The granddaddy of this list obviously.  Mr Holmes initially wrote "The Krotons" (4 eps, 28.12.1968-18.1.1969), "The Space Pirates" (6 eps, 8.3.1969-12.4.1969), "Spearhead from Space" (4 eps, 3.1.1970-24.1.1970), "Terror of the Autons" (4 eps, 2.1.1971-23.1.1971), "Carnival of Monsters" (4 eps, 27.1.1973-17.2.1973) and "The Time Warrior" (4 eps, 15.12.1973-5.1.1974).

He then served a glorious 3+ year stint as Script Editor alongside Producer Philip Hinchcliffe (later Graham Williams), 1974-77 (twenty stories, 84 episodes) during which he wrote, unofficially, "The Ark in Space" (rewriting John Lucarotti) (4 eps, 25.1.1975-15.2.1975), "Revenge of the Cybermen" (rewriting Gerry Davis) (4 eps, 19.4.1975-10.5.1975), "Pyramids of Mars" (rewriting Lewis Griefer as "Stephen Harris") (4 eps, 25.10.1975-15.11.1975) and "The Brain of Morbius" (rewriting Terrance Dicks as "Robin Bland") (4 eps, 3.1.1976-24.1.1976); also, officially again, "The Deadly Assassin" (4 eps, 30.10.1976-20.11.1976), "The Talons of Weng-Chiang" (6 eps, 26.2.1977-2.4.1977) and "The Sun Makers" (4 eps, 26.11.1977-17.12.1977).

Freelance again, he wrote "The Ribos Operation" (4 eps, 2.9.1978-23.9.1978) and "The Power of Kroll" (4 eps, 23.12.1978-13.1.1979), then taking a lengthy break from the show before returning for "The Caves of Androzani" (4 eps, 8.3.1984-16.3.1984), "The Two Doctors" (3 x 45m, 16.2.1985-2.3.1985) and finally Parts One to Four and Thirteen of "The Trial of a Time Lord" (5 eps, 6.9.1986-27.9.1986 and 29.11.1986).

I calculate Holmes wrote approx. 76 episodes of the series and 18 full stories between 1968-86 (Russell T Davies wrote 31 episodes and 25 full stories of the new series between 2005-10).

The Inside Man (LWT 17.1.1969-4.4.1969, 12 x 50m)
Frederick Jaeger as doctor-psychiatrist-criminologist Dr James Austen.
S1, E09 “The Spy Vanishes” (14.03.1969)

Fraud Squad (ATV 1969-70, 26 x 50m)
Police drama created by Ivor Jay relating the cases of the Fraud Squad on the trail of fraudulent crime at all levels of society, from boardroom to bingo hall.  Starring Patrick O'Connell and Joanna Van Gyseghem.
1.01 “Turbot on Ice” (20.05.1969)
1.03 “Last Exit to Liechtenstein” (03.06.1969)
1.13 “Anybody Here Seen Kelly?” (12.08.1969)
2.13 “The Price of a Copper” (12.12.1970)

Happy Ever After (ATV 1969-70, 14 x 50m)
A collection of hour-long plays, produced by John Cooper.
1.5 “The Prank” (16.12.1969)

Doomwatch (BBC1 1970-2, 38 x 50m)
Science fiction series created by Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis about a government agency investigating ecological threats.
2.11 “The Inquest” (1.3.1971)

Spyder’s Web (ATV 1972, 13 x 50m)
Espionage series created by Richard Harris and starring Patricia Cutts, Anthony Ainley and Veronica Carlson as agents working undercover for government agency ‘The Web’.
1.11 “Nobody’s Strawberry Fool” (31.3.1971)

Trial (BBC 1971, 13 episodes)
Details decidedly sketchy on this one – serial about a murder trial apparently.
1.10 “Mister X” (28.10.1971)

Dead of Night (BBC2 1972, 7 x 50m)
Supernatural anthology series produced by Innes Lloyd.  Holmes’ episode, which concerns an airline pilot (Peter Barkworth) being haunted by a wartime bomber crew, is one of only three still remaining in the archives.  Episode directed by Rodney Bennett.
Episode 2 “Return Flight” (12.11.1972)

The Regiment (BBC1 1972-3, 23 x 50m)
Drama series tracing a British army regiment through the Boer War to India in 1904, and starring Christopher Cazenove and Michael Brennan.  Second series produced by Terence Dudley.
2.02 “Depot” (2.3.1973)
2.11 “North West Frontier” (4.5.1973)

Warship (BBC1 1973-7, 45 x 50m)
Drama series about frigate HMS Hero and her crew, devised by Ian Mackintosh and Anthony Coburn (who originally produced).
1.5 “The Drop” (5.7.1973)

Spy Trap (BBC1 1972-5, 36 x 30m, 24 x 50m)
Adventures in espionage, originally shown in four-night-per-week serials, created by Robert Barr and starring Paul Daneman as Commander Ryan RN, head of “The Department”, a government agency somewhere between MI5 and MI6.  Not talked about too much nowadays for some reason, would be wonderful to see some of this stuff...
2.05 “A Perfect Victim” (9.10.1973)

Dixon of Dock Green (BBC/BBC1 1955-76, 432 episodes)
Ted Willis’ very long-running series about PC, later Sergeant George Dixon (Jack Warner).
20.05 “The Unwanted” (26.1.1974)

General Hospital (ATV 1972-1979)
The lives and loves of the staff of a Midlands general hospital, Emergency - Ward 10 revisited really.  Twice-weekly 30m afternoon episodes until 1975; 60m weekly peak-time thereafter.
2 half-hour episodes – 07.03.1974 & 08.03.1974

Blake’s 7 (BBC1 1978-81, 52 x 50m)
Terry Nation’s space opera about a band of intergalactic freedom fighters.  Having turned down the post of Script Editor, and suggested eventual post holder Chris Boucher for the job, Holmes contributed four scripts.
2.07 “Killer” (20.2.1979)
2.11 “Gambit” (20.3.1979)
4.03 “Traitor” (12.10.1981)
4.11 “Orbit” (7.12.1981)

Armchair Thriller (Thames TV 1978/1980, 52 x 25m)
Robert Holmes served as Story Editor on Series 2 of this popular ITV anthology series (Robert Banks Stewart having performed same duties on Series 1).  The stories he worked on comprised “The Victim” (6 episodes – 8.1.1980-24.1.1980), “Dying Day” (4 eps - 12.2.1980-21.2.1980), “Fear of God” (4 eps, 26.2.1980-4.3.1980), “The Circe Complex” (6 eps, 25.3.1980-10.4.1980) and “The Chelsea Murders” (prepared as 6 eps but eventually shown as 104m special 30.12.1981).

Jukes of Piccadilly (Thames TV 1980, 6 x 25m)
Two-part comedy thrillers for children focussing on Brinsley Dukes (Nigel Hawthorne), owner of an exclusive tea emporium, who indulges in his hobby of private investigation.  Devised by Robert Banks Stewart.
1.03/1.04 “The Case of the Arabian Kidnap” – Episodes 1 & 2 (25.2.1980 & 3.3.1980)
1.05/1.06 “The Dulverton Green” – Episodes 1 & 2 (10.3.1980 & 17.3.1980)
Directed by Terry Steel

Shoestring (BBC1 1979-80, 21 x 55m)
Robert Holmes was Script Editor (for the first six episodes of Series 2) on this series about phone-in private detective Eddie Shoestring, played by Trevor Eve.  The episodes he is credited on are, in production order, “Room with a View” (5.10.1980), “Utmost Good Faith” (9.11.1980), “Mocking Bird” (19.10.1980), “The Mayfly Dance” (26.10.1980), “The Farmer Had a Wife” (2.11.1980) and “The Teddy Bears’ Nightmare” (12.10.1980).  He was succeeded by Blake’s 7 Script Editor Chris Boucher.

The Nightmare Man (BBC1 1.5.1981-22.5.1981, 4 x 30m serial)
Fondly remembered thriller with science fiction overtones, adapted by Robert Holmes from David Wiltshire’s 1978 novel “Child of Vodyanoi” and directed by the great Douglas Camfield.  Starring James Warwick, Celia Imrie and Maurice Roeves.  I missed the first 10m of Part Four back in 1981, I don’t remember that so fondly.

Into the Labyrinth (HTV 1981-2, 21 x 25m)
Serials, devised by Bob Baker, about a trio of children assisting trapped magician Rothgo (Ron Moody) to regain his power source “The Nidus” and defeat evil witch Belor (Pamela Salem).  Via the labyrinth they travel to various times & places in Earth’s history in their search.  Probably inspired by Doctor Who’s ‘Key to Time’ season.  Series 3 dispensed with two of the children and introduced a new magician, Lazlo (Chris Harris).
2.5 “Shadrach” (7.9.1981)
3.3 “Dr Jekyll and Mrs Hyde” (11.8.1982)

Juliet Bravo (BBC1 1980-85, 88 x 50m)
Ian Kennedy Martin’s popular Saturday night series about a female police inspector in a small northern town.  Starring Stephanie Turner as Inspector Jean Darblay in the first three series.
3.05 “A Breach of the Peace” (2.10.1982)

Bergerac (BBC1 1981-91, 87 episodes mainly 50m plus Christmas specials)
Shoestring creator Robert Banks Stewart, who had worked with Holmes as far back as Knight Errant, created this Jersey-set policier when Trevor Eve decided against a third series.  Starring John Nettles as the eponymous Detective Sergeart of the ‘Bureau des Étrangers’.
2.04 “Prime Target” - co-written with Robert Banks Stewart (30.1.1983)
3.07 “A Cry in the Night” (14.1.1984)
5.02 “Winner Takes All” (10.1.1987)*
*Probably filmed as part of the fourth production block in 1985.

Miracles Take Longer (Thames TV 1983-84, 36 x 25m)
Short-lived afternoon serial about a branch of the Citizens’ Advice Bureau.
S2, E13 (28.02.1984)
S2, E14 (29.02.1984)
S2, E15 (06.03.1984)
S2, E16 (07.03.1984)
S2, E18 (14.03.1984)

Robert Holmes sadly passed away on 24 May 1986 after a short illness.  His last work was for Season 23 of Doctor Who; his last writing credit was Bergerac Series 5, Episode 2 "Winner Takes All".  His legacy lives on.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

The birth of Euston

Euston Films Ltd was formed in March 1971, the brainchild of Thames TV (and formerly ABC) executives Lloyd Shirley, George Taylor and Brian Tesler.

The line of development can be traced back to The Tyrant King, a six-part Thames children's serial from 1968 directed by Mike Hodges and filmed entirely on location with 16mm film -- a format predominantly used at that time for news gathering due to the portability of the cameras.  The success of the venture led Thames, and Hodges, to put into production two ITV Playhouse dramas using the same techniques.  The thrillers Suspect (tx 17.11.1969) and Rumour (tx 2.3.1970) proved so successful that the idea for a company was formed.

Several other factors probably helped Euston's inception along: Thames' profits were high at the time and it was felt that the money should go somewhere; a deregulation of the number of broadcasting hours meant that the parent company's electronic studios were filled to capacity; and of course there was the lure of being able to offer viewers "films for television", at a time of great rivalry between the film and TV industries.

With no studio staff to worry about, the company was always intended to be cost-effective.  At the time, Lloyd Shirley said "Our set-up is a flexible, mobile operation.  Filming in studios is not our game.  We are completely location people".

Indeed it is important to note just how much of a breath of fresh air the Euston formula must have seemed at the time, for both the audience and the production personnel.  In 1971 most UK television drama was recorded multi-camera in a studio in just a single evening, the output a strange hybrid of film and theatre (which nonetheless has its merits, not least because of the lengthy rehearsal time).  2010 and, for good or ill, most television drama follows the Euston mode - approximately 5 minutes of cut footage a day, no rehearsal.

Lloyd Shirley again, speaking in 1974: "We have tried to blend people who have learned their film-making through television with people who have been film-makers in the film industry for exhibition.  The traditional film people have a wonderful skill of improvisation, the television people are meticulous planners.

"They make an interesting combination and it has worked very well".

So Euston then can be viewed as a meeting of minds between the two industries combining the best of both?  I'd go along with that.

Sources: Made for Television: Euston Films Ltd by Manuel Alvarado & John Stewart (BFI/Thames Metheun, 1985);  "Lloyd Shirley waves the Union Jack for TV feature films" by Gerard Garrett (CinemaTV Today, 22 June 1974).

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

The genius of VERITY LAMBERT

On casting IAIN CUTHBERTSON as Charlie Endell in Budgie...
Keith [Waterhouse] and Willis [Hall] had written this part for the first episode and possibly the second and then [to] disappear and they had wanted a particular actor – who was a very good actor, I’m not going to mention his name because he would have been very good – except that I had seen him do that so many times and I said to them “Listen, he’d be good but I think we can be more imaginative”.

And Iain Cuthbertson at that time on television was playing rather middle-class [people] like bank managers or lawyers, but I had seen him at the Royal Court in a production of Serjeant Musgrave’s Dance where he was absolutely frightening and terrifying and I said “Look please see this actor because I believe that he can surprise people”.

And I sent the scripts to Iain and [he] was wonderful, because he absolutely saw it as an opportunity to do something very different. He came in and he had this thing that Charlie would speak with this Scottish accent overlaid with these kind of Americanisms.  That came from him, and Willis and Keith loved what he did with it so much that they then wrote him in as a running character.

On casting WILLIAM HARTNELL as the first Doctor Who...
I thought about Bill [Hartnell] because he did this thing called The Army Game where he played this ghastly Sergeant Major, and then I saw This Sporting Life, where he played this failed rugby league talent scout… and he was so touching in it. And I thought well, here’s an actor who can combine two things, because I always thought that Doctor Who should be dangerous, at the same time as touching and lovable as well.

[Bill] fell in love with the character and became completely entranced by Doctor Who. Obviously he was my casting, and the first actor in the part, but for me he was the best. He embodied the most complexity – he was sometimes dangerous or unpleasant, sometimes kind, sometimes foolish, but most importantly he was never a member of the establishment. He was always an outsider.

On casting GEORGE COLE as Arthur Daley...

We had to look for an Arthur Daley.  There were various people put up, very good actors, one of them being Denholm Elliott who I think was a wonderful actor but I personally didn't think he was right for this particular role.  There were other suggestions, but the one I was most enthusiastic about was George Cole.

For a while I was very much on my own there.  There was a general feeling that he was too middle class; he had been playing some middle class roles.  But I kept thinking about the spiv in St Trinian's and just somehow I knew that he could do it.  And in the end I said "Look, I really think we should go with him and if it doesn't work then I'll put my hands up and it'll be my fault.  I'll take the responsibility".

We were all thrilled when he said he saw himself in this role.  I'm always pleased when an actor looks at something and says "Yes, yes I can see this".  It confirms your own feelings.  William Hartnell was the same.  I just felt as soon as George's name was mentioned "That's the guy who can play this role" and I think I was proved right.

Sources: Doctor Who Magazine n.234 (Marvel Magazines 1996); SFX n.150 (Futura Publishing 2006); Budgie: The Complete Second Series DVD (Network 2006).

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

How MINDER began

Terry casual in a reversible corduroy and cotton blouson jacket and soft mid-brown roll-neck sweater.  Don't remember the episode...
By 1978, the British TV production company Euston Films, once ignominiously described by veteran critic Nancy Banks-Smith in ‘The Guardian’ as “Thames putting it in the wife’s name”, were firmly on the map thanks to acclaimed police series The Sweeney. But with the end of production on that show in April after four series, a replacement was needed that would hopefully appeal to a similar sized audience. The one eventually settled on would turn out to be the company’s longest-running and most successful programme, bestriding the 1980s and begetting one of the most iconic characters in British television history.

Thames TV and Euston were keen to retain the services of 30 year-old Dennis Waterman, John Thaw’s popular Sweeney co-star, for an as-yet-undecided star vehicle but at a meeting the actor and his management made it clear that he did not wish to be bound without anything firm in place.

Luckily for them, and us, on hearing that Euston were on the lookout for a new series for Waterman, writer Leon Griffiths decided to pitch an idea which had its roots in a film script he had written some years before*. Called Minder, it was described by the late scriptwriter as “pretty nasty...dark, gloomy, black and tough” but, more promisingly, “it also had a lot of humour in it”. Griffiths’ agent wasn’t convinced the script was sellable as it stood, but later suggested to him that two characters in it were perfect for a series. They were of course, Fulham-based used car salesman Arthur Daley and his much put-upon bodyguard Terry McCann.

Euston Chief Executive Verity Lambert had tasked script executive Linda Agran with finding a Sweeney replacement. Over a lunch, she and Griffiths discussed his idea, for which he had prepared a 15-page “pitch” document, describing the characters, setting, outlining a half-dozen story ideas and beginning with a capsule summary: “a new type of action/character series featuring an independent bodyguard who often operates on the fringe of legality but always seems to end up on the side of the angels”. Soon after, he was asked to write a full script and the project started to bloom.

Around Christmas 1978, George Taylor, one of the founders of Euston and a neighbour of Dennis Waterman’s, personally handed the actor the series format plus two completed scripts. For a while, Waterman hesitated over committing to another London-set crime series, but the quality of Leon Griffiths’ writing, and especially the comic elements, convinced him. Minder was up and running with Dennis Waterman cast as Terry.

Attention turned to who should play dubious businessman Arthur. Waterman suggested veteran character actor Denholm Elliott (who had recently worked for Euston in the second Sweeney spin-off movie); Verity Lambert preferred 54 year-old George Cole, former protégée of Alastair Sim, most famous as “Flash Harry” in the St Trinian’s films between 1954 and 1966 and more recently in BBC2 sitcom Don’t Forget to Write! Huge arguments ensued but the die was cast when Cole arrived to a meeting with Linda Agran and Euston co-founder Lloyd Shirley at a hotel bar, with Agran noting “I could barely talk, I was that excited at this physical manifestation of Arthur Daley”. Cole in turn was so taken with Griffiths’ character outline of Daley as a “well-dressed, dodgy employee of the Citizens’ Advice Bureau” that he signed on immediately.

Coincidentally Waterman and Cole were both appearing on the London stage less than two miles apart immediately prior to starting work on Minder, although neither was enjoying the experience very much: the former at the Aldwych for an RSC production of Bronson Howard’s 1870 farce “Saratoga”; the latter in an adaptation of Dennis Potter’s then-banned BBC Play for Today, “Brimstone and Treacle”.

Shortly after they were being directed by Peter Sasdy in the Minder opening titles (shot three weeks before the start of the series in May 1979), although Cole had yet to see a script! To Waterman’s disapproval Sasdy, a Hungarian-born director who had worked for Hammer in their later days, was assigned to direct the first episode after Tom Clegg, veteran of 14 Sweeney episodes, turned it down. Clegg felt that the script, entitled “Gunfight at the OK Laundrette”, was an unwise choice for an opener as the leading characters are separated. Waterman felt Sasdy was an unwise choice for a director as he lacked the necessary feel for the London as depicted in the series.

It was a shaky start for the series, which eventually debuted with little publicity after an 11-week strike by the ITV network...

* The original Minder film script by series creator Leon Griffiths must surely be something of a Holy Grail for fans of the series. This blogger knows nothing about its content other than the brief details Griffiths has given in interviews. It is at least possible that the Minder novel he wrote (published in July 1979), which deals with Terry and Arthur's exploits pre-series, is a reworking. In any case, check it out if you haven't already.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

"Science Fiction Film Festival" (BBC2, 1983)

Anyone remember this?  If you hotfooted it over from Doctor Who (Season 20 - "Arc of Infinity", "Snakedance", etc.) on a Tuesday evening in early 1983, you could enjoy a series of mainly American, mainly 50s, classic sci-fi flicks.  Wonderful!

It was no doubt a lot of people's first exposure to many of these pics.  It certainly was mine (and, in the case of The Forbin Project, the last).  Ratings were pretty sensational, building over the season and even, in the case of Fantastic Voyage, eclipsing Doctor Who.  But it was only "The King's Demons" Part One, so never mind.

I missed Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150AD, which I had never seen, on 5th April.  There was a 'Radio Times' strike, we didn't take a national newspaper, and I was off school on our Easter hols so no one who cared could tell me.  I know exactly what I was doing that evening - reading, with great enjoyment, a just-purchased "Doctor Who" novelisation ("Doctor Who and the Android Invasion" by Terrance Dicks).  Several levels of irony there but yes, reading for once instead of watching telly.  The sheer folly!

Missing the Dalek movie haunted me for the next two years or so, until my aunt bought it me on a (so dark it was barely watchable) VHS.

The list of 15 movies (plus their transmission times and, where known, viewing figures) in the "Science Fiction Film Festival" is below.  Listings from 'The Times':

Invasion of the Body Snatchers 
(1956, Don Siegel)
11 January 1983, 7.15-8.30pm
(3.70million, 6th in BBC2 Top Ten)

It Came from Outer Space 
(1953, Jack Arnold)
18 January 1983, 7.15-8.30pm (4.00m, 7th)

Creature from the Black Lagoon
(1954, Jack Arnold)
25 January 1983, 7.15-8.30pm (4.15m, 8th)

Invaders from Mars
(1953, William Cameron Menzies)
1 February 1983, 7.15-8.35pm (6.20m, 3rd) 

When Worlds Collide
(1951, Rudolph Mate)
8 February 1983, 7.15-8.35pm (5.15m, 4th)

The Forbin Project
(1970, Joseph Sargent)
15 February 1983, 7.20-9.00pm (viewing figures n/k - by me anyway)

Forbidden Planet
(1956, Fred McLeod Wilcox)
22 February 1983, 7.25-9.00pm (5.25m, 2nd)

This Island Earth
(1955, Joseph Newman)
1 March 1983, 7.20-8.40pm (4.90m, 4th)

Silent Running
(1972, Douglas Trumbull)
8 March 1983, 7.20-8.45pm (4.25m, 6th=)

Fantastic Voyage
(1966, Richard Fleisher)
15 March 1983, 7.20-9.00pm (6.40m, 1st)

Robinson Crusoe on Mars
(1964, Byron Haskin)
22 March 1983, 7.15-9.00pm (4.90m, 5th)

The War of the Worlds
(1953, Byron Haskin)
29 March 1983, 7.35-9.00pm (6.85m, 4th)

Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150AD
(1966, Gordon Flemyng)
5 April 1983, 7.10-8.30pm (4.40m, 4th)

Conquest of Space
(1955, Byron Haskin)
12 April 1983, 7.10-8.30pm (viewing figures n/k)

The Day the Earth Stood Still
(1951, Robert Wise)
19 April 1983, 7.00-8.30pm (5.60m, 3rd)