Tonight’s ABC Weekend TV… in 1968


A look at what was on ABC in the North on Saturday 27 July 1968

The TVTimes tells us what’s on ABC on Saturday 27 July 1968. Things worth noting include:

  • With one exception – Rediffusion’s The Gamblers at 9.05pm – everything today is coming from ABC. No other company gets a look-in except for outside broadcast items in ABC’s own World of Sport.

  • ABC opens at 1.15pm for 50 minutes of pretty heavyweight adult education programmes.
    • The last in the series of The Middle Years presented by Ludovic Kennedy. The splendidly named Hilde Himmelweit, the ever brilliant Richard Hoggart and Polly’s father Philip Toynbee discuss how it feels to be middle-aged.
    • Fit for Life at 1.40pm is also sociology on the television – the 1960s being the peak of scientific sociology being seen as a potential cure-all. The GP and the psychiatrist talking to John Pett go unnamed because of the British Medical Association’s then-rule that practicing doctors where not allowed to advertise, and appearing on TV was in itself an advertisement.
  • ABC produces the last World of Sport before handing it over to London Weekend from next week. The programme started in January 1965 and was presented by Eamonn Andrews with Richard (Dickie) Davies as his deputy. With Andrews off to Thames to host their daily magazine programme Today, Davies gets a promotion, with LWT promoting Fred Dinenage to the deputy spot.
    • The sports on offer today were diving from ATV, horse racing from ABC, athletics from Harlech, motor racing from ABC and wrestling from ATV, with the whole programme billed as an Independent Television Production. It was made at Teddington.

  • The repeat of Life with Cooper marks the end of Tommy’s long association with ABC. However, Tommy and the series moved to Thames and Tuesday nights, renamed Cooper King-Size, as David Hamilton points out on air.

  • The TVTimes in the North makes a big deal of Opportunity Knocks! being a special devoted to the closure of ABC at Didsbury – although Yorkshire Television would make some of its programmes there whilst they waited for their own studios in Kirkstall Road to be completed. In other TVTimes regions, the magazine would simply refer to this being a special edition to mark the closure of ITV’s Didsbury studios, with ABC’s name left out of it.
    • This special edition of OpNox! had no new talent in it, instead inviting back former contestants who had gone on to bigger things and showing the television audience around the backstage areas of the studio. The special, like much of OpNox! at ABC and at Thames, was produced by Royston Mayoh.
  • The Horne a’Plenty sketch show at 8.35pm was another survivor into the new Thames, lasting one more series before the death of the brilliant Kenneth Horne brought it to a premature close.
  • It was not unusual for Granada and Rediffusion programmes to turn up at the weekend – and ABC programmes to pop up on weekdays – across the major contractors as well as the minors. ABC and ATV’s petty bickering over the Sunday schedules had led to ABC pointedly selling The Avengers to Rediffusion and squeezing both ATVs out of one of the most popular programmes on British television. In return, ABC picked up several Rediffusion dramas, amongst them being The Gamblers at 9.05pm, which in turn squeezed blameless Granada out of some big hitters.
    • All this created a bonanza for the schedulers at the minor ITV companies, allowing them to pick and choose which networking of The Avengers and The Gamblers and the like to show according to what they felt their region would prefer rather than just going with the usual flow.

  • At 10.15pm, it’s the final ABC Armchair Theatre, it losing the ‘ABC’ in the process of moving to Thames and a less comfortable weekday slot (other regions already didn’t mention the ‘ABC’ bit either). By happy coincidence, this is the 400th edition of the strand – which viewers in London miss, as ATV London dropped the programme in favour of a repeat of Gideon’s Way, which can’t help but feel like a small bit of spite from Sir Lew.
    • In typical Armchair Theatre style, the description of ‘The Ballad of the Artificial Mash’ sounds pretty sexist until the last sentence, which hints at a slightly more feminist outcome to the plot. We may never know, as the episode is missing from the archives.
  • Sunday night had no epilogue, allowing the station to make a clean break as they went off air for the last time. So 11.15pm (approximately) sees the last ever religious talk at closedown in the North – Granada had never done them and Yorkshire launched continuing that policy.
    • This epilogue is by ABC’s religious adviser, and although it doesn’t survive in the archives, take my word for it that it was truly surreal. Ian Meckenzie opened with the most bizarre and tortured metaphor in the history of late night sermons, solemnly telling viewers that “Jesus was like the Independent Television Authority” and going on to note that the “disciples are like the [ITV] contractors”. It was ludicrous.

About the author

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Kif Bowden-Smith is the founder of the Transdiffusion Broadcasting System.

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