More Classic ATV Network Releases
Fans of classic ITV are in for a treat as further adventures of the Oxbridge General Hospital come to DVD in the third volume of ATV Elstree produced medical serial, Emergency Ward Ten – famous for giving Richard Thorp, now Alan Turner in Emmerdale, his earliest television role. There is also music for fans of 1970s pop classics in the form of a new 3-CD set Tiswas Album which also includes some of the more well-known Tiswas songs from the children’s ATV series.
Emergency Ward Ten was ITV’s first major serial, airing twice a week, it became a must-see series for millions of viewers. The show ran for ten years until 1967 and became an infamous regret of ATV Network boss Lord Lew Grade – he said axing the show was one of his biggest television mistakes – so much so he gave it a new injection of life in the very similar General Hospital of the 1970s. The latter series however was based in The Midland General rather than the London original.
The serial made household names of many of its stars – some who went onto other long running shows. Richard Thorp, Jane Rossington, Desmond Carrington and John Alderton. In 1957 the series was bestowed a BAFTA award, credited in the ATV archive as being given to “the entire production, writing and acting team.”
The series also was made into a film – also available on DVD – in 1959 and a spin-off series Calling Oxbridge 2000 – was launched in 1962. The series followed Richard Thorp’s character of Dr Rennie [pictured right] as he set up his own country practice, he still featured in the main show at the same time!
Speaking in 1958 the producer Antony Kearey spoke of producing the two weekly episodes, which was compared to the American soap operas – the UK wouldn’t get its first taste of daily “soap opera” until 1964 with the arrival of ATV’s other series, Crossroads:
“Making a 30 minute serial twice a week is ten times as hard. A soap opera isn’t about high quality scripts, they don’t have the time with such a turn over of five episodes. Emergency Ward 10 is watched by eight million viewers and they expect a high quality show with the highest standards of ITV. They expect these standards to be kept up.”
Antony was so obsessed that the series was “as real” to life as possible he spent hours reading up on medical facts and doctoring journals. Of course the show today is a fabulous time capsule of 1950s and 60s serial, it is also a far cry from Granada’s lowly working class Coronation Street. As with so many of ATV’s programmes the show is very ‘middle class’ and the only East End London accents are those of the ‘poorer’ patients. When the show began it was watched by only one million viewers, by the mid-1960s nearly 17 million tuned in for the continuing story of the Oxbridge, its staff – their private lives, and the everyday stories of the patients. Desmond Carrington [pictured left] can still of course be heard as a presenter on BBC Radio 2.
Emergency Ward Ten – Volume Three is due to be released in early 2010 by Network DVD and ITV Global.
If you can’t wait for that then something released earlier this week may interest you – if you like 1970s children’s programmes and pop music. The Tiswas Album is a 3-CD disc set containing many top artists of the 1970s and early 80s who appeared live on the show from Birmingham’s ATV Centre. Songs picked span the Tiswas transmission years – including hits from Meat Loaf, Blondie, Kate Bush and Chas and Dave. Not quite ‘The Clash’ but still handy for a Christmas party.
Tiswas – Today Is Saturday, Watch And Smile became a cult of children’s broadcasting. Fronted by many faces, but memorably Chris Tarrant and Sally James, the series ran from 1974 to 1982 and unlike any offering from the BBC at the time offered lots of gunge, un-regulated fun and plenty of silliness. The remit of educate and inform was left to the ITV Schools programmes.
The CD also contains some Tiswas series tracks including Bright Eyes performed by Matthew Butler and the Four Bucketeers. Matthew, a young lad at the time, sang the Mike Batt composition on the show dressed as a rabbit. There is also included the Bucket Of Water Song by the Four Bucketers which was a feature of the series and still popular with Tiswas fans today.
The Tiswas Album – released by EMI – is on sale now.