PR: Plays for Britain - The Complete Series [Network]

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Mr_Wolf
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PR: Plays for Britain - The Complete Series [Network]

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This hard-hitting anthology series continued the single-play format that had proved so successful with ITV’s legendary Armchair Theatre, presenting six contemporary plays by writers at relatively early stages in their careers.

The keynote is a provocative realism: Stephen Poliakoff’s Hitting Town is an intense portrayal of siblings who find refuge from their bleak lives in one incestuous night; Roger McGough’s The Life Swappers is a darkly comic take on the theme of exchanged identities; Howard Brenton’s The Paradise Run centres on an inexperienced soldier in Northern Ireland at the height of the Troubles.

These and other powerful screenplays are made available here for the first time in any format. Among noted performers are Kevin McNally, Pete Postlethwaite, Denis Lawson, Sheila Gish, Miriam Margolyes and Ray Winstone; directors include Alan Clarke, Philip Savile and Michael Apted.

THE PARADISE RUN Written by Howard Brenton Directed by Michael Apted
A young soldier finds he is ill-prepared for life in a strife-torn city.

THE LIFE SWAPPERS Written by Roger McGough Directed by Jim Goddard
Trevor answers an unusual ad in the local paper. Is a change really as good as a rest?

SUNSHINE IN BRIXTON Written by Brian Glover Directed by Leslie Blair
Sixteen-year-old Otis hates school – but a new sports teacher offers him a little hope.

HITTING TOWN Written by Stephen Poliakoff Directed by Peter Gill
Ralph tries to cheer up his sister by suggesting a night on the town…

FAST HANDS Written by Roy Minton Directed by Alan Clarke
Jimmy is a gifted young boxer, but neither parents nor girlfriend share his enthusiasm.

SHUTTLECOCK Written by Henry Livings Directed by Philip Savile
Sam likes his children to be grown-up chaps; that proves difficult for nine-year-old Harry.

http://networkonair.com/shop/1758-plays ... eries.html
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John Williams
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Re: PR: Plays for Britain - The Complete Series [Network]

Post by John Williams »

Fantastic! Ordered.

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Re: PR: Plays for Britain - The Complete Series [Network]

Post by John Williams »

It's astonishing to look back on the ground breaking original drama produced by Thames in 1976. In the Tuesday 9pm slot, 'Rock Follies' ran from 24th February to 30th March, followed immediately by 'Plays for Britain' from 6th April to 11th May. A few weeks later 'Bill Brand' was transmitted on Monday at 9pm from 7th June to 16th August.

What a run!

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Re: PR: Plays for Britain - The Complete Series [Network]

Post by Simon36 »

Oh wow! Made my day.

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Re: PR: Plays for Britain - The Complete Series [Network]

Post by Richard A »

This is fantastic news! I can't get enough of these single act television play sets. Bravo, Network!

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Re: PR: Plays for Britain - The Complete Series [Network]

Post by VintageFan »

John Williams wrote:It's astonishing to look back on the ground breaking original drama produced by Thames in 1976. In the Tuesday 9pm slot, 'Rock Follies' ran from 24th February to 30th March, followed immediately by 'Plays for Britain' from 6th April to 11th May. A few weeks later 'Bill Brand' was transmitted on Monday at 9pm from 7th June to 16th August.

What a run!
Am I right in thinking that Plays for Britain and Rock Follies played directly against BBC1's Play For Today?

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Re: PR: Plays for Britain - The Complete Series [Network]

Post by John Williams »

VintageFan wrote:
John Williams wrote:It's astonishing to look back on the ground breaking original drama produced by Thames in 1976. In the Tuesday 9pm slot, 'Rock Follies' ran from 24th February to 30th March, followed immediately by 'Plays for Britain' from 6th April to 11th May. A few weeks later 'Bill Brand' was transmitted on Monday at 9pm from 7th June to 16th August.

What a run!
Am I right in thinking that Plays for Britain and Rock Follies played directly against BBC1's Play For Today?
Yes that's right. It's worth mentioning that the first of the Plays for Britain (The Paradise Run) was opposite Dennis Potter's 'Double Dare', although if circumstances had been different it would have been up against 'Brimstone and Treacle'.

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Re: PR: Plays for Britain - The Complete Series [Network]

Post by VintageFan »

Thanks John. Interesting that these more "serious" drama slots were scheduled against each other,as they would attract(and alienate)a similar viewer.

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Re: PR: Plays for Britain - The Complete Series [Network]

Post by John Williams »

VintageFan wrote:Thanks John. Interesting that these more "serious" drama slots were scheduled against each other,as they would attract(and alienate)a similar viewer.
There was an article by Polly Toynbee in the following week's Observer bemoaning the scheduling of 'The Paradise Run' against 'Double Dare'. I suspect ITV were simply giving their "challenging" drama a leg-up by putting it up against a 'Play for Today' strand which didn't always do that well in the ratings. 'Rock Follies' is a slightly different case though as that was a popular as well as critical success and I suspect it trounced PfT in terms of audience.

'Bill Brand' only got the Monday slot because it was scheduled in the summer. Jeremy Isaacs had to be persuaded even to give it that.

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Post by Simon36 »

Plays for Britain was indeed set up as a potential Play for Today for ITV after Armchair Theatre was dead and gone. When Play for Today was first set up the BBC deliberately left announcement of the transmission day secret until the very last opportunity, so as to foil ITV sabotage attempts. Critics at the time such as George Melly saw this potential "floating weekly" idea as the beginning of the end of the single play by removing the regular Wednesday night habit, so that bosses who disliked the show could use inevitable drops in ratings as a reason to ditch it. The production team were adamant it was because ITV were always trying to sabotage what was the BBC's most prestigious and often most costly slot of the week.

How successful Plays for Britain and Bill Brand were at sabotaging it I don't know though...

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Re: PR: Plays for Britain - The Complete Series [Network]

Post by John Williams »

Simon36 wrote:How successful Plays for Britain and Bill Brand were at sabotaging it I don't know though...
Not sure about Plays for Britain but Bill Brand wasn't scheduled against PfT anyway - it was shown on a Monday.

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Re: PR: Plays for Britain - The Complete Series [Network]

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John Williams wrote:Yes that's right. It's worth mentioning that the first of the Plays for Britain (The Paradise Run) was opposite Dennis Potter's 'Double Dare', although if circumstances had been different it would have been up against 'Brimstone and Treacle'.
So that's why I didn't see it.
John Williams wrote:
Simon36 wrote:How successful Plays for Britain and Bill Brand were at sabotaging it I don't know though...
Not sure about Plays for Britain but Bill Brand wasn't scheduled against PfT anyway - it was shown on a Monday.
Yes, Bill Brand started and ended its life playing opposite the BBC Nine O'Clock News and then a film, and in the middle had to content with the Royal International Horse Show and the Olympics.

With the exception of the BBC's Nine O'Clock News, none of the series mentioned in this thread made the national top 20, which is all I've got access to. Nor did Thames' Shades of Greene or Granada's The Nearly Man (another drama series about an MP) which preceded Rock Follies in the Tuesday at 9.00 drama slot.

Despite the quality, it wasn't a great period for ITV VT drama in the ratings. The only two series to really buck the trend during the year beginning in autumn 1975 (which I arbitarily picked as a starting point because it coincided with the beginning of the 1975/76 Play For Today season mentioned above) were Thames' Life and Death of Penelope and LWT's Bouquet of Barbed Wire.
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Re: PR: Plays for Britain - The Complete Series [Network]

Post by John Williams »

Simon Coward wrote:With the exception of the BBC's Nine O'Clock News, none of the series mentioned in this thread made the national top 20, which is all I've got access to. Nor did Thames' Shades of Greene or Granada's The Nearly Man (another drama series about an MP) which preceded Rock Follies in the Tuesday at 9.00 drama slot.
That's interesting - I would have thought 'Rock Follies' might have scraped in but obviously not.

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Post by didi-5 »

Fantastic news! Thanks Network :)

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Post by Simon Coward »

John Williams wrote:
Simon Coward wrote:With the exception of the BBC's Nine O'Clock News, none of the series mentioned in this thread made the national top 20, which is all I've got access to. Nor did Thames' Shades of Greene or Granada's The Nearly Man (another drama series about an MP) which preceded Rock Follies in the Tuesday at 9.00 drama slot.
That's interesting - I would have thought 'Rock Follies' might have scraped in but obviously not.
I was expecting that too, but no...

I do remember someone commenting at the time the first Rock Follies LP hit number 1 in the album charts on the fact that it did better as a record than as a TV series - relatively speaking. But obviously that would have still been the case if it has scraped into the lower reaches of the top 10, but it seems not to be the case.

I would be interested to know how well it, and some of the other series mentioned in this thread, actually did from a ratings point of view.
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Re: PR: Plays for Britain - The Complete Series [Network]

Post by JWG »

Howard Schuman refers to an audience "between 12 and 15 million",which is quite a wide spread. http://www.guardian.co.uk/theobserver/2 ... s.review47

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JWG wrote:Howard Schuman refers to an audience "between 12 and 15 million",which is quite a wide spread. http://www.guardian.co.uk/theobserver/2 ... s.review47
During the six weeks that Rock Follies was on, the bottom show(s) in the Jictar Top 20 were watched in between 6.3m and 6.55m homes. I don't know what the homes-to-people multiplier was in the mid 70s. If it was 2.2 then that would put #20 at somewhere between 13.8m and 14.6m viewers. If it was 2.4 that goes up to a range of 15.4m to 16m.

So 12m to 15m viewers may well be in keeping with the info I was looking at earlier if Rock Follies was generally just outside the Top 20. It sounds a staggeringly good figure now, of course...
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Post by John Williams »

One episode of 'Rock Follies of 77' made it into the top 20 with 6.3 million homes. Don't have the exact date to hand.

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John Williams wrote:One episode of 'Rock Follies of 77' made it into the top 20 with 6.3 million homes. Don't have the exact date to hand.
First episode was 18= with 6.25m.
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Post by Mark »

Excellent set, a good set of plays, nice release.

I never took to "Shades Of Greene", an odd set of stories, although I haven't seen it since it was on.
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Post by Nick Cooper 625 »

Great to see Hitting Town coming out at last, although I still think it would have been nice as a dual release with City Sugar.
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Post by bent_halo »

Absolutely superb news.

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Post by John Williams »

Simon Coward wrote:
John Williams wrote:One episode of 'Rock Follies of 77' made it into the top 20 with 6.3 million homes. Don't have the exact date to hand.
First episode was 18= with 6.25m.
I got the 6.3 from 'Television's Greatest Hits' - I'll check which episode tonight - presumably the same one.

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John Williams wrote:
Simon Coward wrote:
John Williams wrote:One episode of 'Rock Follies of 77' made it into the top 20 with 6.3 million homes. Don't have the exact date to hand.
First episode was 18= with 6.25m.
I got the 6.3 from 'Television's Greatest Hits' - I'll check which episode tonight - presumably the same one.
Just checked and it is - the book rounds all the figures to one decimal place so there's no discrepancy about the number.
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Post by JWG »

A handy book,that.Not least because it includes feature films which we all watched,after all.

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Post by Mike S »

Was Hitting Town a famously controversial play at the time, or not really? I saw it earlier this evening and it did feel like I was in NFT2 watching something from a Banned season.

Excuse the greasiness, but this is exactly the kind of curio I'm delighted to see Network liberate. Everyone talks about Play For Today, but I'd never heard of this strand before.

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It feels like it ought to have been more contraversial than it was, but Poliakoff had written the play before it was adapted to television and it had premiered in the theatre in May 1975. Although it was in a very small theatre (the Bush Theatre in Shepherds Bush, known for edgy plays) it had been reviewed by most of the main theatre reviewers, so the subject matter wasn't new. There doesn't seem to have been any campaign against the play or the TV adaptation.

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David Boothroyd wrote:It feels like it ought to have been more contraversial than it was, but Poliakoff had written the play before it was adapted to television and it had premiered in the theatre in May 1975. Although it was in a very small theatre (the Bush Theatre in Shepherds Bush, known for edgy plays) it had been reviewed by most of the main theatre reviewers, so the subject matter wasn't new. There doesn't seem to have been any campaign against the play or the TV adaptation.
And, of course, Poliakoff went on to rework the basic premise as his feature film Close My Eyes.

In reporting the "annual convention" of the National Viewers Virgins and Listeners Liars Association, the Church Times of 14 May 1976 notes: "The Sundays [newspapers] obviously seized on the new confrontation between Mrs. Whitehouse and ITV, via the Attorney-General, over the explicit incest play, Hitting Town, and the consequent legal squaring-up." However, none of the newspaper archives I have access to (apart from The Times, which seems to be down at the moment) seem to cover this supposed "confrontation." And, of course, it seems a bit bizarre to label the play as "explicit," when it clearly isn't.
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Post by David Boothroyd »

According to Jeremy Potter in "Independent Television in Britain" vol 3 (Politics and Control 1968-80, pp. 148-9), there were 10 complaints received by the IBA about Hitting Town. But Mrs Whitehouse didn't let up; she included it on a list of programmes submitted to the Attorney-General in October 1976 as evidence that the IBA was in breach of the taste and decency provisions of the Independent Broadcasting Authority Act 1973.

The other programmes on the list were Ladies Night (ATV regional programme which no-one had complained about at all), Violent Summer (1959 Italian black and white film set in 1943, seven complaints), and Bill Brand (Trevor Griffiths drama series, 30 complaints). The IBA stood firm and nothing more happened.

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